Braco Castle is a much altered and augmented tower house. The area immediately around the castle comprises park and some policy woodlands. The remainder of the site consists of open hill land. The main feature is the late-18th-century walled garden to the west of the castle, but also the woodland and meadows south and east of the castle, extensively planted with bulbs, specimen trees and shrubs, both young and old.
Type of Site
A small 19th-century landscape, now much reduced, with park, walled garden, and woodland walks.
Location and Setting
Braco Castle lies between the B8033 and the B827 north-west of the village of Braco. The River Knaik lies to the north-east. Crieff lies 14 km to the north and Auchterarder 13 km to the east. The area immediately around the castle comprises park and some policy woodlands. The remainder of the site consists of open hill land. The ground climbs to the north-west to a group of hills which includes Cromlet, Meall a Choire Riabhaich and Ben Clach. From Braco there are panoramic views to the south-west and the south-east.
There are no available estate plans of Braco. Although it is probable that there was a garden attached to the late 17th- or early 18th-century house, there is little extant evidence of its exact location. Stobie's map of 1783 shows drives and parkland to the south and east of the house and woodland to the west. The structure and extent of the designed landscape does not appear to have changed greatly since this time. In the 19th century two fishing ponds were created south-east of the castle. The present landscape and garden overlay was probably created c.1855 when alterations and additions were made. Further additions and the planting of yew hedges were made to the garden in the late 19th century. In 1936 an amenity pond was added. The garden and landscape have not expanded since then.
Braco Castle is a much altered and augmented tower house. A rectangular tower, probably late 16th century, now forming the north-west corner of the building, was extended by Sir William Graham, 2nd son of the 3rd Earl of Montrose. He was uncle to the famous 1st Marquis of Montrose and was created Nova Scotia Baronet of Braco in 1625. General David Graeme, equerry to King George III and MP for Perthshire, added the enormous extension of the same height and general style to the east in the late 18th century to impress his royal master and to enhance his own dignity. Unfortunately the King never came. Finally the U-shaped building was filled in with a lower 'castellated' portion in the Victorian time, probably by George Kellie McCallum. After 1894 Sir William Rennie Watson added to the Victorian service wings to the north east and was also responsible for building the water reservoir further up the hill. The Walled Garden is part walled in stone. The north wall supports a range of glass-houses. The Stables are probably Georgian but have been considerably altered as farm buildings. The Ice-house, situated south-east of the house and south-west of the burn, is constructed of stone overlaid by a mound of earth. The late 19th-century, stone-built Gardener's Cottage lies on the north side of the walled garden. The early 20th-century Indoor Tennis Court is now used as a farm building. The Lodge and Entrance Gateway comprise a single-storey sandstone lodge with semicircular sandstone walls with iron railings.
Drives and Approaches
From the village of Braco a tree-lined drive follows the west bank of the River Knaik for about a mile, then turns west. Between two ponds the drive forks in three: one fork turns left and back to the village via another drive and is part of a public community walk. One fork, planted with limes, continues west, curves around the bank of the east lawn, and arrives at the south front of the house in a gravel sweep. This drive continues around the west side of the house to the stable yard. The other fork to the right leads directly to the stables and the back of the house.
Paths and Walks
In addition to the community walk and the garden walks, another picturesque walk planted with mature beech leads along the east bank of the River Knaik to the village of Braco. This walk passes several features including a waterfall, the Devil's Pool, Ringain's Loup and Maiden's Pool. The paths are of trodden earth.
The main park, Castle Park lies to the south of the castle and garden. It is a small park, part of which is down to arable and the rest grazed. The 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25') of 1863 shows a scattering of mixed deciduous and coniferous parkland trees. Today the planting is very much reduced to a small number of deciduous trees including oak and lime.
Both banks of the Knaik and Keir Burn are clothed with mature mixed woodland and can be seen from the circular community walk. A predominantly coniferous plantation, once a mixed deciduous and coniferous wood, called Duns Wood, forms the south-western boundary of Castle Park. A mature woodland, predominantly beech, lies to the north of the castle beyond a paddock. Woodland also connects the walled garden to the back of the castle and on to the former stables and fishing ponds.
In addition to the riverside walk there are two fishing ponds by the entrance to the castle grounds. The lower pond was used for curling. On the secondary drive a mill pond exists to service the former sawmill on the banks of Keir Burn. At the south of the semi-walled garden, an amenity pond was created in 1936. A little burn, which feeds this pond, runs through the premises and behind the castle towards the pond at the point of entry of Braco Castle and Garden.
