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Auchincruive (also known as Auchincroof, Auchencrue)


The designed landscape at Auchincruive retains its informal 19th-century structure and is now the setting for an agricultural college. As well as parkland and woodland there are well-maintained ornamental gardens and a terraced walled garden.

The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:


Type of Site

A formal scheme from the early 18th century was superseded by an informal layout by the mid-19-century, altered and improved since 1925 to create the campus of the Scottish Agricultural College.

Location and Setting

Auchincruive is situated on the banks of the River Ayr some 3 miles (5km) north-east of the town of Ayr. The A77(T) road lies roughly 1 mile (2km) to the west. The A758 forms the northern boundary of the site. The river valley meanders through rolling agricultural landscape and Auchincruive lies at the head of a distinct loop in its course. The remaining wooded bosquets of the original 18th century formal designed landscape are significant from within the site. The present designed landscape is of moderate significance in the surrounding landscape although the Auchincruive Tea House is highly significant from the A758.

Auchincruive House lies on the north-west bank of a loop of the River Ayr. The designed landscape extends to the A758 to the north, the River Ayr to the south and east, and to the access road in the south-west which links the A758 to the B744 at Broadshead. The original designed landscape extended beyond the latter and south of the river within the loop which it forms to the east of the house. Reference to General Roy's map of c.1750 and to the 1723 design (copied in 1815) shows the original extent of the landscape. The formal scheme was remodelled in c.1830 and, since then, the original woodland features have largely been lost. The present designed landscape includes approximately 533 acres (216ha).

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Auchincruive House, a large two-storey mansion and listed B, was built in the early 18th century. The first undated drawings for Auchincruive by Robert Adam were prepared for James Murray but this scheme does not appear to have been executed. Oswald appears to have adapted these plans for his own use. Robert Adam is known to have designed some interior work for the house. The East Wing was added in the late 18th or early 19th century. The height of this wing was raised to match that of the main building c.1830 at which time the West Wing is thought to have been built.

The courtyard range, listed category B, was known as Gibbsyard; it has a central elliptical arched opening and a distinctive clock tower. It predates 1850 although its exact date and architect is uncertain. It was extensively restored in 1931. Oswald's Temple or the Tea House, listed category A, was designed in 1778 by Robert Adam and is a round battlemented folly on a raised bastion. It is unique in that it is a pure expression of his castle style. The West and East Lodges are of similar construction to each other and are listed category B. The Ice House is listed category C. Oswald's Bridge spans the River Ayr on the southern boundary of the site.


The parkland was laid out around the house between the river in the east to Gibbsyard in the west. Oswald's Temple stands in the parkland between the west drive and the A758. The copper beech on this drive remains from the original planting of c.1800. The south drive leads from the house to Oswald's Bridge. Another drive sweeps north from the house to the East Lodge. The parkland to the north of the house is laid out as games pitches. The 2nd edition OS map of c.1910 shows an avenue leading through the park south of the house to what was Mount Charles Wood in the original 1723 design. No trace of this remains today, most of the parkland trees having been lost. Reference to General Roy's map of 1750 and the 1st edition OS map of c.1850 does not indicate the presence of any avenues here. Indeed it would appear that most of the avenues on the north bank of the river suggested in Boutcher's plan were dismissed due to the landform and that only the bosquets were planted on the high points. South of the river, the avenues linking the bosquets were indicated on General Roy's map but were gone by c.1850. Some original oak and sycamore remain on the riverbank next to the south drive where whitebeam, copper beech, Corsican pine, alder and horse chestnut specimens have recently been planted. Mature yew trees stand adjacent to the north and south fronts of the house.


The woodland bosquets were a crucial part of the 18th century designed landscape which had broken down by the mid-19th century. Reference to the 1st edition OS map shows that only those within the loop to the south of the River Ayr were wholly distinguishable by this time. Of these, Mount Loudon's and Mount Mary are significant today. The remnants of Mount Charles Wood, south- west of Auchincruive House, is predominantly conifer with some mixed deciduous trees. A young conifer belt edges the south bank of the River Ayr, opposite the walled garden, east of which lies the remains of Brockle's Wood. Like many of the other estate woodlands it was reduced by major timber extraction between 1925-1929. The remaining woodland is largely composed of beech, sycamore, ash and larch.

