Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (


Date Added
Local Authority
South Ayrshire
NS 30511 3044
230511, 603044

The woodland, specimen trees and architecture in this designed landscape make an outstanding contribution to the local scenery. The variety of landscapes provides a valuable range of wildlife habitats, including the remnant of ancient woodland, the

moors, burns and other policy woodland.

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 layout of the parks and Lady Glen and the descriptions of the gardens in the past give Kilkerran outstanding value in this category.



The long association with the Fergusson family, and the wealth of estate records and plans kept at the house give this site outstanding Historical value.

Horticultural, Arboricultural, Silvicultural


The remains of the specimen conifer collection, although overgrown, and the early silvicultural experiments at Kilkerran give it some value in this category.



The parks provide the setting for a grade A listed building.



It makes an outstanding contribution to the surrounding scenery by virtue of its valley setting and size, layout and quality of the parkland trees.

Nature Conservation


The west woodland is a remnant of ancient woodland and this, together with the habitat provided by the moors, burns and estate woodlands, gives it outstanding value in this category.


Not Assessed

Location and Setting

Kilkerran is situated in the valley of the Water of Girvan some 4.5 miles (7km) south of Maybole and 2 miles (3km) north-east of Dailly. The river flows through the estate and is joined by several tributaries flowing down from the hills to the south, including the Toddy Burn which flows just to the west of the house. The several bridges crossing the river and burns add to the architectural interest of the estate. The moorland hills to the south rise to around 1000' (300m); the lower slopes are forested, the several burns cutting through the red sandstone rock to form cascades and waterfalls. The underlying rocks are Carboniferous and there are several abandoned quarries in the area for whinstone, and a colliery to the north at Dalzellowlie. There are extensive views along the valley across the open parkland. The parkland is visually significant from the B741 and a view of the whole designed landscape can be obtained from the hills to the north.

The house is set on rising ground to the south of the river with fine views along the river valley. The designed landscape is bounded by the B741 to the north and by the policy woodlands to the south. From historical map evidence, particularly General Roy's map of 1750, the extent of the designed landscape has remained similar to the north and east since that time, extended to the west, and contracted to the south. There are 536 acres (132ha) in the designed landscape today.

Site History

The designed landscape has remained similar in layout since the improvements undertaken in c.1814 from map evidence. Paintings at the house by John Wilson show the house before the Gillespie addition and those by Severn in 1873 show the old stable-block just to the south-west of the house.

It is known that a tower house was standing on the site of the present house by the 14th century. The estate at that time was divided and the tower house which forms the nucleus of the present Kilkerran was then known as Barclanachan and was the home of a branch of the Kennedys. Kilkerran tower house lay two miles away and Fergus Fergusson obtained a charter confirming him in the lands at Kilkerran from Robert the Bruce who reigned between 1306-29. It remained the home of the Fergussons until 1650, when their estates were sequestered by Cromwell. Though the estate was later restored to the Fergussons, the family were deeply in debt through their support of the Royalist cause. In 1700 Sir Alexander Fergusson yielded Kilkerran and the family titles to his cousin John Fergusson who had acquired Barclanachan in 1684 through his marriage with Jean Whytefoord, whose father had purchased it from the Kennedys. He joined the two estates and transferred the name Kilkerran to Barclanachan rebuilding the house and incorporating the old tower. In 1703 he was created a baronet of Nova Scotia by Queen Anne.

As early as 1711, John's son, James, who was later to become a keen agricultural improver, started tree planting on his father's estate and by 1715 he had commenced a programme of hill planting. In 1726 he married Jean Maitland, the granddaughter of the 5th Earl of Lauderdale, and succeeded to Kilkerran in 1729 when he carried out further improvements to the house and grounds. The mansion was virtually rebuilt as a large, symmetrical elongated H-plan house with giant pilasters on the north front, to the designs of James Smith. William Adam is recorded as supplying fireplaces in 1744. Plans for the policies were drawn up in 1721, by William Boutchart, 'an exact plan of Kilkerran', and in 1744 'a plan of enclosures' by William Edgar. Both of these plans show elaborate formal designs but reference to General Roy's map of 1750 would suggest that if either had been implemented it had been changed by 1750. Roy's map shows the house with the main road to the north, but further south than it is today, and with drives in avenues diagonally to the house from the north-west and the north-east. There is a compound to the south of the house, where the offices were later situated, and a block of hill planting further south. The only remaining feature which today corresponds to either of those plans is the Great Diagonal lime avenue to the SSE of the house which is absent on the Roy plan but appears on the 1st edition OS map. James became an advocate, later a Lord of Session under the title Lord Kilkerran (1749). He died in 1759 and was succeeded by his son Adam.

