Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
Shetland Islands
HU 49015 42104
449015, 1142104

An early example of a formal 18th century designed landscape and classical house of 1724, with early 19th century 'model' farm and cottage. An example of the smaller Scottish country house, unique in Shetland.

Type of Site

18th century formal landscape contemporary with and integral to the setting of a classical mansion.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

1724, 1812-36

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

Gardie House and its designed landscape can be considered to illustrate how a formal classical landscape design can be tailored to meet Shetland's specific landscape and economic conditions. This gives the site high value as a Work of Art.


Level of interest

Gardie House has high Historical value as an early example of an innovative house and landscape, and a significant early 19th century 'model' of improvement.


Level of interest

The South Garden, ornamental gardens and the history of fruit production at Gardie give the site some Horticultural value.


Level of interest

Gardie House, its associated buildings and structures are a prime example of a small Shetland country house in an early classical style. They are of outstanding Architectural value, in expressing a classical architectural approach combined with traditional qualities.


Level of interest

There are archaeological sites of potential interest in the vicinity of Gardie House. This gives the site some Archaeological value.


Level of interest

The prominence of Gardie House and its designed landscape from Lerwick, give the site high Scenic value and reinforce the diversity of Shetland's historic landscape.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

Grassland management of the policies has aimed to increase the diversity of flora. In addition new planting and the construction of ponds on the adjacent organic farm provide food and shelter for large numbers and species range of migrating birds. This gives the site high value for Nature Conservation.

Location and Setting

Gardie House is situated on the west coast of Bressay, north-west of the Bressay-Lerwick ferry terminal. It sits on the eastern shore of Bressay Sound, directly opposite Lerwick.

The designed landscape is situated on gently rising ground with Gardie's main front facing the Sound and Lerwick, which are intervisible. The site is a prominent landmark for those leaving and arriving in Bressay Sound.

The designed landscape comprises symmetrical rectilinear walled enclosures and courtyard gardens set symmetrically around the mansion house, leading down to Gardie Pier. This pattern has not changed in extent since its establishment in the 18th century (1878, OS 6"; 1900, OS 6"). The designed landscape measures c 30ha (74 acres), including c 2.3ha (6 acres) of courtyard gardens.

Site History

Gardie House was built for Magnus Henderson in 1724, by Forbes, a mason from Aberdeen. It was built with its show front facing south-westwards, to the sea, and was innovative for its time, being two rooms deep in plan with its principal apartments on the first floor. The landscape layout is contemporary with the House and comprises a series of formal walled gardens, set within drystone-walled parks symmetrically disposed with the mansion at their centre. The site is linked to a harbour.

In 1799, Elizabeth Nicolson, wife of Thomas Mouat of Garth (see Belmont), inherited Gardie from James Henderson, her uncle. In 1812, Mouat and Nicolson let the property to their nephew William Mouat (d.1836). He added a square, ashlar porch to the main front and to the north-east of the House, he built a 'model' farm steading, albeit diminutive in scale, containing a stable, dairy, hen house and a byre for one cow (Skene, 1812 shown in Finnie, 1990, p.83). Sir Walter Scott visited Shetland aboard the Lighthouse Commissioners' yacht and hired a boat from Lerwick, to be rowed around Bressay and Noss. He landed at Noss sound 'to dine at Gardie House (the seat of the young Mr Mouat) on the Isle of Bressay… We are most hospitably treated… Young Mr Mouat, son of my old friend, is an improver, and a moderate one.' (Scott, 1814). In 1820, Mouat built a Gothic cottage onto the north garden walls adjoining Gardie House.

In 1845 Gardie House was described as:

'the most imposing house of Bressay… Several spots near the mansion house were, some years ago planted with willows and ash. The plants of ash are not in the same state of progress as the willows… there are various plants of aspen, poplar, laburnum, elm and plane tree thriving well. The climate does not appear to favour evergreens…There is not, so far as I have heard, any instance of a hot house in this country, except, here; and its vines produce an exuberant crop of grapes.' (New Statistical Account, 1841).

