Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
Aboyne And Glen Tanar
NO 47517 95766
347517, 795766

Ancient Caledonian Pine Wood forms the backdrop for the parkland, gardens and architectural features, built and laid out between 1875-1900, that comprise this scenically beautiful landscape.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The present condition of the design of the woodland and water garden gives Glen Tanar high value as a Work of Art.


Level of interest

The model farm and designed landscape created in the late 19th century gives Glen Tanar a little Historical value.


Level of interest

The range of trees, especially conifers, growing at the height and location of the site gives Glen Tanar some Horticultural value.


Level of interest

The designed landscape provides the setting for category B listed features which gives Glen Tanar high Architectural value.


Level of interest
Not Assessed


Level of interest

The contribution of the woodland to the surrounding scenery gives this site outstanding Scenic value.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The 10,000 acre Nature Reserve gives Glen Tanar outstanding Nature Conservation value.

Location and Setting

The estate of Glen Tanar extends south-west, like a finger, into the southern Grampian Mountains, and its rivers, the Water of Tanar and the Water of Allachy, join the River Dee at Aboyne some 2 miles (3km) to the north-east. The glen is surrounded by hills rising from Black Craig 1,742' (531m) in the west, to Mount Keen 3,080' (939m) in the south-west. The Forest of Glen Tanar, once part of the Caledonian Forest, runs along the southern side of the glen.

Glen Tanar is approached on the B976 and is situated about 3 miles (5km) from the junction with the A93. The soils are alluvial deposits, mainly gravelly loam, and the average annual rainfall is 35". The surrounding uplands are open moorland and support one of the best deer forests in Scotland. There are spectacular views within the glen and north-east along the Water of Tanar to the obelisk, erected as a memorial to the 10th Marquis of Huntly, which stands on Mortlich 1,247' (380m) above Aboyne. Glen Tanar itself is hidden from Deeside and there are no particular views into the site.

Glen Tanar House is situated at the south-west end of the policies just where the glen opens out into the Dee valley. The designed landscape which extends over some 1,000 acres (405ha) is surrounded by woodland. The extent of the present designed landscape is shown in the 2nd edition OS plan and was, therefore, established by 1900. The surrounding upland scenery dominates the design.

Site History

Glen Tanar contains one of the most important areas of Caledonian Pine Woodland in the Grampian region. The woodland was used as the backdrop to the designed landscape created between 1875-1900 by George Truefitt and Thomas Mawson, for Sir William Cunliffe Brooks. Thomas, 2nd Lord Glentanar, enlarged and added to the gardens.

Glen Tanar House was built by George Truefitt on the site of a small 17th century farmhouse, called Woodend, for Sir William Cunliffe Brooks, MP, during the 1870s. Sir William was a banker from Manchester and, at the time of construction, he was a tenant of his relative, the 10th Marquis of Huntly. He purchased the estate when the Marquis put it up for sale to pay for gambling debts. With his architect and the landscape designer, Thomas Mawson, Sir William created a model estate including 11 farm buildings, dairy, offices, 'quaint little cottages', stables, and kennels as well as rebuilding St. Lesmo's chapel. At the height of the building work over 250 masons were employed. He also improved the policies and the sporting activities on the estate.

In 1900, George Coats leased the estate for its range and quality of sporting activities and finally purchased it in 1905. In 1916, he was created Baron Glentanar and two years later his son, Thomas, inherited the title and the estate. In the 1920s, the 2nd Lord Glentanar came to live permanently on the estate and continued to improve it. His daughter, the present owner, inherited the property in the 1970s and has actively participated in its management.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Glen Tanar House was built between 1973-75 by James Dunbar Nasmith of Edinburgh on the site of a large house built by George Truefitt between 1874 and c.1900. Additions were made to this building in the early 1900s by Fryers & Penman of Largs and it was altered in the 1930s. By the 1970s the original building was in poor condition and was largely demolished; the large ballroom and stage has been kept and is now a wing of the new house.

