Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (


Date Added
Local Authority
Perth And Kinross
Dunkeld And Dowally
NO 01776 42827
301776, 742827

The designed landscape at Dunkeld has existed for more than 250 years, as a formal 18th century design which was then informalised in the 19th century. It plays an important role in the surrounding scenery and hosts an interesting collection of conifers.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The 18th & 19th century accounts of Dunkeld recorded it as of outstanding value as a Work of Art.


Level of interest

Dunkeld has outstanding Historical value due to its associations with the Dukes of Atholl and the good documentary and physical evidence which exists of the early landscape.


Level of interest

Dunkeld has outstanding Horticultural value as it is the site of one of the first larch plantations. It also has an important collection of coniferous trees.


Level of interest

The designed landscape contains buildings of special architectural and historic interest.


Level of interest
Not Assessed


Level of interest

The designed landscape of Dunkeld has outstanding Scenic value.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

Dunkeld has some Nature Conservation value on account of the river and the woodlands which have remained undisturbed for many years.

Location and Setting

Dunkeld House is situated on the north bank of the River Tay approximately 1 mile (1.5km) west of the city of Dunkeld. The A9(T) road follows the valley south of the river at Dunkeld and crosses to the north bank some 1.5 miles (2.5km) to the west of the city. The Grampian Mountains rise up to the west and east of the valley, much of the lower slopes of which are afforested. Craig a Barns Hill 1,106' (337m) rises to the north of the house; to the west and south, beyond the River Tay, rise Craigvinean 1,535' (468m) and Birnam Hill 1,325' (404m). South of the River Tay, the River Braan and the A822 follow the north-east/south-west direction of the Strathbraan valley which joins the Tay Valley west of Dunkeld Bridge. The River Tay is important in the setting of the designed landscape around Dunkeld House, and the policies on the north bank are highly significant from the riverside although the coniferous woodlands and mountains beyond on either side of the Tay and Braan valleys dominate the overall landscape. Views into the policies are gained from the A923, north of Dunkeld, and the minor road which links it with the A9, south of Dowally. The Dunkeld Estate lies within the River Tay (Dunkeld) National Scenic Area.

The present Dunkeld House stands on the north bank of the River Tay at the western end of the policies, which extend east to Dunkeld Cathedral and the A923 in the city. To the north and west, the designed landscape extends to the woodlands on Craig a Barns which were part of the original design but are now commercially forested. The OS Gazetteer of 1885 describes some 18,500 acres of plantations. Plans of c.1750 by General Roy, of 1812 by Macnaughton, and the 1st & 2nd edition OS maps of 1861 and 1910 indicate that the designed landscape was considerably extended between 1750-1861. It was during this period of development that the earlier formal landscape was improved and remodelled into an extensive 'picturesque' landscape of some considerable importance and size. Most of the follies were built and the whole valley, including the River Braan and The Hermitage, was used in the design. At this time, Dunkeld was one of the earliest and most significant 'natural' landscapes in Scotland. The OS Gazetteer of 1885 describes '50 miles of walks and terraces and 30 miles of carriage drives', of which many have since been lost. Pulney Loch is situated on the edge of Craig a Barns Wood. An obelisk on Craigvinean Hill has now been obscured by woodland. Bishop's Hill and Stanley Hill remain within the policies, the latter a modified natural mound which served as a key viewing point for the designed landscape. Conflicting reports of its origins are documented in historical descriptions of the estate. A series of footpaths spiral up Stanley Hill through woodland vegetation which has become partly overgrown.

The reduction in the policy area to its present extent largely arose with the break-up of the estate in the 1930s and '40s. Hermitage Wood, which lies along the bank of the River Braan to the south of the River Tay where Ossian's Cave and The Hermitage are situated is now outwith the policy area and is the subject of an individual report (q.v.). The designed landscape at Dunkeld House today includes 294 acres (119ha).

Site History

The extensive formal designed landscape laid out around the original house as indicated on the plan of c.1750 by General Roy was informalised in the 18th century. Further improvements were made in the late 19th century and after the construction of the new (third) house between 1900-04.