Adam, the 3rd Baronet, was MP for Ayrshire from 1774-96; he made claim to the Earldom of Glencairn but was defeated in the Lords. He was succeeded by his nephew, James, who commenced large schemes of alterations to the house and grounds, and who was a founder of the Ayrshire Agricultural Association. James Gillespie Graham carried out extensive alterations to the house; a new entrance was made in the west front and the round-ended wings were added. The Toddy Burn immediately to the west of the house was covered over and many park trees were planted. In 1814 John Hay submitted a design for a walled garden. The 4th Baronet died in 1838 and was succeeded by his son Charles. His grandson James, the 6th Baronet, succeeded in 1849 and commissioned David Bryce to carry out further alterations to the house, including the billiard room along the north front. Sir James was an MP from 1854-68, then spent long periods abroad as Governor of South Australia from 1868-73 and of New Zealand from 1873-74, and of Bombay from 1880-85. Writing from New Zealand he asked his factor to arrange for a new garden to be made south of the house comprising 'a few flowerbeds laid out on the hill'. The sunken garden was made at this time, and the west front lawn levelled with the spoil. This grandiose and expensive interpretation was to cost the gardener his job on Sir James' return. Further improvements were made to Kilkerran in 1873-6 designed by Brown and Wardrop, when principally the south front was altered so as to enlarge the dining room and new stables were built further away from the house, and many of the specimen conifer trees and parkland trees were planted at this time. Between 1880- 1913 the house was let, during which time however, the garden was maintained. General Charles Fergusson succeeded in 1907 and he also became Governor General of New Zealand between 1924-30. He was succeeded by his son Sir James in 1951. The house was redecorated in 1956 with Schomberg Scott as the architect. Sir James was keeper of the Records of Scotland from 1949-69 and put the estate plans and records into good order. He was also author of 'Lowland Lairds' published in 1949. The present laird is his son, Sir Charles Fergusson, 9th Baronet.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The three-storey 18th century house is listed A. Additions were made by James Smith in the period 1710-45, Gillespie Graham in 1814, David Bryce in 1855, William Adam in 1744, and Brown and Wardrop in 1873-6. Old Kilkerran Castle, Aird Bridge and Drumgirnan Bridge, the latter by James Rutherford and dated 1779, are listed B. The Ice House, Kennels and Gigmagog are listed C. There are several other cottages built to the design of Gillespie Graham: the Garden Cottage, Woodside, Drumgirnan Gate House, and Ladyburn Lodge. The Burial Ground lies to the south of the walled garden, and the stables built in 1876 contain a small smithy complete with bellows of that period. There is a sundial in the sunken garden.


The flat, gently rolling valley landscape has been laid out as parkland with many parkland trees of mixed age and is scenically very attractive. It is also unusual and striking in that many of the parkland trees are exotic conifers. The old lime avenue extends from the house to the south-east up to the glen of the Toddy Burn. This burn was culverted at the time of major alterations to the house and reappears in the park to the north of the house. The long west drive was put in by Sir Adam and this, together with the 1799 date of the bridges, would suggest that the main road was moved to the north at this time and not, as some records suggest, in the 1850s. The bowling green area to the north of the house is now overgrown. There is a private air-strip in the north park.


The hills have been planted up since early forestry experiments were commenced by James Fergusson in 1715. The hill woods are now under commercial conifer plantations and the policy woodlands are a mix of deciduous and coniferous plantings. Deciduous varieties include horse chestnut, sycamore, oak, beech, and birch underplanted along the north drive with Rhododendrons and Azaleas. The plantations are mainly Sitka spruce, and follow similar boundaries to the 1850 plantations shown on the 1st edition OS map. A remnant of ancient woodland lies at the west end of the estate near parkland, and is reputed to be a remnant of the original Carrick Forest: this woodland is left to regenerate naturally.

The Gardens

Lady Glen is so called after the remains of Lady Chapel on its west slope. It is an attractive, deeply incised glen which was planted with silver firs by Lord Kilkerran. Paths cross the burn by four bridges. A drive built to take carriages up to the waterfall was known as 'Sir Adam's Walk'. The oak, lime, fir, and conifer woodlands, underplanted with Rhododendrons and Azaleas have become overgrown.

The sunken garden constructed for Sir James, the 6th Baronet, has been simplified recently for easier management and the paths have been put to lawn. The roundels are picked out with hyacinths in the spring, and the slopes above are planted with specimen shrubs, including azaleas and Embothrium. There is a sundial in the centre of the garden.

Walled Gardens

The curved walled garden was in use as a kitchen garden up until the 1950s when it was twice let out as a market garden. It was disused for six years until the Camping and Caravanning Club took it over. It is a very large walled garden of five acres formerly divided into six compartments with an orchard to the south. The west compartment is separated from the main garden by a wall and, from paintings in the house of c.1870, it was planted as an ornamental garden, the tiny yew trees shown in the painting having grown to over 30'. There are specimen trees to the south and west of the walls and also some old Rhododendrons, now overgrown. A path leads to the family burial ground on the south side of the garden.




Printed Sources

Wm. Edgar, 'Plan of Inclosures', 1744

Wm. Boutchart, 'An Exact Plan of Kilkerran' 1721

A. Rowan, CL, May 1975

J. Fergusson, 'Notes on Kilkerran House'

A. Millar, Castles and Mansions of Ayrshire, 1887

S. Forman, 1967

CL, June 12th 1975



NMRS, 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: 21/03/2019 21:49