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Brechin Castle


Brechin Castle stands on a bluff above the River Southesk. There is an early- to mid-20th-century woodland garden, interesting tree and shrub planting and a walled garden extending to over five hectares with walls dating from the late-18th century.

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 landscape park, incorporating remnants of an early 18th century formal layout, of parkland and woodlands with an unusual and large walled garden dating from the late 18th century and woodland garden from the early 20th century.

Location and Setting

Brechin Castle is situated on the southern edge of the town of Brechin which lies approximately 6 miles (9.5km) to the west of the town of Montrose and 20 miles (32km) north-east of Dundee. Brechin Castle is set on a rocky outcrop high above the River South Esk on its north side. The river sweeps through the policies to the south of the Castle. The setting originally provided a defensible site from which extensive views can be obtained across the agricultural land to the west and south. The views from the south to the Castle have been partially obscured by tree planting but are still important from the designed landscape today. The policy wall and tree canopy are significant from the surrounding roads.

Brechin Castle stands on the edge of the north bank of the River South Esk. The designed landscape extends north to the A935 and the town of Brechin, and south beyond the river to a minor road linking the B9134 with the A933 which respectively form the west and east boundaries. Comparison of General Roy's map of c.1750 with the 1st edition OS map of 1868 would indicate that the designed landscape was extended south beyond the river between the dates of these surveys. There are some 472 acres (191ha) in the designed landscape today.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Brechin Castle, listed category A, was remodelled and enlarged in 1711 to the design of James Baine and, subsequently, Alexander Edward. It was again remodelled between 1854-63 to the design of John Henderson. A pair of detached gatepiers dating from the 19th century, listed B, form the entrance of the forecourt of the Castle. The Stable-block, listed B, dates from 1806 and stands to the north of the Castle. The Old Lodge, dated c.1806, is listed B and stands on the northern boundary. The West, South and North Lodges to the east of the old lodge on the northern boundary postdate 1868. The gatepiers on the main West Avenue are thought to date from 1711 and are listed B.

The Image Bridge was built by James Burn of Haddington in 1797 although the present ironwork replaced the original c.1890. It is listed category B and is unusual in having statuary in niches below the bridge. The Stannochy Bridge, at the west end of the policies, is dated 1825 and is listed B. An Ice House, thought to be 19th century is listed category C(S).

The Walled Garden, listed category B is thought to date originally from 1777. It is a unique, curved shape on plan; an additional 'lobe' was added to the north-west wall after 1868. The Gardener's House is incorporated within the north wall. Within the garden are other features, collectively listed category B: a fountain, dating from the late 19th century; a 17th century sundial brought from Panmure House; a 19th century sundial standing on an octagonal base; and a pair of detached columns surmounted by stone vases. In addition, there are various pieces of statuary.


The parkland originally lay only on the north of the river and enclosed the kitchen garden and woodland which projected into the park from the Castle in the north-east corner. Ha-ha walls separate the parklands from the woodlands which enclose them, and are thought to have been constructed for horse enclosures for the Jacobite armies. Following the construction of the Image Bridge in the 19th century, a long drive was made through the park south of the river to the South Lodge. Although it is recorded that Lady Panmure had some limes planted in the parks in the early 18th century, neither the 1st edition OS map nor the 2nd edition OS map of 1903 suggests that the parks were ever well wooded, and few trees stand in them today.

The parks are farmed with the exception of an area in the north-west corner where trees are grown on for commercial purposes.


Woodland encloses the parkland on the west and south boundaries and also flanks either side of the west drive to the south of the walled garden and either side of the south drive to the south of the river by the Image Bridge. The woods are largely a mix of coniferous and deciduous species, many of which were planted after a major loss of timber in the gale of 1953. A former deciduous area on the west boundary has recently been replanted with conifers.

On the north boundary, trees remain on the line of the Avenue planted to the design of Alexander Edward for the 4th Earl, although the oldest, which are beech, appear to date only from c.1785; others are younger, dating from c.1900 and include oak, sycamore and horse chestnut.

Woodland Garden

The woodland garden is situated between the castle and the walled garden amid a tree canopy of oak and copper beech dating from the late 18th and 19th centuries, as well as other conifers planted for shelter when the garden was established in the early 1950s by the 14th Countess of Dalhousie. Several ornamental trees, including Cercidiphyllum japonicum, were planted by the Countess outside the walled garden. A variety of Azaleas, Rhododendrons and other shrubs grown from seed have been planted by the 16th Earl. During World War II, the garden inevitably suffered some neglect; the tennis court became overgrown and birch colonized. This became an attractive feature and has since been further developed with the addition of different birch species. There are some of the earliest introductions of Douglas fir at Brechin thought to have been planted in the 1830s, together with some early planted Sequoias, introduced in the 1860s.

Walled Garden

The walled garden is undoubtedly the most impressive feature of the policies of Brechin. It is a unique, undulating shape on plan with two additional semi- circular 'lobes' added to the north side. The lobe on the west side was added after 1868. The wall on the north-east side is thought to date from 1777. A ha-ha forms the southern boundary and the garden includes some fourteen acres.

The main entrance to the garden is in the north-east wall, at the east end of the terrace walk. Broad lawns border this walk on which ornamental conifers and shrubs have been established and enclosure on the south side is provided by a magnificent clipped yew hedge, planted c.1925. The 19th century sundial closes the vista at the west end. Climbing shrubs cover the inner side of the north-east wall beyond which, in the north-east 'lobe', are early 19th century glasshouses and cold frames. In the north-west 'lobe', are beds of Rhododendrons in grass, dominated by conifers including Chamaecyparis nootkatensis. The area along the west side of the garden was where fruit was grown before it was replanted as a tree nursery. It has recently been cleared and is planned to be developed as an extension of the ornamental garden.

