Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape

Cluny HouseGDL00104

Status: Designated


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Date Added
Last Date Amended
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Perth And Kinross
Planning Authority
Perth And Kinross
NN 87906 51400
287906, 751400

Cluny House is an important example of a garden managed for its horticultural value. The garden's creation is closely linked to the important Himalayan plant hunting expeditions by Ludlow and Sherriff in the 1930s and 1940s. It contains an extensive collection of plants, including many rare varieties of which the meconopsis and primula collections are particularly notable. The garden is managed to promote wildlife and also provides a setting for the ex-situ conservation of threatened conifer trees.

Type of Site

A woodland garden developed in the 1950s and containing a rare collection of plants, many of which were brought from Himalayan plant hunting expeditions

Main Phases of Landscape Development

1860s, 1950s

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The original layout of the garden at Cluny is not connected with a known designer. The current assessment does not identify any readily available contemporary accounts which testify to appreciation of the gardens during the late 19th century (2017). Cluny Gardens is not understood to have been a trendsetter.


'Some' interest in this category derives from the appreciation evident in more recent accounts for the garden in its current form, as created by Bobby Masterton and then enhanced by the current owners. For example, Masterton's work was praised by the Austrian plantsman Franz Hadacek during a visit in 1982 (International Rock Gardener 2012). Russell (2008) describes the garden as 'gathered and grown with … finesse'. The Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust describes it as a 'Himalayan woodland paradise'.


Level of interest

The connection to 19th century conifer introductions and to the 1949 Ludlow and Sherriff expedition to Bhutan is of interest in this category. Perthshire was recognised in the 18th and 19th centuries as a place where North American and Himalayan tree species could thrive, due to the similarity of conditions in their native regions.


Cluny likely received species from 19th century plant hunters, and at least one mature tree may be connected to introductions by John Matthew. Ludlow and Sherriff are key figures in the history of plant collection, responsible for the introduction of many Himalayan and Asiatic species to Britain. Many of the plants in the garden at Cluny are derived directly from seed collected during Ludlow and Sherriff's final expedition.


Level of interest

The garden has a rare and extensive collection of plants, including notable collections of meconopsis and primula, many of which are derived directly from seed collected by the 1949 Ludlow and Sherriff expedition to Bhutan. New species continue to be supplied from seed collected in Himalayan regions. Plants are propagated on-site and made available to others through seed sales and exchanges. At the time of writing (2017) seven champion trees are recognised within the garden, three of which are national champions and the remainder county champions, while a number of rare and threatened conifer trees have been planted at Cluny as part of the Perthshire Big Tree Country Conifer Conservation Programme. Together this gives Cluny outstanding horticultural value.


Level of interest

The garden is the setting for the category B listed Cluny House. The two other houses within the policies are not listed but appear to occupy the site of former estate buildings. On balance, the site merits high value in this category.


Level of interest

There are no scheduled monuments or recorded archaeological sites within the designation boundary. Value in this category derives mainly from the potential for future survey or investigation to reveal further data on the landscape through time.


Level of interest

Cluny House gardens occupy a sloping site on the western side of Strathtay. While the garden is designed to be inward looking, its woodland canopy can be seen from the surrounding area.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

Although there are no national natural heritage designations Cluny House merits high nature conservation value. The garden is managed in a way to promote wildlife and provides a habitat for birds and red squirrels (a protected species), as well as insects such as bees. An area of the garden where native wildfowers can flourish is under development. Within the woodland garden, a wide variety of funghi species has been recorded.

Location and Setting

Cluny House is situated off a minor road between Weem and Strathtay, around 3km northeast of Aberfeldy and southwest of Strathtay. Along the steep slopes of the Tay valley there is a mixture of small fields and patches of woodland. Above this, open moorland rises to the uplands of the Western Grampians.


The garden lies on a southeast-facing slope within this valley landscape, at around 160m above sea level. A mature woodland plantation to the southeast of the garden provides shelter from easterly winds, and on the western side the ground rising to Cluny Rock also protects it from prevailing winds. From within the garden, tree-cover gives a secluded feel, confining views within the garden. Longer range views over the surrounding countryside can be glimpsed from the upper reaches of the garden only.


