Blair Adam is a fine example of a mature late 18th century and early 19th century “Picturesque” landscape park, signified by extensive parkland and woodland enclosures with a walled garden and arboretum adjacent to the house.
A formal designed landscape was laid out by William Adam before 1748. The woodlands and parks were established and extended between 1748 and 1850. After the sale of the estate in 1925 the major woodlands were felled. The character of the estate changed following the replanting of timber by the Forestry Commission.
Detailed DescriptionThe 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
Blair Adam is a fine example of a mature late 18th century and early 19th century "Picturesque" landscape park, signified by extensive parkland and woodland enclosures with a walled garden and arboretum adjacent to the house.
Location and SettingBlair Adam is situated on the eastern slopes of the Cleish hills some 21 miles (33 km) south of Perth and the same distance north of Edinburgh. The M90 runs through the eastern section of the designed landscape and the town of Kelty lies to the south east. Benarty Hill lies to the northeast and is a significant form visible from within the designed landscape. Extensive views can be gained from Blair Adam north to Glenshee and the Sidlaw Hills, south to the Pentland Hills and east to the Firth of Forth. Blair Adam Park is scenically significant within a now predominantly afforested setting. The woodlands and surrounding farmland are visible from the B9097 and the B914.
Blair Adam House is situated at the centre of the designed landscape on the eastern edge of the Blair Adam forest. Blair Adam forest was included in the wider 18th and 19th century Blair Adam Estate. The forest was largely replanted by the Forestry Commission in the early 20th century and, although it still informs the setting for Blair Adam to the west, it is not included in the designated designed landscape. The policies of the park today extend north to North Blair house and along the access road which links it with the B996, south to the woodland by the Glen Burn, east to Blairfordel Lodge and west to the woodlands of the Blair Adam forest, beyond Hill Wood.
The Blair Adam designed landscape provides the setting for Blair Adam house and other notable structures. Blair Adam house lies at the centre of the landscape, facing east and was built by William Adam in 1733 for his own use and also as a factor's house. The house has later additions by John Adam (1775), William Adam (1805) and David Bryce (1859). It is a 2-storey, 5-bay mansion with a pedimented porch, the main elevation facing east to Loch Ore and Benarty Hill. The rear of the building is currently being restored (2014).
The walled garden and arboretum which lies to the northeast of the house is integral to the designed landscape and its development. It was laid out between 1755-61 by John Adam. It has regular walls to the west, north and east, but the south wall, which encloses the arboretum is irregularly curved and has a pair of gatepiers at the entrance to the garden. The Gardener's House and the Temple are incorporated into the walls of the garden. The latter is a Doric entrance to a semicircular garden shed intended for a temple. Within the arboretum at the west end of a burn is the Adam monument, which was erected in 1833 by William Adam to commemorate the improvements to the estate made by his father and grandfather. The position of the monument in a secluded area of the arboretum and not in a centrally positioned site typifies the informal character of the arboretum.
The coach-house lies to the southwest of Blair Adam House and is thought to have been designed by John Adam in the later 18th century. North Blair is a small rubble house built in 1760 by John Adam, which lies close to the northern boundary of the landscape and has imposing Venetian windows. It was to be part of a court of offices which were never built. Blairfordel Lodge appears first on the 1854 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map at the former entrance to the estate. This lodge is privately owned and lies to the east of the park, now separated from the estate by the M90. The Kiery Crags Lodge, immediately to the south of the house also first appears on the map of 1854.
Drives and approaches. The current approach into the park largely mirrors the mid 19th century entrance which began from Blairfordel Lodge, east of the present entry. The current entrance drive begins south of the village of Maryburgh, goes under the M90 and then heads east to the Kiery Crags Lodge, before heading north and then curving round to approach the house from the west. This is designed to take the visitor through woodland, pasture and parkland before arriving at the house and to give the visitor differing experiences of the landscape before arriving finally at the house. The entry from Blairfordel Lodge was established in 1830 to allow direct access from the house to the Great North Road. The entry from here began with a long straight avenue, with ha-has to either side, giving views through the trees lining the avenue to the surrounding pasture land. The avenue is now separated from the current entrance to the main estate by the road which runs between the village of Kelty Bridge and Maryburgh. The avenue remains with surviving specimen trees and the driveway is now used as a footpath.
The late 18th and early 19th centuries' approach to the house seems to have been along an avenue north of Maryburgh, taking the visitor along the north side of the walled garden, past the Gardener's House. This avenue is apparent on the 1792 plan of Blair Adam and on the 1748 plan No 1 of Blair Adam (Adam 1834). This road remains as a private road, but is not included in the designed landscape.Paths and walks. There are a number of walks within the walled garden and arboretum, which are described in more detail below. A number of straight paths exist in the north, more formal section of the garden, with more sinuous walks within the arboretum section. An informal path leads from the house to the walled garden. Many walks and drives were introduced into the wider estate during the 19th century, mostly in the woodland to the west of the current designed landscape.
