The designed landscape at Lee was laid out in the early 19th century but the landscape designer is unknown.
The Barony of Lee was acquired by William Loccard in 1272. One of the most famous members of the family was his son, Sir Simon Loccard, who journeyed with Sir James Douglas on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land carrying with them the heart of Sir Robert the Bruce. Douglas was killed in battle with the Moors in 1330 and Sir Simon brought the heart back to Scotland. For this he was granted the Lockhart arms and motto.
It is not known when the original Lee Castle was built. Roy's map indicates the presence of a house and established designed landscape in the mid-18th century. Sir Charles Macdonald Lockhart built a house in 1817 and this was incorporated when the present house was built by Sir Norman Lockhart between 1834-1845 to the designs of James Gillespie Graham. Additions were made to the policies in the latter half of the 19th century by Sir Simon Lockhart. On his death in 1919 the house was lived in for a while by relatives and then rented out before being sold in 1948 to Mr R.B. Dick. Many of the Lockhart family records are retained at their Carnwath Estate in Lanarkshire but have not been seen during the course of this research. After 1948 the Castle was renovated but by the 1960s had again fallen into disrepair. The estate was sold in lots in the 1970s, and the house and approximately 40 acres of the immediate policies were purchased by Mr Alvis who has since been granted the Barony of Lee. Mr Alvis has renovated the house. Some commercial forestry work has been carried out in the policy woodlands, which are managed for a pension fund.
Lee Castle, listed category B, is a two-storey castellated building with a square, central three-storey tower which incorporates a fine Gothic-style hall. The Castle was built in 1820-49 to the design of James Gillespie Graham, incorporating part of an earlier house. Additions were made in the early 1900s by Leadbetter and Fairley.
The Doocot, listed category B, is a square structure which has lost its pyramidal roof. Its exact date is unknown and it is now in a derelict condition. The West Lodge was built c.1905 to the design of Leadbetter & Fairley. It replaced an earlier lodge indicated on the 1st edition OS map of c.1860. The East Lodge, built in the latter part of the 19th century, is now derelict. The North Lodge was also built in the late 19th century. The gates of the North Lodge are surmounted by boars. A stone lion, a former sundial, stands in a shrub bed on the gravel approach to the house, repositioned here from its original location in the wood to the north-east of the house. The Castle stands on a terrace retained by stone walls on all sides; on these walls stand reproduction urns introduced by the present owner. A folly on the east-facing slope to the south of the house was recorded as ruinous on the 1st edition OS map. An Ice House is situated on the bank of the burn in the wood to the north-east of the house. On the opposite bank of the burn, near where the Ice House stands, is the Gasometer. There are several pieces of ornamentation in the policies including a Burmese-style lantern.
In the first half of the 19th century, the parkland at Lee extended on all sides of the Castle: north and south to the woodland, west to the lodge at the end of the Beech Avenue, and east to the woodland along Brocklinn Glen. Access to the house was gained via the west, east or north drives. The Doocot appears on the 1st edition OS map as a significant feature of the south park and remains so today although it has lost its roof. In the latter half of the 19th century, the south drive was extended.
A notable tree at Lee is the Pease Tree which was recorded in the OS Gazetteer of 1885 as "68' high and 28.5' thick at 6' from the ground - this being very much thicker than any other oak in Scotland". It is now in an advanced state of decay and a new oak has been planted nearby by Mr Alvis. Most of the trees in the parks date mainly from c.1815-30, with later additions planted in the early years of this century. They include specimen oaks, lime and beech. The Beech Avenue which lines the west drive is thought to have been planted c.1817 and remains today as a fine feature. Records indicate that the park was never well wooded. A Gardeners' Magazine account of 1842 records Lee to be 'a most interesting place –- the surface is undulated in the most inviting manner for planting, but there are unfortunately, but few trees in proportion to the extent of surface ...one thousand single trees judiciously distributed over this place would render it one of the finest on the banks of the Clyde.'
The original woodlands of the designed landscape, ie West Wood, Nemphlar or Folly Wood, Burgh Wood and Brocklinn Wood, were laid out on the shoulders of the valley in the early 19th century. They were composed of a mix of hardwood species, some of which remain today. The Gardeners' Magazine of 1842 records three larches growing at Lee 'of the same age as those at Dunkeld (reputed to date from c.1622)' along with 'silver firs and spruce of the same age'. In 1971, Alan Mitchell measured two larch trees which remained at that time and one Abies procera.
Comparison of the 1st and 2nd edition OS maps indicates that further planting was carried out in the latter half of the 19th century, particularly in the area to the north- east of the house around the new walled garden. A new north drive was laid out through this wood to provide an enclosed route to the house which opened out into the park from which point the first glimpses of the house could be gained. The impact of this approach has been lost since the woodland to the east of the walled garden has been felled and the area on the west side of the drive is now a horse paddock.
To the north-east of the house, on either side of the burn is an area of woodland garden which remains within the policies of the house. It is composed mainly of sycamore and lime with yew and Rhododendron ponticum. The path through the wood is overgrown but can still be traced alongside the burn which is culverted beneath the drive, re-emerging to the south-east of the house.
The house stands on a series of bold grass terraces; the upper terrace is retained by stone walls. An engraving by J.P. Neale shows these terraces extending to the south- west of the Castle and linked by a causeway to the east. These terraces are shown on the 1st edition OS map but it is uncertain whether the causeway was ever built. On the lower terrace today are laid out the tennis court and curling rink, which are reached by a flight of steps. Old fruit trees remain against the terrace walls. Beyond the tennis court, a coniferous shelterbelt has been planted. Adjacent to the east front of the house is a raised bed where miniature conifers, junipers and other groundcover are well established. On the south side of the house is a flat area, separated from the park by an overgrown yew hedge. It appears to be the site of an earlier garden but is now grassed. The south-west front of the house opens directly onto the park from the terrace where it is thought a formal garden with a central fountain was once laid out.
The walled garden lies to the north-east of the house and was built in the latter half of the 19th century. It may have replaced an earlier garden indicated on the 1st edition OS map between Brocklinn Glen and the east drive. The layout of these gardens is unknown. In recent years, the walled garden has been sold and a new house built within its east wall.