Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
NO 66907 59873
366907, 759873

A mid-18th century designed landscape comprising several category A listed buildings, fine gardens, parkland, woodland and a Wellingtonia avenue grown from the original seeds first introduced into the UK.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The records of the gardens in Lady Augusta's time give the House of Dun high value as a Work of Art.


Level of interest

The existence of plans drawn up by William Adam and the Earl of Mar, and the site's long associations with the Erskine family, in particular Lady Augusta Fitzclarence and her granddaughter Violet Jacob, give it outstanding Historical value.


Level of interest

There is little plant material left of Horticultural interest in the garden but the Sequoia trees from the original seed introduction to this country give it high value in this category.


Level of interest

The designed landscape provides the setting for a group of A listed buildings and thus has outstanding Architectural value.


Level of interest
Not Assessed


Level of interest

The house, south park and avenues along the drives are very visible from the A935 Brechin to Montrose road along the south of the site.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

There are a few very old trees left at the House of Dun, and the Den of Dun has remained undisturbed for many years.

Location and Setting

The House of Dun lies about 2 miles (3km) north-west of Montrose and 3.5 miles (6km) east of Brechin. The A935, which links the two towns, forms the southern boundary of the site. A minor road off the A935 forms the western boundary, and the east drive skirts the eastern boundary of the designed landscape. The landform slopes gently to the south and the house faces south with extensive views across the Montrose Basin. The proximity of the site to the coast has the effect of moderating the climate and, as a result, the gardens are rarely susceptible to frosts. The house and south parks are visible from the A935.

The site of the original house, Dun Castle, lies across the Den of Dun to the west of the present house. The castle fell into disrepair and the new house was built between 1727-30, resited to the east to take advantage of the fine views south across the Montrose Basin. Two plans for the new gardens around the house were drawn up in 1723 by the Earl of Mar in Paris and sent to Lord Dun. General Roy's map of 1750 shows a north/south avenue near the new house with shelterbelt plantings around the neighbouring fields, but no extensive formal garden at that time, and it shows no designed landscape around Dun Castle. The layout developed by the 1st edition OS map of 1862 has remained similar until today. The north park contained many parkland trees and included an avenue to the north of the house. The south park also contained many more trees than today. There are 99 acres (40ha) in the present designed landscape.

Site History

The estate of Dun was bought by Robert Erskine of Erskine in Renfrewshire in 1375. The remains of the original tower house can be traced in the large walled garden to the west of the present house. A large stone gateway marks the former entrance to the court. The castle having fallen into disrepair, a new house was commissioned from William Adam in 1727 by David, the 12th Laird, a judge in Edinburgh who took the title Lord Dun. He also commissioned designs from Alexander McGill, and designs for the garden were drawn up by the Earl of Mar (SRO.GD. 123/120). The Earl of Mar's proposals refer to the old garden by the castle being a bowling green and cherry garden, and suggest putting in a bridge across the Den. Two beech-lined drives were to sweep gracefully from the Brechin Road from the east and the west to the house. Contemporary accounts refer to existing old trees of chestnut, oak and beech in the park.

Further major improvements to the house were carried out in the time of John Kennedy-Erskine from the 1820s onwards. His mother, Margaret Erskine, the 17th Laird, succeeded her sister Alice. Margaret married Lord Kennedy of Culzean and her second son John inherited Dun. He married Lady Augusta Fitzclarence, natural daughter of King William IV, (who gave her for one of her wedding presents, a yellow coach). John died in Pisa four years later and Lady Augusta returned to London where her child was born; she later remarried and did not move back to Dun until c.1840.

In Alice Erskine's time the walled garden to the east of the house had been used as an exercising ground for her horses and it had since been turned into a drying green. Lady Augusta had it laid out with ribbon borders surrounding a lawn, with rose bowers in the centre. A sunk fence was put in across the south park to take in a greater area of garden, which was then laid out in the terraces which remain today. Stone steps and pillars led up to the south windows and yew hedges were planted along the terraces. She also put in the walk along the narrow gorge of the Den of Dun up to the walled garden and to the burial ground where her first husband was buried. She created a large rockery along the walk on the east side of the burn, driving around the countryside and coast in her yellow coach in search of plants and white quartz for her rockery. Popular stories of the time refer to her very fat coachman having to climb down from the coach to collect huge rocks from the shore.