Parkland. The parkland, an important feature of the designed landscape at Blair Adam, and most evident to the east, north and south west of the house, is one of the most defining features of the estate when viewed from the east. Formal parkland was created by William Adam between 1733-1748 with a series of avenues centredon Blair Adam House. Some of the beech and lime trees planted then remain. This scheme was informalised by his son John, between 1748 and 1792 when extensive areas of parkland were created with woodland enclosures. William Adam added many clumps and individual parkland trees between 1792 and 1839 and he extended the parkland to the south. Following the purchase of woodlands to the south and west of the house by the Forestry Commission in the 1920s, an extensive area was planted with conifers. This is not included within the boundary of the Inventory designed landscape.
In the 1970s, the parkland which had been re-acquired by the Adam family to the east of the house, was embellished with beech and other mixed deciduous species. Other trees remain from the 18th and early 19th century, many of which are oak and lime. Some mature specimen conifers and groups of hybrid rhododendrons remain on the lawn to the east of Blair Adam house. The parklands were designed to provide uninterrupted views not only from the house but also from passers-by along the Great North Road and ha-has were put in along all the field boundaries. The parkland is still grazed today (2015).
Woodland. The woodlands that currently form an important aspect of Blair Adam are only a small fraction of the original large expanse of woodlands in the estate. The woodlands were established by John Adam between 1748-92, who included picturesque walks, and can be seen on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map of 1854. One of the most important features within the woodland, which would have been a key element on many of the walks is the Kiery Crags, a craggy outcrop, lying to the southwest of the house and on the edge of the designed landscape, lookingwest. It is raised with tree planting on the top. The Crags are mentioned by William Adam in his "Remarks" as "one of the most important and interesting pieces of policy upon the estate" (1834). The crag was meant to be kept looking as if it were wild, both in looking down from it, and looking up at it. The crags remain clearly visible in the present landscape.
John was responsible for first planting up the hill to the immediate west of the house and this remains one of the primary woodlands within the landscape. Initially planted with a variety of tree species, it continues as a mixed woodland and views from the hill across to the east encompass Loch Leven and Benarty Hill. The forestryplantations were extended by John's son William between 1792-1839 and an pccount of the estate in the Gardener's Magazine of 1842 describes "nearly 1000 acres of thriving plantation". The lofty silver fir was noted as towering majestically over surrounding trees of the forest which produced "a pleasing effect by relieving the sameness which generally prevails in woodland scenery" (Mackenzie 1842). Dimensions of some of the trees had been taken in 1841 for J C Loudon on his visit to Blair Adam in that year. It would appear that the form of the woodland changed little between circa 1850-1910.
In 1925 the woodlands to the west and south were sold to a timber merchant and replanted by the Forestry Commission with conifer species when they acquired the land twelve years later. Some traces of the formal avenues can still be detected. Mixed planting is replacing the single species conifers with a broadleaf edge to thecommercial plantations and some amenity tree planting of birch and sycamore species is being put in alongside the motorway.
Walled Garden. The 4 acre walled garden was designed by John Adam between 1755-61 on a site about a quarter of a mile to the northeast of Blair Adam House. It is enclosed by west, east and north walls. The latter was originally a heated, double wall, some five and a half metres in height and 130 metres in length. The Gardener's House is incorporated into the north wall at the head of a broad grass walk which bisects the garden on the north/south axis. The Temple is incorporated into the east wall at the end of a broad grass walk which runs west-east just within the north wall. Narrower paths run around the inner edge of the west and east walls. In 1842, all the paths were edged with flower borders and regular compartments were stocked with flowers and vegetables, hidden from direct view from the paths by espaliered fruit trees. Currently, the southern part of the garden is laid to grass with some regularcompartmented beds. A fruit tree orchard for this area is anticipated. The beds to the east are being used for vegetable growing and the west of the garden has been brought back into horticultural use (2015) with allotments sensitive to the historical use of the garden. Fruit trees lined the walls and some remain today although their age is uncertain.
During the late 18th century, many plant and fruit varieties were transplanted from the Duke of Argyll's estate at Inveraray, and some were imported from America. The gardeners' methods and accounts were recorded and kept, forming a valuable archive. In 1842 the Gardeners' Magazine noted the particularly rich collection of small herbs, perfumery and medicinal plants, together with an excellent collection of perbaceous plants arranged and named according to the Linnean system. These had been planted by Mr Henderson, the gardener and a former foreman at theEdinburgh Botanic Garden. The rock garden was created by the grandmother of Mr Keith Adam in the 1920s.
Although there were plans for peach and nectarine houses, it is unlikely that there was any glass within the garden; greenhouses and cold frames were confined to the outside walls within the nursery garden, east of the main garden. The nursery was started in 1750, growing trees from seed on the estate. The most ancient larches, spruces and silver firs were sent from Inveraray by the Duke of Argyll.
