Location and Setting
Ardwell House lies on the east coast of the southern peninsula of the Rhinns of Galloway some 10 miles (17km) south of the town of Stranraer. The peninsula, some 2.5 miles (4km) wide at Ardwell is low and undulating. The mild climate is tempered by the Gulf Stream of the North Atlantic Drift which provides relatively mild, if wet, weather conditions all year round. Soil conditions are acid. The immediate surrounding landscape comprises extensive estate farmland which retains the character of Ardwell's 19th century agricultural improvements. The estate woodlands, some of which are now leased to the Forestry Commission, provide shelter and relief to the overall landscape. The estate of Logan lies to the south. Extensive views exist across Luce Bay to Whithorn in the east, and west across the Irish Sea. The woodlands and the estate buildings, the latter painted white and blue, are of moderate significance in the landscape. The low-lying nature of the landscape prevents views of the policies beyond the woodlands from the main A716 road which partly forms the eastern boundary of the estate.
Ardwell House is situated less than 0.5 miles (1km) from the east coast. Agricultural improvement land, enclosed by shelter woods, extends north between Glenhie and Dyemill and south to Barhill. The site of an ancient motte lies within the eastern boundary woodlands which extend to the A716 at the East Lodge. The east drive, created in the late 19th century, runs from the lodge in a south-west direction to the house. It crosses the minor road to Clachanmore which cuts through the estate from the village of Ardwell, and forms the south-west boundary adjacent to Bones Plantation.
The extent of the designed landscape has remained consistent with that shown on the 1st edition OS map of c.1850 and it includes some 970 acres (342 ha).
The designed landscape was laid out between 1800-1850 and further embellished c.1900. It has been under active improvement since 1950.
The estate originally belonged to the McCulloch's who built the house around 1720. It was sold to the Maxwell family some ten years later, who retained it until the late 18th century when it was purchased by Sir William Douglas. He retained the estate for less than 10 years and in c.1797 sold it to John MacTaggart a fellow local who had amassed his wealth in shipping during the American War of Independence. He and his son, later Sir John, greatly improved the grounds of the estate, laying them out as shown in the 1st edition OS map of c.1850. Sir John's granddaughter and her husband, Sir Mark MacTaggart- Stewart, who adopted the family name, further improved the grounds c.1900. They formed the loch in the park to the east of the house and established the rhododendron collection in the garden. Their granddaughter and her husband, Mr & Mrs John Brewis, inherited the estate from her father, Sir Edward MacTaggart- Stewart in 1949. They restored the house to its early 18th century proportions by removing the Victorian addition which had been added in the mid-19th century. Mr Brewis was Chairman of the Select Committee on Land Use in Scotland in the 1970s and has greatly improved the shelter and access to the estate farms. Mrs Brewis is a keen gardener and has established the heather garden on the south side of the house.
Ardwell House, listed category B, was built in the early 18th century and it is a two- storey and basement harled structure with crow-stepped gables and stacks. The architect of the original house and that of the Victorian frontage is unknown. Mr H.A. Wheeler, President of the Royal Scottish Academy, restored the original proportions of the house in 1956. The Lodge, listed B, stands at the entrance to the east drive on the A716. Stone Owls, the MacTaggart family emblem and rescued during the demolition of the Victorian additions, stand in the woodland garden. Ardwell Church, built in the early 20th century by the well known Scottish architect McGregor Chalmers, is clearly visible from the house due to the recent felling of the woodland enclosure. A sundial stands in the crazy paving garden to the south of the house.
The parkland lies on the east side of the designed landscape to the east and south of Ardwell House and was designed as a foreground to the more distant views of Luce Bay. The Loch was created c.1901 by damming the Killaser Burn which flows through the park. There are few parkland trees. The parks are used for both pasture and arable farming. Between 1850-1910 the park to the north of the east drive was laid out and two additional sporting woodland clumps were added on its northern boundary. In c.1950 one of the smaller woodland clumps was removed.
The woodlands extend around the policies and are particularly important to the scenic value of the designed landscape. Bones and Glenhie plantations are coniferous but the majority of the policy woodlands are mixed deciduous. Some of the oldest beech trees date from the late 18th century. Sycamore, beech and ornamental conifers date from the early 1900s and some beech stands were planted alongside the drive in the 1950s by Mr Brewis. A natural sycamore wood lies to the north of the walled garden and has been allowed to regenerate naturally.
The 1st edition OS map shows rides around the woodland immediately adjacent to the house which remain today. The woodland around the lodge, with the exception of 'Murder Plantation', was established c.1900. An area of woodland planted to the north of the house to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 has recently been felled and small shrub beds planted.
The woodland garden lies to the south of the house and takes advantage of the shelter from the woodlands to the west. It was established in the late 1800s and early 1900s by Sir Mark and Lady MacTaggart-Stewart who planted many of the Rhododendron arboreum spp. Planting has been continued by their successors with a variety of trees and shrubs; among them Cordyline australis and Nothofagus spp., and Cryptomeria japonica said to be the oldest in the south of Scotland.
A pond is situated at the south-east corner of the garden. Between it and the loch in the park runs a mill race, crossed by a modern Japanese-style bridge. On either side of the long east drive, ornamental trees and shrubs have been planted c.1900 with additions since 1950.
A heath garden has been laid out adjacent to the house on its east side within the lines of the foundations of the Victorian additions. Here, and on the south side of the house on the site of a formal garden indicated on the 1st edition OS map, Mrs Brewis has planted many heath and alpine plants amid paving.
The site of the kitchen garden is indicated on the 1st edition OS map of c.1850 but its layout and the small walled enclosure incorporated within it are not indicated until the 2nd edition OS map of c.1910. It is not certain what the enclosure was originally constructed for. It has been planted out by Mrs Brewis with herbaceous and alpine plants. The 1st edition OS map indicates a 3-walled enclosure, with the south side open to the Burn. The gardener's house incorporated in the west wall appears to be marked. The south wall and gardener's bothies could have been added after this time. The garden as a whole is partly maintained as a kitchen garden and partly grassed.
There are two greenhouses, one of which is modern. The latter is heated by a wood-burning stove and used for hydroponic cultivation of tomatoes and for pot plants.