Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
East Ayrshire
Dalrymple, Kirkmichael (S Ayrshire)
NS 37375 13893
237375, 613893

A complete and well-maintained example of late 18th- / early 19th-century, medium-sized parkland landscape with riverside walks.

Type of Site

A late 18th- / early 19th-century, medium-sized parkland landscape with riverside walks.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

Late 18th and 19th century

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The picturesque riverside setting in conjunction with the layout and woodland planting gives this site high value as a work of art.


Level of interest

The history of the site is not well recorded, giving it only a little value in this category.


Level of interest

The deciduous woodland planting, the 19th- century conifers, and the 20th-century planting give this site some horticultural value.


Level of interest

Skeldon House and ancillary buildings give this site high architectural value.


Level of interest

The limited surviving remains of Skeldon Castle, now incorporated into Kennels Cottage give this site only a little archaeological value.


Level of interest

The views from the lane to the north of the house into the park give this site some scenic value.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The ancient and long-established woodland along the banks of the River Doon and the general policy planting give this site some nature conservation value.

Location and Setting

Skeldon House is situated off the B7034 to the south-east of Dalrymple. There are views into the designed landscape from the B7034 to the north and from the south side of the River Doon at Skeldon Bridge. The perimeter of the landscape is thickly wooded and therefore minimises views into the estate. There are views within the designed landscape, firstly from the front of the house overlooking parkland, and secondly over the walled garden and picturesque river walks from the rear of the house.

The overall shape and extent of the landscape have changed little since the 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25”), 1856, but there have been changes in details including paths and the addition of the kitchen garden.

Site History

Little is known of the early history of the site. No records have been traced of a designed landscape prior to the building of Skeldon House in the late 18th century. General Roy's Military Survey, 1747-55, does not show any associated designed landscape around the earlier tower house, Skeldon Castle, however the 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25”), 1856, suggests a walled enclosure, possibly an orchard, around the castle.

The natural woodland landscape around the River Doon was exploited in the late 18th century when the house was built and an informal design was laid out around it. The New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845, notes that in 1804-5, Mr Fullarton had bought the farm at Barbieston and made a new approach to 'my house at Skeldon'. This new drive from the village of Dalrymple gave a longer and more picturesque approach to the house from the north-west. Prior to this, the north drive was the main approach.

The remains of Skeldon Castle were incorporated into Kennels Cottage c.1900.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Skeldon House is a late 18th-century classical house with early 19th-century century additions, thought to be by James Miller. These included a porch with domed roof and a conservatory to the rear. A double flight of Stone Steps incorporating a Garden Shelter leads to the conservatory from the garden. The Lodge is a one-storey, bow-fronted building with a white-painted wooden porch. The Mains comprises a U-shaped, late 18th-century harled courtyard arrangement, with a later attic extension, perhaps also by Miller. Kennels or Castle Cottage consists of a 19th-century cottage incorporated into the remains of Skeldon Castle. The Lodge and Gateway comprise a single-storey building with a slate roof. The double cast-iron gates are flanked by panels of matching railings between four stone pillars with pyramidal finials. A stone Ha-ha runs between the parkland and the drive. A stone baluster Sundial sits on the lawn to the south of the house.

Drives & Approaches

There are two drives to Skeldon House, the north entrance, or High Lodge, being the earlier and the one in present use. There is mixed deciduous/coniferous woodland on either side of the drive. Nearer the house there are banks of laurel. Around the house there is mixed oak, beech. Lime and conifers, underplanted with Rhododendron ponticum. The drive ends in a sweep of gravel in front of the house with a large area of lawn bounded by the ha-ha.

The area around the lodge of the north-west drive is being encroached upon by the neighbouring council estate. The mixed lime and beech avenue is being replanted. Nearer to the house on the north-west side of the drive there is mixed planting of lime, horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), and sycamore. The drive is broken up by areas of wood on either side which then open up to fields. The large wood on the north side of the drive is mixed deciduous/coniferous planting, underplanted with Rhododendron ponticum. Back Mount Wood on the north side of the drive is a circular plantation of Scots pine.


