Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
NJ 36055 60229
336055, 860229

Long associations with the Gordon family and good survival of records make the designed landscape of Gordon Castle of outstanding historical interest. It is a fine example of the work of the 18th century designer, Thomas White Snr. who modified the strictly formal layout associated with 'Old Castle Gordon', introducing a more spacious landscape park of shelter planting, drives and parks. The formal gardens established on the former site of Bog of Gight village are of outstanding interest as a works of art. Unusual and old specimen trees, including the largest Western Hemlock in Scotland, provide some horticultural interest. While the landscape is the setting for the Grade A listed Castle and a number of Grade B listed architectural features, the park itself is screened on three sides and extensive woodlands make a distinctive scenic contribution to the surrounding area. Lochside and woodland habitats and close proximity to the coast and the Spey estuary SSSI gives the landscape high nature conservation value.

Type of Site

A late 18th and early 19th century designed landscape of parkland, policy woodlands, avenues and walks, with formal gardens, quarry garden and large walled kitchen garden and areas of 20th century commercial forestry plantations.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

Late 18th/ early 19th century with forestry planting post 1937, formal garden created in the 1950s and current, early 21st century, ongoing restoration.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The gardens and grounds at Gordon Castle and previously at Bog of Gight have been recorded as a Work of Art in the past and the remaining restored area of formal garden is of great value today.


Level of interest

There is good documentary evidence of the history of the development of the landscape and the park today retains the design by Thomas White Snr. The park is associated with the Gordon family over many generations.


Level of interest

The collection of specimen trees contains some rarities and there are some interesting plant and shrubs in the gardens.


Level of interest

The landscape provides the setting for the Grade A listed Castle, for several Grade B architectural features, and for many pieces of ornamentation notably the 1540 fountain.


Level of interest
Not Assessed


Level of interest

The park itself is well screened from the River Spey to the west and from the A98 to the south and east. The large extent of woodlands and the town of Fochabers make a significant contribution to the surrounding area.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The location of the park near the coast and the Spey Estuary SSSI combined with its lochside and woodland habitats gives the site high value in this category.

Location and Setting

Gordon Castle is situated on the flat coastal plain of the Moray Firth on the east side of the Spey Estuary. The town of Fochabers, built as an estate town on the southern boundary of the park, lies 1 mile (1.5km) south of the Castle. The coastal area is renowned for its relatively mild climate and for its fruit-growing. Views of the surrounding landscape are limited by the flat nature of the coastal plain and by the shelter plantings, which also screen inward views of the policies.

The drawing of 'Old Castle Gordon' in Pennant's Tours 1769, shows walled formal gardens to north and south of the old Castle with walled orchards to its west and east. The Castle was virtually rebuilt and Thomas White Snr was commissioned to landscape the park in c.1786. His design removed most traces of the previous formal layout, shown in General Roy's map of 1750, with its NNE/SSW and WNW/ESE avenues leading to the Castle with tangential lines and blocks of planting to the north and east. Some of the woodland was incorporated into White's design, particularly on either side of the road to Buckie (now the A98).

A survey of the Thomas White layout of the park shows that in 1808 the designed landscape extended from the River Spey in the west to Auchenhalrig in the north, to Bridge of Tynet in the east and to Fochabers in the south. It was at that time part of a much larger estate, indeed the 6th Duke of Richmond and Gordon in 1882 held 269,300 acres in Scotland. The policies today are considered to encompass the park immediately round the house bounded by the estate roads to west and east, extending to the Quarry Garden in the north-east and the kitchen garden and main gate in the south.

The original 'designed landscape' is now mostly farmed or planted by the Forestry Commission but with many parkland trees and clumps remaining. There are 2 acres (0.8ha) of woodland garden, some 3 acres (1.2ha) of formal garden round the house, and 128 acres (51.8ha) of mixed woodland between the Spey and the Quarry Garden. The market garden amounts to some 20 acres (8ha) including 8 acres (3.2ha) of enclosed wall garden. The designed landscape today extends to 1, 977 acres (800ha).

