Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
NO 58505 69128
358505, 769128

The late 16th century pleasance garden at Edzell Castle is one of the most historically valuable gardens in the country. It was created by David Lindsay, a templar knight and scholar, and includes some notable sculpture in the walls of the garden.

Importance of Site

A site included in the Inventory is assessed for its condition and integrity and for its level of importance. The criteria used are set out in Annex 5 of the Scottish Historic Environment Policy (December 2011). The principles are represented by the following value-based criteria and we have assigned a value for each on a scale ranging from outstanding value to no value. Criteria not applicable to a particular site have been omitted. All sites included in the Inventory are considered to be of national importance.

Work of Art


Edzell has outstanding value as a Work of Art due to the standard and significance of the 17th century sculpture incorporated within the walls.



Edzell has outstanding Historical value as it provides an elaborate example of an early 17th century garden.

Horticultural, Arboricultural, Silvicultural


Edzell has a little Horticultural value as the species used are modern to simulate the idea of the original design.



The Pleasance has outstanding Architectural value as it provides the setting for category A listed features.



The red stone walls of the Castle and Pleasance are of high Scenic value in the local landscape.

Nature Conservation


There is no Nature Conservation value at Edzell Castle.


Not Assessed

Location and Setting

Edzell Castle is situated in the broad vale of Strathmore and at the head of Glenesk, 1 mile (1.6km) west of the village of Edzell and 6 miles (9.6km) north of the town of Brechin. The Castle lies in the lee of the Hill of Edzell, 748' (228m), and Drummore Hill, the latter being covered by coniferous woodland beyond which, to the north and west, lie the Grampian Mountains. The flat landscape to the south and east is in agricultural use, farmed from Mains of Edzell which is situated to the south-east of the Castle. Views to this open landscape are important from the Tower. The castle walls are significant in the local scenery when viewed from the minor road which follows the bank of the West Water to the south of the site and links Edzell with Bridgend. Views into the garden cannot, however, be obtained from outside the walls due to the flat nature of the landscape.

Edzell Castle formed the northern boundary of the garden, known as The Pleasance, which is rectangular in form, approximately 52m x 42m, and is enclosed on the three other sides by stone walls. There is no known map or plan of the site from its original period of development in the early 15th century, and available documentary map evidence is confined to the 1st edition OS map of 1868 and the 2nd edition OS map of c.1900. There are 8 acres (3ha) in the designed landscape today.

Site History

Edzell was originally the headquarters of the Stirlings or Strivelyns of Glenesk whose seat was in the Motte Castle sited to the south-west of the present Castle, near the Churchyard. The Crawford Lindsays acquired the estate in 1358. The Tower House which forms the earliest part of the present castle, was probably built towards the end of the 15th century by Sir David Lindsay. Another David Lindsay, late 9th Earl of Crawford, who inherited in 1529, added the gatehouse range, possibly in 1553. His son, yet another David, added further buildings within the courtyard, and it was he who formed the garden.

He was a greatly accomplished scholar and his knowledge and interests probably led to the unique relief carvings on the walls of The Pleasance enclosure which are dated 1604. The importance of Edzell lies in the presence of this garden next to the Castle, demonstrating an age when the desire for comfort and more settled political conditions allowed people to create recreational areas for their own enjoyment. Ochterlony's account of Forfarshire in 1682 described the gardens as 'far exceeding any new work of their times'. He also noted that, 'in the excellent outer court, large and level, they used to play football and there are four great growing trees that are the debts' (goals).

David, Lord Edzell, died in 1610. His son was involved in the murder of a kinsman, Lord Spynie, and the estate was badly affected by the troubles which followed. The last laird of Edzell sold the estate in 1715 to the 4th Earl of Panmure in order to raise funds for the 1715 uprising. The new owner, however, was also involved in the Rebellion, and his lands were confiscated by the Crown and subsequently belonged to the York Building Company. The Castle was occupied by the Argyll Highlanders in 1746, during the 2nd Rebellion. The York Building Company was declared bankrupt in 1764, and the floors and roof were stripped from the Castle at Edzell in order to pay creditors. At this time too, the Beech Avenue which linked the Castle with the parish church was cut down.