There is a small area of parkland to the north of the house which slopes down towards the old castle and Skeldon Bridge. The 2nd edition OS 1:2500 (25”), 1894, shows a summerhouse in the park which is no longer extant. Amongst the oldest existing trees are lime and the other species include cut-leaf beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Heterophylla'), copper beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Atropurpurea') and oak.


Woodland makes up a large part of the designed landscape at Skeldon and extends around the garden and the house. Skeldon Wood on the south side of the river is a large mixed deciduous/coniferous wood including larch and beech with a shrub understorey of Rhododendron ponticum. Across the footbridge to the west of the walled garden, a gate leads through to the remains of a steep path. Old box shrubs line the path, indicating a former ornamental function, and the path leads up the slope to the road which skirts the southwestern boundary of the designed landscape.

Woodland Garden

The relative formality of the terraced lawns relaxes into picturesque woodland garden walks which lead down to riverside walks. There are fine views from the paths over the walled garden and over a rich mixed deciduous/coniferous tree canopy. The paths have river pebble surfacing and stone edging. The walks include a footbridge over the River Doon to Skeldon Wood on the far side of the river. Most of the riverside walks were formed between 1856 and 1894. Laurels and Rhododendron sprawl along the southern edge of the riverbank, indicating a mid to late 19th century picturesque planting style. The main tree canopy is provided by beech, oak, and clumps of Rhododendron. There is very large mature horse chestnut tree by the river. Other species include Monkey puzzle, Lebanon cedar and false cypress. Walking westwards along the riverside path, there are specimens of lime, sycamore, gean (Prunus avium), and elm. Recent plantings in the riverside area include bamboo, Gunnera and young specimen trees which will eventually replace the older ones. Other species nearer the house include Sawara cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ¿Squarrosa¿) and Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum).

The Gardens

The gardens around the house comprise lawns on different levels, castellated yew hedges and specimen trees. In front of the house is a lawn with specimen lime, oak, silver birch and conifer trees to the sides. These specimen trees frame the view of the parkland beyond. The castellated yew hedges either side of the house create a formal effect when the house is viewed from the front and screen the lower terraced lawns behind the house. A gravel path runs along the west side of the terraced lawns behind the house and joins the path to the walled garden to the south.

Walled Gardens

The walled kitchen and flower garden lies to the south of the house on a flat area of ground in a bend in the River Doon. The north wall carries a range of glass-houses and there is a D-shaped hedged garden to the south. Within this area some of the 19th-century layout has been restored, including a small formal garden to the east which has been planted with roses trained on poles and umbrella frames, underplanted with grey foliage herbaceous plants. A pergola accentuates the central north-south axis and is covered by Clematis, Actinidia and Russian vine. There is a shrub border featuring contorted hazel specimens around the perimeter of the garden and cross double borders bisecting the centre. There are two borders of day-lilies (Hemerocallis sp.) either side of the pergola at the northern end opposite the greenhouses. The flower-bed beside the glass-house is planted with dahlias and there are beds of annuals in the lawn.



Maps, Plans and Archives

General Roy's Military Survey, 1747-55

1st edition OS 1:10560 (6”), 1856

Ist edition OS 1:2500 (25”), 1856

2nd edition OS 1:2500 (25”), 1894

3rd edition OS 1:2500 (25”), 1908


Printed Sources

Close, Rob – Ayrshire and Arran, An Illustrated Architectural Guide, RIAS, 1992

Davis, Michael C – The Castles and Mansions of Ayrshire, Spindrift Publishing, 1991

Groome, Francis H (ed) – Ordnance Gazetteer, 1882-5

Historic Scotland – Listed Buildings Survey

The New Statistical Account of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1845

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: 16/05/2022 06:22