Site History

In 1786 Thomas White Snr drew up a plan for the improvement of the park at Gordon Castle for the 4th Duke. Major changes to the Castle and the park were being undertaken at this time including the creation over 20 years of a new town at Fochabers to replace the former village which nestled in front of the Castle. The landscape today follows the survey layout mapped in 1808 by Roy with minor changes over the years. By the 1st edition OS map in c.1850, the park loch is shown in similar form as today replacing earlier smaller lochs. The Quarry Garden woodland is shown on the 1808 survey but the southernmost of three clumps of woodland had disappeared by 1850, as had the large roundel of woodland planted with diagonal rides to the east of the Deer Park. This whole area is under forestry today. The structure of shelter planting, drives and parks has otherwise remained very similar to the original design, and although some of the individual parkland trees have gone, many are left and these are being replaced when they die.

The lands of the Bog of Gight were owned by the Gordon family from as early as 1449 when Alexander Seton, elder son of the heiress of Sir Adam Gordon, acquired the lands through marriage. On being made the 1st Earl of Huntly, he took up the name of Gordon. His son George, High Chancellor of Scotland, founded Bog of Gight Castle in 1498. By the 17th century, the castle was described by Richard Franck as a 'palace all built with stone, facing the ocean, whose fair front - set prejudice aside - worthily deserves an Englishman's applause for her lofty and majestic turrets that storm the air and seemingly make dints in the very clouds'. There were six Earls of Huntly between 1449 and 1599 and four Marquises of Huntly from 1599 to 1684 when the then Marquis was created Duke of Gordon. Many alterations were made to the Castle over the years and it was almost rebuilt by the 4th Duke of Gordon toward the end of the 18th century to designs by Baxter of Edinburgh. It incorporated the original tower of Bog of Gight and its north facade extended for 568'. The Castle was known as Gordon Castle from the time of the Dukes of Gordon.

The Dukedom expired with the 5th Duke in 1836 when the Marquisate of Huntly devolved on his fifth cousin once removed, the Earl of Aboyne, but the greater part of the estates were inherited by his maternal nephew the 5th Duke of Richmond and Lennox. In 1876 the title Duke of Gordon was revived in favour of the 6th Duke of Richmond & Lennox, the great-grandfather of General Sir George Gordon Lennox. The Castle was requisitioned during World War II and nissen huts were built in the parks. The estate was purchased by the Crown Estates in 1937 and some of the forestry is currently managed by the Forestry Commission. After the war, General Sir George Gordon Lennox who had been brought up at Gordon Castle bought the Castle back and rescued the East Wing pavilion and the central tower from demolition. However, the corridors connecting the pavilion and the main part of the Castle were considered to be past rescue from dry rot and were demolished in 1954. A new area of formal garden was laid out in front of the East Wing, the huge kitchen garden was put into commercial fruit production and trees and avenues have been planted in the park.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Pennant's Tours 1769 contains an engraving of the Renaissance Style 'Old Castle Gordon' prior to its remodelling in that year. All that remains of the 568' frontage of Gordon Castle is the 84' tall central Tower, the East Wing and Conservatory, and part of the West Wing. Additions were made by John Baxter in 1769 and Archibald Simpson in 1822-7 after a fire in the East Wing. Only the East Wing is lived in today and Gordon Castle is category A. The laundry remains and has been converted into two cottages. The main gates were built in the late 18th century and are category B listed. Bellie Lodge is situated at the entrance to the north of the Castle and the park wall extends for several miles; it is dated 1860 and is category C(S) listed. The East Lodge is category A listed and the Roman Camp Gate Lodge, dated 1823, is category B listed.

The Walled Garden is very large and at one time was divided into 16 compartments; the north-east compartment contains several glasshouses. Two cottages are set into the north wall and the whole is category B listed. To the north of the walled garden is the old village Mercat Cross, category B listed. There are various ornaments in the grounds including the urns along the main driveway, the 1540 fountain in the Formal Garden, and the balustrading and the deer statues on the terrace. The Eagles mounted on the front gatepiers were brought here from Lady Gordon Lennox' family home. The Quarry Gardens contained a temple and pavilions but these are overgrown today; the Gate Lodge is category B listed.


