Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
South Ayrshire
NS 23718 9985
223718, 609985

Culzean is one of the foremost surviving Picturesque landscapes in Scotland. Achieving an 'outstanding' value score in all of the assessment criteria, Culzean Castle designed landscape forms the landscape setting for key works by the internationally renowned architect, Robert Adam, and was valued by contemporary society as a work of art in its own right. Its prominent buildings and extensive woodlands contribute scenic interest along the Ayrshire coast, while the varied garden grounds contain an important horticultural collection. Scheduled archaeological monuments and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, meanwhile, provide outstanding archaeological and nature conservation interest.

Type of Site

A large estate landscape with significant Picturesque components of circa 1780-1830s and later garden components of circa 1870-1910.

Main Phases of Landscape Development


Artistic Interest

Level of interest

Positive and detailed published descriptions from the late 18th and 19th centuries demonstrate that the designed landscape was highly valued as a work of art in its own right in contemporary society, with the walled garden, in particular, ranked as among the best in the United Kingdom (Loudon 1833: 1-15).


Level of interest

Culzean is an outstanding representative of a Picturesque landscape, established mainly from circa 1780-1830s. The historical development of the designed landscape is well known through a large collection of documentary material.


Level of interest

Culzean Castle's horticultural collection is of outstanding value for its size, condition and variety. Fountain Court and the walled garden are known for their tender, herbaceous plants and fruits, including heritage apple and grape varieties, while Happy Valley has a significant collection of mature conifers. The tree register records a large number of champion trees within the policies at county, national and British and Irish level (


Level of interest

The designed landscape forms the setting for Culzean Castle, a category A listed building recognised for its national and international architectural and historical interest. The policies also contain many other buildings and structures of the 18th and 19th centuries, which have been recognised for their special interest through listing.


Level of interest

Three archaeological monuments within the designed landscapes are recognised for their national importance through designation as scheduled monuments (Kennel Mount cairn, Thomaston Castle, and Culzean Coves, caves). Further value in this category derives from various archaeological investigations in the core grounds of Culzean, which have shed light on the character and development of the designed landscape.


Level of interest

Prominent, key buildings along the cliff-top (the castle and stable court) and extensive, mixed woodlands throughout the grounds make an important scenic contribution to the local area by virtue of their nature, location and contrast with adjacent, more open landscapes.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The cliffs below Culzean Castle are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in recognition of their national geological and habitat value. Elsewhere, the garden grounds and woodlands are managed to sustain and enhance a healthy wildlife community, while Swan Pond attracts a large population of resident and overwintering fowl.

Location and Setting

Culzean Castle is a large and visually prominent designed landscape located 12 miles (19 km) to the south-west of Ayr. It occupies a broad coastal bay, with its seaward boundary defined by a rocky shoreline, cliffs and a small harbour. Inland, the policies occupy undulating ground, with the woods, parks, gardens and farmland enclosed by moorland hills to the north and south. The highest point of the grounds is Kennel Mount, the summit of which features a prehistoric cairn, which is a scheduled monument on account of its national importance. To the south-east, the designed landscape is bounded by the 19th-century public road from Maybole to Maidens.

The most prominent architectural landmarks are Culzean Castle itself and the adjacent Stable Court. Perched on a line of sea cliffs, they stand on what was originally a naturally defensible site, occupied by fortified structures since the 12th century. Rocky cliffs drop to the shore immediately to the north-west, while on the landward side, there is a deep gully and escarpments (now levelled, landscaped and bridged by an 18th-century viaduct). Important visually from many vantage points, these substantial buildings are the centrepiece of an outstanding Picturesque landscape created mainly from circa 1780-1830s.

The overall scenic value of the designed landscape is enhanced not only by the dramatic combined views of sea, sky and castle architecture, but also by the mature, mixed woodland canopy. Culzean is the most significant wooded area along the Ayrshire coast and the tree cover contributes scenic and nature conservation interest to the wider landscape by virtue of its sheer extent, contrast with adjacent, more open landscapes, and its habitat value, sustained and improved by ongoing management strategies. Along the cliffs, the woodlands provide a lush backdrop to the castle and stable court in views from the shore.

Immediately below the cliffs by Culzean Castle is a complex of modified caves, which is a scheduled monument to reflect its national importance, while the geological and habitat value of the cliffs and shoreline are recognised as part of the Maidens to Doonfoot Site of Special Scientific Interest ( Looking seaward, views from the coast extend across the Firth of Clyde and encompass panoramic views of Ailsa Craig, the Island of Arran and the Mull of Kintyre.

Landscape survey work in recent decades has identified numerous other views and sightlines in and around the policies, of varying dates, levels of importance and condition, but all generally interpreted as part of the overall design (Landskip and Prospect 1993; National Trust for Scotland 2006: 59).

