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The designed landscape at Bowhill retains its informal early-19th-century structure and includes two lochs, parkland and extensive areas of woodland. The woodland has been well managed since the 19th century and now consists largely of mixed-age coniferous plantation. There are formal terraced banks with parterres around the house.

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 well-maintained, substantial woodland country estate with significant early 19th-century architectural and landscape design features, including a main house, garden terraces, and lochs, devised with some input by 'Picturesque Improver' W. S. Gilpin (1761/2-1843). Its presently run as a country park with good public accessibility and a strong focus on the conservation of the natural and historic environment.

Location and Setting

Located 3 miles (5km) west of Selkirk, the designed landscape of Bowhill is situated within a hilly, upland valley landscape at the confluence of the Yarrow and Ettrick Waters, tributaries of the River Tweed. Flowing within strongly enclosed valleys that open out and meet at the eastern edge of the designed landscape, these watercourses delimit much of the northern and southern perimeter of the designed landscape. In between, extensive and richly-textured policy and commercial woodlands rise up in the west across the slopes and summit of Pernassie Hill. Bowhill House, partly sheltered by the higher ground, stands on the south-east facing slope of this hill and commands a long vista downslope to the partly-wooded moorlands to the south. The ornamental upper loch, just to the east, also forms an important part of Bowhill's core landscape setting, while a further, more secluded loch lies to the south. Encompassing a total of 599ha (1480ac), this large designed landscape enhances the scenic quality of the immediate upland landscape by virtue of its woodland cover. Newark Castle, a well-preserved tower house in the north of the designed landscape, also forms a striking landmark in views along the Yarrow tributary valley. There is a strong amenity focus at Bowhill with a number of waymarked trails around the policies that lead walkers through contrasting environments, many of which offer important habitat value for local flora and fauna. Apart from the Yarrow and Ettrick Waters, the designed landscape is bounded to the west by the outer edge of the woodland plantations.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Bowhill House is a large, sprawling 19th century mansion of dark whinstone with central three-storey and basement block and long, six-bay east and west wings. Built over successive phases with the involvement of architects William Stark, (1812) William Atkinson, (after 1812), William Burn, (1831-32) and later, J. Macvicar Anderson (1875-7), the starting point was a modest Georgian mansion house (c.1708). This house was substantially extended, altered and rebuilt during the later works, most notably by Burn, who also switched the entrance to the north front and designed the impressive surviving interior plan (Cruft et al. 2006: 132). The two-storey, early 19th century stables with courtyard and clock tower adjoin the house to the east. From the house, a path leads east around the north of the upper loch towards the earlier 19th century, partially restored walled garden, with restored range of late 19th century greenhouses, and a single storey gardener's cottage with ancillary buildings including segmental-arched cart-sheds. The notable early 19th century ice-house, located to the east of the upper loch, is a domed structure of brick, ashlar and rubble built into a large mound with short entrance passage, 9 metre deep, egg-shaped chamber, central upper ventilation chute and lower sump for drainage. Access routes to Bowhill lead from the east and north and are flanked by the gabled East Lodge (by General's Bridge over the Yarrow) and North Lodge, both by William Burn, c.1832. Carterhaugh Lodge to the south is of an almost identical design to the east lodge (Cruft et al. 2006: 133). An octagonal, timber-boarded summerhouse (19th century with substantial renovation, 1980s) stands on higher ground to the north of Bowhill House, on the edge of Harewood Glen, and features geometrically-designed interior timber panels. The view north extends to local landmark, Newark Castle, an important late medieval tower house with quadrangular barmkin located on a flat knoll above the Yarrow. It was constructed in the 15th century to replace an older defensive work. Probably begun in 1465-8, and complete by the 1490s, the oblong tower is of roughly coursed whinstone with pink and buff sandstone dressings. The structure features walls up to 2.7 metres thick, an open parapet walk at the wall-head, and a distinctive carved stone panel at first-floor level (Cruft et al. 2006: 585-6). Originally comprising seven storeys, the tower was gutted and roofless by the later 16th century, but interventions from the 19th century onwards have saved the building from further decay.

