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
East Ayrshire
NS 43444 42403
243444, 642403

A designed landscape of historic and architectural importance, mainly comprising parkland, woodland and the category A listed Rowallan Castle and Rowallan House.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The gardens at Rowallan have some value as a Work of Art. The terraced garden was created by Lorimer and he also added the summerhouse and one wall of the kitchen garden.


Level of interest

The site has a long history of occupation and records of the families who lived there. It is the first example of the use of the Baronial style by Lorimer.


Level of interest

There is no plant collection at Rowallan.


Level of interest

The site provides the setting for two grade A listed buildings - Rowallan Castle and Rowallan House. Lorimer's other buildings, listed B, are also of interest.


Level of interest
Not Assessed


Level of interest

The landscape is well screened from its surroundings by the rolling hills and by the shelter plantings. Only the outside edge of the woodlands can be seen from the surrounding roads.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The Bank and Holmepark Plantations predate the designed landscape and this, together with the two burns flowing into the Carmel Water and their associated meadows, gives the site some Nature Conservation value

Location and Setting

Rowallan lies 2.5 miles (4km) north of the town of Kilmarnock in Ayrshire amid rolling agricultural landscape some 9 miles (15km) from the coast. The site is bounded to the south by the B751 and is surrounded on its other boundaries by policy woodlands. From Rowallan House fine views can be obtained to the west across to the islands of Ailsa Craig and Arran. The policy woodlands screen the estate from view from the surrounding roads.

Rowallan Castle dates back at least to 1562 and a Muir stronghold preceded this building, constructed in the meander of the Carmel Water at its confluence with the Balgray Mill Burn and the Gardrum Mill Burn. Rowallan House was built on the site of the old mains to the north of the castle and sheltered by the policy woodlands. General Roy's map of 1750 and the 1st edition OS map of c.1860 show the structure of the designed landscape as similar to today, apart from the long avenue which ran from the mains in a south-west direction and which had disappeared prior to the 2nd edition map of the early 1900s. The designed landscape today extends to 205 acres (83ha), and includes some 24 acres of parkland and 60 acres of woodland: there is a kitchen garden next to the old castle.

Site History

Evidence of residence at Rowallan dates back to 1263 when Gilchrist Muir built the original tower on lands granted to him by Alexander III after the battle of Largs. The Muirs continued to reside at Rowallan until 1700, and there were several historic personalities in the family including Elizabeth Muir who became the first wife of King Robert II and Mungo Muir who was killed at Flodden in 1513. John Muir established Rowallan Castle in 1562 and his initials and those of his wife, Mary Cunningham, are visible today on the twin- towered front of the castle. It was they who planted out the orchard and garden, and their 17th century successors continued the planting and made additions to the building. The 14th Laird, Sir William, was a famous Covenanter, and the 16th Laird, also Sir William, represented Ayrshire in Parliament from 1690 to his death in 1700. His daughter married the 1st Earl of Glasgow and her elder daughter married Sir James Campbell of Lawers, 3rd son of the Earl of Loudoun. Their son, Major-General James Muir Campbell of Rowallan (1726-86), became the 5th Earl of Loudoun in 1782 and was succeeded by his daughter Flora as Countess in her own right; she married the Marquess of Hastings in 1804. In 1885 Rowallan was owned by their great-grandson Charles Edward Hastings Abney-Hastings, the 11th Earl of Loudoun, who had succeeded in 1874.

Plans for additions were drawn up by N. Joyce in 1869 and a survey of Rowallan Castle 'as at present existing' was carried out in 1896 but there is no evidence of work being carried out, and when Mr M.A. Cameron Corbett MP purchased the 6,000 acre estate from Lord Donnington of Loudoun in 1900, it was decided that the castle was in such poor condition that a new mansion should be built on the site of Rowallan Mains to the north of the castle. The purchase and rebuilding were financed by Mr Corbett's mother-in-law, Mrs Polson (of Brown & Polson), and Sir Robert Lorimer was commissioned to design the new mansion in Scottish Baronial style. Unfortunately in 1901 Mrs Alice Corbett died suddenly from food-poisoning and the proposed house design was considerably reduced in size. Lorimer designed a memorial for Mrs Corbett on Windy Moor above Rowallan. In 1903 building commenced and continued until 1906. In 1911 Mr Corbett was created Baron of Rowallan but the new house was not lived in permanently until 1918 when he was succeeded by his son Thomas whose bride was Gwyn Grimmond (sister of Mr Jo Grimmond, later leader of the Liberal Party). In 1938 he established the Scouter's Training Camp in the grounds and he later became Chief Scout between 1945-59. In 1980, the present owner introduced the Rowallan Horse Trials which attract many thousands of visitors each year.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Rowallan Castle dates from 1562 and the remains of the 13th century tower still exist. It is under the guardianship of the Secretary of State for Scotland and is listed category A. The owner has restored part of it in recent years. Rowallan House is also listed A, and contains some excellent plasterwork and woodwork interiors; it was Lorimer's first Baronial style design. Also listed are the Lorimer designed Lodge (B), the Gardener's Cottage (B), the summerhouse and walled garden (B), and the stables/garage (B). There are also some cottages near the stables which were designed by Lorimer, an engine house and a sundial.


The parks are enclosed by shelterbelts and grazed by deer and cattle. The cross country route is laid out through the park and an area has been set aside for horse-jumping.


Although corresponding to the earlier layout, most of the shelter woodlands were replanted in the early 1900s at about the time the mansion was built; species include beech, sycamore, ash and some sweet chestnut. There is a perimeter ride through the woodland. The avenue along the main drive contains beech, Acer and lime and the gaps in it have been replanted. There is tree nursery by the stable/coach-house block. The Bank plantation to the east of the house along the Balgray Mill Burn contains the oldest trees in the policies, some lime and oak of about 300 years old; oak, ash, and sweet chestnut are also present. It also contains several small blocks of coniferous plantation, some of which need thinning, and which are scheduled under a Forestry Commission Dedication Scheme.

The Gardens

The terrace along the south-west front of the house is the only formal garden at Rowallan. The house and walls were laid out by Lorimer but apparently the detail was not quite finished. There is a large sundial. The wall piers and railings are unusual. To the south side of the house is a rose garden and the croquet lawn. A small shrubbery exists, containing Rhododendrons and other ornamental shrubs which have become overgrown.

Walled Gardens

The kitchen garden was formerly the castle's walled garden and is shown on the 1st edition OS map of 1860 as having at least seven compartments. A yew tree in the middle of the garden is thought to be at least 600 years old. Lorimer added a summerhouse and gardener's cottage. The garden has fallen into disuse today, although half the area is now used for pheasant release pens. There is a tennis court to the west of the garden, (the second Lady Rowallan was a runner-up at Wimbledon in the mixed Doubles Championship). The glasshouses are still used and contain healthy vines, some 60 years old.




Printed Sources

CL, Dec 21st & 28th 1978

A.Millar, Castles & Mansions of Ayrshire, 1887



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.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

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.

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Printed: 23/06/2024 04:46