Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
NT 30226 68959
330226, 668959

A good example of William Adam's formal style of landscape design carried out in the 1700s with the structure still relatively intact today. The parkland avenues provide an impressive setting for the category A listed Drum House.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The Drum has high value as a Work of Art, based on historical accounts and on the significance of the design shown on General Roy's plan.


Level of interest

The remains of the William Adam designed landscape and its associations with the Somervilles give it outstanding Historical value.


Level of interest

There is no plant collection at The Drum but the early cedar plantings give it a little Horticultural value.


Level of interest

The designed landscape provides the setting for the William Adam house, listed A.


Level of interest
Not Assessed


Level of interest

The policy woodlands make a significant contribution to the surrounding scenery.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The Drum policies provide a little value for Nature Conservation in contrast to the urban surroundings.

Location and Setting

The Drum is situated just 4 miles (6.5km) south-east from the centre of Edinburgh and 2 miles (3km) north-west of Dalkeith. The site is bounded to the north-east by the main A68(T), to the north by the A720, and to the south- west by the A7(T). The underlying geology is of the Carboniferous series and the Deer Park was lost in the past to coal-mining. The house is set on a ridge and faces south-east, commanding extensive views. Despite its urban fringe setting, the house and parks are well- screened from the surrounding roads by the policy woodlands.

It is thought that the designed landscape was originally laid out by William Adam in the early 18th century. It is shown on Roy's map of 1750 and has an avenue leading north-west from the north of the house ending in a rond-point with radial rides in the formal woodland layout. To the south of the house, along the same north-west/south- east axis, is a series of clumps of trees in a grid pattern. This square of clumps is picked out again at the end of the west avenue. A second north-west/south-east avenue runs parallel and to the west of the first. The east avenue is less well demarcated and it is not clear from Roy's map if the canal was there in 1750. It does appear on the 1808 Plan at The Drum, drawn for Robert Cathcart; this shows the walled garden to the north-west of the house which does not appear on the 1750 map. The layout of the designed landscape has remained similar in structure to that shown on the 1800 plan. There are 196 acres (80ha) in the designed landscape today.

Site History

The structure of the design laid out by William Adam in the early half of the 18th century remains today.

The Drum is named after the ancient royal hunting forest of Drumselch, which once covered the land from The Drum to Holyrood. The barony of the Drum belonged in early times to a family called Herring until the times of Robert I when the only surviving daughter, Giles, married Sir Walter de Somerville of Linton & Carnwath. The Somerville family lived at The Drum until 1800, and it is referred to in some documents as Somerville House. A mansion house was begun in 1584 at a site to the west of the present house and was designed by John Mylne for Hugh, the 7th Lord Somerville. That house suffered from several fires and in 1726 a new house was begun for the 12th Lord Somerville (although some records refer to the 13th Lord Somerville as the builder). The house was designed by William Adam who also designed the layout for the grounds. The Drum estate was sold in lots between 1800- 1806, and had several changes of ownership before it was purchased in 1862 by Mr John More-Nisbett of Cairnhill. Most of the early estate records are thought to have been lost during this intervening period. Mr More-Nisbett added the Victorian extension to the house, and his wife Lady Agnes laid out an 'enchanting oval flower garden, surrounded by beech, gean and Rhododendron, outside the west wall of the large kitchen garden' (Sheila Forman, Scots Map. Vo. 51 1955, p.34) which was kept up in the 1950s.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Drum House is a Palladian-style mansion, built between 1726-34, with a striking balustraded roofline ornamented with vases. A curved two-flight staircase leads up to the Principal floor and is thought to have been built in c.1782. A portion of the earlier house built by John Mylne is incorporated into the west wing. The house was built to William Adam's design, with the exception of a proposed east wing which was never completed; it is listed A. The Stables are listed B, dated 1806, and are a one- storey building with bulls-eye windows and a cupola. The Doocot is on the west side of the steading courtyard and is of lectern-style. A facsimile of the old Edinburgh Cross was erected in 1892 near the Stables. The original ancient cross was placed at the south end of the main avenue of the Drum from 1756 and remained there until 1866 when it was replaced at St. Giles; the facsimile cross is listed B. The 17th century sundial of baluster type is listed B, as are the 18th century East Lodges and the Tablet to the 6th Lord Somerville placed over the Garden Gate in 1624. The Ice House is 18th century and is listed C.


The avenue plantings at The Drum are an important feature of the parkland landscape. Historical records refer to 'the avenue opposite the north front is terminated by an ancient-like structure on the summit of a hill which is seen at a great distance and adds solemnity and grandeur to the whole'. This was the view tower erected by William Adam in 1741. The Edinburgh Mercat Cross stood on a mound at the south end of the main avenue from 1756-1866. A.A. Tait refers to two other terminal features at the end of the west and east avenues. An old doocot once closed the west avenue and three Gothic arches the east. Although some of these structures have since been lost, the designed vistas have been maintained by the owners over the years.

Adam's lookout tower commanded a view to the north over Edinburgh and also over the Deer Park which was lost in the 19th century to coal mining. It has since been encroached upon by housing development. The parkland remaining today is managed for grazing and contains some fine trees, including horse chestnut, cedar, and the fine beech trees in the avenues, some dating back to 1730. Four cedars planted at The Drum were said to be among the earliest planted in this country, from seed brought back from the Lebanon in the late 17th century. The north gate is now closed but the west and east drives are still in use; the west drive has been planted alongside with poplars.


The policy woodlands at The Drum are a significant feature in the urban fringe landscape and also serve to screen and shelter the house and parkland from view. Species planted are mixed deciduous and new planting has been undertaken at several periods over the years and, more recently, in the last ten years. Some of the fine beech trees are reaching maturity.

Water Features

There is a long canal to the east of the house parallel to the west/east avenue axis; this feature is still present but has become silted and overgrown.

The Gardens

Under the canopy of trees to the south of the main beech avenue, are the remains of more ornamental plantings of trees and shrubs, particularly Rhododendrons and Azaleas. The paths are lined with daffodils in the spring. To the east of the house is a further new area of shrubbery with new Rhododendrons and ornamental shrub planting.

Walled Gardens

The walled garden lies to the north-west of the house and west of the main beech avenue. It is walled on three sides and open to the south and is no longer kept up as a kitchen garden. The remains of Lady Agnes's oval garden lie to the west of the walled garden and consist of a hedgerow and some ornamental planting of trees and shrubs, particularly Rhododendrons.




Printed Sources

1808 Estate Plan at The Drum

Thomas Whyte 'An Account of the Parish of Liberton in Mid Lothian' Archaeologica Scotica, L.1792, p.318

S. Forman, SM, Vol 51, 1955, p.34

Small, Castles and Mansions in the Lothians, 1883

CL, Oct 9th 1915

C. McWilliam, Lothian 1978

J. Geddie, The Fringes of Edinburgh

Groome's, 1885


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.

We add sites of national importance to the inventory using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

The information in the inventory record gives an indication of the national importance of the site(s). It is not a definitive account or a complete description of the site(s). The format of records has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

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Printed: 26/05/2019 23:17