Documentary map evidence of the development of the designed landscape is provided by several design plans including a plan of 1748 by William Clark showing the layout of a formal garden on the banks of the River Tay to the east of Bishop's Hill. A plan of 1759 by Matthew Stobie and a plan of 1780 by J. Stobie are known to exist although their whereabouts are unknown. In addition, evidence is also provided by General Roy's map of c.1750, the 1st edition OS map of c.1861, and the 2nd edition OS map of c.1910.

The lands of Dunkeld originally belonged to the Church but were acquired by the Atholl Estate in the 17th century. The Dunkeld Estate was subsequently enlarged by the acquisition of land from surrounding crofters. The first Dunkeld House was built between 1676-84 to the design of Sir William Bruce. In 1703, the son of the 2nd Earl of Atholl was created Duke of Atholl. The 2nd Duke, James, succeeded in 1724 and he commissioned the layout of the formal landscape indicated on General Roy's plan of c.1750 and planted the first European larch in the policies.

The 2nd Duke's nephew and heir, John, took a keen interest in the policies and is said to have built The Hermitage for his uncle in 1753. On his succession to the title of 3rd Duke in 1764, he continued his improvements, including laying out the woodland walks on Craig a Barns Hill. Lady Charlotte's Cave is said to have been created as a birthday surprise for his wife and cousin, who was the daughter of the 2nd Duke and whom he had married in 1753.

The 4th Duke succeeded in 1774. Over the next 25 years, he was responsible for the remodelling of the walks and terraces, and extensive work carried out along the riverside. He became known as the 'Planter Duke' in view of the acres of woodland which he planted. He commissioned Thomas Hopper to design a new house, to be built in the parkland to the west of the original house during which time the family resided at Adamnan's cottage near the Cathedral. It was a large cottage ornee which has since been demolished. Work on this new house began in 1828 but ceased on the 4th Duke's death in 1830. In later years, the 7th Duke of Atholl noted that it was a gross error of judgement on the part of the 4th Duke to build a new house so close to Blair Castle in view of the considerably improved communications systems by that time.

The 6th Duke succeeded in 1846 and, again, improved the estate between then and his death in 1864. The 7th Duke was responsible for the construction of the present Dunkeld House between 1899-1901. The 19th century Dunkeld House had been demolished by the time of the 2nd edition OS map of c.1910, by which time new driveways had been formed to Dunkeld House from Pulney Lodge in the north and Dunkeld Lodge to the east. In the 1930s, the house was sold to the Lyall family. In 1943 the Duchess of Atholl, wife of the 8th Duke, donated Ossian's Hall, together with some land which now comprises The Hermitage, to the National Trust for Scotland.

The house has been managed as a hotel since World War II and has recently been acquired by Stakis plc with some 114 acres (46.2ha) of policy land. They plan to continue to run the house as a hotel.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Dunkeld House was built c.1900 to the design of architect E.J. McIntyre Henry. It is presently managed as an hotel. The Terraced Walled Garden was built in 1754 on a steep south-facing embankment on the east boundary of the site. The Gazebo stands in the centre of the north wall of the Terraced Gardens and is thought to have been built c.1757. Plans by Robert Morris, dated 1753, exist at Blair for the Chinese temple which stood at the foot of the Terraced Garden.

The East Grotto is a domed chamber dating from the 18th century sunk into a bank by the River Tay. West Grotto, built in 1756, is a domed elliptical grotto with a Gothic arched frontage built of rustic boulder masonry which is thought to be to the design of Robert Morris. Gallowhill Lodge stands on what is now the northern boundary of the policies. It is thought to have been built to the design of architect A. Elliot who also designed Dunkeld Lodge, built in 1809, and the Stables which stand ruined near Dunkeld Lodge. Lady Charlotte's Cave stands on Craig a Barns Hill; it was built in 1774, shortly after the walks to it were completed. The Rocking Stone also stands on Craig a Barns Hill. Dunkeld Cathedral, listed A, was begun in 1318. It was reduced to a ruin in the Reformation. The choir, now a parish church, was re- roofed in 1660. The Main Gates were erected at the entrance to Dunkeld Cathedral in 1832; they were cast in 1732 as the gates for the first Dunkeld House.


The parkland is situated to the north and south of the east drive which was constructed in the early 19th century through the earlier 18th century parkland. The site of the second Dunkeld House, indicated on the 1st edition OS map of 1861 lies nearby the junction of the north and east drives.

