The designed landscape was first laid out in the early part of the 17th century and improved during the latter part of that century. The estate was looked after throughout the 18th century. In the early part of the 19th century the park was extended and the large walled garden laid out. The garden has been maintained without a break ever since
The lands at one time belonged to the family of Thomson, one of whom was made a baronet by Charles I in 1637. They were then acquired by the Duke of Lauderdale in 1674 who gave them to his daughter, the 1st Duchess of Argyll. In 1744 Bonnie Prince Charlie encamped his cavalry in the north-west part of Duddington prior to the Battle of Prestonpans; this area is now known as the Cavalry Park.
In 1745, James Hamilton who succeeded as 8th Earl of Abercorn in 1744, bought the lands of Duddingston from the Duke of Argyll and commissioned Sir William Chambers in 1760 to 'build a modest but elegant house suitable for a confirmed bachelor'. The house was built between 1763-68 and has been described as 'a very important early landmark in British neo-classicism'. The cost, with its pleasure grounds, was reputed to be #30,000, and Loudon refers to the grounds being laid out by Robinson. A painting by George Barret c.1770 shows the park laid out with young parkland trees.
In 1764 the 8th Earl of Abercorn purchased the estate of Paisley, where he founded the now town of Paisley in 1781. Duddingston was still kept as his first residence until his death in 1789, when he was succeeded by his nephew as 9th Earl. The estate was then passed down through the family for many years but was let out to, among others, the Dowager-Countess of Morton, and to Sir Molyneux Nepean. In 1883, the 1,500 acre estate belonged to the 10th Earl, 1st Duke of Abercorn but, at around this time, a considerable portion of the estate was acquired by the Benhar coal mining company. In 1894 the south-western part of the estate was leased by the Insurance and Banking Golf Club, renamed Duddingston Golf Club after World War I, and the land was finally purchased by the club in 1972. In the 1960s Holyrood School was built in the north-west area of the park, which is now quite separate from the rest of the policies. In 1959 Mr E. Gladstone, a master cabinet maker and building contractor, purchased the house, together with the surrounding nine acres of land in the centre of parkland from the Duke of Abercorn and set about its restoration 'as a labour of love'. It took four years of painstaking work to restore enough of the house to enable him to open it as an hotel in 1963.