Drives and Approaches

The main approach to Bowhill enters the designed landscape from the east, via the General's Bridge over the Yarrow and past Burn's picturesquely situated East Lodge. Considered 'very appropriate to the general scenery' by W. S. Gilpin (Gilpin 1832), the drive remains striking today as it skirts the outer, eastern park before commencing a straight route through mature woodlands. At the house, the original course of the 19th century drive is maintained as a narrower straight track that diverts from the main drive and leads straight towards the south garden front. Originally lined by trees, it is now marked by high beech hedges and new iron gates, installed in the mid 1990s. From the north of the designed landscape, a much longer drive approaches Bowhill from Yarrowford, entering at the north lodge, also by William Burn. It remains in use as a minor road, traversing the northern policy fields, and passing the cluster of old estate buildings at Newarkburn.

Paths and Walks

Maintained paths at Bowhill today echo 19th-century routes around the policy grounds and beyond. The high moorland and woodland circuit known as Duchess's Drive, for instance, was originally designed as a carriage way that afforded far-ranging views to the Eildon Hills and along the Ettrick and Yarrow valleys. Some of the original stone mile markers along this route can still be seen (Trails, ). Closer to the house, a walk around the two lochs follows paths first established during the first half of the 19th century (1863, OS 6'). Similarly, much of the Lady's Walk towards Newark Castle follows an older path through Harewood Glen; a secluded woodland environment along the Yarrow where occasional seats once invited walkers to pause (1863, OS 6'), and where a summerhouse on the edge of the glen (restored 1980s) continues to provide a good vantage point of the castle tower ahead. More recently devised educational walks at Bowhill include the 'Victorian Treasure Trail', which unites several key features of the landscape design, and the 'Tree Trail', a woodland circuit that incorporates 16 specimens around the house, lochs and southern park, including several veteran beech, a Wellingtonia, Atlas cedar, a purple-leaved plum, and native species including birch and sessile oak (Trails, ).


Two small, but aesthetically important core parkland areas retain their early to mid-19th-century structure. Ascending open ground to the north of the mansion, (now with just a few remaining trees), forms part of the immediate setting of Bowhill House. Below the terraces to the south of the house, meanwhile, a small woodland-fringed park studded with mature broadleaf and conifer trees lends interest and depth to landscape views from the south garden front. Its character may partly derive from the intervention of W. S. Gilpin who advocated the development of a suitable tract of open parkland below the south garden terraces (Gilpin c.1832).

The long, central vista, which extends through the woods in a south easterly direction from the bottom of the garden terraces, is an early 20th-century landscape feature that channels longer views from the house over the Ettrick valley and towards more distant hills. While many of the beech trees that define it were planted in 1919, the actual orientation of the vista derives from an older feature; a long rectangular tree-lined enclosure that surrounded the old tree nursery during the mid-19th century (OS 1:10560: 1863). Planted with a conifer crop during the 20th century, the vista was cleared again by the 1980s.


The woodlands at Bowhill form the most important component of the designed landscape. Composed of scenically prominent, mixed policy woodlands, and extensive, well-structured commercial plantations on Pernassie Hill, they are the product of near continuous planting and forestry management from the 18th century onwards. Initial woodland survey and planting may have taken place at the behest of Anne, Duchess of Monmouth and Buccleuch c.1708-26 (, while surviving historic and cartographic records point to ambitious planting projects executed from the later 18th to later 19th century (see NAS GD224/522/1/5, NAS GD/224/627/8 and NAS GD224/503/7, for example). Three veteran beech to the south of the upper loch, probably c.1700s, are believed to be the oldest surviving planted trees at Bowhill, while other notable broadleaves around the designed landscape include large oaks along the track from Newark Castle and a few veteran trees on Pernassie Hill along the Duchess's Drive (Trails, ). In the 20th century, both the 8th and 9th Dukes are credited as key instigators of successful restocking regimes, with much of the woodland replanted with Douglas fir, Scots pine, Norway spruce and both European and Japanese larches. Today, relatively small coniferous stands combined with a good species range enhances the aesthetic value of the wider forest canopy. The core policy woodlands are also an important amenity resource for visitors and walkers and form a valuable habitat for a range of wildlife and plants. Nature conservation within the woodlands is promoted via employed rangers who monitor and survey the population of red squirrels, bats, birds and plants, install nest boxes and organise conservation projects with local volunteers.

Water Features

Two lochs to the south of Bowhill House form integral elements of the early 19th-century landscape design. A natural sink-hole or small natural water-body probably formed the origin of the lower (southern-most) loch, which was discussed rather curtly by W. S. Gilpin in his memoranda. In addition to suggesting associated planting arrangements and sight-lines from the house, he forcefully recommends a re-routing of the loch-side path; 'No piece of water should be that surrounded not only as it diminishes the apparent size of it, but also as it deprives it of all foreground so essential to composition' (Gilpin 1832). The entirely artificial upper loch was probably created in the years following Gilpin's involvement and the strongly curved form of the present loch is depicted and labelled as the 'new pond' in a sketch plan of 1842 (NAS RHP93560).

