- Level of interest
The designed landscape formed in the 18th century by the 2nd Earl of Stair, restored and expanded in the 19th century by the 10th Earl has outstanding value as a Work of Art.
- Level of interest
The formal design created by the 2nd Earl and attributed to William Adam or William Boutcher, and the 19th century restoration supervised by J.C. Loudon gives the site outstanding Historical value.
- Level of interest
The range of plants, especially the trees and shrubs, many of which were the first introductions grown in Britain gives the garden outstanding Horticultural value.
- Level of interest
As the setting for several category A listed buildings, this site has outstanding Architectural value.
- Level of interest
- Not Assessed
- Level of interest
The contribution made by the woodland canopy, the open park and the expanses of water gives this site outstanding Scenic value.
- Level of interest
White Loch SSSI and the other habitats in the 18th century woodland give Castle Kennedy and Lochinch Castle outstanding Nature Conservation value.
Location and Setting
Castle Kennedy and Lochinch Castle are situated off the A75(T) some 4 miles (6.5km) south-east of Stranraer and some 8 miles (13km) north west of Glenluce. They lie on the eastern side of the isthmus which links the Rhinns of Galloway to the main part of Galloway between Loch Ryan in the north west and Luce Bay to the south. The soils are acid loam over sand and gravel. The gardens enjoy the mild effect of the Gulf Stream tempered by the maritime conditions. The climate is mild and wet; the annual rainfall is about 45"". The surrounding land is farmed except on the north-eastern side where there is moorland forming part of the foothills of the Galloway Uplands.
There are views east from the gardens up to these foothills, particularly to Cairnscarrow, 750' (229m). From several vantage points on the eastern side of the policies, there are extensive views south-west across the isthmus to the Rhinns of Galloway and south over Luce Bay to the Lake District. The attractive layout of the woodland, policies and park contributes greatly to the surrounding scenery by adding variety in an otherwise fairly open landscape.
Castle Kennedy lies in the centre of the policies on an isthmus separating the Black and White Lochs. It is a ruined tower. Lochinch Castle is the 19th century House which is situated to the north of the designed landscape at the north-east corner of the White Loch. Roads border the policies on three sides; the A75 to the south and two minor roads to the west and east. Moorland on the top of the foothills extends along the north-east side. The 18th century extent of the designed landscape can be seen in General Roy's plan, of 1750. In the 19th century, the policies were extended northwards to surround Lochinch Castle and their extent can be seen in the 1st edition OS plan of 1849. Today the designed landscape extends to some 2,343 acres (948 ha).
Castle Kennedy Gardens are contained on the isthmus between the two lochs. The policies surround the Lochs and are enclosed by woodland bordered by a stone wall running along the roads. There is a strong axis running straight through Castle Kennedy from the north-east to the south-west across the White Loch. Another line runs through the centre of the isthmus from the Kitchen Garden to Lochinch Castle crossing the first axis by the Mount Terrace. Smaller rides and vistas focus on the large circular pond almost at the centre of the design.
The designed landscape was made in the mid 18th century on a grand scale and was extended in the mid 19th century. The plant collection was started at the same time and has been added to ever since.
Castle Kennedy is recorded as early as 1480. In 1677, it was acquired by Sir John Dalrymple from the 5th Earl of Cassilis, head of the Kennedy family. His son was created the 1st Earl of Stair in recognition of his services as Secretary of State. The 2nd Earl inherited in 1702. He was a soldier and followed the Duke of Marlborough throughout his campaigns rising to the rank of Field Marshal. He was appointed British Ambassador to the French Court in 1715.
In 1716, Castle Kennedy was burnt down and has been a ruin ever since. The formal gardens around the Castle were created by the 2nd Earl between 1730 and 1740. Their construction was supervised by Thomas McAlla, a tough head gardener who is said to have controlled troops from the Inniskillen and Scots Greys regiments while they made the large banks which are a feature of the garden. The 2nd Earl was Colonel of both these regiments which were stationed nearby. The design of these massive earthworks has been attributed to both William Boutcher and William Adam. William Boutcher was asked to produce plans in 1722. William Adam designed the Earl's garden at Newliston between 1720 - 50 and, under his auspices, built the enormous earthworks at Fort George, near Inverness. The gardens at Castle Kennedy are on a huge scale and are large even by 18th century standards. It is therefore probable that they were laid out by a known designer. Even in the 1840s, when the gardens had fallen into decay, Mrs Jane Loudon commented that they were designed in the style of Stephen Switzer. The formal gardens have been compared to styles prevalent both in France and Holland but the actual designer is not known.