Some outlying elements of the historic designed landscape, such as Enoch Lodge, have not been included within the designed landscape boundary owing to their peripheral location in relation to the main policies of Culzean.

Site History

Culzean Castle has a long and complex history. In contrast to many other designed landscapes in Scotland, it has been subject to numerous research projects comprising landscape survey, archaeological excavation, building recording and documentary research and analysis. Together, these have forged an unusually detailed understanding of site development .

Culzean's history can be divided into five, broad phases of development covering the 16th to the 21st centuries. Each has left its mark on the present landscape, but generally, the period 1780-1830 is recognised as the most pivotal in determining the present structure (Landskip and Prospect 1993: 65). For this reason, Culzean is considered to be one of the foremost surviving Picturesque designed landscapes in Scotland (Sclater 1995: 28).

1. Early modern improvement (1597-1775)

This encompasses the early improvement of the grounds around Coif Castle, or House of Coves, the tower house which stood on the site of the present Culzean Castle. Occupying a strategic position on a rocky promontory overlooking the Firth of Clyde, it was one of a number of small castles belonging to the Kennedy family.

The catalyst for its development as the nucleus of a landed estate was its union in 1597 with the barony lands of 'Culean' to the south following a series of grants and acquisitions in favour of Thomas Kennedy, the 'Tutor of Cassillis' (1548/9-1602). Thomas rebuilt the tower house in circa 1597 at “grate cost and expensse [sic]” (Balfour 1632 in Pitcairn 1830: 186), and there is some conjecture that garden terraces were part of this scheme (see under Landscape Components: Gardens).

During this period, the Firth was a notorious centre for smuggling and Thomas' successors enjoyed a profitable link with the trade, putting the cave system below the house to use for both storage and refuge. Above, the new L-plan tower house became more established as an estate centre, with yards, orchards and terrace walls for fruits and flowers. By circa 1710, the names of Coif Castle and House of Coves had largely fallen out of use, replaced by the name 'Culean', later 'Culzean' (Jackson 2000: 9).

Development beyond the protective line of the barmekin and into the surrounding terrain of unimproved heathland also began from circa 1600, with the establishment of meadow pasture at Cow Park (Statistical Account: Kirkoswald 1791-99: 485), and a kitchen garden below the terrace walls. More sustained improvement gathered pace later on, with the beginning of enclosure, planting and improvement projects from circa 1740 under Thomas Kennedy of Culzean (subsequently the 9th Earl of Cassillis). John Foulis' estate plan of the 1750s is a particularly valuable piece of evidence for the emerging designed landscape, still dominated by open fields, but also revealing a concern for landscape aesthetics with beacons or masts clearly mapped on the highest points in the grounds (Sclater 1995: 20). Surviving planting diaries also provide a snapshot of garden cultivation in the 1750s, recording a wide range of fruits, vegetables, flowers and trees, including many ornamental, imported varieties (Jackson 2000: 17-26).

2. Robert Adam and the Picturesque (1775-92)

This period witnessed the fundamental transformation of Culzean Castle and its immediate grounds. Although profits from the smuggling trade had been curtailed, family income was boosted by investment into the slave trade, together with a huge loan of £30,000 secured by David Kennedy, 10th Earl of Cassillis, upon his succession to the titles and estates in 1775 (Moss 2002: 69). The new Earl wanted a home that reflected his status and family heritage, and the following year, he commissioned the renowned architect, Robert Adam, to visit the site and commence work.

Over the next 15 years, Adam drew up plans, initiated major building projects, designed new structures and embellishments and oversaw the demolition of older elements, including the kitchen garden and the remains of the barmekin. His influence extended beyond the stone and mortar of the buildings themselves. The original Silver Avenue was planted during this era, while archaeological research suggests that Adam's entrance viaduct linked up with a drive leading from the south, interpreted by some as evidence for Adam extending his remit into landscape architecture (see under Landscape Components: Avenues and Vistas; Drives and Approaches).

Although the scheme was not fully complete before the deaths of Adam and the 10th Earl (both in 1792), the clifftop ensemble was nevertheless recognised as a major architectural achievement, both in the years that followed (New Statistical Account: Kirkoswald 1834-35), and in modern scholarship (Moss 2002).

3. Expansion and ornamentation (1792-1846)

In serious debt after many years of building operations, the Culzean and Cassillis estates passed to a distant cousin, Captain Archibald Kennedy, in 1792. Born in the former American colonies, the new 11th Earl had amassed a fortune as a naval commander during the Seven Years War (1756-1763). Although he died just two years after his inheritance, it was his wealth that funded the major design projects that followed, ensuring that the new trophy buildings at the core of the estate could be matched by an expansive and fashionable designed landscape.

