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Aultmore has Edwardian pleasure grounds combining formal and wild gardens. The house and grounds occupy the south/south-west facing valley slopes with views across the valley towards the Cairngorm range. Ancient Caledonian pines frame the panorama from the south front and garden terraces.

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

Edwardian pleasure grounds combining formal and wild gardens.

Location and Setting

Aultmore is situated 1.5km north-east of Nethy Bridge in the valley of the Allt Mor River. It is accessed from the Tomintoul road to the east of the B970.

The house and grounds occupy the south/south-west facing valley slopes with views across the valley towards the Cairngorm range. Ancient Caledonian pines frame the panorama from the south front and garden terraces. These trees were key considerations in the siting of the mansion. The designed landscape was developed within a former agricultural enclosure set against mature pine forest. This forest continues to be essential to the setting and shelter of the house and its gardens. To the north of Aultmore is Craigmore Wood, designated a Special Protection Area on account of its habitat for capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus). It has supported woodland cover since the 18th century with stands of Caledonian pine and a well developed understorey of ericaceous shrubs.

The Aultmore designed landscape was developed c 1912-1915 and has since remained the same in extent. Its southern boundary is the Allt Mor River; its other boundaries are defined by stone dykes.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Aultmore House, Garden Pavilions, terrace walls and Walled Garden were designed by C. H. B. Quennell for H. Merrilees and built between 1912-14. The house is Neo-Georgian in style comprising eleven bays with the centre seven projecting and the three central bays marked by giant pilasters. The pilasters carry a parapet with four urns and an open pediment. It has two storeys and an attic, with prominent segmental-headed dormer windows and tall chimneys along the piended roof. Built of local whinstone, with polished ashlar (sandstone) dressings and margins, and a bull-faced granite base course. The nursery wing was added in 1922. Two square ogee-roofed Garden Pavilions flank the north entrance of the house and are linked to it by balustraded quadrants. Circular windows in their north walls overlook the forecourt.

The garden terrace walls are of coped rubble. To the south and west, balustraded low walls define the garden terraces. At the south-west corner of the garden terrace there is a square, random rubble-built garden shelter, supported by a series of arches in the form of a rustic-style Venetian window. East of the house is the Walled Garden of coped rubble, with a central arched entrance on the north, flanked by pilasters supporting ball finials.

The Gate Lodge, Gate Piers and Bridge over the Allt Mor are also part of Quennell's scheme. The entrance to Aultmore is marked by the Gate Lodge, a two-storey, three-bay building, harled with ashlar dressings, quoins and margins. The Gate Piers are square, grey, bull-faced granite, linked by a low coped wall and railings to similar terminal piers. A single span bull-faced granite bridge carries the drive over the Allt Mor Burn. Nearby is the older Aultmore Bridge, an early 19th century, single span, rubble bridge over the Allt Mor. The range of cottages north-east of the mansion, including the Assembly Hall, Curlew, Kestrel and Osprey, were built about 1952 and are likewise in the Traditionalist style.

Drives and Approaches

The drive enters the park at its south-west corner, after crossing the Allt Mor. A square entrance court, enclosed by low walls, has gates on two sides (north and east). The drive leads northwards around the perimeter of the park, before turning eastwards up the hill. It is lined by an informally planted belt of ornamental trees, giving the effect of a small arboretum. The trees include beech, copper beech, lime, elm, cherry, false cypress and various firs.

The drive leads into a forecourt on the north side of the house. The forecourt, enclosed by parapet walls, is laid out with a central approach drive with flanking lawns and a turning circle. Twin avenues of golden elms are planted to either side of the central axis and also outside the forecourt walls.

A secondary drive leads eastwards from the forecourt to the cottages, assembly hall and to the rear of the Walled Garden.

From the east side of the entrance court a footpath leads past the Gate Lodge and along the south side of a meadow, to the terraced gardens on the south front of the house. Along part of its route, the footpath is cut into the hill and is lined by birch trees. South-west of the house the path forks, to allow an approach from either the east or the south. The east approach crosses the high part of the meadow then joins the main drive close to the forecourt. The south approach enters the gardens via the croquet terrace and also continues as a woodland walk, below the gardens, leading to the Assembly Hall.


The parkland extends over south facing slopes between the house and the Gate Lodge to the south-west. It is part of the original grazing enclosure and, in the early 20th century, was reputedly used as an archery field.


The woodland at Aultmore is principally old Caledonian pine forest with semi-natural broadleaves on lower ground. In the vicinity of the house ornamental specimens were inserted into this woodland. Previously open areas of grazing were also planted. Typical species included false cypress, Douglas fir, silver fir, beech, copper beech, lime and elm. However the most impressive specimens are the old Caledonian pines with broad crowns, of which some are estimated to be about 300 years old.

The terraced gardens are subdivided by walls, yew hedges and changes in level. They form the tennis court area; the south parterre; the raised herbaceous border; croquet lawn and the small flower garden. The tennis court area is situated to the south-east of the house, adjacent to the Walled Garden. No longer used for tennis, it is now simply a lawn.

The Gardens

The formal gardens, ranged along a series of terraces, are situated on the south and west fronts.

