The designed landscape was originally laid out in the first half of the 18th century. It was informalised and extended at the turn of the 18th century and has been maintained largely in accordance with this layout since then. Documentary evidence is provided in the form of General Roy's map of 1750, survey plans by John Lauder of 1806 and Thomas Carfrae of 1842, the 1st edition OS map of 1863 and the 2nd edition of c.1900. An improvement plan was prepared by Thomas White in 1794. An alternative plan, drawn in black and white probably also by White, was prepared but not carried out.
Prestonhall is thought to have been built about 1700 for Roderick McKenzie, a brother of the 1st Earl of Cromartie, and who was made a Law Lord with the title of Lord Prestonhall in 1703. It was purchased by the 2nd Duchess of Gordon in 1738 who commissioned William Adam to alter the house c.1740. The daughter of the Earl of Peterborough, she introduced many agricultural improvements to Scotland and, at Prestonhall, probably laid out the grounds to the form shown on General Roy's map of 1750. Her son, Lord Adam Gordon, inherited the estate on her death in 1760. He was a distinguished soldier and politician, representing Aberdeen and later Kincardineshire between 1754-82. He became a General in the Army and, in 1782, the Commander in Chief of the Forces in Scotland, residing at Holyrood House. Lord Adam Gordon is reported to have carried out large-scale landscape gardening operations in the grounds, as well as alterations and improvements to the house. 'When he had completed the improvement of the place according to his own ideas and there really remained little or nothing more to be done, he sold it and afterward bought The Burn' (q.v.) ...'for the embellishment of which place he set himself to work with renewed alacrity.' (Sir Thomas Dick Lauder) However, by the time of the sale of Prestonhall to Alexander Callander in 1789, the house had been on the market for some time and was 'much out of repair'.
Alexander Callander, who had made a fortune in India and was MP for Aberdeen, was the 2nd son of Callander of Westerton. He had previously purchased the nearby estates of Elphinstone and Crichton before returning to Scotland to become laird of Prestonhall. Architect Robert Mitchell was commissioned to reconstruct the house which was unfinished at the time of Alexander Callander's death in 1792. He was succeeded by his brother, John, who became an MP and was made a Baronet in 1798. He completed the house and grounds, commissioning Thomas White to prepare improvement plans. Sir John died in 1812 and his nephew, John Alexander Higgins, inherited the property. He, in turn, left the estate to his nephew, William Burn, in 1828 who added Callander to his name.
The house was altered in the 1820s, including the addition of the porch and reversing the layout to make the main entrance at the north of the house. William Burn- Callander continued to develop the policies before his death in 1854. Henry Callander and his wife, Cecilia, laid out the formal and wild gardens. Cecilia continued to live at Prestonhall after the death of her husband in 1928 until her death in 1940, continuing to take a keen interest in the gardens and their development. She was a very knowledgeable gardener and it is known that she was asked to assist in the identification of plants and to give advice by Kew Gardens. Major W.H.B. Callander MBE and his wife Christian, parents of the present owner, continued to maintain the gardens in good condition even during the war years when two land girls were employed growing fruit and vegetables to help the war effort. The walled garden and greenhouse were run commercially by the present owner from 1958 until 1972. Since 1977 the gardens have been kept on a care and maintenance basis.