The Gardens

The riverside gardens are situated to the north-east of Auchincruive House on the River Ayr. From the south end the garden commences along a narrow walk between the river and a steeply terraced garden on the west side. The date of this hanging garden is unknown but its style is unusual in Scotland. A painting of the Hanging Gardens in 1870 and later photographs indicate the type of planting and use of predominantly orange and red coloured flowers in the design. The present planting, renewed in recent years, has tried to emulate this. North of the Hanging Gardens, the walk opens out to open lawn with specimen trees and shrubs. There are some interesting conifer species, some of which were measured by Alan Mitchell in 1979.

Walled Garden

The walled garden is situated on a south sloping site to the north of the house and river. It is divided into two terraces by parallel walls which formed a service corridor. The walls are curved and run in approximately an east/west direction. Buildings incorporated into the walls were built as potting sheds and gardener accommodation. At the east end stands the Head Gardener's House. Greenhouses stood against the south wall which is also flued. A report of 1811 describes extensive greenhouses at Auchincruive, well stocked with vines, peaches and rare exotics. The oldest glasshouse which remains is the 'Top House' on the south wall of the north terrace of the garden. The east and west ranges, on the south wall of the service corridor, were removed in 1981. The central house was retained, in which a good collection of tropical plants is maintained.

The north terrace of the garden is laid out for cut flowers and fruit crops. South of the service corridor was an ornamental garden. Parallel herbaceous borders, flanked by yew hedges, were removed in 1966. The underlying form of the ground has been retained and some original yew trees remain. A series of ornamental gardens have been laid out for student projects, eg the formal rose and knot gardens. The informal character is retained around the perimeter fence of the garden in order to harmonize with the riverside gardens.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:


Reason for Inclusion

An informal 19th century parkland and woodland landscape overlaying an earlier formal 18th century one. Auchincruive also hosts an impressive walled garden and several outstanding architectural features.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

1723-1750, c.1850, 1925-present.

Site History

The formal landscape was laid out between 1723 and 1750 as part of a design by William Boutcher (or Boutchart). A new, more informal layout had been carried out by c.1850. Since c.1925, some of the woodland areas have gone and many have not been replanted. The development of the estate as an Agricultural College has meant some disruption of the park and woodland of the estate for building development but also the active improvement of the walled and ornamental gardens.

In the 13th century the lands of Auchincruive were owned by the Wallace family. The Cathcart family inherited c.1374 and remained the owners until c.1760 except for a short period in the 16th century when it was held by the Crawfords. In 1723 The Hon Colonel Charles Cathcart commissioned William Boutcher Snr to design a formal layout for the estate. General Roy's plan of 1750 shows that at least part of the design was implemented, the most intricate plantings being south of the river. To the north of the river is a series of small roundels, an unusual design for that period. The estate was sold c.1764 to Richard Oswald, who commissioned Robert Adam to embellish the house and design the Tea House which stands to the north-west of the house. Bryce Macquisten was commissioned to copy the Boutcher drawings in 1813.

George Oswald, who inherited the estate in 1819, commissioned additions to the house. By c.1850, the formal landscape had been lost. The layout indicated in the 1st edition OS map of that time is the basis of the landscape which remains today, although substantial areas of woodland were clear-felled c.1925.

The Oswald family sold the estate in 1925 to John M. Hannah, a local farmer who presented the estate two years later to the West of Scotland Agricultural College. Over the next fifty years the facilities required by the College were developed at Auchincruive. This involved several phases of building, carried out to construct a modern campus. The estate is presently used by the College in its combined work in education, advice, research and development in the agriculture and horticultural industries in the west of Scotland.

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland


  • Icehouse
  • Folly
  • Description: A round battlemented folly on a raised bastion.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Greenhouse
  • Description: An original glasshouse in the walled garden.
Key Information





Principal Building






Electoral Ward

Annbank Mossblown St Quivox




  • Historic Scotland