From 1805-1846, his son, Archibald Kennedy, the 12th Earl, (and later 1st Marquis of Ailsa), oversaw the steady replacement of the open, agricultural landscape and heathland terrain of Foulis' 1750s map with a well afforested, enclosed landscape complete with ornamental and pleasure grounds, a large pond stocked with fish and swans, carriage drives and paths, an enlarged walled garden, and a suite of new estate buildings. Although documentary references suggest that the landscape architects, Thomas White (Senior) and Thomas White (Junior) had visited and proposed ideas (the former in the 1790s and the latter in 1811 and 1826), the extent of their influence is not fully understood, and the 12th Earl is generally credited as the main drive and vision behind the changes (National Trust for Scotland 2006: 9, 11; Sclater 1995: 28; National Trust for Scotland 1995). The scale of the project was immense, with resident architects, engineers, head and foremen gardeners, journeymen, apprentices, labourers and foresters employed to accomplish the actual work on the ground (Jackson 2000: 68-70).

Culzean's emerging landscape was recorded in this period through written accounts, landscape painting and cartographic survey. Published descriptions praise the views, drives, woods and modern, productive gardens (Neale 1823; Loudoun 1833; Pettigrew 1882). Dramatic coastal sketches and paintings by Alexander Nasmyth from 1812-1816 emphasise the qualities of awe, romanticism and contrast which underpinned the Picturesque, while the 1857 survey by Ordnance Survey provides the most accurate snapshot of the 12th Earl's legacy; a Picturesque landscape structure that endures in the present day (2014).

4. The Victorian era and the first half of the 20th century (1846-1945)

Gambling debts inherited from the 1st Marquis' son together with general estate costs contributed to intermittent financial crises during this period. Succeeding generations to the Culzean and Cassillis estates responded by selling outlying farms (1849), reducing expenditure, and applying to disentail the estate in 1934, which allowed the family to sell larger tracts of land.

In terms of designed landscape development, the general trend for this era was towards repair, refurbishment and garden-making. The most influential figures were the 3rd Marquis and his wife, Lady Ailsa, who from 1870- circa 1910, shaped what has since been termed the 'Victorianisation of Culzean' (National Trust for Scotland 2006: 62).

As is typical for this era, there was an emphasis on leisure and comfort, ornamentation and the collection of exotica. Key projects in 1876-1877 included the construction of a more commodious castle wing by Wardrop and Reid, the creation of ornamental gardens in Fountain Court, and the reworking of part of the walled garden to form 'Lady Ailsa's Pleasure Garden'. The Marquis introduced buffalo, wild pigs, ostriches, emu, wild turkey and racoons to the deer park and Swan Pond Pleasure Grounds. Meanwhile, rhododendrons and other exotic trees and shrubs were planted to form a new woodland garden at Happy Valley and a nearby pinetum by the Long Drive. Herbert Maxwell's account after his visit in 1903 provides a glimpse of Culzean just prior to the wider social and economic upheavals of the first half of the 20th century and reveals a flourishing garden landscape, well-stocked and tended by teams of estate staff (Maxwell 1903).

From 1914, more prolonged financial troubles and a diminishing workforce reduced the viability of Culzean as a family-run estate and in 1945, the 5th Marquis of Ailsa gifted the castle and its policies to the nation, to be managed by the National Trust for Scotland.

5. The National Trust for Scotland to the present (2014).

Faced with the twin challenges of maintaining the property and presenting it to the public, the National Trust has overseen numerous initiatives at Culzean over the last 70 years. From early on in their ownership, management has been guided by long-term plans, which prioritise repair and restoration work and define future strategies.

In 1969, Culzean became the first Country Park in Scotland and visitor numbers have been consistently high. From the 1990s onwards, various research projects and landscape surveys have contributed to a more thorough understanding of the landscape development and structures at Culzean.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Culzean Castle is a castellated country house mainly by Robert Adam (built 1777-1812) with extensions by Wardrop and Reid (1875-9). It shares a cliff-top setting with the adjacent Stable Court (main building c.1750 and 1785) and the nearby, converted Home Farm (1787). Together they are recognised as outstanding examples of Adam's work.

Providing an approach across the narrow ravine to the castle, Adam's Ruined Arch and Viaduct (c.1775 and 1800) is also a significant monument of the Picturesque movement. The viaduct leads to an open courtyard which links the castle with the stable court and provides a formal place of arrival. Notable features include the classical, castellated Dolphin Arch, erected c.1830, the mortar battery, screen walls and, in the centre, a plinth-mounted coach ring.