The Gardener's Cottage is occupied, and part of the north wall has been rebuilt, but not yet recapped, following damage by a falling tree (which exposed the internal flue). Some of the original wall ornamentation has been vandalised. The vandalised Temple doorway has been built up. Two fine old Ilex trees and some fruit trees have survived in the main garden. New fruit trees have been established along the north, east and west walls.
Arboretum. A shrubbery, later arboretum, was designed within the southern part of the walled garden as an informal area to the south of the more formal, enclosed garden grounds. A burn meanders through the arboretum and it is crossed by two bridges carrying a perimeter pathway. This area was enclosed by a low, curved south wall lined with yew trees and entered through the south gate. The eastern end of the arboretum was open in character with specimen trees. Two silver firs are no longer extant, but a fern-leaf beech, copper beech and evergreen oaks remain. The western section of the shrubbery appears to have been more densely planted with trees and shrubs. Altogether, some 27 different sorts of evergreen shrubs and trees were planted to provide winter colour including box, cedar, juniper, Irish yew hollies, and laurels.
Detailed HistoryThe 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
A designed landscape of great artistic, historical and architectural value. Important as an example of the work of the Adam family, Blair Adam also shows the influence of Sir Walter Scott who had a strong association with the place.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
Formal layout established 1733-1748, extended 1748-1833, fragmentation and major loss of woodlands 1925, forestry planting 1937, gardens and wider designed landscape restored and maintained 1971-present.
The first formal landscape design to be established as Blair Adam was by the renowned architect, William Adam (1689-1748). From 1731, when he purchased the estate lands from the Colvilles of Cleish, until his death in 1748, the landscape was transformed through the creation of a new house (The Blair, built 1733) and the development of a formal garden layout with straight avenues, paths and regular planting. Historic maps provide evidence: Roy's Military Survey of 1747-5 gives a general sense of symmetry and order in the landscape while a more detailed estate plan of 1748 shows more detail, indicating a main north/south avenue to the east of the house, with avenues extending from it in diagonal alignments to the northeast and southeast and with a park called Squire's Park to the north (Adam 1834). At this time, the estate was called Blair Crambeth.
Following William Adam's death in 1748, the house and grounds passed to his son, the architect, John Adam. This heralded the start of a long period of expansion and consolidation together with changes in keeping with landscape design fashions of the day. The policies were extended to the east and west and a walled garden was built (1755-61). As the earlier fashion for geometry and order waned, William Adam's formal scheme was softened. Woodlands to the west of the house were planted up, forming the sinuous-edged enclosure for the parkland around the immediate vicinity of the house (Estate plan 1792 in Adam 1834). John Adam knew the Duke of Argyll at Inveraray and took some trees from the nursery at Inverary Castle.
This trend towards expansion, large-scale planting and the careful forging of a naturalistic, picturesque design continued under John's son, William Adam, who succeeded in 1792. Upon his inheritance, William renamed the estate Blair Adam, and through his connections the maturing designed landscape became well-known in contemporary society. The most famous admirer was the author Walter Scott, and creator of Abbotsford in the Scottish Borders. Adam and Scott, together with some friends, formed a small club in 1817 called the Blair Adam Antiquarian Club. They met every year at Blair Adam during the summer solstice to visit local places of historic interest (Anderson 2009). Walter Scott also mentioned The Kiery Crags, an outcrop of rocks in the Blair Adam wood in his novel ‘The Abbot'. It was Walter Scottwho encouraged William to write up the history of the estate and the resulting 1834 publication, Blair-Adam from 1733 to 1834, forms a valuable source of evidence in understanding the development of the designed landscape. William also further consolidated the estate, bringing in land from the north and south and continued an extensive programme of planting, particularly in the woodlands on the western and southern boundaries (Estate plan 1833 in Adam 1834).
By 1842, the estate was described as ‘all in good repair' and comprised some 1000 acres of thriving plantations and 60 miles of roads, rides and walks (Mackenzie 1842). The generations that succeeded, however, faced stark challenges from the huge cost of estate death duties in the later 19th century to the wider social, cultural and economic dislocations caused by the two World Wars in the first half of the twentieth century. The impact of these was manifest in the estate landscape. Blair Adam was sold in 1925 and the forestry was sold to a timber merchant who felled alot of timber in the twelve years before it was sold on to the Forestry Commission. During the Second World War, the house was occupied by the Polish army.
The Adam family, however, repurchased the house in 1927 and succeeded in acquiring the associated garden grounds in 1939. Key impacts in the following decades included the routing of the M90 through the eastern edge of the policies in 1966 and the loss of extensive areas of timber in the notorious storms of 1968 and 1981. Since their inheritance of the estate in 1971, the present owners have carried out extensive restoration work to the house. In the 1980s, work was carried out to the garden restoring paths and cleaning scrub vegetation. In more recent years, the son of the present owners has re-established part of the vegetable garden to the east of the broad grass walk in the walled garden. The west of the walled garden has been brought back into horticultural use as allotments in the spirit of the 18th century layout, with the border flowers beds to the sides of the central broad walk being reinstated.
- 18th Century
- Late 18th Century
- Associated People
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