Lady Augusta's granddaughter, Violet Erskine, was born in 1863. She is better known as the writer Violet Jacob, and she was brought up at the House of Dun which formed the background for many of her works including 'The Lairds of Dun' which recounted the history of the Erskine family. No further changes to the designed landscape were made in the period up to World War II, when the house was occupied by the Army. Since the war it has been let as an hotel up until 1985. In 1980, Mrs A.A. Lovett of the Erskine family bequeathed the estate to the National Trust for Scotland; the house and the 45 acres of policies are inalienable.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The House of Dun, listed grade A, comprises a rectangular block of two storeys, basement and attic. The advanced centre of the north front is treated as a triumphal arch, giant fluted pilasters carrying a moulded frieze surmounted by the cornice and blocking course. William Adam was the Senior Architect. The Court of Offices to the west of the house was also designed by William Adam and is listed A. Included in the group listing of A are the walled garden to the east of the house, the terrace gatepiers and steps, and the sundial dated 1727. The large walled garden by the remains of Dun Castle is listed B, as is the old gateway to the castle. The Ice Houses are also listed B. The early 19th footbridge over the Den of Dun is listed C(S) while the West and East Gates and the Tudor Gothic early 19th century East Gate Lodge are listed B. The Mausoleum dates from c.1835 and is listed B. There are various garden ornaments in the formal garden.

Paths & Walks

The walk put in by Lady Augusta up to the large walled garden and the burial ground lies to the west of the house. The path is mostly in good condition although it requires some improvement in places, particularly the steps. The large white quartz stones of the Rockery are still to be found as the path enters the Den of Dun on its eastern side. The Rockery and any interesting plant material it once held is now rather overgrown.


The parkland lies to the north and south of the house and a ha-ha divides the south park from the field beyond which is planted with a vegetable crop. When the house was built in 1730, there were already many fine trees in the park and these were added to at that time. The 1st edition OS map of 1862 shows several parkland trees which have since been lost. A line of Sequoias was planted just to the north of the house in 1856 and it is thought that the seeds came from William Lobb's pack of 1853 seed. A gap was left in the line for the view north of the house through the avenue. Alan Mitchell measured the Sequoia line in 1982. The parks are grazed and have been used until recently as horse pastures; some new individual park trees have been planted recently and fenced.


A shelterbelt has been planted along the northern boundary of the north park. The only other policy woodland is within the glen or 'Den of Dun' and its tributary valley to the south of the large walled garden, where oak, sycamore and beech have regenerated naturally.

The Gardens

The terraces to the south of the house were also laid out by Lady Augusta. The steps and dividing yew hedges remain although they have become overgrown in recent years. A small parterre of box hedges in the shape of a horse-shoe with studs lies immediately below the steps to the south front of the house. It has been interplanted with roses, and the terrace has been planted with fuchsias and roses. The lower terrace contains a tennis court and a vegetable plot, both developed in recent years.

Walled Gardens

The smaller walled garden adjoins the east side of the house and has been used variously over the years: as a horse exercising ground in Alice Erskine's day, as a formal rose garden in Lady Augusta's time, and as a pheasantry in the 1970s. It is sadly overgrown today, although the box edges of the former herbaceous borders remain.

To the west of the house in a corresponding position lies the Court of Offices, in the centre of which some weeping willows shelter the game larder. Old photographs show today's large pollarded limes, as tiny ornamental, clipped trees.

The large walled garden was developed after the new house was built in 1730; it is unusual in shape and extends over the site of the former Dun Castle. The old arched gateway is an impressive feature stranded within the walls. The garden is let and a large part of it is not kept up; there are some glasshouses left, but they are not in very good condition. There is a gardener's cottage to the north of the garden.




Printed Sources

CL Nov. 20, 1986


NTS, Management Policy

SF, Oct 1961

A. Mitchell, Tree Survey 1982



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: 21/05/2024 02:35