Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
Dunblane And Lecropt
NS 76931 99342
276931, 699342

An outstanding rare example of an intact designed landscape exhibiting different styles of garden and landscape design. The parkland designed by Thomas White and the formal gardens by James Niven provide an important setting for the category A listed Keir House.

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


The landscape of Keir is of outstanding value as a Work of Art in its present state being a most attractive combination of different types of garden and landscape. It demonstrates the design work of Thomas White in the parkland and James Niven in the formal garden.



It has particularly outstanding Historical value as a truly composite landscape which has components remaining from all periods of the evolution of gardens and designed landscapes. All the components are in good condition at present although some are moving towards slow decline.

Horticultural, Arboricultural, Silvicultural


The landscape is of outstanding Horticultural and Arboricultural value because of the range, quality and condition of the plants, shrubs and trees in the woodland garden and pinetum.



The landscape provides the setting for the category A listed house, Home Farm and South Lodge, and also includes the other category B lodges and category C garden buildings, giving this site outstanding Architectural value.



The landscape has high Scenic value as it makes some contribution to the local scenery, but it is not especially significant as the area is well wooded.

Nature Conservation


The parkland trees and woodlands provide some value for Nature Conservation.


Not Assessed

Location and Setting

Keir House and grounds lie off the M9 motorway at Junction 11 on rising ground at the confluence of the Rivers Teith and Allan some 2 miles south-west of Dunblane. The surrounding landscape is highly varied with arable land predominating in the Carse of Stirling and more pasture land on the higher ground. The nearby Touch Hills to the south and Ochil Hills to the east introduce an element of more upland scenery in longer views. The house is largely contained by mature trees and it is the formal gardens to the south and north and the woodland gardens to west and north east, completely surrounded by the park, which are most important for the setting of the house. No outlying features play a prominent part in the designed landscape, but the surrounding woodland does open in places to give long views from the house and garden across the Carse to Stirling Castle, and to the Ochil Hills to the east. The area is moderately well wooded and the designed landscape is not an especially important feature of the surrounding landscape.

The house lies in the centre of the policies. Documentary evidence of the extent of the landscape influenced by design resides primarily in a plan by Thomas White, Snr. dated 1801, which is at Keir House. This shows a designed parkland extending from the River Allan to the east. There is no certain evidence, except the age of some of the remaining trees that these proposals were carried out, but certainly the area of Gallow Hill and Park of Keir, between the M9 and the railway, bears considerable resemblance to the proposals shown. Today the extent of the designed landscape covers some 1,352 acres (547ha).

Site History

It is probable that there was a designed landscape in the 16th century. It was modified in the mid 18th century and redesigned in the early and mid 19th century. The gardens were laid out in the mid 19th century and have been kept up ever since. The Woodland Gardens were added in the 1920s.

The Stirling family first acquired the estate in 1448. It was enlarged between 1517 and 1553 and the original house was probably built in that period. The family prospered until the political upheavals when they sided with the Jacobites. As a result the estate was forfeited but the family continued to live at Keir. Between 1750 and 1760 there were further improvements to the house and to the landscape, and an enlightened programme of agricultural improvement was undertaken with estates in Jamaica helping to finance all the work. This work continued into the early 19th century and between 1820 and 1840 further extensive alterations were made to the house and the landscape was further embellished.

Sir William Stirling Maxwell, who was laird from 1847 to 1878, working with Architects Alfred Jenoure and William Stirling II, remodelled the house and created the lavish formal garden assisted by James Niven before 1866. Sir William had spent three years on a Grand Tour of the Levant and was influenced by Spanish works of art on which he was an expert. He was also renowned for the modern agricultural methods which he introduced to his land. His grandson William inherited the estate in 1932 and he, and especially his wife, continued to develop the gardens. The house and garden were sold out of the Stirling family in recent years.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Keir House, listed category A, was originally Georgian, with additions in the period 1820 to 1831 by David Hamilton, further alterations between 1849 and 1851 by Alfred Jenoure assisted by William Stirling II (Architect) for Sir William Stirling Maxwell, between 1899 and 1901 by Sir R. Rowand Anderson, and further work and final developments carried out by Balfour Paul in about 1912 who was Anderson's partner and successor.