In 1882, Gordon Castle was recorded as having 'a beautifully wooded deer park and policies', the former being 1,300 acres in extent. The Deer Park is no longer parkland but the policies remain much as they were in 1882, although some of the individual parkland trees have been lost. There used to be a 9- hole golf course to the north of the house and this can be seen in the photographs dated 1931, at the Castle. The main entrance by Fochabers has an impressive archway and the drive goes straight for 0.5 mile to the Castle. Thomas White's park design did not meet with universal praise, since Thomas Skrine described it in 1795 as 'a flat and ill-kept lawn surrounded by its thick plantations and not even commanding a view of the Spey, though perpetually subject to its inundations'. However, by 1826, Loudon records that 'the grounds were celebrated for their fine woods, extensive gardens and romantic walks'.


A large area of the former estate woodlands are now under commercial forestry management by the Forestry Commission. Within the policies there has been some conifer planting in shelterbelts but most of the woodland clumps, parkland trees and avenues are planted with deciduous species. The management policy is for replacement planting with similar species. A beech/copper beech avenue was planted in the 1920s to the north-east of the house toward the Quarry Garden. There is a lime and beech avenue to the east of the Broad Walk which is about 180 years old and some beeches remain along the main drive. The loch is surrounded by deciduous woodlands which include some oaks over 200 years old. Within the policies there are several unusual trees which have been measured and recorded by Alan Mitchell. These include some larches thought to have been planted in 1738 from the famous parcel of seeds from John Menzies in 1737, the largest Western Hemlock in Scotland, and one of the largest Morinda Spruce in this country which was planted in 1856.

The Gardens

Photographs of the grounds at the end of the last century show a large area of formal gardens extending along the south frontage of the Castle symmetrical in structure and bisected by the Broad Walk which ran from the Central Tower southwards. The detail of the gardens appears asymmetrical with different sized ponds in each half of the garden; however, all but one has been filled in. Since World War II, General Sir George and Lady Gordon Lennox have restored part of the formal garden in front of the East Wing and retained the pond with its fountain, dated 1540. The balustrades have been re-positioned and the Broad Walk is now grassed over. The formal beds are planted with roses. Some of the plant material survived from before the last war, particularly the species Rhododendron, some of which are thought to be 100 years old. South of the formal garden, an avenue runs parallel to and east of the Broad Walk and a former small loch has been filled in and is now a tennis court. An 1842 bill receipt refers to the provision of water for a fountain, from the sawmill through 'bored trees' to the south end of the Broad Walk, for the fountain and a new stair (Price £164.14).

A photograph at the Castle shows the Quarry Garden before it became overgrown, with steps, clipped yew bushes, a fountain and a shrubbery planted with Azaleas.

Walled Gardens

The kitchen garden is very large and the walls are about 15' high and possibly predate the Thomas White park layout, when the Bog of Gight village would have been near this garden.



Maps, Plans and Archives

Thomas White, 1786, a plan for the improvement of the park at Gordon Castle, SRO/RHP 2383

Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland: National Monuments Record of Scotland (NMRS) and photographic and manuscript collections: Gordon Castle


Printed Sources

Gardiners' Antiquities and Scenery of the North of Scotland, 1780, 56, pl.VII, London

Gardener's Magazine 1903, 562-64

Gordon, W. & C..A. 1745, History of the Family of Gordon, Edinburgh

Groome, F.H. 1882, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, v.III, 200, William Mackenzie: London

Little, G. A. 1981, Scotland's Gardens, Edinburgh : Spurbooks in association with the Scotland's Gardens Scheme

Loudon, J. C. 1822, The Encyclopedia of Gardening, London

Neale, J.P. 1823, Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, 1823, v.6, London

Pennant, T. 1769, Tour in Scotland, Edinburgh : Birlinn

Skrine, H. 1795, Three Successive Tours in the North of England and the Greater part of

Scotland, 126, London

Tait, A. A. 1980, The Landscape Garden in Scotland, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

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: 03/12/2022 08:55