Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
Dumfries And Galloway
NX 75454 60579
275454, 560579

An attractive garden which is now a horticultural training facility for the National Trust for Scotland, as well as providing the setting for some notable architectural features.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The gardens have high value as a Work of Art due to the design of the garden glades flowing along the slope of Kelton Hill.


Level of interest

The gardens have been created since 1960 and thus provide only a little Historical value.


Level of interest

The large collection of plant material gives the gardens outstanding Horticultural value.


Level of interest

The designed landscape at Threave provides the setting for architectural features which together give it high value.


Level of interest
Not Assessed


Level of interest

The woodland and the specimen trees provide some Scenic significance in the wider agricultural landscape.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The woodlands at Threave provide a little Nature Conservation value.

Location and Setting

Threave Gardens are situated 2 miles (3km) south-west of Castle Douglas off the A75, overlooking the valley of the River Dee. The gardens are surrounded by agricultural land beyond which, to the north and west, rise the hills of the Laurieston Forests. To the south-east are the hills of Screel and Bengairn. The gardens lie on the west-facing slope of the local landmark called Kelton Hill and, although there are natural outcrops of rock, the soil is heavy with high silt content. Long views north and south along the valley of the River Dee can be gained from within the gardens. The mature tree canopy of the woodland gives Threave Gardens some significance in the surrounding landscape.

Threave House stands within some 104 acres (42ha) of designed landscape which lies on the western shoulder of Kelton Hill. The Old Military Road between Kirkland and Kelton Hill Farm forms the north-western boundary of the site. Documentary evidence of the development of the designed landscape is provided by the 2nd edition OS map of c.1900 and the modern edition. Reference to the former indicates that the designed landscape extended from its present boundary in the north-west to the Church and mausoleum on the minor road which runs almost due north/south between Threave and the village of Gelston. The acreage which can be considered as the designed landscape today is somewhat smaller than this, extending only as far south as Keltonhill Wood and east from it to the minor road linking Threave with Gelston.

Site History

The designed landscape was laid out by William Gordon in the 1880s and the majority of the garden has been created since 1960. There are no known landscape designers.

In 1872 William Gordon, a successful businessman from Liverpool, built Threave House, taking the name from a 12th century castle situated on a island in the River Dee within the bounds of the estate. His grandson, Major Alan Gordon, approached the National Trust for Scotland in 1948 and the whole estate was finally transferred to the Trust on the death of Major Alan Gordon in 1957. In 1960 the Threave School of Gardening was set up to train amenity gardeners, providing a two year residential course. Eight students are accepted each year and all the accommodation and classrooms are provided in the house. Much of the garden has been created since 1960 under the guidance of the principal of the school, Mr W. Hean, and has been constructed by the students.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Threave House, listed category C, was designed by Peddie and Kinnear in 1872 and now houses the National Trust for Scotland's school of gardening. The Walled Garden and stable-block were probably built at the same time as the house. Several cottages were built in the 1960s for the school's staff. The Visitor Centre was built in 1975. The Japanese lantern came originally from Inveresk House.


The majority of the parkland has been converted into part of the garden but there is a small section to the south of the entrance drive shelterbelt which contains two clumps of trees, mainly hardwoods of about 100 years old.


Kelton Wood is made up of an outer ring of hardwoods planted in c.1870 of mainly beech, oak and ash; the central core is predominantly softwood, larch and spruce, planted in 1973.

The Gardens

The gardens were created on the south-west facing parkland and there are still one or two large clumps of beech providing structure for the new planting. There are fourteen different areas described in the guidebook and the majority have been planted up since 1960 as demonstration borders for the students. They include a rose garden, woodland garden, patio nursery, peat garden, rock garden, vegetable garden, walled garden and greenhouses, pond and water garden, dwarf conifers, secret garden, herbaceous borders, arboretum, heather garden, orchard, crab-apple and cherry collection and bog garden. The Gordons naturalised many thousands of daffodils and many of the older varieties still flower in the open lawns.

The designs of the gardens have evolved from the semi-natural woodland garden style to the more sinuous open glades made from lawns in which the plants are grouped together in irregular and flowing shaped beds. This style of gardening is typical of the 1960-70s. In every section of the garden the widest range of plants has been used and Threave contains the National Collection of Penstemons as well as a particularly fine collection of alders and Narcissus. When Alan Mitchell measured the trees in 1984 he included over 165 different specimens. The gardens are well described in the guidebook and in two articles in Country Life. Plants for sale at the Visitor Centre and at other NTS properties are raised in both the walled garden and the forestry nursery.




Printed Sources

G. Robson, CL March 6th 1986

NTS, Guide to Threave Gardens

A.G.L. Hellyer, CL Aug 8th 1974

NTS, Prospectus, Threave School of Gardening


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.

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.

Enquiries about development proposals, such as those requiring planning permission, on or around inventory sites should be made to the planning authority. The planning authority is the main point of contact for all applications of this type.

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Printed: 04/06/2023 05:53