The principal gardens lie on the south front, where the Conservatory leads directly out onto the south garden, a square lawn enclosed on three sides by a clipped yew hedge, with a circuit path. A circular pool with a fountain stands at its centre. Principal views from the house lie across this garden and over to the Cairngorms. At the south-west corner of the garden is a stone-built viewing platform, or bastion, which sits over a shelter accessed from outside the terraced gardens. The west side of the south garden is retained by a wall. Central to this boundary, a flight of steps leads down from the south lawn and through a gateway onto the west terrace.

The stone-flagged west terrace runs north-south, the length of the west front from the westernmost side of the ogee-roofed Garden Pavilions, which is open on its southern side, to the bastion. Steps lead down centrally from the west façade of the house onto this terrace walk and a further flight then leads to a lower terrace walk.

The lower terrace has a wide grass walk running north-south and parallel with the upper terrace, terminating at its north end at a gateway which leads through a wall into the forecourt at the north front. A series of steps lead out from the west side of the garden pavilion to meet up with this gateway. A raised-herbaceous border lines the lower terrace on its eastern side, above the adjoining Croquet Lawn to the west.

This grass terrace steps down to the Croquet Lawn, a large rectangular terrace with apsidal bays at its north and south ends. The southern contains a small timber pavilion at its centre. The northern bay is set with a sundial. The western edge of the croquet lawn is defined by a ha-ha, which used to separate the lawn from the meadow. A hedge has recently been established outside the ha-ha.

Steps lead down from the south end of the lower terrace into a small square flower garden laid out in quadrants and enclosed by a clipped hedge. This garden links the terraced gardens with the meadow and woodlands outside the formal gardens.

Walled Garden

The Kitchen Garden (0.17ha/0.42 acres) is built onto the east wing of the house. It is rectangular in plan with an apsidal bay projecting at its eastern end, a shape echoed in that of the Croquet Lawn. A glasshouse is placed centrally on the north wall with a range of potting sheds to either side. The garden is divided into four compartments by gravel footpaths with the north-south footpath aligned on the glasshouse's central, pedimented entrance and a gate opposite, in the south wall. The Walled Garden is only partially used (1998) and the glasshouse is in poor condition due to the collapse of its base wall. At the junction of the paths, and central to the garden, is a raised circular basin with four iron arbours terminating the paths.

North of the Walled Garden, a rectangular area enclosed by a Douglas fir hedge, originally served as a Kitchen Garden extension. The remains of similar enclosures exist east of the Walled Garden and are thought to have served as vegetable plots, animal enclosures or drying greens.

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 outstanding example of an early 20th century architectural scheme comprising a country house and formal gardens designed in Traditionalist style by Charles Henry Bourne Quennell (1872-1935).

Main Phases of Landscape Development


Site History

Prior to 1912, the major part of Aultmore was a grazing enclosure set within the lower part of Craigmore Wood, an established Caledonian pine forest of semi-natural origin. Access onto Craigmore Hill led across this grazing and through Craigmore Wood, after crossing the Allt Mor River by ford. The owner of a Moscow Department store named Merrilees, who had made his fortune in the Russian fur trade, acquired the site. Around 1912, he commissioned the English architect, Charles Henry Bourne Quennell (1872-1935), to design a mansion house for use as a holiday home.

As a student, Quennell won the national gold medal for architectural design and the RIBA silver medal. Aultmore however, is his only known country house commission, the majority of his work being housing design. Quennell and his wife Marjorie wrote 'A History of Everyday Things', on the design of household objects.

Aultmore is a classical Neo-Georgian style mansion house incorporating a range of innovative 'modern' features including electric lighting and sockets, coal-fired central heating, a lift and complex plumbing fixtures. It was constructed by D. MacAndrew & Co., Aberdeen, and completed in August 1914.

The gardens were designed to complement the house. The sloping site was modelled into a series of terraces, with garden compartments created through the use of walls, hedges and changes in level. Each compartment was designed for a different use, for passive or active leisure, e.g. tennis, croquet, entertaining, reading/eating and gardening.

In 1915, Merrilees died and the house was eventually acquired by James Rose of Bournemouth. His daughter, Ivy May Rose, was living at Aultmore in 1920 when she married John Nivison, the son of Lord Glendyne of Sanquhar. The Nivison family adopted Aultmore as their family home and extended the house in 1922 to provide additional bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen and storage space. The extension was added to the east side of the house, thereby filling the original space between the house and the Walled Garden. When completed, the house had 25 bedrooms and 8 bathrooms. A large number of staff were employed ' 34 household staff and 14 gardeners. Cottages were developed within the grounds in c 1952 to provide staff accommodation.

In 1930, John Nivison inherited his father's title to become 2nd Lord Glendyne. On his death in 1967, the house was passed to his daughter, Moira Jane Nivison, who lived at Aultmore until 1978. In 1979, Major Hargreaves acquired Aultmore and opened it as a girls' school. As this venture was unsuccessful, various attempts were made between 1986-90 to convert Aultmore for commercial use. Although no changes were made to the designed landscape, lack of maintenance led to its deterioration.

In 1990, a programme of restoration and conservation began, with the house used part-time for bed and breakfast guests and the Lodge House let for holidays.


  • 20th Century (1901 to 1932)
  • Early 20th Century (1901 to 1932)
Features & Designations


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

Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


20th Century (1901 to 1932)







  • Historic Scotland