Craigiehall has earlier origins as part of a medieval and post-medieval estate. The lands were associated with the De Craigie family from the 12th to 14th centuries, and then the Stewarts. In 1643, Craigiehall was purchased by John Fairholme, merchant and Treasurer to the City of Edinburgh.
An earlier tower house on or close to the site of the present Craigiehall House is marked on maps of the 17th century. Labelled 'Kragy Hal' on Pont's map of the earlier 1600s, and 'Craighal' on Adair's map of circa 1682, it had garden grounds and ancillaries, of which only a doocot (dated 1672), and obelisk sundial survive. An 'old orchard' was also removed as part of the formal landscape design project at the start of the 18th century (Lowrey 1989: 3).
Preparations for a new house and landscape began in the 1690s following the marriage some years earlier of Sophia Fairholme of Craigiehall to William Johnstone, 2nd Earl of Annandale and (later) 1st Marquess of Annandale (1664-1721). They approached the best architects of the day, looking to create a more comfortable and fashionable residence for their Edinburgh base. In 1694, they settled on plans by their friend and distant cousin, Sir William Bruce (c.1625-1710), although elements of a rival design by John Smith were incorporated into the final build (Lowrey 1989).
William Bruce is known for his pioneering role in forging a new classical style of country house architecture in Scotland and introducing the baroque, formal landscape. As a landowner, politician and architect with wealthy patrons, he built and remodelled a number of houses from the 1660s, including his own at Balcaskie in Fife (GDL00037), and Kinross House by Loch Leven (GDL00247). In these schemes, Bruce treated the house and grounds as a single concept, setting the buildings within symmetrical garden grounds organised around a strong, single axis that terminated on a more distant landmark. While still engaged with Craigiehall, he began plans for a larger and more complex scheme at Hopetoun House (GDL00212), creating one of the most outstanding examples of early 18th century landscape design in Scotland.
By the mid-1690s, however, Bruce had fallen from political favour and was periodically detained under house arrest or in prison (Lowrey 2006). At Craigiehall, this meant he relied upon a circle of trusted contacts to fulfil the brief. Surviving correspondence and accounts provide a snapshot of who was involved and how the work progressed, anticipating the connections and ideas that shaped the ambitious Hopetoun landscape (Lowrey 1989).
In 1694, the surveyor, John Adair was called to Craigiehall to make a 'verie exacte map of the ground' (quoted in Lowrey 1989: 3). In the years that followed, Bruce involved architect-builders and draughtsmen, Alexander McGill, Alexander Edward, and Tobias Bachop, and the prominent landowner-politician and designer, John Erskine, 6th Earl of Mar (Lowrey 1989: 3). By 1703, Craigiehall House was complete, while work on the garden courts continued until 1708. Roy's Military Survey of 1747-55 shows the scheme in its entirety, with straight, tree-lined entrance avenues from the east and north and a pair of formal walled garden courts symmetrically arranged in front of the house, all surrounded by regular parks and perimeter planting (Roy 1747-55).
The next main phase of landscape development took place in the 1750s, when the owner, Charles Hope-Weir (1710-1791), fresh from his Grand Tour, exploited the dramatic and picturesque qualities of the River Almond to create a classical-style pleasure walk. This was very much in keeping with new trends for working with 'wilder' landscapes (see under paths and walks).
Charles Hope-Weir (born Charles Hope) had inherited the estate in around 1741. He was the well-connected grandson of Sophia Fairholme and William Johnstone and the son and brother of the Earls of Hopetoun. Encouraged by family members and inspired by his uncle's long travels in Italy (James Johnstone, the 2nd Marquess), Hope-Weir visited southern France and Italy from 1754-56, accompanied in part by the architect, Robert Adam (1728-1792).
Once back home Hope-Weir gave form to his classical learning, embarking immediately on a programme of works to plant trees and erect classical-style statues and architecture (of which the Grotto Bridge and Grotto Bath House survive). To the south, he purchased the lands of Lennie to form a deer park, in the centre of which his Craigiehall Temple (built 1759) gave a 'noble prospect' of the estate and housed his collection of Italian art (Innes 1982: 7). During this time, Hope-Weir also arranged for the removal or relocation of some of the ornamental features of his grandparents' formal garden courts around the house (see under walled garden).
With the structure of the designed landscape in place by later 18th century, the succeeding Hope-Weirs made little further major change, concentrating instead on extensions and improvements. Craigiehall House itself was substantially altered with additions in the 1830s and in 1853. The southernmost of the formal garden courts was also demolished and removed by this period (Ordnance Survey 1856). A small gasworks was built near Cramond Bridge for lighting purposes, and there was a major rebuild of the stables in around 1860.
Craigiehall became known as a "residence laid out with much art and taste" (Brewster 1832: 677), celebrated for the scenic qualities of its grounds (Wood 1794, Gordon 1845). The first and second edition Ordnance Survey maps depict a mature landscape of parks and shelterbelts, with most elements of Bruce's formal scheme surviving, and the later pleasure walk along the River Almond clearly shown (1856; 1895). Other mapped features reveal the typical spaces for 19th century leisure pursuits (a bowling green and summerhouse to the south of the house, footpaths and stepping stones over the Almond), and horticultural production in the walled garden (paths, rectangular plots, orchards and glasshouses) (Ordnance Survey 1856; 1895)
As with many country house estates in Scotland, the impact of two World Wars broke the tradition of Craigiehall as landowner's residence. In 1916, the Hope-Weirs left Craigiehall, having sold the estate to neighbouring landowner and former prime minister, the 5th Earl of Rosebery. Rosebery had purchased the estate for his second son, the Rt. Hon Neil James Archibald Primrose. Following his son's death in action just one year later, he leased out the house and policies. Craigiehall was rented first by textile merchant, James Morton in the 1920s, and then by Ernest Thomson of Edinburgh from 1933, who opened the house as the Riverside Hotel and Country Club, complete with putting greens and 9-hole golf course.
In 1939, The War Office requisitioned Craigiehall House and policies for use during the Second World War, before negotiating its purchase in 1951 for long term use as a military headquarters. This marked the start of a major period of adaptation of the house and its grounds during the 1950s and 1960s including the building of substantial residential, social and military facilities.
In the 1960s, the East Lodge was removed during works to improve the A90 road. In the 1970s the British Airports Authority required the removal of the second storey of the Craigiehall Temple together with an oak avenue that linked Craigiehall Bridge and the Temple, as both were thought to be a danger to planes approaching Edinburgh Airport.
The integrity of the designed landscape has been affected to a certain extent by the loss of these elements, together with the introduction of buildings and other infrastructure connected with the military headquarters. However, at the time of this update (2019), the landscape still retains most of its significant features, areas of deliberately contrived character and important views to, from and within the site. It retains sufficient integrity to merit inclusion on the inventory.