Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Aberdour (Fife), Dalgety
NT 17871 84303
317871, 684303

The early 19th-century parkland landscape comprises a significant part of the former Donibristle estate and has long been associated with it. The St Colme landscape comprises the eastern approaches to Donibristle House, and is one of a number of important designed landscapes along the south Fife coast. The landscape design is of high quality.

Type of Site

An early 19th-century parkland landscape, originally forming part of the once much larger Donibristle designed landscape.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

16th - 20th centuries

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The planting combines with the natural landform and long-distance panoramic views to give this site outstanding value as a Work of Art.


Level of interest

The recorded history of the site gives it high Historical value.


Level of interest

The mixed deciduous policy planting gives the site some horticultural value.


Level of interest

St Bridget's Church in association with the Category B and Category C listed buildings gives this site outstanding architectural value. The assessment also takes account of the historical relationship of the grounds to Donibristle House.


Level of interest

The site has high archaeological potential and interest due to its proximity to Inchcolm Priory.


Level of interest

The site is significant in contributing to the landscape character on this section of the Forth shore and the coastal settlements of Dalgety Bay and Aberdour. Views of the estate from the Forth and its role as open green space in a densely built up and expanding urban area, give the site high scenic value.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The site's coastal situation provides some Nature Conservation Interest.

Location and Setting

St Colme House is situated on the Donibristle estate, to the west of Aberdour, off the A92. It lies between Aberdour and the satellite town of Dalgety Bay. The policies are bounded by the A92 to the north, the Firth of Forth to the south, Aberdour to the east and Dalgety Bay to the west.

St Colme is set on elevated ground overlooking Barnhill Bay, with extensive views over the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh and the Lothian coast. The eastern approach from Aberdour allows uninterrupted views over the Firth of Forth. Along the remainder of the old east drive to Donibristle House, there are panoramic views over the Firth of Forth to the Lothians and towards Donibristle House. From the site of the old summerhouse in Temple Plantation there is a panoramic view over the Forth. Perimeter tree belts enclose the landscape to the north.

Roy's Military Survey (1747–55), depicts a house and square parks called Dalgety within the eastern part of the Donibristle policies. St Colme is not indicated, and the area around the present house is shown as run-rig.

An unattributed plan for the improvement of Donibristle, dated 1772, indicates a pre-existing building on the St Colme House site. By 1811, this property and the Parks of Dalgety had been embraced by an informal parkland landscape which extended eastwards from Donibristle House to Aberdour. This landscape remained relatively unchanged following the building of St Colme House in 1845.

Since the 1960s, with the development of housing at Dalgety Bay and Donibristle, St Colme House is now the focus of the eastern half of the landscape, formerly associated with Donibristle House.

Site History

By 1781 an informal parkland landscape, probably designed by Thomas White, had been laid out on the Donibristle policies. While there is a record of Thomas White's commission for this, no plan survives. However, the layout is depicted on Knox's plan (1811), and Fullarton's plan (1835). The latter shows a walled garden at Dalgety with farm steading and stackyard and is itemised as the 'Dalgety Nursery Gardens and Houses'. This site subsequently became St Colme House, and already by 1835 there were ornamental walks and drives laid out.

By 1845, St Colme House is described, as 'lately built on the grounds of the Earl of Moray, a dwelling-house, which is at present occupied by P. Ainslie, Esq. who acts as his Lordship's Commissioner. It has been named St Colme, being situated nearly opposite the island of that name in the Firth of Forth'(N.S.A., p.717). Shell acquired St Colme about 18 years ago and developed the Braefoot Bay installation, with its gas storage tanks and associated buildings, which has changed the landscape character. Aberdour Golf Course to the east of St Colme House has also had some landscape impact.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

St Colme House, built c.1845, is a 2-storey house of random rubble, with a projecting central bay to the south. The Coachhouse, also c.1845 but a possible remodelling of an earlier building, is 2-storey random rubble under a slate roof with a later lean-to greenhouse on the south side. The remains of an ice-house are set into the north side of the hill slope, to the east of the coachhouse (1st edition OS 6", 1853). The sundial to the south of the house has a square pedestal with carved faces, borne on four stone balls, and resting on three steps.

A mid 19th-century brick walled garden joins the coachhouse and the house. The walls are ashlar coped with stepped wall-heads. The entrance to the walled garden has new cast-iron gates. 'The Monk's Cave', on Charles Hill at the cliff edge to the south-west of St Colme House, consists of the lower storey of a medieval building, perhaps once a ferry-house to Inchcolm Abbey. The upper storey is no longer extant. The late 15th-century doorway opens into a vaulted cellar partly excavated into the cliff-face. The circular doocot is 17th- or 18th-century with corbie steps on two sides; the lean-to roof has fallen in. There are 653 nest-holes.