Several buildings were constructed as part of the model farm designed by Truefitt c.1880. They include the Farm Offices, Estate Craft Workshops, Garaging, Stables, Storehouses and Game Larder, Cottages, Kennels and Home Farm itself. The Bridge o' Ess, listed category B, dates from 1894. The Bridge of Tanar is an 18th hump- backed bridge which is also listed category B. Tower Lodge, which stands by the Bridge o' Ess, is thought to have been designed by Truefitt. The Boathouse, Summerhouse, Steps and Balustrades are situated in the garden. St. Lesmos Episcopal Chapel is an l8th century farmhouse which was converted to a chapel by George Truefitt in 1871. It is listed category C(S).


The majority of the policies are enclosed fields grazed by livestock and the surrounding woodlands were planted to emphasise the shape of the natural landform. Along the river meadow, a herd of deer used to graze in the park prior to World War II, but today it is grazed mainly by sheep. There are a few specimen trees including sycamore, horse chestnuts, Wellingtonias, and a very fine specimen of Tsuga heterophylla (113 ft high in 1980) planted c.1876.


The magnificent remnants of the Caledonian Forest were recognised in the designed landscape. Some of the older trees are considered to be part of the original forest and these have survived the felling of the remainder of the woods where the terrain was too difficult for transport. Major felling of the woodland was carried out in the 17th century, in c.1841 and again in 1939 by Canadian lumberjacks for World War II. Large areas were also devastated by two fires; one in 1926 which burnt for eleven days, and the second in 1956. Further damage was caused in the 1953 gale. Lord Glentanar, a forestry innovator, replanted most of the woodland with a range of conifers and, since 1948, over 100 acres a year has been replanted under the Forestry Commission Dedication Scheme.

During the 19th century the estate was fenced to keep the red deer in but since the designation of the woodland as a Nature Reserve in 1966 and 1979, large areas have been fenced and natural regeneration is taking place. The pine trees are colonising large areas especially the Strone. Under this management the grouse have retreated to the more open land and experiments to increase the range of native broadleaved species are being carried out, such as planting clumps of rowan, birch and gean, particularly along the old Firmounth drovers road.

The large plantations of commercial conifer woodlands lie south of the river and were planted between 40-60 years ago. To the north, natural regeneration of birch is occurring along the hillsides to Belrorie Hill.

Woodland Garden

The woodland and water garden were probably designed by Thomas Mawson when he was assisting George Truefitt c.1890. There are, however, no known design plans. The river was diverted to make a series of waterbodies including a large loch called Fish Pond. The other three are much smaller and the complex water system is designed so that they are connected by stone channels. Meandering paths weave around the lakes and streams creating an intricate pattern. Since World War II the gardens have become overgrown and many of the smaller plants such as the Primulas and Irises have been lost. Many of the paths have been lost, but some have been cleared and are now bordered by clipped Rhododendron ponticum. Within the broadleaved woodland many 'exotic' conifers were planted by Sir William Conliffe Brooks c.1880 and by Lord Glentanar in c.1925, and today there are large specimens of Douglas fir, Hemlock spruce, White fir, Wellingtonias, Atlantic cedars, red sycamores, hornbeams, Quercus rubra, Q. coccinea, Q. cerris and A. circinatum. A small summerhouse designed for children remains and throughout the garden there are stone bridges, steps, seats, and stone mushrooms. Alan Mitchell measured many of the interesting trees in 1980.

The Gardens

Most of the formal gardens have now been grassed down and all that remains are the stone balustrades and tall steps which lead down to the formal gardens. These are now overgrown and the pattern has been lost.

Walled Gardens

The original shape of the kitchen garden built c.1880 by Sir William Cunliffe Brookes, can be seen on the 2nd edition OS plan. It is an almost regular square shape on plan except for the eastern corner which has been rounded off. The exact original layout is uncertain and it is known that it was altered after World War II. The large conservatory was built in 1920 on the site of an earlier glasshouse. The potting shed and other ancillary buildings are in good condition and date back to the 1880s. The garden is quartered by paths which are lined by colourful herbaceous borders and roses. Vegetables are grown in the compartments and the orchard has recently been replanted around an old sundial. It is an attractive and colourful garden. A Lawson cypress hedge separates the garden from a small paddock.




Printed Sources

The Waymarked Walks', leaflet

G. Beard, Thomas Mawson, 1976

G.A. Little, 1981

A. Mitchell, Tree Survey 1980



NMRS, Photographs

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.

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Printed: 04/06/2023 05:16