The 2nd Earl died childless and his will was contested by his relations. After several short ownerships, the property eventually passed to a 3rd cousin of the 7th Earl who became the 8th Earl. He is said to have found a decaying plan of the original design in a gardener's cottage. In 1841, he asked John Claudius Loudon to restore the garden based on this plan. Loudon's plan is kept at Lochinch Castle. Shortly afterwards the garden was planted with many of the newly introduced plants, especially rhododendrons from the expeditions of Sir Joseph Hooker in the Himalayas and other trees and shrubs collected by William Lobb in America.
In 1864, the 9th Earl began building Lochinch Castle in the Franco-Scottish style. It was completed by the 10th Earl who was a courtier and friend of the Royal family. He looked after the estate for the next 40 years and made continual improvements.
He was succeeded by his grandson, the 12th Earl. He was also an enthusiastic gardener and continued collecting plants and selecting new forms, especially of rhododendrons many of which were named after the family or the garden. His son, the present owner, inherited in 1961 and, with his wife, has continued to look after the gardens and estate.
Castle Kennedy, listed category A, was first recorded in 1480 as a Kennedy stronghold. It was burnt down in 1716 and has been a ruin ever since. It is now a scheduled monument. Lochinch Castle, listed category A, was built between 1864 and 68 by Wardrop & Reid under the supervision of Maitland Wardrop in the Franco- Scottish style. The Main Lodge at Lochinch, listed category B, is also by Wardrop. The Old Castle Garden Walls adjacent to Castle Kennedy are listed category B and were built in the 18th century. The Kitchen Garden walls were built in 1740. The Gardener's Cottage was also designed by Wardrop. The Bridge across the canal between the Lochs is listed category B and was built in the 18th century. The Gatepeirs and Gate, listed category B, have wrought-iron double gates which were also built in the 18th century. Within the park the ruined Old Parish Church and Graveyard are both listed category B. They were built in 1770 on 17th century foundations. The Church was disused by 1862. Throughout the policies there are several other buildings and they include Castle Kennedy Lodge, New Luce Lodge, and the Kennels and Farm Buildings.
General Roy's plan clearly shows the policies lying along the southern side of the Lochs. Several rides were cut through the woodland creating vistas. The 1st edition OS plan, dated 1849, only eight years after Loudon's plan, shows the restoration work in great detail but the size of the park shown is considerable smaller than it is today.
The 10th Earl extended the park and is said to have moved the village near the Old Parish Church in about 1860. He laid out the parks by directing the positioning of flags along the boundary of the proposed woodlands from the steps of the Castle. In this way, he was able to clearly see how best to emphasise the form of the rolling landscape.
The park today is large and forms an imposing setting for the new Castle. The open park lies to the west and north of the White Loch and was originally planted with several groups of widely spaced trees. It has recently been divided into large grass paddocks grazed by livestock. The policies to the east of the Black Loch have always been divided into smaller units and were designed with clumps of trees or longer fingers of woodland mainly planted along fence lines. Most of the fields are still pasture.
After 100 years, much of the 10th Earl's park can still be seen. There are fewer specimen trees as those which have fallen have not been replaced. Some of the woodland boundaries have been straightened when new fencing has been erected or woodland replanted, this being particularly noticeable on the eastern side. New plantations have also joined together several of the more sinuous edges to form solid blocks of woodland. These changes have to some extent blurred the clarity of the 10th Earl's design.
In the 1750s, the main plantation lay along the south side of the Lochs. It still remains and is called Broad Wood. It contains one or two large old oak trees in a mixed hardwood planting probably dating from the 18th century but it now contains mainly larch, sycamore, beech and ash. Woodland surrounds the designed landscape in three main plantations - Broad Wood, mentioned above, Hamilton Wood, which runs along the minor road to Innermessan on the west side, and Sheuchan Wood along the banks of the eastern hills. Most of the woodland consists of mixed hardwoods planted in about 1850 by the 10th Earl, with beech, oak, sycamore and ash with some conifers such as Scots pine and larch. Recently several blocks have been replanted.
The two Lochs have always featured strongly in the designed landscape. The banks and shoreline of the White Loch or Loch of Inch were remodelled in the 18th century when a small bay was cut off and the circular Round Pond created. Parts of the banks were also straightened. The eastern Loch, called the Black Loch or Loch Crindil, was joined to the White Loch by a straight-sided canal made in the 1740 when the formal garden was laid out. The design of the hump- backed bridge into the garden is attributed to William Adam and was used as the main entrance to Castle Kennedy and the 18th century garden. The White Loch was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1982 because it is an over wintering and breeding site for many migrating wildfowl and provides habitat for several unusual shoreline species and invertebrates.
These gardens of formal terraces and banks were created between 1722 and 1750 by the 2nd Earl of Stair and his head gardener Thomas McAlla. Correspondence between the absent Earl and his gardener describes some of the problems encountered. Troops from the garrison at Culhorn and Wigtown were used to mould the grand shapes from the sand and gravel bed of the isthmus. The banks were either cut out of the sloping ground, or raised terraces, or circular mounts or other well defined shapes. Each made an individual feature and some were named after Marlborough's campaigns, for example 'Marlborough's Mount'. Others are called Giant's Grave, with the Dancing Green below, Terraced Mound or Belvedere, Castle Green and Lovers' Loup. Almost all these features still survive although it is not clear how much was restored by Loudon in the 1840s. By 1744, the gardens were considered 'one of the most charmingest place ever I saw'.
