- Level of interest
The picturesque layout of the policies and gardens at Dundas give this site high value as a Work of Art.
- Level of interest
The known development of the landscape, together with the ground evidence supported by documentary detail, give this site outstanding Historical value.
- Level of interest
The planting at Dundas which includes trees from the 18th century, and 19th century conifers, provides some Arboricultural value.
- Level of interest
As the setting for a Category A listed building and other architectural features, including the remarkable 17th century fountain sundial, Dundas has outstanding Architectural value.
- Level of interest
The wealth of early recorded features, including the 17th century walled gardens, give Dundas outstanding Archaeological value.
- Level of interest
The views into the woodland and park of Dundas give this estate high Scenic value.
- Level of interest
The variety of habitat types within this landscape – woodland, parkland, cultivated ground and water – give Dundas high Nature Conservation.
From c 1120 the Dundas estate belonged to the Dundas family and the licence to build the tower or fortalice of Dundas, with the kernels (crenellations) usually found 'according to the manner of the Kingdom of Scotland', was granted in 1424 (McWilliam, 1978). The splendid renaissance fountain built by Sir Walter Dundas c 1623, indicates that there was a garden of some significance at this period.
The principal period from which any landscape work survives, is that carried out by George Dundas (1690-1762), who inherited the estate in 1706. He was a Member of Parliament for Linlithgowshire from 1722 to 1727, and again from 1741 to 1743, when he was made Master of the King's Works in Scotland, by then a sinecure. Some of his extensive tree planting can still be seen in the Dundas policies.
His first surviving diary-entry (Cadell, 1992-3) records the grounds as he found them on his father's death :
'All the trees that were planted out anywhere about the place… (some old fruit trees in the East Yard… with a few younger in the orchard and a few standard Kentish cherries in the Garden excepted) were two rows of old planes without the north side and the west side of the parterre…, some planes, ashes and a few elms all around within the walls of the orchard… with two rows of firs and two walnut trees on the brae west from the old house….'.
Between 1711 and 1714 when George Dundas was in Holland, he sent home alders, yews, apples, quince stocks, and cherries grafted for standards. Considerable time and effort was put into building drystone dykes. In 1716 he began forming a 'twist walk' of yews which may survive within the 19th century planting to the north of the castle. In 1735 he formed a garden or bowling green in the pleasure garden, reached by four staircases, with a summerhouse in each corner, and statues.
A pen and wash drawing board by David Allan (1793) shows the early tower from the north with the later free-standing 17th century house to the east ( the latter was demolished in the early 19th century); in the foreground are a walled garden and the fountain. In 1854, the fountain sundial appears to have been sited to the north of the new castle in what was probably its original position (1st edition OS 25"). It now stands to the east of the house.
To the east of the 19th century house there is an earth terrace and accompanying ramps, which had been built by 1897 (2nd edition Os 25").
In 1875 the Dundas family sold the estate to James Russell who then sold it to the Stewart Clarks in 1899. The family still own it.
Dundas Castle consists of a 1424 tower house, and a Gothic mansion of 1818, with an attached Stable Court and Offices, designed by William Burn. The Renaissance Fountain comprises a square fountain base, which bears Latin inscriptions, surmounted by a sundial on an octagonal pedestal now stands on a terrace to the east of the house. An arched stair leads up to the fountain.
An 18th century cylindrical Doocot, with a circular louver and five windows, is situated on hilly ground to the south of the castle.. it retains its 664 nest holes and potence. The early 19th century Walled Garden encloses an area of rocky ground and was probably built at the same time as the Gothic-style extension to the castle. The walls are brick with stone coping and ashlar dressings at the entrances. The greenhouses and potting sheds against the north wall were demolished in 1989. The Icehouse, constructed of brick with ashlar dressings, lies to the east of the walled garden. It is entered by a central door with a narrow window on either side. Two side passages have shelves for storage. The domed vault is made of brick with a stone oculus.
Castle Loch, by the walled garden, also known as the Swiss House, was built in the early 19th century. A late 19th century neo-Tudor Boathouse, now converted into a dwelling house, is situated at the central point of the southern shore of Lily Loch. At the south end of the loch is a four-arched bridge with timber transes.
The neo-Tudor North Lodge and Gateway, designed by William Burn c1820, has an L-plan layout with an open porch on columns. Two large, ashlar gate piers flank the semicircular entrance which has decorative 19th century cast-iron gates and railings. Chapel Acre, to the north-west of the castle, is a mid-19th century , two-storey, rubble house with canted south gable and later alterations. South Lodge is similar to North Lodge. West Lodge is c1900 single-storey and white rendered.
