Cleish Castle is a 16th-century L-plan tower house, formerly with a courtyard between the tower and garden. Offices were added in the 19th century to the west wing of the castle. A Sundial dated 1711 is mounted on the west wall of the offices. A 19th-century, two-storey stone Lodge with a slate roof is situated on the east approach on the road to Cleish. A small 1970s Vinery is sited to the north of the castle and has been restored. A Dovecot also lies to the north of the castle, incorporated into the side of a barn. A small single-arch Stone Bridge crosses the burn about 100 m south-west of the castle. There are the remains of an old cottage in the woodland to the south of the castle near the site's southern boundary.
Drives & Approaches
The house can be approached from the north, east and west. Previously, the northern approach would have entered the courtyard via the now blocked-up archway on the north. A straight lime avenue runs from the house to the road along the line of the former drive. Today the drive goes north-east around the castle to its south side. A parapet wall borders the drive to the north-east of the castle.
The approach from the east climbs to the castle via a 19th-century lodge. The drive is lined with a beech avenue, c.1970. Nineteenth-century planting along the edge of the drive includes Portuguese laurel and cherry laurel.
The western approach now belongs to the house built on the site of the castle's walled garden and access to the castle is no longer available from this direction. The planting here includes mature beech and beech coppice, with a shrub layer of Rhododendrons and laurels. A small stone bridge across the burn forms part of an old walk to the walled garden. The banks of the burn are planted with yew.
The 1st edition OS 1:10560 (6”), 1856, marks Cleish Park as the land, now entirely surrounded by plantations, that lies to the south-west of the castle and includes the fields to the south of the by-road and to the east of the mill.
The remaining parkland which lies on higher ground is divided into paddocks. There are a few trees in the parkland including a horse chestnut and a Scots pine.
The main areas of woodland are to the south and west of the castle, and predominantly consist of mature beech and sycamore, with remnants of coniferous forestry plantations (larch and Sitka spruce). There are several yew trees in the woods rising up the hill to the south of the castle. Rhododendron ponticum was planted as a shrub understorey and is being managed in clumps. Ferns grow at ground level throughout. The woodland in both areas has been opened up by the present owners and many of the weak or sickly trees have been thinned and grass paths created to form picturesque woodland walks.
The garden, which lies to the south-east of the castle, consists of a raised lawn bounded to the south-east by two shallow earth terraces. The lower terrace is 160m long and planted with a yew avenue of c.1600-20 (assumed to be contemporary with the original house construction). A short flight of stone steps at the south-east end of the lawn leads to the yew avenue and terraces. On the south-west a set of shorter terraces lies at right angles. A revetted water channel runs along the top terrace on a north-south axis and continues up southwards through the woodland. A dry-stone dyke, which may mark the site of an earlier wall, bounds the garden to the north-west. A dry-stone retaining wall bounds the garden to the north-east, forming the boundary for a car parking area on part of the site of the castle forecourt. There is a specimen blue cedar tree in the southwest corner of the main terrace. There are also three sycamores and a copper beech in the vicinity of the terraces. Other species include Noble fir (Abies procera) and Monkey puzzle. All the trees with the exception of the sycamore were planted in the 19th century.
A box-edged parterre has been laid out in a small courtyard-style garden immediately to the west of the old tower. Silver and pink-variegated dwarf Hebes have been planted within the box to give year-round colour. The present owners have also planted a Millenium garden to the northwest of the house, below the main terraces. The square garden is surrounded by a 120cm beech hedge and is approximately 12 square metres in size. Within the beech hedging, the planting consists of box-edged rose beds, colour-themed in white, mauve and purple. The formal design is centred on a sundial. 90cm beech hedges separate the main terraces from the Millenium garden and lower lawn terrace.
A formal lawn containing a recently planted ornamental cherry avenue slopes down to the north of the castle. A beech hedge with central trimmed archway terminates the lawn and leads through to the lower paddock. Beech hedges also screen a vegetable garden to the east of the cherry avenue and a small orchard to the west. The vinery is located between the vegetable garden and the castle.
There are mixed borders along the base of the parapet wall to the east of the castle. Flowering currant (Ribes), mock orange (Philadelphus sp.) and Rosa glauca form the structural backbone of the borders, with lady's mantle, Crocosmia and Geranium providing the massed colour. East of the castle, a semi-woodland garden has also been created recently, consisting of a snaking mown grass path and shrub border following the sloping line of the old burn to the northeast. The planting here includes Mahonia, Cotoneaster, Forsythia and globe thistle. Beyond the shrub border, a beech hedge has been planted to screen this 'new' part of the garden from the drive. The coniferous plantations have been cleared and views of the countryside to the east of the site have been opened up. New tree plantings here include snakebark maple, rowan and horse chestnut.
A Victorian-style woodland garden has been created north of the terraces, with Rhododendrons and Azaleas massed in naturalistic clumps. Winding mown grass paths have also been laid out leading up the hill to the south and opening up the woodland in this area of the gardens. Near the southern boundary at the top of the hill, sycamore and birch predominate.