Many key architectural features at Culzean have been modified several times and incorporate earlier fabric. Traces of the earlier Coif Castle are extant within the cave system immediately below the present castle, for example, while some remnants of 17th-century kitchen garden walls may survive within Fountain Court, immediately below and to the south-east of the castle (National Trust for Scotland 2006: 7). Here, Robert Adam embellished the existing walls with stairs and mock fortifications in circa 1779. The central fountain was installed in 1877 and is based on Gianlorenzo Bernini's Triton Fountain in Rome.

Beneath the cliffs, there is an extremely rare bathing complex. Built in 1816, and reflecting the contemporary trend for sea-bathing, the complex consists of a 3-bay, rustic style bath house, a circular-plan, classical style changing room, or round house, and rectangular plunge pool, carved into natural rock at the tide line and once fitted with a hot water supply. The castellated, former estate laundry (Dolphin House, by William Reid in 1840), is set back slightly from this complex. The Gas Works, (1840) are also located on the shore, to the east of Culzean Castle.

The landscaped grounds immediately around Culzean Castle contain further notable structures. To the south-west, an ornamental, grassed battery and Mast House (1815 and 1908) overlook the Firth of Clyde. Further south, meanwhile, the polished ashlar, Gothic style Camellia House was built as an orangery in 1815 and occupies a more sheltered garden setting. The nearby, large walled garden (begun circa 1750s, completed 1775-1786, enlarged circa 1830) is rectangular in plan with rounded corners, brick interior lining and squared rubble exterior. It contains ancillaries of different periods: A 17th-century sundial, a Gardens House (1752), a frame yard, (1810), rubble-built potting sheds, (1815), a mid 19th-century Gardens Cottage, a rustic summerhouse (1886), and a grotto (1903). The vine glasshouse range, meanwhile, is a modern reconstruction of a demolished 19th-century vinery. However, the adjacent Peach House glasshouse is a Mackenzie and Moncur example. Closer to the shore, the Powder House is an early 19th-century, castellated style, former gunpowder magazine.

In the western part of the designed landscape, the Swan Pond Pleasure Ground is an important and coherent ornamental complex. Swan Pond is a large, irregular-plan, pond created in 1790 probably to the designs of Thomas White (Senior) with subsequent rebuilding and enlargement from 1814-16. Associated features include a bridge (1816), Swan Cottage (1816) and an aviary (1820), all by Robert Lugar. A pagoda on the higher ground of Barwhin Hill was reconstructed in 1999 on the site of a former Chinese-style pagoda building, also by Lugar. An octagonal plan geese house (1882) is located on an artificial island close to the south bank. On the opposite bank of the pond, there is an 18th to 19th-century barrel-vaulted ice house, while a nearby circular, cobble-lined hollow appears to be the remains of another, possibly earlier, ice house.

Structures associated with entrance ways and carriage drives include the main, Gothick Hoolity Ha' gate lodge and bridge over the Glenside Burn, constructed circa 1816 at the junction of carriage drives. A nearby feature is the stone, rustic effect main drive wall, of boulder and pebble construction. Ardlochan Lodge (circa 1830) marks the south-west entrance to the estate, while the Cat Gates at the former Swinston entrance flank the Morriston Drive from the south. Designed by John Thin in 1796, they form an ornamental Neo-classical gateway comprising triumphal arches and plinths supporting Coade stone leopards.

Drives & Approaches

Carriage drives and service roads link the inner and outer policies and connect Culzean with surrounding settlements. Established from the 1780s-1830s, they not only provided access, but also reflected the status of the property and helped forge a particular kind of landscape experience.

Historic maps and physical evidence chart their history. In the 18th century, and prior to Robert Adam's involvement at Culzean, access was from a coastal public road along Piper's Brae, which is depicted on Armstrong's 1775 map. This is now partly traced by the axial drive from Ardlochan, a route incorporated within the modern long-distance Ayrshire Coastal Path (Scotland's Great Trails website).

In the later 18th century, concern about both the proximity of public traffic and landscape aesthetics prompted change. Under the direct influence of the 9th, 10th and 12th Earls, the public road was re-aligned at least four times between the 1750s and 1820s, with a progressive distancing from the castle (Sclater 1995: 24). Meanwhile, work within the estate established a whole new suite of embellished entrance points and carefully designed approach routes, evident on the 1st Ordnance Survey map of 1859.

The most celebrated segment is Robert Adam's final approach to Culzean Castle via his ruined arch and viaduct. This was designed to heighten the drama of arrival, with the sudden framed view of sea, sky and castle provoking an emotional response, strengthened by the sense of height and motion over the viaduct. Today, visitors approach from the east, turning 90 degrees to face the castle at the ruined arch. Research suggests, however, that Adam intended a more protracted first view via a perfectly aligned section of metalled road from the south. If this is the case, it is the only known example of Robert Adam working as landscape architect (Sclater 1995: 27). This section of drive appears to have been short-lived, surviving today as a sunken linear feature in the deer park opposite the castle (Turner 1994: 71).