At the end of the 18th century, the gardens were neglected but were restored and replanted in about 1840. By 1844, an avenue of monkey puzzles (Araucaria araucana), had been planted shortly after it was introduced by William Lobb for the second time in that year. Until 1963, when tremendous gales devastated the avenue, it was considered to be the longest and finest in the country. Sir James Hooker who became Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and led several plant collecting expeditions to the Himalayas was a frequent visitor. Many of his plant introductions, particularly of Rhododendron arboreum were planted in the Gardens. He is said to have named the 'Blue' Avenue planted with Noble fir (Abies nobilis).
Castle Green is now lined on either side with tall Holm oaks, Quercus ilex planted in about 1850. Dettingen Avenue was also replanted at this time. Its wide ride, leading to the Old Castle Garden, was also bordered by dark green Holm oaks. An inner avenue of Embothriums and Eucryphias was planted later by the 12th Earl. A gale in 1963 badly damaged much of the Holm oak. The 10th Earl collected, propagated and raised as many plants as he could and developed a plant collection which was renowned in the late 19th century. Articles extolling the range of plants appeared from the 1860s onwards. Some of these plants are still growing today though his pinetum, begun in the 1840s, was also devastated by severe gales in 1963. The stumps of the mighty Wellingtonias are now sprouting new growth. The Bowling Green was made in 1857 and is still used today by the local club. Recently a modern Clubhouse was built and its unfortunate style is not as sympathetic as it might have been given the importance of its setting. Near to it, is the diamond shaped terracing which is also an 18th century feature. Tall Thujas planted as an avenue lead to Castle Kennedy and they tower over the grass ride underneath.
On his return in 1918, the 12th Earl began gardening. He also collected plants, especially trees and shrubs, and enlarged his grandfather's collection. He planted the Magnolia campbelliis around the Round Pond where the large flowers protrude above huge Rhododendrons. Around the Dancing Green, he also planted flowering Embothrium and Eucryphias. Alan Mitchell of the Forestry Commission measured over 87 different trees in 1976 including many of the Monkey puzzles as well as a huge Japanese umbrella pine. During the winter of 1981/82 torrential rain and severe frosts devasted the Cordyline trees along the Canal and many of the large leaved Rhododendrons were cut back. Today the garden is one of the 'finest large gardens in the Country'. It has a 19th and 20th century plant collection planted on a French formal 18th century design.
The gardens to the south of Lochinch Castle were originally laid out in a formal pattern bordered by gravel paths. Between the paths lawns were cut out to make many small flower beds. The beds have now been joined into several larger ones, planted with sun loving ground cover plants. An ornate sunken garden was created to the south-west of the Castle. At first the terrace contained over 58 small beds. In the 1920s, the 12th Earl reduced them to 27 and the Countess has further reduced the borders to 7 areas for large shrubs and ground covers. The shrubbery at the far end has some more Eucryphias and large Eucalyptus. The Heather Garden to the east of the Castle, once full of Rhododendrons and Azaleas, has now also been reduced to 5 beds of heathers and other ericaceous ground-cover plants.
There are two walled gardens; the Old Castle Garden and the walled kitchen garden built in about 1740. The Walls of the Old Castle Garden were probably built c1607 when the Castle was improved. On two corners there are the ruins of two summerhouses which are contemporary with the walls. The garden is being redesigned and replanted with low shrubs and colourful herbaceous borders by the Countess. Part of the garden contains a collection of plants from the Mediterranean and Australasia but many of them have suffered from the effects of winter weather.
Along the eastern wall of the kitchen garden there were glasshouses for fruit, several of which are still in use. The walls adjoining them were designed as 'hot walls' with the flues from the boiler running between two skins of wall and the warmth protecting the fruit from early frosts. Produce was grown for the House until recently, when fewer varieties were grown for sale locally. Gravel paths still outline the four quarters of the garden.
Scottish Gdnr v.13, 1864, 55-56
GC 1871, Dec 1873, 327-28, 329; i 1883, 14, 15; ii 1922, 298; v.189, No. 4, 1981,
J.Hort Cottage Gdnr v.56, 1876, 122-24, 163-64
H.Maxwell, 1911, 65-72
CL v.150, 1971, 384-86
CL, Aug 12, 1971
Castle Kennedy Gardens, Guide
E. Haldane, Scots Gardens in Old Times, 1934
A.A. Tait, 1980
G.A. Little, 1981, 261-62
A. Mitchell, Tree Survey
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Printed: 17/05/2021 23:33