The garden as a whole extends to an area of some 4.5 hectares (11 acres). Cluny House lies in the centre of the northern half. The garden is defined by woodland edges to the southeast and field boundaries to the north, west and southwest. The woodland contributes to the surrounding scenery and can be seen from the A827 running along the south side of the valley.

Site History

Cluny House was built around 1825. An extension was completed in 1880 and the original house renovated. The policies were laid out by 1860, with many of the mature trees in the garden planted between 1850 and 1880. At this time Perthshire was at the forefront of forestry development in Britain, connected to the work of prominent plant hunters. The region was amongst the first to receive specimens of new introductions. At Cluny at least one tree, a Wellingtonia, also widely known as a giant redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum) is recognised as the widest in Britain (2017). These trees likely originate from seed collected by John Matthew and sent to his father Patrick Matthew, an arboriculturalist and evolutionary theorist with landowning interests in the Carse of Gowrie, Perthshire. Patrick Matthew is credited with introducing the Wellingtonia to Britain in 1853.


The 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1862) depicts the policies at Cluny. The main drive is shown approaching up the hill from Edradynate Wood with a lodge marking the entrance at the eastern end of the policies. By the 2nd edition map (revised 1899) a second drive and lodge had been inserted on the southwest of the policies. A walled garden is also depicted, but this no longer survives.


During the Second World War of 1939-45 the house was occupied by evacuees from Glasgow, but remained empty until 1949 when the house and surrounding woodlands were sold. The policies which lay at the foot of the hill and the two lodges were not included in the sale and are no longer part of the estate.


Bobby Masterton, a veterinary surgeon, bought Cluny around 1950. He was a skilled propagator of alpines, a member of the Scottish Rock Garden Club and a friend of the plant hunter Major George Sherriff. Masterton created the present garden based on 400 packets of seed from the Ludlow and Sherriff plant hunting expedition to Bhutan in 1949. This was one of seven expeditions made by Ludlow and Sheriff to Bhutan and southeast Tibet between 1933 and 1949. The collections from Bhutan were of particular importance as Ludlow and Sherriff had unparalleled access to the country for the purpose of botanical study. The plants suited the soil and climatic conditions at Cluny, naturalising in the moist cool summers and the dry winters under snow cover. The owners also planted a large variety of trees and shrubs, including Japanese maples, birches, rowans and rhododendrons, as well as bulbs of many varieties, ranging from common daffodils and snowdrops to rarer triliums, nomocharis, along with primulas and meconopsis. Since the late 1980s, the garden has been run on organic principles by the current owners.


Although most of the garden is under single ownership (2017), two houses within the area of the garden are separately owned. They have incorporated some pre-established species of the original collection into their gardens.


At the time of writing (2017) the owners continue to receive seeds secured from plant hunting expeditions. They are acquired from individuals such as Chris Chadwell, an independent botanist and plant collector, and organisations such as the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh. A number of rare and threatened conifer trees have been planted at Cluny as part of the Perthshire Big Tree Country Conifer Conservation Programme an initiative to regenerate the forest gardens of Perthshire while contributing to the Royal Botanic Garden's International Conifer Conservation Programme (ICCP). Cluny has seven champion trees recorded on the database of the Tree Register of the British Isles. Three are national champions and the remainder county champions.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Cluny House, built around 1825, is a two-storey rubble built building with three storey tower and a one-window single storey wing. It was enlarged and renovated in 1880, and modernised in the 1950s. There are two other houses within the southern half of the inventory area. The first may have been converted and extended from an estate outbuilding which appears on 1st edition Ordnance Survey maps; the second occupies the former site of a kennel. Also shown on 1st edition maps is a walled garden, situated to the north of the policies. This no longer survives.

Drives & Approaches

Access to the garden is from the southwest along the drive first shown on the 2nd edition Ordnance Survey map. There is a small car park to the southeast of the house.

Paths & Walks

A network of informal, serpentine paths provide the basis for walking trails around Cluny woodland garden.