Long, winding entrance drives through the wider landscape, meanwhile, revealed the scale and picturesque qualities of the grounds as a whole. With design advice likely to have come from Thomas White (Senior) in the 1790s, wooded approach routes were created from Maybole, via Pennyglen, (the principal 'Long Drive') and from Kirkoswald, via Morriston. In 1816, another section of drive was established from Glenside to the Hoolity Ha' lodge, which is the route visitors use today (Moss 2002: 116). Although not to everyone's taste, (Loudon 1833: 8), these entrance drives offered “many fine prospects” of woods, pasture, sea and the upper storeys of the castle, preparing visitors for the final spectacular approach (Pettigrew 1882).

In the 1950s, the entrance lodges at Pennyglen, Morriston and Glenside were demolished to facilitate road widening. The initial stretches of drive from Pennyglen and Morriston are no longer in use, surviving now as unsurfaced tracks.

Paths & Walks

Recreational paths through the pleasure grounds became well established during the 19th century and now form an important resource for visitors to the country park. In the west of the designed landscape, a burn side path extends below the shelter of Happy Valley (see under Woodland Garden). Meanwhile, Swan Pond Walk, which links Battery Green, Fountain Court and an inland circuit of Swan Pond, offers a contrasting experience marked partly by panoramic sea views from the top of sheer cliffs, and a sheltered, inland route around the Swan Pond Pleasure Ground (see under Water Features).

Other sections of the path system were more frequently used by domestic and agricultural staff. Some retain associated names. Most elaborate in architectural terms is the Servants' Walkway between the castle and stable court, which concealed staff and tradesmen behind castellated screen walls. The Laundrymaids' Walk, which connects Piper's Brae to the shore and the castle, is thought to pre-date Adam's late 18th-century work and traces the route taken by staff as they carried linen to be bleached on the hill (Jackson 2000: 37). The former Ice House Walk, meanwhile, was the principle access to Swan Pond from the Walled Garden, and also connected the two ice-house structures. Remembered by a gardener who worked at Culzean in the earlier 20th century (Jackson 2000: 60), it can be traced within the woodland by surviving tree alignments (Landskip and Prospect 1993: 42).


Open grounds at Culzean break up the woodland cover and allow longer-distance views across the policies. A deer park with some veteran trees extends up the hillslope opposite the castle. Arable fields and open pasture, enclosed by curving woodland strips, stretch further up the hill and also lie to the east, either side of Glenside Burn (the East Parks).

The development of large areas of agriculturally viable land commenced in the 1740s with programmes of agricultural improvement initiated by the 9th and 10th Earls respectively. Ditches were dug, dykes built, stones cleared, hedges planted, and smaller land divisions dismantled, all in the name of estate progress and profit. A survey map prepared by farm overseer John Foulis in the early 1750s reveals a landscape where, unlike today, agricultural land dominated, and where open views stretched to beacons, masts or signalling points on the highest land around Culzean Castle: Kennel Mount, Drumlochan and Barwhin Hill (Sclater 1995: 20).

The great planting campaigns and landscaping work of the early 19th century tipped the balance away from open parks and fields towards the more wooded designed landscape apparent today (see under Woodlands). Even Cow Park, celebrated in the 1790s for its productivity and relative antiquity (Statistical Account: Kirkoswald 1791-99: 485), became the site of an ornamental lake, enclosed by trees (see Water Features). The only reversal in the more dominant trend for afforestation occurred in the 1850s under the 2nd Marquis when the woods opposite the castle were cut down to form the present deer park and an arena for the display of exotic animals (National Trust for Scotland 2006: 13-14; 2nd edition Ordnance Survey map 1894).

Avenues and Vistas

The Silver Avenue is a straight section of drive that connects Robert Adam's viaduct to the walled garden, and which was incorporated into the Long Drive from Pennyglen to Swinston in 1807-1815. Its name derives from a former grand avenue of silver fir (Abies alba), planted circa 1787 and removed in 1977 (Jackson 2000: 46). In 2012-13, the NTS completed work to remove a replacement avenue of silver limes (planted 1980) and establish a new avenue of silver fir, designed to reinstate this historic landscape feature.

Remnant avenues of varying dates and tree species survive elsewhere. Survey work in the early 1990s, for example, recorded beech alignments along Piper's Brae (the route from Ardlochan) that were not planted in straight lines, but were unevenly spaced along rough lines, helping to create a picturesque rather than a formal effect (Landskip and Prospect 1993: 52). Other avenues of sycamore, lime and horse chestnuts have been recorded on other stretches of approach routes and service drives (National Trust for Scotland: Conservation Framework and Management Plan Gazetteer 2006: 10).