The main feature is the late 18th century walled garden to the west of the castle, but also the woodland and meadows south and east of the castle, extensively planted with bulbs, specimen trees and shrubs, both young and old. One walk leads through Rhododendron shrubbery to the walled garden. New planting here in recent years includes Meconopsis and other choice woodland plants. A number of mown paths, a little further to the south, lead past a spectacular Wellingtonia and other mature trees, through an informal grass area naturalised with early, mid and late season Narcissi, via an area with scented Azaleas, towards the walled garden as well. Another path returns from the garden along the far side of the revetted burn which runs through the premises. Along this stream walk a line of large conifers and Copper beech, underplanted with snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis), snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum), dogs' tooth violets (Erythronium dens-canis) and bluebells (Endymion non-scripta) feature strongly. The stream walk continues to a small shady den north east of the house. The den path, which is planted with yew, initially follows the former path towards the old well and to the stableyards beyond. Snowdrops and horse chestnut predominate. An ice-house is set into the bank of the lawn on the east side of the house. A croquet lawn / bowling green with terracing and a tennis court, which were created on one of the lawns in the 1890s, are still visible. A path cut into the meadow grass leads from this area to two rectilinear ponds situated alongside the drive. These may be old fish ponds relating to the earlier tower house.
The walled garden lies on a gentle, south-facing slope to the west of the castle and forms part of the small circuit walk which is the underlying structure of the designed garden at Braco. It is partly enclosed by stone walls. The north wall supports a range of glass-houses now rather dilapidated. The 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25') of 1863, shows a traditional quartered vegetable garden with trees, presumably fruit trees, around the perimeter, probably dating from late 18th century. Various hedges such as yew, Berberis and purple plum were planted to create compartments. There is a spectacular display of daffodils in spring and there are several narrow herbaceous borders. A long stretch of the north wall hosts a spectacular display of Clematis Montana. In the 1890s the garden was altered and expanded eastwards, to allow amenity areas to complement the kitchen garden. Also the former gardener's cottage inside the garden was rebuilt north of the wall, opposite the potting sheds. Where the eastern wall was removed a new north-south path was created. Here a double shrub border leads down to steps to a pond at a lower level, separated from the garden by a yew hedge. Small borders and stone paths are situated either side of the steps and pillars are decorated with urns. Paths at the bottom and top of the slope lead to the woodland and stream walk. This more informal area is separated from the walled garden by good wrought-iron hand-gates set on a runner and wheel.
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- Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland
Although it is probable that there was a garden attached to the late 17th- or early 18th-century house, there is little extant evidence of its exact location. The structure and extent of the designed landscape does not appear to have changed greatly since this time. The present landscape and garden overlay was probably created around 1855 when alterations and additions were made. Further additions and the planting of yew hedges were made to the garden in the late-19th century.
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
Braco is a good example of a small 19th-century landscape showing different elements, now much reduced, with park, walled garden, and woodland walks.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
The Braco estate was owned by the medieval Bishops of Dunblane. In 1442 the King confirmed to Michael Ochiltree, Bishop of Dunblane, and his successors over 30 pieces of land, among which ' Brecache, Ardachis and Kere-decani ' to be held in Barony and Regality by the Church of Dunblane in full liberty from the Crown of Scotland. The gaelic 'Breac Achadh' means 'Spotted Field', i.e. a field partly cleared of bracken. Brecache, Ardachis and Kere-decani became Braco, Ardoch and Deanskeir. The latter name is mentioned on Stobie's map just south of the present village of Braco. During the 17th and 18th century the Braco estate was owned by the Montrose Grahams and the Gorthie Graemes. In the 19th century it belonged to George Kellie McCallum and son, who may have been responsible for the general layout of the grounds and some of the more mature planting. In 1917 the estate was sold to James Finlay Muir, whose family also owned Blairdrummond Castle. The Muirs built the pond beside the walled garden and planted vast numbers of daffodil bulbs in the walled garden and in one of the fields as a commercial concern. The Muirs had a family connection with Tresco, the Isles of Scilly, and there is a record of twenty tonnes of daffodils being sent from Tresco to Braco, to be planted in rows by tractor and plough then picked and sold at the Glasgow market. James Finlay Muir died in 1948 and his widow lived at Braco until 1967. High death duties meant the maintenance began to suffer, and the estate was broken up and sold off in pieces. The house and a core landscape of twenty acres were sold in 1984 to a London doctor who began some restoration of the castle. Restoration and an internal refurbishment were completed by the present owners in 1997/1998. From 2000 onwards the garden and core landscape are being upgraded.