Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
East Lothian
NT 47601 80191
347601, 680191

The first apricots to ripen in a Scottish garden were within the unique jardin clos in the walled garden at Luffness. The beautifully kept gardens, parkland, woodland, category A listed house, Site of Special Scientific Interest and scenic qualities make Luffness one of Scotland's most impressive designed landscapes.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

Luffness Gardens have been recorded in the past, and have, today, outstanding value as a Work of Art for their design and planting.


Level of interest

There is considerable historical interest in the house and in its associations with the Hope family; it has the physical remains of an earlier landscape and demonstrates several periods of development.


Level of interest

Sir Alexander Hope's jardin clos, built in 1822, is a unique feature in Britain and enabled the first apricots to be ripened in Scotland. It has been maintained as a fruit garden to this date and gives Luffness high value for Horticulture.


Level of interest

The designed landscape at Luffness provides the setting for an A listed building and for several other built features which are of exceptional interest.


Level of interest
Not Assessed


Level of interest

Views of Luffness and its woodlands can be obtained from Aberlady Bay, the surrounding roads and the links to the north, giving it outstanding Scenic value.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

Luffness lies immediately adjacent to Aberlady Bay, a nature reserve and SSSI which contains sand dunes, saltmarsh and mud flats, grassland and freshwater marsh. The policy woodlands provide further varieties of habitats and a relatively undisturbed area, giving it high value for Nature Conservation.

Location and Setting

Luffness is situated where the estuary of the Peffer Burn joins Aberlady Bay, 0.75 miles (1km) from Aberlady village. The A198 forms the northern boundary of the policies while the A6137 runs west of the estate from Aberlady; minor roads skirt the south and east of the parks. The topography near the coast here is flat and views out from Luffness are limited by the policy woodlands although views of Aberlady Bay can be obtained from points along the north side of the estate. The policy woodlands are significant in the views from the surrounding area, particularly from the north-east, and the main gateway onto the A198 is a distinctive feature along the route.

Roy's plan of c.1750 shows a smaller area of enclosed land surrounding the house, with a drive extending from the east of the house southwards to Aberlady village. By the 1st edition OS map of 1855 the parkland is shown extending westwards to the village and clumps of trees had been added within the parks. The extent of the designed landscape has retracted to its former boundary on the west side. The house is set to the north of the site and was once surrounded by a moat fed from the Peffer Burn. There are 177 acres (72ha) within the designed landscape today.

Site History

The designed landscape at Luffness was based on an 18th century layout, informalised at the turn of the 19th century. There are no known landscape designers involved at Luffness although the house is of considerable historical interest and has been extended by many well-known architects.

The foundations of the present house are Norse while the oldest standing part is thought to date back to the 12th century with the exception of the central tower which forms the basis of the present house. It was demolished in the 16th century as part of the package of conditions of peace with England. Aberlady Bay used to be called Luffness Bay and it contained the port for Haddington. Aberlady Bay used to be a relatively deep water port; it has only silted up in the last century. The 16th century fortifications near Luffness House were constructed to prevent supplies getting through from the port to the English garrison at Haddington. A new house was built in the late 16th century by Sir Patrick Hepburn. The estate of Luffness was purchased in 1739 by the 1st Earl of Hopetoun, but improvements were not made to the house until the end of the 18th century. Plans were drawn up in 1802 by Robert Reid but these were not adopted, although an extension was made around this time. In 1822 the William Burn extension was added and Thomas Brown added the kitchen in 1825 and west wing in 1841. In 1846 and 1874 David Bryce carried out further additions which included the stables. Additions were also made in 1891 and 1907.