The single-storey East Lodge with gate-piers, erected in 1870, has elaborate cast-iron and wrought-iron Gates and Screen Walls and lies on the western edge of Aberdour. The North Lodge, by the A92 trunk road, is mid Victorian, also single-storey, with elaborate gates and gate-piers, c.1870. Gun emplacements on Charles Hill are situated to the east of Braefoot Gas Terminal. This oil installation lies to the west of Braefoot Plantation. The standing remains of St Bridget's Church, a single chamber, pre-Reformation church, lie on the Dalgety Bay foreshore. There are a number of cottages and farm buildings scattered throughout the estate.

Drives & Approaches

There are two main approaches to St Colme House, from the north and east. Both link up on the north side of the house to become what was in the past the main east drive from Aberdour, past Dalgety Gardens, to Donibristle House. West of Dalgety Gardens and St Bridget's Church, the designed landscape has been developed as a housing estate, thus the link with Donibristle House is not now apparent. The surviving drives remain a strong, well-preserved feature of the St Colme House designed landscape. However, the east drive successfully exploits views over the Firth of Forth and along the Fife coast. The parkland planting has been cleverly executed to enhance the outline of ridges or hills viewed from this drive.

West of St Colme House, Temple Plantation lies on the north side of the drive. Some rubble masonry on the southern edge of the plantation marks the temple-site, or r summerhouse (1st edition OS 25", 1853). The remains of the distinctive beech avenue planting along the east drive dates from at least the 18th century.


Parkland on the west side of St Colme House comprises 18th-century formal parks, once associated with Dalgety House and Gardens. Towards the end of the 18th century, their formal layout was informalised and softened by planting belts and clumps, but the early layout is still identifiable. To the east and south of the house the parkland is strictly informal and it sweeps gently down to Barnhill Bay before merging into Aberdour Golf Course, which stretches eastwards from Kenniker Cottage to Aberdour.


The skilful planting of mixed deciduous trees, mostly beech (Fagus sylvatica) and oak (Quercus petraea) in clumps, belts and along ridges visible from the drives to St Colme House, still creates a striking impact. This would also have been apparent when the estate formed part of the policies of Donibristle House.

St Colme House itself occupies an elevated position surrounded by mixed deciduous trees which provide protection from the winds coming off the Firth of Forth.

The Gardens

St Colme House sits within an open lawn. There is a modern rockery with conifers. The garden extends north to the former site of the walled garden attached to Barn Hill. The coachhouse, forming part of the walled garden, is now linked to St Colme House. To the south of the house are serpentine walks edged with cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus). These are indicated on the 1836 estate survey (Fullarton 1836).

Walled Gardens

The walled garden forms part of the St Colme gardens. There is no longer evidence of the separate walled garden at Dalgety House but below ground archaeology may survive.



Maps, Plans and Archives

1747–55 General Roy's Military Survey

1772 Anon, 'Plan for the Improvement of Donibristle, the Seat of the Rt Hon the Earl of Moray, 1772', Scottish Record Office, RHP 144331

1811 J Knox , 'Reduced Plan of the Parks of Donibristle, with Dalgety and Barn Hill the property of the Earl of Moray, Surveyed by J Knox, 1811'

1827 John Thomson, 'Map of Fife & Kinross'

1835 John Fullarton, 'Plan of Donibristle Park in the Parishes of Dalgety and Aberdour, property of Rt Hon Francis Earl of Moray, 1835' Scottish Record Office, RHP 37882

1853 survey, 1st edition OS 1:10560 (6"), published 1856

1853 survey, 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25"), published 1857

1914 survey, 2nd edition OS 1:2500 (25"), published 1915


Printed Sources

Historic Scotland on behalf of Scottish Ministers The Lists of Buildings of Architectural or Historic Interest

New Statistical Account, Statistical Account of the Parish of Aberdour, vol.9, (1845)

Old Statistical Account, Statistical Account of the Parish of Aberdour, vol. 4, (1795)

Tait, A. A. The Landscape Garden in Scotland 1735-1835 (1980)

Turnbull, D. Thomas White (1739-1811).18th century landscape designer and arboriculturalist. PhD Thesis Hull University (1990)

Historic Environment Scotland Properties

St. Bridget's Kirk

Find out more

Related Designations

  1. St Bridget's KirkSM90266

    Designation Type
    Scheduled Monument

    Designation Type
    Listed Building (A)

    Designation Type
    Listed Building (B)

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.

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Printed: 08/07/2020 06:17