The designed landscape of The Burn was laid out from an area of previously barren land between 1791-96 and further embellished by subsequent owners. There are no known designers. Documentary map evidence is provided by the 1st edition OS map of c.1860 and the 2nd edition OS map of c.1900. Since our visit the estate maps of 1796 and 1819 have been found to be extant and are in the possession of Mrs T.E. James, daughter of Mr G.H. Russel.
Little is known of the early history of The Burn except that the lands were part of the Thanage of Newdosk and later of the barony of Arnhall. Lord Adam Gordon, a son of the 2nd Duke of Gordon, acquired the estate in 1780, when he was Commander-in- Chief of the Army in Scotland, at which time it was in 'the wildest state of barrenness'. He began an extensive series of improvements during which time some 475 acres were cultivated, and 526 acres were planted, whilst a further 87 acres of his neighbour's land was planted at no cost to the owner, the Hon William Maule, in 'order to hide deformities and create agreeable prospects'. In addition, some six miles of walks were laid out which, in many places, were blasted through solid rock. The house was built between 1791-96 with the intention that His Lordship would retire there. When he did eventually retire in 1798, he was able to enjoy his achievements at The Burn for only three years before his death in 1801. The estate was then sold to a neighbour, Mr Brodie of Arnhall, who added to the house and made further improvements to the grounds. In 1814, it was again sold, to a Mr Shand, who is thought to have continued improvements begun by Mr Brodie as well as adding his own. In particular, he redirected the Glenesk Road to its present alignment, prior to which it had passed through the policies between the house and the gardens. In 1836, the estate passed to Major William McInroy and, during his time, Queen Victoria is known to have visited the property. Colonel Charles McInroy, a nephew, inherited in 1896 and, in 1921, the family sold The Burn and Arnhall Estates to Mr G.H. Russel who also bought the nearby estate of Dalladies. At this time the area of the three estates extended over some 4,000 acres (1,620ha).
Between 1933-35, the house was altered and modernised, and during World War II, it was used as a Hospital. In his time as laird, Mr Russel had made many improvements to the estate but in 1945-46 the lands of Arnhall, Dalladies and part of The Burn, were sold. Large areas of low-lying ground by the village of Edzell were acquired by compulsory purchase for the establishment of RAF Edzell. The mansion house, policies and parts of the woodland (190 acres in all) were gifted to the Dominion Students' Hall Trust, (now London House for Overseas Graduates) together with an endowment in 1946/47. Since then, The Burn has been managed as a holiday and study centre for students and graduates of the UK, the Commonwealth and the USA.