The unusual walled garden was built by French prisoners of war in the early 19th century, possibly during the Peninsular Wars, for Sir Alexander Hope, a famous soldier and son of the 2nd Earl of Hopetoun, whose family have continued to hold Luffness over the years. During World War II, the house was requisitioned for troops and later used as a hospital, after which the west wing had to be demolished.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Luffness House, listed A, is based on a 16th century tower house of three storeys, with many 19th century additions. The Doocot is late 16th century, beehive-style, with three tiers and a top lantern; it is statutorily listed. The Pend is probably an old watergate which has Gothic detailing by William Burn and has a concealed servants' entrance. The Walled Garden was built in 1822 and has an enclosed second diamond-shaped wall. The Water Tower is listed C and was possibly designed by Thomas Brown; until the 1968 gales it had an arcaded Italian-style upper storey and it was used to pump water up to the house. The Carmelite Monastery, founded in c.1250, is a scheduled ancient monument and contains an arched tomb with effigy of a knight. Tradition holds that the area of land at Luffness was granted to the monks by the Earl of Dunbar. An older wall near the monastery is gated with a yett. There is a game larder within the former moat to the west of the house. In the south court of the house there is an old well and near to it a wall-mounted sundial, featuring a sculptured soldier's head. A second sundial dated 1759 is the centrepiece of the rose garden.

Paths & Walks

The walk through the southern boundary of the woodland around the house, west of the remains of the Carmelite Monastery and around the edge of the park, is known as Monk's Walk or in recent times 'The Postman's Path'. There are some old yews in the woods around the monastery and some elm dating from c.1800. The wall affords a view of the water tower in the south park.


Although the parkland was ploughed up during World War II and remains in arable use today, the roundel plantings and shelterbelts have been retained, maintaining the parkland character of the landscape. The grounds contain some fine trees including horse chestnut, sycamore, lime, with beech and copper beech and sequoias on the lawn to the east of the house. There used to be a bay laurel maze in this area near to the doocot but it has been removed since World War II. The parkland roundels are planted with deciduous and coniferous trees planted mainly around 1900. There are now some gaps in the roundel plantings where Dutch Elm disease has taken its toll. The parks were originally used for keeping horses and hunters and a ha-ha divides the south park from the woodland walk to the north.


There is a mix of species within the policy woodlands also and this includes elm, beech, sycamore, horse chestnut, lime and yew with an understorey of Rhododendrons in places. There are some specimen trees dotted through the woods around the house, including cedar and walnut, particularly near the former bowling green. There are also younger coniferous shelter plantings in belts around the house, mainly of mixed larch and spruce. A small pinetum was planted in recent years near the walled garden and contains over ten varieties of pine and spruce.

The Gardens

The formal garden was more extensive up until World War I. It extended into the moat and contained herbaceous borders. Part of the moat was filled in to extend the garden for Lady Frances Hope who had married Sir Alexander's son, John, who died on their honeymoon in Italy. His brother had the garden extended for her use and it was laid out as a formal garden. An elaborate sunken parterre remains today shaped in a wheel of radiating beds enclosed by lawn. The beds were formerly laid out with bedding plants but are now planted with roses. There are clipped yews on the lawns around this Italian Garden.

Walled Gardens

The walled garden is an unusual and beautifully kept feature. The double walls enable a large range of fruit to be grown out of doors and there is no glass within the walled garden. The outer walls are square-shaped and topped with red pantiles and there is a diamond-shaped inner enclosure with its long axis running west to east. It was built by French prisoners of war and is reputed to be the only jardin clos in Britain. Sir Alexander recorded the plants grown in it and his planting book may still be at Luffness. The first apricots to be grown in Scotland ripened in the Luffness garden, and nectarines, figs, apples, pears, peaches and greengages all ripen outdoors. The spaces between the walls are planted up with fruit, herbs and vegetables bordered by box hedges, with self-seeded Primulas enjoying the sheltered garden where they have found spaces for themselves. There are also beehives in one compartment under the fruit trees.

To the north of the walled garden is the area known as the old orchard which has a south-facing greenhouse containing vines and a few older orchard trees. The pinetum was planted in this area but the Sitka spruce nurse has become overgrown and needs thinning.

A kitchen garden and nursery area lie to the west of the parks at Aberlady and have been managed as a market garden by a former gardener since the 1950s.




Printed Sources

McWilliam, 1978

Small, 1883

G.A. Little, 1981


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.

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Printed: 30/09/2022 08:26