A Victorian water garden in the secluded area between the upper loch and the walled garden is currently under restoration. Although a mid-19th-century summerhouse (1863, OS 6') has long since vanished, other typical water garden elements such as bamboo, stone channels, ornamental trees, yews and Rhododendrons evoke the historic character of this part of the designed landscape.

The Gardens

Substantial formal terraces below the south, garden elevation of Bowhill House emphasise the length and stature of the mansion and form an excellent vantage point for views south over the lochs, park, vista and policy woodlands. Devised by W. S. Gilpin as part of his improvement design for Bowhill in 1831-2, and already half-finished in 1833 (NAS GD224/503/7), they comprise hard-edged mown banks that descend steeply on three levels. Although Gilpin expressed misgivings about the suitability of the terrain in his accompanying memoranda, he conceded 'there is sufficient space to give character to the general scenes' if other components of the wider landscape to the south could be adjusted, i.e. plantation and hedge lines softened or removed and views to the lower lake opened up (Gilpin 1832). The implementation of a terrace design is typical of Gilpin, who shared Uvedale Price's view that such sculpted features around a house created an 'architectural foreground' that helped soften the transition of an 'artificial object', (i.e. the house) into 'nature' (Piebenga 2004: 182).

Smaller garden components around the house include a heather bed, originally laid out as a memorial to a Buccleuch son killed in 1886 and a neighbouring formal, rectangular parterre, situated to the west of the house. Distinguished now simply by its tall, angular clipped yews and box hedge border, historic photographs from the early 20th century reveal a formerly much more elaborate garden space, with the yews (then in pyramid form) standing within a complicated symmetrical design of box and flower-bed motifs set against gravel. The upper terrace immediately south of Bowhill House is now maintained as a simple lawn, although the outline of star and crescent-form parterres (deriving from the Scott family crest and executed c.1980s) remains visible. To the east, a rockery of similar, later 20th century date, is composed of dwarf conifers, shrubs and a spread of colourful, low-growing alpines.

Garden areas to the east and north of the house are quite different in character. The sunken garden immediately to the east of the stables is currently being developed as a small arboretum in which trees will be selected for their diverse bark and foliage, thereby creating an educational resource and an interesting year-round display. Species planned in 2008 include different varieties of Sorbus, Dawyck beech, (Fagus sylvatica 'Dawyck'), Blue Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca') and purple-leaved crab apple (Malus x moerlandsii 'Profusion'). These specimens fit in with the more informal character of the shrubbery to the north of the house, in which a variety of shrubs and trees are tended, including Rhododendron, a young Monkey puzzle and, most recently, a Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis); a rare and ancient species rediscovered in Australia in 1994. The Bowhill sapling was planted in the spring of 2008.

Walled Garden

The 19th-century rectangular walled garden is now only in partial horticultural use. The northern third of the rubble-walled enclosure was converted to stabling with associated paddock area in the 1970s while the rest of the garden ground is mainly laid to grass. Currently, most horticultural work takes place in and around the restored late 19th-century glasshouse in the south-east corner of the garden, where the emphasis is on producing plants and seedlings for the house, gardens, and developing arboretum.

Surviving historical records reveal the existence of a kitchen garden by the 1830s, with the foundations of the original glasshouses dug in 1838 (NAS GD224/1105). The enclosure, together with the ancillary buildings at the south-east corner, is depicted in a sketch plan of 1842 (RHP93560) while the first Ordnance Survey edition reveals the garden to have been divided into quadrants by intersecting, central paths that were originally lined with a good number of fruit trees (1863, OS 25'). A few gnarled veteran apples standing in the garden today are probable survivors of this later 19th-century era.