The Edzell Estate was repurchased by William Maule on whose death, in 1782, it passed to the 8th Earl of Dalhousie. In 1932, The Pleasance was placed in state care by the 14th Earl of Dalhousie and, six years later, he also placed in care the remainder of the ruins of the Castle. By that time, the original layout of the garden had gone. The new owner, now known as the Historic Buildings & Monuments Directorate of the Scottish Development Department, has consolidated the stonework and reformed the garden.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Edzell Castle, listed category A, is a Scheduled Monument. The original tower dates from the late 15th century and a large addition, centred on a courtyard, was added in two stages in the mid and late 16th century. The Castle was gutted in 1764. Access to the tower enables fine views to be gained of the Walled Garden, also listed A, which lies to the south of the Castle. The date above the entrance to the garden is 1604. The walls have coped tops and were once divided into compartments by pilasters. The walls are elaborately carved and recessed and these recesses would originally have contained a bust or statue. On the walls are 21 carvings, representing the Planetary Dieties, Liberal Arts & Cardinal Virtues, some of which were based on German engravings by Meister I.B., published in 1528. The carvings are described in detail by W. Douglas Simpson in a paper published by the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, vol. LXV. Below each carving is a recess for flowers which are thought to have originally been filled with flowers in the appropriate heraldic colours; with the red stone of the walls as a background, the effect would have appeared like the Lindsay Coat of Arms. The wall recesses are filled alternately with white and blue alyssum while the larger recesses below the carvings are filled with yellow and orange marigolds.

A summerhouse is incorporated in the south-east corner of the garden; it is a two- storey structure. Access to the ground floor can be gained from both inside and outside the garden. It is thought that one of the two rooms on this floor was intended as a banqueting house.

In the south-west corner are the foundations of what was the Bathhouse. It is not known when it was demolished but the foundations were excavated in 1855 and remain exposed, indicating that the building was divided into three apartments - a bathroom, dressing room, and sitting room. A well is incorporated in the garden wall, in order to provide water for both the bath and the garden.

The Gardens

The Pleasance lies within the enclosure of the walls. It was reconstructed between 1932 and 1938 as a parterre with eight beds, all enclosed by box hedging, arranged around a sunken, central, octagonal grass area. Around the edges of the beds, neatly clipped box Knots have been formed, inspired by the decorative carved stonework on the walls, including the fleur de lys, shamrock, rose and thistle, as well as the Lindsay motto 'dum spiro spero'. Yellow and red hybrid tea roses provide colour to the beds. A large clipped yew forms the central feature of the garden, flanked by four smaller yews. Good views of the garden can be obtained from the tower and the summerhouse, from which point the intricacy of the layout can best be appreciated.

A long mixed shrub and flower border has been added within the wall to the north of the Castle.




Printed Sources

E.H.M. Cox - A History of Gardening in Scotland

W. Douglas Simpson, revised by Richard Fawcett,

Edzell Castle Guidebook

W. Douglas Simpson - The House Planets at Edzell Castle, Angus

CL, Dec 14th 1912 - The Walled Garden at Edzell

A.G.L. Hellyer, CL Sept 13th 1970 - Scotland's Renaissance Gardens

Edminston & Douglas - Antiquities of Scotland, 1845-52

Groome's, 1883


Historic Environment Scotland Properties

Edzell Castle

Find out more

Related Designations


    Designation Type
    Listed Building (B)
  2. Edzell CastleSM90136

    Designation Type
    Scheduled Monument

About the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for the designation of buildings, monuments, gardens and designed landscapes and historic battlefields. We also advise Scottish Ministers on the designation of historic marine protected areas.

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 criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

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: 23/01/2019 14:18