Drives & Approaches
The south drive, which may be the original approach to the castle was built by 1802 (Map of Linlithgowshire, 1802). This drive is bordered by wide, mown grass verges and separated from the parkland by estate railing. The north drive was probably created when the additions were made to the house in c1820, and is contemporary with the construction of the North Lodge and Gateway and South Lodge. It is lined with 19th century solid, wall-like plantings of early hybrid Rhododendrons and copper beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea'). The west drive is a service drive, and a lodge was added as noted above.
The ground slopes gently south-eastwards from the castle to an area referred to as the Great Park (1854, OS 6"), Dundas Castle is partially screened from the public road to the east (A8000) by two clumps of mixed deciduous trees set centrally across the parkland. These were planted by the mid 19th century (1854, OS 6") and extended in the late 19th century (1897, OS 6"). The south drive passes through the Great Park, planted with lime, sycamore, oak and sweet chestnut. Between 1854 and 1896 a clump of Scot's pine (Pinus sylvestris), underplanted with Rhododendron ponticum with an edge of elder (Sambucus nigra), was planted in the parkland to the east of the south drive. The contrast between the light foliage of the elder and the dark foliage of the rhododendron and pine is particularly striking.
At the south end of the park, a large early 20th century plantation contains gean (Prunus avium), sycamore, copper beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea'), variegated sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus 'Leopoldii'), beech, silver birch, oak, and yew (planted after 1894; see 1894 OS 6").
A drystone dyke separates this field from the woodland on Dundas Hill.
Both James Russell and the Stewart Clarks carried out extensive planting, mainly for game cover (see 1st and 2nd editions OS).
In the mid 19th century, the main area of the woodland was confined to Dundas Hill and around the walled garden, situated on its western extremity (1854, OS 25"). This belt continued to the south-east, parallel to the line of the south drive. Woodland was also planted along the north drive, with some short belts along the public road (A8000) to the east. Between these woodland belts the land appears to have been fairly open with some parkland trees around the house. However, by the late 19th century, James Russell had transformed the estate by a programme of prolific planting (1894, OS 6"). Existing belts to the north and south, leading along the drives, were broadened by belts of planting, principally yew, primarily for game cover. The southern area of the estate from Barrancraig Wood to Craigend, was completely planted up, as was the western part of the estate. The estate boundary was consolidated to the east enclosing an area of open parkland, and the boundary was extended to the north by the planting of the Echline Strip.
Lily Loch is situated in the valley, to the south of Dundas Hill. Originally an area of swampy ground (1854, OS 6"), by 1894 James Russell had formed the area into a well-defined loch with several islands (1894, OS 6"). Although the islands and the boathouse in the north-west corner are no longer extant, a neo-Tudor boathouse survives on the southern shore.
Large sweeps of mown grass surround the house, with some remnant parkland planting including a sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) of 18th century origin, common oak (Quercus robur), wych elm (Ulmus procera), and sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus). To the south, the area is fringed by 19th century Rhododendron hybrids.
Immediately north-east of the house, a mixed deciduous and coniferous wood stands on what is thought to be the site of a 17th century walled, courtyard garden that housed the fountain sundial. According to Hannan (1928), there were banqueting rooms in the corners of the courtyard with the fountain sundial in the centre. The Latin inscription on the fountain states that it was built in 1623 by Sir Walter Dundas, and that it is surrounded by guardian spirits to frighten evil-doers. Friends and strangers are invited to make use of the gardens, the sundials, the fountain, and the cushions distributed on the seats (q.v. Pinkie House, pp 103-106). Some old yews (Taxus baccata) remaining in this area may have formed part of the 'twist walk' planted in 1716 by George Dundas. In the late 19th/ early 20th century more formality was introduced by the planting of a walk, now overgrown, of Irish yews (Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata'). Aerial photographs of c1943 clearly show that there were formal gardens situated to the north of the house but these are now completely overgrown. Other trees here and in the vicinity include lime (Tilia x europaea), deodar (Cedrus deodara), cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitanica), oak and sycamore.
To the south-west of the house lies the walled garden, sheltered in the lee of Dundas Hill. It was reached from the house by a walk still extant but now overgrown. The garden was partly ornamental, partly productive. The glass-houses by Mackenzie & Moncur, now demolished, were erected for James Russell in the late 19th century. Some ornamental planting, including Rhododendron sp. and specimen conifers, survives on the rocky outcrop in the centre of the garden.
Maps, Plans and Archives
1854/55 survey, 1st edition OS 1:10560 (6"), published 1856
1854 survey, 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25"), published 1855
1895 survey, 2nd edition OS 1:10560 (6"), published 1898
1895 survey, 2nd edition OS 1:2500 (25"), published 1897
Sale Catalogue, March 1899
Cadell, P. 'George Dundas', Caledonian Horticultural Society Journal (1992-93), pp.18-26
Hannan, T. Famous Scottish Houses (1928)
Historic Scotland on Behalf of Scottish Ministers, The List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Small, J. Castles and Mansions of the Lothians (1883)
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Printed: 14/12/2019 07:29