The extensive mixed woodland canopy at Culzean contributes scenic interest to the local landscape and forms part of the setting of other key landscape components, including the castle, stable court, carriage drives, paths, and the walled garden. Although little original woodland remains, ongoing management strategies by the National Trust for Scotland ensures the regeneration and survival of this important part of the designed landscape, its benefit for nature conservation in encouraging a healthy wildlife community, and its function in providing shelter from coastal winds and protecting the main body of the estate.

The first tree-planting campaigns took place in the context of general agricultural improvement from the 1740s onwards, with planting books and diaries recording the specifics of shelter-belt and hedgerow creation (Moss 2002: 55; Jackson 2000: 256-26).

By 1820, the emphasis had shifted towards the creation of large woodland plots as part of a wider design ethos. Thomas White (Senior) is thought to have provided the original design guidance in the 1790s, while financial motivation in the form of tax allowable afforestation during the Napoleanic Wars may have prompted the process in the early 1800s (Moss 2002: 115-116).

Descriptive accounts chart progress in terms of acreage and sylvan beauty (1st Statistical Account: Kirkoswald 1791-99: 484; Aiton 1811; Neale 1823). However, it is again the surviving estate documents that provide important detail in terms of species and numbers. These reveal large-scale planting under the 12th Earl and 1st Marquis, particularly in the years 1814-1820, when a total of 950,300 larch, fir, spruce, alder, oak, beech, ash, 'thorns' and other trees were ordered for the policies. It is estimated that a total of some 5 million trees were planted on the Culzean and Cassillis estates by 1830 (National Trust for Scotland 2006: 12).

In the present landscape, there remains a mixture of species and age classes. Some of the oldest trees are likely to be survivors of the 12th Earl's planting campaigns. Recent projects by the National Trust for Scotland include the removal of invasive rhododendron, and conifer plantations, which were created immediately after the Second World War.

Woodland Garden

Happy Valley is a sheltered, linear woodland garden and arboretum located either side of a path that runs to the north of, and roughly parallel with, Swinston Drive. It is celebrated for its tree collection, which includes some of the oldest specimens in the designed landscape (pre-1828 oak, beech and silver fir), together with more exotic trees planted during the 19th and 20th centuries. Of the many champion specimens recorded in Happy Valley, the most well known are Adam and Eve, two Sitka spruces planted in 1851, just 20 years following the first introduction of the species into Britain and thought to be among the earliest surviving introductions in Scotland (; National Trust for Scotland 2006: 92). Happy Valley was mainly established from circa 1870-1910 along what was part of the Long Drive. Initiated by the 3rd Marquis and his wife, Lady Ailsa, it was planted with rhododendron, bamboo, tree ferns and cabbage palms beneath a canopy of mature trees. By 1902, estate traffic on the Long Drive was re-routed up the hill onto Swinston Avenue, and further tree planting created an ¿evergreen barrier¿ between the two routes, helping to provide a more tranquil and pedestrian quality to the Happy Valley garden walk (National Trust for Scotland 2006: 64). Woodland management and clearance work by the National Trust for Scotland from circa 1970-1984 gave the collection space to thrive once again, exposing plants and other features of interest, including custom-built cress beds built either side of the path (evident on the Ordnance Survey map of 1910; National Trust for Scotland 2006: 64). Work from 1984 onwards has focussed chiefly on tree works and rhododendron clearance.

Water Features

The largest water body at Culzean Castle is Swan Pond, located at the western end of the policies at the foot of Drumlochan Hill, Barwhin Hill and Castle Ridge. As a whole, the Swan Pond Pleasure Ground forms a distinct and important ornamental ensemble within the designed landscape, comprising the pond, open grounds, paths, structures and view-points, all defined in extent by the surrounding woodland edge. The pond also has significant habitat value for its resident and wintering wildfowl, which can be observed from a modern bird hide on the north-eastern bank.

The pond was first created in 1790 following advice from landscape designer Thomas White (Senior). Excavated within the long-established meadow of Cow Park, it was both a significant achievement in terms of engineering and a major change in the overall design of the castle policies. Established initially to provide a habitat for wild and domestic fowl, it underwent rebuilding and enlargement in 1814-16 and became the centrepiece of a new Romantic pleasure ground. In contrast with the rugged, precipitous cliffs, monumental buildings and panoramic sea views elsewhere, the flat sheet of water and sheltered lawns presented tranquil, more intimate views within a wider woodland setting, and a venue for occasional pleasure boating in the 19th and 20th centuries. The pond was refurbished from 1900-03.