North of Cluny House, paths lead into part of the woodland garden. Level ground and a high tree canopy provide opportunities for understorey plants to develop. Lines of sheltering trees around the perimeter provide framed views to surrounding open agricultural land to the north and west. From here narrow paths and steps lead down the steep east-facing slope and through the woodland. The paths zig-zag down the slope and curl around some of the larger tree trunks. At every turn there is complex and rich detail in the planting that can be appreciated from terraces and steps. Windows in the woodland cover allow a glimpse of views to the east and southeast across the river valley.

Woodland Garden

The garden was created from 1950 under a canopy of mature trees, many planted between about 1850 and 1880. These include a cut-leaf beech on the lawn and, at the north end, a large silver fir and two large Wellingtonias. At the time of writing (2017), one of these is recognised as the widest conifer in the UK. The house sits on a broad terrace which is cut into the bank. Formerly part of the entrance drive, the terrace is now a wide lawn containing several island beds filled with sun-loving plants including lilies. From this terrace the garden extends down the steep wooded hillside. Many smaller trees, such as snakebark maples and white berried sorbus, have been planted throughout the garden and particularly on the edge of the lawn, identifying the entrance to the narrow paths which lead down the hill and through the woodland. Trees with colourful bark have been planted near to the paths. There are also several flowering trees overhanging the paths.


Between the trees or larger shrubs, small raised beds full of primulas, meconopsis, gentians, lilies and many other perennial plants flourish, many of them naturalising. The collections of meconopsis and primula are particularly diverse and include a number of rare varieties. Following denser planting there are occasional openings in the canopy which give glimpses of the Tay valley below.


Under the shelter of the tall canopy grow some tender trees which are unusual in this part of central Scotland. They include Hoheria lyallii, Embothrium coccineum, and Eucryphia x nymanensis. A number of rare and threatened conifer species, including Fitzroya cupressoides and Pilgerodendron uviferum have recently been planted as part of the Perthshire Big Tree Country Conifer Conservation Programme. Behind the house the bank rises steeply and here a shrubbery has been planted. On the north side is a small greenhouse where most of the propagating and raising of seeds take place. The two other houses have incorporated some pre-established species of the original collection in their gardens. Beyond them a wild garden has been created which includes examples of coppiced hazels and a variety of native plants.



Canmore: ID 227927 [accessed 21/12/2016]


Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1862, published 1867) Perthshire, Sheet XLIX. Six-inch to the mile. 1st edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1899, published 1900) Perth and Clackmannan Sheet XLIX.NE. Six-inch to the mile. 2nd edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Printed sources

Land Use Consultants 1999 Tayside Landscape Character Assessment. SNH

Little, G. A. (1981). The Gardens of Scotland. Edinburgh.

Mitchell, A. (1974) Field Guide to the Trees of Britain & Northern Europe. Collins.

Online sources

Cluny House Gardens [accessed 09/01/2017]

House, S. (1998) The famous trees of Perthshire: the heritage of the great plant hunters of the 19th century and their introductions. Scotland Woodland History Discussion Group: notes III [available at] [accessed 24/04/2017]

International Rock Gardener, (2012) newsletter of the Scottish Rock Garden Club. Edition 36. [accessed 26/05/2017].

PBTC Conifer Conservation Programme [accessed 09/01/2017]

Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust – Aberfeldy [accessed 24/04/2017]

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh – Botanics Stories [accessed 24/04/2017]

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh - Collectors [accessed 24/04/2017]

Russell, V. (2008) Gardening: Visiting Cluny House Gardens. The Telegraph [accessed 24/04/2017]

The Tree Register – Champion Tree Database, [accessed 24/04/2017]

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.

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Cluny House, lawn, house and shrubs, looking northwest, during daytime, with white sky above.
Cluny House champion redwood tree, looking northwest, during daytime, within green foliage to left and right.
: Cluny House, looking northeast, during daytime, within a wood.
Cluny House, central path and steps green foliage to left and right.
Cluny House, flowers and green foliage, surrounded by trees.
Cluny House, flowers with trees above, looking northwest.

Printed: 16/06/2021 00:07