There is map evidence of the designed landscape from 1725 when William Adam drew up a plan of the grounds; the survey dated 1759 is reputed to be a copy of this plan. Although the fine detail of the design has disappeared today, the layout is substantially the same.
Newliston was owned from the early fifteenth century by the Dundas family until the 2nd Lord Stair inherited it from his mother Elizabeth, the eighth and last Dundas of Newliston in her own right. In 1665 she married Sir John Dalrymple who became the 1st Earl of Stair and lived at Castle Kennedy. The 2nd Lord Stair is reputed to have been a founding member of the Honourable Society for the Improvement of Agriculture, and he carried out extensive works both at Newliston and Castle Kennedy. He was Ambassador at Versailles between 1715- 1720 and brought back to Newliston the formal French style of garden, complete with cascades, canals, ponds, terraces, avenues and serpentine walks. A plan of 1725 by William Adam is at Blenheim Palace (Lord Stair served under the Duke of Marlborough and sent him the plan of his new 'seat'), but whether Lord Stair employed Adam to design the gardens in detail is not known. He certainly drew up plans in 1723 for a grand house which was never built (Vitruvius Scoticus); however, the stable-block of 1723 is built in William Adam's style and he was paid 150 pounds at this time by Lord Stair.
The garden layout has also been attributed to Switzer but, in the absence of any records, it seems likely that Lord Stair himself would have introduced the Formal French style from Versailles. The gardens were laid out between 1722-44 by a reputed 200 workmen who possibly included troops from the Scots Greys stationed at Newliston as a bodyguard. Lord Stair was Field Marshal at the battle of Dettingen, 1743, and later called up as Commander in Chief of South Britain against the Jacobite uprising of 1745. Stories that the garden layout was designed to correspond with the battle array at Dettingen were refuted in the Stair Annals of 1875 but the Union Jack pattern of the Hercules Wood may well have been a celebration of the victory.
After the death of Lord Stair in 1747 Newliston was sold to Roger Hog, a London merchant from a Berwickshire family. The old house was lived in until 1792 when Roger's son Thomas employed Robert Adam to build a new house. Thomas's son Roger (artist of the 1790 painting of the old house) succeeded in 1827 and died unmarried in 1833 when it passed to his half-brother James Maitland Hog, most of the furniture going to his sister. Loudon, writing in 1820, refers to the former terraces and curious flights of steps being obliterated at the beginning of the century; however, as the remnant banks correspond today with a survey plan of 1759, it is difficult to determine how much was lost at this time. In 1835 W.S. Gilpin was commissioned to work at Newliston and the south drive was grassed over and a spinney planted at its south end. The lines of the longer west and east avenues were also softened. Gilpin gave evidence to the railway enquiry of 1835, (ref. SRO BR PYBS 1/7 1837}. Since that time no major alterations have been made and some replacement planting has been undertaken. The present owner's grandfather specialised in collecting shrub roses. The present owner, Mr James Findlay, succeeded his uncle in 1972 and has continued the family policy of replacement planting.