Water engineering works associated with Swan Pond include a series of channels and sluices cut through Swinston Woods, known collectively as Carse Walk. This walk was just one element within a complex system of water management at Culzean, centred on the natural water supply rising between Hillhead and Happy Valley. Other surviving features include the 19th-century water and filter houses to the south-east of the walled garden, the cress beds within Happy Valley, and an unrecorded network of underground pipes and channels. The Fire Pond, also in Swinston Woods, was a safety reservoir for fire fighting, in place by the 1st edition Ordnance Survey of 1857. Capable of holding 16,000 gallons of water, and linked to the Filter House, it is believed to have subsequently supplied the castle, orangery and fountain. Other ponds in the woods were used for rearing fry as part of a pioneering fish rearing enterprise, begun in 1875, or for pumping water to the glasshouses. To the north of Sunnyside Mill, meanwhile, there are partial remains of a curling pond, built for the 2nd Marquis by 1857 (1st edition Ordnance Survey).

The Gardens

Culzean has several distinct garden areas in the grounds around the castle.

Fountain Court is a rectangular, formal garden of lawns and ornamental planting, with a central fountain, set within the lower ground of the glen immediately to the south-east of Culzean Castle. Sheltered by the topography and Adam's crenellated terrace walls, the wide terrace borders provide a mild micro-climate for fruits, tender shrubs, flowers and dwarf rhododendron.

The character of this core garden area has undergone significant modification from the 17th to the 20th centuries. Originally, it served as the castle's main food production area. South-facing garden terraces may have been cut as early as the late 16th century (Jackson 2000: 11; National Trust for Scotland 2006: 32-33), but were certainly in existence by the 17th century. They were celebrated in 1696 as sheltered and productive, laden with “peaches, apricotes, cherries and other fruit [sic.]” (Abercrummie in Pitcairn 1830: 168). Further terraces probably extended to the west (Landskip and Prospect 1993: 55), and a small walled garden was located at the foot of the terrace walls, where peas, onions, kidney beans, carrots and other vegetables were cultivated (National Trust for Scotland 2006: 4).

While fruit production continued during the 18th century, the old walled garden was demolished by circa 1782, and the general character of the glen itself was purposely designed to be wilder and unkempt. This fitted with Adam's Picturesque scheme, which emphasised the contrast between the “rocky ravine”, and the architectural forms beyond (National Trust for Scotland 2006: 105).

The origins of the more structured, formal garden of the present day can be traced to the 19th century, when the glen was transformed by substantial earth-moving and infilling. Lawns were levelled, and a bowling green constructed in 1853, fully transforming the appearance and character of this area (National Trust for Scotland 2006: 62). The present style of the Fountain Court garden was largely determined in 1876-77 with the installation of the fountain and the introduction of ornamental planting displays.

Castle Lawns describe three level grass areas to the south and west of the castle. These are the South Lawn, enclosed by crenulated walls, the square West Terrace, formed circa 1879 following the completion of the Wardrop and Reid castle wing, and Battery Green, an elevated parade ground created circa 1815 alongside the contemporary ornamental battery. Together, these lawns help create the immediate setting for Culzean Castle.

Running along the exterior of the south and west walls of the Walled Garden, the narrow Slip Garden is divided into plots where planting schemes change regularly. At the time of writing (2014), it mainly accommodates a wildlife garden. In the 19th century, glasshouses and tanks for rearing young fish occupied these grounds, and there is some evidence for a Penny Farthing cycle track in this area.

Walled Gardens

The large, multi-period walled garden is a complex element of the designed landscape. Begun sometime in the 1750s, and completed between 1775-1786, it replaced a smaller walled garden below the castle and was originally created to provide fruit and vegetables for the castle. In the present landscape, the garden boundary walls contain a variety of significant ancillary buildings and structures (see under Architectural Features) and distinct garden areas, encompassing both working horticulture, heritage fruit production, display and recreation.

In the northern half of the garden, there are orchards specialising in cooking apple varieties, cut-flower beds, borders and wall-trained fruits. The southern half, meanwhile, showcases gardening skill and enterprise, with a focus on ornamental and exotic displays. Orchids and indoor fruit, including late 19th-century grape varieties, are cultivated within specialist glasshouses (Greenoak 2000: 65), while outside, there are beds and borders for plants and shrubs and four recorded champion trees ( Significant landmarks include a large cedar of Lebanon and the sandstone grotto, constructed in 1903.

Evidence for the development of the walled garden derives from archaeological excavation, building survey, and surviving documents. Preparations for the garden appear to have been underway by the mid 1750s, when a gardening diary records the planting of shelterbelts in the area. By 1782, the old kitchen garden had been demolished and a new enclosure stood on or close to the present walled garden (National Trust for Scotland 2006: 48). Its precise relationship with the former Scipio's Land (the house and land of the freed slave, Scipio Kennedy), is not fully understood, despite excavation work carried out in 2007 (Alexander 2007). Other archaeological work, meanwhile, has more successfully verified the early application of heating technology connected with a vine house of circa 1790 (Addyman 2000: 83). In the 1830s, a major building programme increased the size of the walled garden to its present footprint.