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

Bowhill is an all-round, outstanding designed landscape that is maintained in good condition and which retains its early 19th-century historical structure. The extensive woodlands offer both scenic and wildlife habitat value, while exceptional architectural interest is provided by Bowhill House itself, and the late medieval Newark Castle, which is also scheduled as an archaeological monument of national importance. Surviving historical documents help chart the development of the site from the late 18th century, while the involvement and surviving notes of the designer, W. S. Gilpin in the 1830s raises the value of the design as an interesting work of art in its own right.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

Later 18th to mid-19th century

Site History

The landscape structure of Bowhill derives mainly from late 18th and early 19th-century schemes instigated by several generations of the Dukes of Buccleuch, keen to transform former hunting grounds into a suitable residential country seat. The land had previously been part of Ettrick Forest, a medieval and late medieval royal hunting reserve in which the term 'forest' refers more to its legal and administrative context rather than an extensive, unbroken wooded area (RCAHMS 1957: 3). Newark Castle, sited above the Yarrow Water towards the north of the designed landscape, served both as an estate centre and hunting retreat during the 15th and earlier 16th century (Cruft et al. 2006: 585; Gilbert 1979: 61), and probably overlooked a landscape characterised by stands of oak woodland broken up by glades and meadows (RCAHMS 1957: 4). The Tinnis Ash, a notable heritage tree within the Bowhill estate, and probably Scotland's oldest ash (Fraxinus excelsior) was already a substantial, aged specimen by this period (Rodger et al. 2003: 25).

Although active in this region during previous centuries, the Scotts of Buccleuch rose to greater power during the late 16th and 17th century, and acquired grants of land around Newark. These, in turn, were supplemented with further acquisitions by the first duchess, Anne of Buccleuch and Monmouth (1651-1732). In the early 18th century, the lands of Bowhill passed out of Buccleuch ownership via the Murray and later, the Veitch families (History of the Berwickshire Naturalists' Club 1915: 82-83) and during this time, a modest Georgian house was erected on the site of the present mansion (c.1708, for John Murray, Lord Bowhill). In 1747, however, the second Duke of Buccleuch repurchased the estate, keen that his son should have a stake in the local political landscape (Gow 1984: 3).

Roy's Military Survey map of this period depicts the house adjacent to a small enclosed park and tract of woodland (1747-55). Major improvement schemes were to follow. A surviving document dated to December 1772 lists over 15,000 trees to be planted in the coming season, including oak, ash, elm, beech, chestnut, larch and spruce (NAS GD224/522/1/5). The results were immediately apparent, with Henry, the 3rd Duke credited with planting 'no fewer than 120 acres of hill' in 1777 (quoted in History of the Berwickshire Naturalists' Club 1915). Henry's successor, the 4th Duke of Buccleuch sustained the momentum, and his attention to obtaining the best, value-for-money seedlings in extraordinary quantities is evident in surviving correspondence, lists and a price comparison chart compiled by his gardener, James McDonald from 1814 to 1818 (NAS GD224/627/8).

Planting work was accompanied by other major projects at Bowhill. As the estate plantations grew up and around the slopes of Pernassie Hill during the first decades of the 19th century, the core of the designed landscape became a hub of activity as a succession of architects, builders and other tradesmen arrived to complete commissions, including the piecemeal remodelling and extension of Bowhill House, a stable range, walled garden, distinctive ice-house and several entrance lodges. One of those involved was William Sawrey Gilpin from 1831-2, a landscape artist forced to change career in late middle age and turn his hand to landscape design. As a well respected practitioner of the day, Gilpin advised on the execution of the garden terraces, the entrance drive, the lake, and associated views and planting arrangements. Although not all of his ideas were executed, surviving drawings and memoranda form a rare piece of historical evidence for the design process at Bowhill (Gilpin 1832, NAS RHP9715/8).

During the 20th century, the role of Bowhill as a summer family residence was interrupted by the two World Wars, with the house serving first as a military hospital and later, as accommodation for military personnel. Unlike other estates, long term decline during the mid-later 20th century was prevented by pro-active restoration schemes and constant attention to maintaining and improving the woodland stock. In 1984, the Buccleuch Heritage Trust was set up, and in the final decades of the 20th century, the work of the estate was channelled into the creation of a publicly-accessible Country Park with a strong amenity, environmental and educational focus. Developments have included the creation of waymarked trails, ranger-led tours and the conversion of the old game larder into a theatre. Restoration work during the late 20th and first decade of the 21st century have also conserved much of the historic fabric of Newark Castle and the ice-house, while ongoing work in the grounds include the development of an arboretum in the old sunken garden and the restoration of a Victorian water garden.

Associated People
Features & Designations


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

  • Scheduled Ancient Monument

  • Reference: Newark Castle


  • House (featured building)
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Icehouse
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential





Open to the public


Electoral Ward





  • Historic Scotland