Later in the 19th century the layout of the main courtyard garden was altered, forming an oval lawn at its centre. The House was altered to its present form in 1905. The House remains in private ownership.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Gardie House, built in 1724, was altered in 1820 and 1905. The classical country house comprises a principal seven-bay block of two-storeys with attic. The central five-bays have a raised wallhead which supports a wide pediment. A finely-dressed ashlar porch projects from the centre of the principal elevation, which is harled with stugged and droved red sandstone dressings and details. Early 20th century additions designed by James Aitken (of Lerwick), include the shallow-pedimented attic over the central bays, with widely-spaced windows, the parapeted porch and small single storey wings. On the west is a forecourt enclosed by high walls. A screen wall pierced by a central, classical gate forms the west forecourt boundary and main entrance, and there are symmetrical three-bay pavilions at its junction with the side walls to north and south.

The garden walls are of flagstone rubble, linking the various buildings. South-east of the house the Walled Garden has flagstone rubble walls, 2-3m high, mainly without copes and showing signs of subsidence.

West of the House is Gardie House Cottage, with its associated outbuildings and garden walls, dating to 1820. The Cottage, extended c 1880, is a single-storey and attic, three-bay symmetrical Gothic building with harled walls. Its also faces the sea. Garden walls adjoin the south gable of the cottage and the east gable of the wing, the latter connecting with the stables. One wall supported a glasshouse, now demolished. The Stableblock, north of Gardie House, is harled with droved and polished ashlar dressings. Its principal elevation faces south-west to Gardie House with a two-storey tower topped by a square pyramid roof with a weathervane. In plan, the stables are symmetrical and U-plan with flanking L-plan wings. The west range contained stable accommodation, the north a dairy and hen house and the south range a byre for one cow. It is now used as a store.

Gardie House was originally approached from the sea, with a landing at Gardie Pier. It is contemporary with the House (1724). The associated cement rendered boathouse was built c 1950.

Drives & Approaches

The principal approach from Gardie Pier to the west, was along a path leading to the forecourt gates. A public pier and ferry terminal at Maryfield, c 300m further south, have superseded the Gardie pier. Current access, by car, leads south-west from the Heogan Road along a drive.


A series of large square parks surround Gardie House and the farm steading. All are enclosed by drystone dykes, and are disposed in a symmetrical layout around the house and gardens. The axis of the design is the straight track leading from the pier to the farmsteading. These fields are integral to the designed landscape, as clearly illustrated on A. M. Skene's drawing of 1818. They are in agricultural use as cultivated grassland.

The Gardens

The forecourt has a central oval lawn, bounded by a gravel path linking the main entrance gate to the front door. Borders, lined by modern, low stone walls, are set against the boundary walls. Groups of mature sycamore stand in the angle of the west wall. The forecourt south wall is pierced by an arched gateway leading to the South Garden.

West of the House is a large rectangular enclosure containing a rectangular grass terrace, accessed by a flight of steps, which leads north-westwards from the house, and retained by a drystone wall. This raised walk provides views west over the Sound, and east over a sunk lawn. There is no record of the function of this area, which is cut by an open water channel.

The Cottage and its accompanying walled garden occupy the northern corner of this enclosure. The Cottage garden comprises a terraced lawn bounded by a stone-lined water channel on its south-eastern side. Two flights of stone steps remain at each end of the glasshouse terrace.

South-east of Gardie House is the rectangular, sheltered, former Kitchen Garden. Its subdivision into four compartments by minor footpaths (1878, OS 6") has been restored by the Scott family and the compartments used for a combination of vegetables, flowers", trees and shrubs, and sculpture displays. A framework of wind- tolerant shrubs has been planted for shelter. The southern corner of the garden retains some elm and sycamore trees.



Maps, Plans and Archives

1878 survey, 1st edition OS 1:10560 (6"), published 1881

1878 survey, 1st edition OS 1:2,500 (25"), published 1880

1900 survey, 2nd edition OS 1:10560 (6"), published 1902

Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, National Monuments Record of Scotland: Photographic collection


Printed Sources

Historic Scotland on Behalf of Scottish Ministers, The List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest

Hibbert, S. A Description of the Shetland Islands (1822)

Finnie, M. Shetland: An Illustrated Architectural Guide (1990), pp.83-4

Gifford, J. The Buildings of Scotland: Highlands and Islands (1992), p.471

New Statistical Account, Statistical Account of the Parish of Bressay, vol.15, (1841), pp.10-11

Scott, Sir W., Northern lights, or, a voyage in the lighthouse yacht to Nova Zembla and the Lord knows where in the summer of 1814 (reprinted 1982)

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: 25/08/2019 04:16