During the 19th century, the most up-to-date horticultural technology was used to cultivate a wide range of produce and commentators remarked on the garden's success and productivity (Neale 1823; Loudon 1833). Sophisticated soil preparations and heating methods were tailored to individual grape varieties within a redesigned vinery (Addyman 2000: 83), melons were grown in a specially-designed frame yard, constructed 1810, while water was pumped to the glasshouses from ponds in Swinston Woods. Loudon's 1833 account is particularly noteworthy in its praise, suggesting Culzean to be among the top rank of British 19th-century gardens at this time (1833: 1-15; Sclater 1995: 29). The ornamental character of the southern part of the walled garden also dates to the 19th century, with the development of 'Lady Ailsa's Pleasure Garden' from 1876 through features such as open lawns, ornamental planting, the rustic summerhouse or tea-house, and the grotto.



Maps, Plans and Archives

Armstrong, A. (1775) A New Map of Ayrshire

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1857; published 1859), First edition, Ayr XLIV.2, XLIV.5, XLIV.6, XLIV.9, 25 inches to the mile, Ordnance Survey: London

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1894, published 1896), Second edition, Ayrshire 044.02, 044.05, 044.06, 044.09, 25 inches to the mile, Ordnance Survey: London

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1908, published 1910), Ayrshire XLIV.NW, 6 inches to the mile, Ordnance Survey: London


Printed Sources

Abercrummie, W. (1696) 'A Description of Carrick', included in Pitcairn, R. (1830)

Historical and Genealogical Account of (The Principal Families of the Name of) Kennedy, Edinburgh: William Tait and John Stevenson

Addyman, T. (2000) 'Walled garden vinery, Culzean Castle policies, South Ayrshire (Kirkoswald parish), 18th/19th- century vine house', Discovery Excav Scot, vol.1

Alexander, D. (2007) 'Culzean Castle, South Ayrshire (Kirkoswald parish), trial trenching', Discovery Excav Scot, vol.8 Cathedral Communications Limited, Wiltshire, England.

Balfour, J. (1632) ''A Description of Carrick', included in Pitcairn, R. (1830)

Historical and Genealogical Account of (The Principal Families of the Name of) Kennedy, Edinburgh: William Tait and John Stevenson

Historic Scotland on behalf of Scottish Ministers, The Lists of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historical Interest

Jackson, D. (2000) A History of Culzean Castle Gardens, Ayrshire, 1597-1846, Unpublished MLitt Thesis, St Andrews University

Landskip and Prospect (1993) Culzean Landscape Survey

Loudon, J. C. (writing as 'The Conductor') (1833) 'General results of a gardening tour, during July, and part of September, in the year 1831, from Dumfries, by Kirkcudbright, Ayr and Greenock, to Paisley' The Gardener's Magazine and Register of Rural and Domestic Improvement, pp1-15.

Maxwell, H. (1903) Memories of the Month, 3rd series, Edinburgh

Moss, M. (2002) The 'Magnificent Castle' of Culzean and the Kennedy Family, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

National Trust for Scotland (2008) Culzean Castle & Country Park, Guide book

National Trust for Scotland (2006) Framework Conservation Management Plan

National Trust for Scotland (2006) Culzean Conservation Framework and Management Plan Gazetteer

National Trust for Scotland (1995) Culzean Country Park Walks, Leaflet

Neale, J. P. (1823) Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, Volume 6: London: Sherwood, Jones and Co.

New Statistical Account of Scotland (1834-45), Parish of Kirkoswald, at

Pettigrew, A. (1882) 'Culzean gardens', Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardening 5, 3rd series

Sclater, A. A. (1995) 'Picturesque privacy: landscape improvement at Culzean from c.1750' in Scottish Archives, The Journal of the Scottish Records Association, volume 1, pp17-30.

Statistical Account of Scotland (1791-99), Parish of Kirkoswald, at [accessed 16.04.2014]

Turner, R. (1994) 'Sunken road, Culzean Estate (Kirkoswald parish): landscape feature', Discovery Excav Scot, (

Page(s): 71

Internet Sources

Canmore, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, [accessed 16.04.2014]

SiteLink, Scottish Natural Heritage, [accessed 16.04.2014]

The Tree Register, [accessed 16.04.2014]

Scheduled monuments search, Historic Scotland, [accessed 16.04.2014]

About the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

The inventory is a list of Scotland's most important gardens and designed landscapes. We maintain the inventory under the terms of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We add sites of national importance to the inventory using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

The information in the inventory record gives an indication of the national importance of the site(s). It is not a definitive account or a complete description of the site(s). The format of records has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

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Printed: 19/05/2024 03:58