West Terrace, listed category B, was built by Sir R. Rowand Anderson between 1899 and 1901. He also designed a Sundial, listed category B, in about 1906. The Entrance Tunnel and Terrace, were built between 1846 and 1860 at the same as the Garden Seat was added. Both are listed category B. Three Bridges, all listed category B, were also constructed between 1849 and 1862. Two are footbridges over Home Farm Drive and the other is near the William Stirling Cenotaph. A circular Column, listed category B, made of open brick work, is sited at the east end of the Upper Terrace. The Wall, listed category B, enclosing the Woodland Gardens includes Slave Gateway, Gate and Stairs to Lodge Drive and Swan Gateway in the listing. The Walled Garden, listed category B, was built in about 1820 in the style of David Hamilton and gateways were added about 1850. The Screen Wall and its Pavilions, listed category B, were built between 1849 and 1862. Other features in the Gardens include another terrace with a Column of open brickwork, a small Fountainhead, made from boulders, a rustic Bridge, an Archway and a small Cascade. These are all listed B for the group. The Bathing House, listed category B, is a gothic building with a pointed arch and was built by Sir R. Rowand Anderson about 1893.

The Ice House, listed category B, was built in the early 19th century. The Water House, listed category C(S), was built about 1871. The Garden House and Stud House, listed category C(S), were built between 1849 and 1862 and the Garden House has additions by Sir R. Rowand Anderson dated 1904.

The Home Farm, listed category A, was originally by David Bryce and remodelled in 1858 by Jenource and Stirling. It is built around a central courtyard with three storey clock tower. The Lodge, listed category B, is dated 1861. The North Lodge, listed category C(S), is attributed to David Hamilton in about 1820. The South Lodge, listed category A, has twin Greek Doric column archways and was built about 1820, probably by David Hamilton. It was moved and re-erected when the motorway was constructed. Old Lecropt Churchyard, listed category B, has fine gatepiers and the wrought iron gates were added by Sir R. Rowand Anderson in the early 20th century.


The parkland falls into five areas. Four of these, to the south and west are managed as traditional grass parks, while Meikle Park is cultivated. In 1748 these areas were shown as small plots of pasture surrounded by woods but they were then transformed by agricultural improvement. The 1801 plan by Thomas White shows scattered trees and clumps throughout an extensive parkland with flowing lines of shelterbelts, woodlands and a curving driveway. Sir Henry Steuart of Allanton's gardener is thought to have assisted Charles Stirling, the laird's brother, to lay out the grounds in about 1817. The road was resited and the lodge constructed by David Hamilton and William Stirling II between 1820 and 1830. Sir William Stiring Maxwell continued the planting and enlarged the woodlands. Today many of the parkland trees remain with oak, lime and beech probably dating from the period 1790 to 1810 and copper beech and ash dating from the period 1860 to 1880. The layout of the main entrance to the site from the north and east was altered, and the lodge resited, to make way for the recent M9 construction.


Woodlands around Keir were probably extensive and valuable in the 1600's. Roy's map of 1750 shows a heavily wooded area west of the house. Most of the woods have been managed and a number replanted with conifers but originally some, such as Little Hill, would have been linked to the garden by woodland walks, and contained features such as the Icehouse and a Monument. The woodland south-west of the house and drive, around the Lower Glen, contains the ruins of the Cascade/Grotto and the Bathing House, dating from 1893.

The Gardens

These were originally laid out as 'The Green Terrace' in 1750 to 1760. These were developed by Sir William Stirling Maxwell between 1848 and 1856 around an old Spanish chestnut tree, thought to date from the early 16th century, which still survives although held together by chains. There is no known architect but the style is Spanish/Italian and may have been influenced by Sir William's familiarity with Spanish Art. James Niven assisted Sir William before 1866. Sir R. Rowand Anderson and his young partner, Balfour Paul, created further steps, terraces and fountains in the grand style in about 1905.

Today the pencil cedars trained up the face of the house, which were replaced in about 1950, are a particular feature of Keir. Extensive topiary, clipped yew hedges, a bowling green, a formal rose garden, striking herbaceous borders and the 1920 south- facing rockery are all characteristic of the terraces as they are today, and they are still embellished by architectural ornamentation dating from several periods. Planting has continued over the years during the occupation of Mr Archibald and Mr William Stirling and the gardens remain as a lavish tribute to their designers.

Walled Gardens

The glasshouses and vineries were built in about 1800 and the houses still retain some of the Georgian glass. The walls are red brick and are thought to date from about 1820. Part of the garden is still used for vegetables, but the other half has been put down to grass.




Printed Sources

CL v.158, 1975, 326-29, 506-10

Notes on Garden prepared by Mrs Stirling

Notes by Alistair Rowan on Keir

CL, Aug 1975, Alistair Rowan

T. Hunter, 1883

A.A. Tait, 1980

G.A. Little, 1981, p.155

A. Mitchell, Tree Survey 1970

Groome's 1880


Aerial Photograph NMRS PT/4571

NMRS, Engravings & Photographs

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: 26/04/2019 09:14