A 19th century account ('Duke of Atholl's Grounds') of the parkland notes that 'it would not be easy to find a lawn more favourably disposed or better proportioned and from which all appearance of Art is so completely banished'. The same account also describes the beautiful weeping horse chestnuts, copper and common beeches and two or more fine evergreen oaks. Some of these trees remain, others were planted more recently.


The remaining policy woodlands are much reduced in acreage from those of the original layout, of which only the King's Seat Wood, west of the present Dunkeld House remains. Through this area, the site of an old Pictish stronghold, and the other policy woodlands ran rides which extended north around Pulney Loch and beyond to the follies on Craig a Barns. The remaining woodland trees are predominantly beech, many planted c.1840-60. On the east drive stand eleven larch trees (Larix decidua) planted in 1750 although the first trees of this species were planted on the estate in 1738 and were some of the first of their kind in Britain. Japanese larch were planted in the woods in 1887 and hybrid larch around 1900. The Bishop's Walk extends along the riverside form the east end of the American Garden to the Cathedral. A woodland canopy of mainly Douglas fir lines the steep escarpment between the park and the River Tay. A description of trees in the gardens is provided in 'The Duke of Atholl's Grounds' but many of the interesting conifers described in it have since gone. Those remaining were measured by Alan Mitchell in 1983. The Bishop's Walk extends around the beeches on Bishop's Hill to the Cathedral lawn where several fine specimens of yew, hemlock, larch and fir which were also measured in 1983.

The Gardens

The American Garden was laid out in the mid-19th century, amid oak and beech species which had been planted c.1780. Initially, a variety of Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Kalmias and other flowering shrubs were established. According to measurements of the conifer varieties within the woodland, it would appear that those remaining today were later additions, many planted since 1867. There are particularly large specimens of Abies alba, A.procera, Picea smithiana and P. breweriana. The understorey is now dominated by tall hybrid Rhododendrons. Seedling birch and sycamore have colonized on either side of the riverside path.

A plan of 1748 by William Clark indicates the presence of a formal garden to the south-east of Bishop's Hill but this was subsequently lost and, in the 1st edition OS map of 1861, only a Bowling Green is indicated in this area.

Stanley Hill, situated to the north-east of the site of the first Dunkeld House is a modified natural mound, landscaped and terraced in the 1720s and used as a viewing point and mock fortification in the 18th and 19th centuries (information courtesy of C. Dingwall). A 19th century account ('The Duke of Atholl's Grounds') describes it as 'a beautiful wooded knoll, mounded and terraced in the formal style; and as a specimen of a former age it is a curiosity. There is a battery of small cannon on it for firing salutes'.

Lawns surround the immediate vicinity of the present house.

Walled Gardens

The Walled Garden is situated on a south-facing slope to the north of the east drive close to the Dunkeld Lodge entrance. A complete view of it is gained across the park from the east drive. It is thought to have been built c.1740. The Gazebo on the curved north wall may be a later addition. The outer wall is constructed of a double skin of brick. The overall shape of the garden is of particular interest. An account in 'The Garden' of 1885 describes the extensive array of stocked glasshouses and records the recent addition of two orchid houses. Fruit was grown in the open and there was a rose garden. Another 19th century account describes the 'Centre Walk with beautiful borders of standard roses, shrubs and flowers. Its fountain and flight of steps is worthy of admiration.' These two latter features have since been vandalised and the steps are in a dangerous condition. Pear trees, planted in c.1900, remain by the centre path.




Printed Sources

Sales Particulars, Sept 1982

GM, June 27th 1908

NMRS The Duke of Atholl's Grounds

J.C. Loudon, 1824

Gazetteer of Modern Farm Buildings

Glasgow Herald, May 15th 1885

The Garden, May 2nd 1885

A. Mitchell, Tree Survey 1983


Information on Stanley Hill courtesy of C. Dingwall


Historic Environment Scotland Properties

Dunkeld Cathedral

Find out more

Related Designations


    Designation Type
    Listed Building (B)
  2. Dunkeld CathedralSM90119

    Designation Type
    Scheduled Monument
  3. Battle of DunkeldBTL32

    Designation Type
  4. Dunkeld Cathedral excluding scheduled monument SM90119LB5631

    Designation Type
    Listed Building (A)

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.

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Printed: 21/05/2024 02:32