The Gardener's House is a fine greenhouse which stands overlooking the garden between the two 'lobes'. Rhododendron dalhousiae is grown in the greenhouse named after Lady Dalhousie who was vice-reine of India in the early 19th century. There are also two Rhododendrons grown from Hooker seed which must date back to the middle of the 19th century, inside the walled garden.

From the top terrace, the garden slopes down across lawns where shrub beds and specimen trees have been laid out informally in grass replacing the earlier formal layout. Two cedars planted by Lady Panmure, which dates them at more than 250 years, stand on the slope. A gravel walk extends parallel with the top terrace along the low side of the garden, at the east end of which is a circular lily pond. The pond itself is encircled by box hedge compartments which are planted for summer colour. South of the pond is the Autumn Garden; specimen trees include several Acers for autumn colour, Embothriums and a collection of rowans (Sorbus spp.). To the north of the pond, the path rises to a steep bank along which the Spring border has been established. Steps up the bank, flanked by statuary, return to the top terrace walk. Looking back down the path, the vista leads the eye to the pond and a seat beyond framed by yew hedges.

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

First laid out between 1701-1708, the parkland, woodland, formal and informal gardens represent a very fine work of art and a designed landscape of great historical, horticultural and architectural value.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

A formal layout established 1701-1708, informalised during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, improvements late mid 19th century, improvements 1902-28 and since 1950 to the present.

Site History

A formal designed landscape was laid out by Alexander Edward for the 4th Earl of Panmure between 1701-1708. The estates were confiscated after the 1715 Uprising and were not regained until 1764. Between then and the survey of the 1st edition OS map of 1868, the policies were extended and extensively informalised. Improvements were continued by the 11th Earl until his death in 1874. The 14th Earl and Countess made further improvements to the house and walled garden and created the woodland garden between 1902-28. Further developments have been made in the garden since 1950 by the present, 16th, Earl & Countess of Dalhousie.

The name of Maule appears in the early history of Brechin Castle when, in 1303, Sir Thomas Maule defended it from a siege by Edward I. In 1634, Patrick Maule purchased the estate from the 1st Earl of Mar and, in 1646, he was created 1st Earl of Panmure. The unsettled political climate of that period prevented him from building a house of any great note, thus, on his death in 1661, George, the 2nd Earl was instructed to carry out his father's ambition and thus the house at Panmure, Carnoustie, was begun. He died in 1671 and the 3rd Earl completed the work at Panmure. His brother succeeded as 4th Earl in 1686. He married Margaret, daughter of the 3rd Duke of Hamilton, and began to restore Brechin Castle as their home.

James Baine, the King's Master Plasterer, was commissioned for the restoration but, due to a series of misunderstandings and disputes with the 4th Earl, he was dismissed and Alexander Edward was brought in to complete the work. He prepared a formal layout for the grounds which is indicated on General Roy's plan of c.1750. Only the great west avenue shown on the plan remains today. In the early years of the 18th century, the 4th Earl sponsored Alexander Edward to travel in Britain and abroad in search of inspiration for the architectural and garden designs which he subsequently prepared for this, and other, estates. References in Edward's notebooks indicate that he brought back seeds and plant material from his visits, some of which were probably used in the gardens at Brechin. He died in 1708, three years before the completion of the Castle. It is the only large building by him remaining today. His patron remained loyal to the Stuarts in the 1715 rebellion and, as a result, fled to France. The 4th Countess leased the Castle and sold the contents to Lady Orbiston to prevent their confiscation along with the estates by the Crown. By 1717, when the family had raised enough capital to repurchase the Estates (the most valuable of those confiscated), they were outbid by the York Building Company by #100. The Countess obtained a 99 year lease on the houses and parks before rejoining her husband in France. He died there in 1723 and was succeeded by his brother, the titular 5th Earl, and through him the estates passed to his son, General William Maule in 1734.

The Irish Peerages of Earl of Panmure and Forth, and Viscount Maule of Whitechurch were conferred on General Maule following the Battle of Dettingen in 1743. He commissioned 'Mr. Adam', to prepare sketch plans for the west front of the Castle and for new stables which were not carried out. Some building work was carried out c.1759 but the estates were still under lease and it was not until 1764, after the collapse of the York Building Company, that they were reacquired by the family. In 1777, John Gourlay was commissioned for minor work to the Castle, repair of the stables and construction of walls to the kitchen garden. General William Maule died unmarried in 1782 and his Earldom became extinct.

The estates passed to his nephew, the 8th Earl of Dalhousie, who died only five years later, in 1787. His 2nd son, William Ramsay, adopted the name of Maule and lived at Brechin, preferring it to Panmure. In 1794, he married Patricia Heron Gordon and was responsible for the Georgian north range of the courtyard and the Image Bridge across the River South Esk and, later, the Stannochy Bridge. He was created Baron Panmure of Brechin and Navar in 1831. His son, Fox, inherited the title of 2nd Baron in 1852 although the 2nd son, Lauderdale, acquired Brechin Castle, by which time it had been neglected due to the break- up of his parents' marriage in 1817 and his father's subsequent lifestyle. Soon after 1852 however, Brechin reverted to Fox on the death of his brother and he completed the work on the Castle. In 1860, he succeeded as Earl of Dalhousie and continued to develop the policies up until his death in 1874 when the Barony of Panmure became extinct.

The 12th & 13th Earls of Dalhousie made few changes to the policies. The 14th Earl succeeded in 1897. He married Lady Mary Adelaide Heathcote Drummond Willoughby in 1902 and a year later began the most recent phase of improvements to the house. The Countess, a keen gardener, established the woodland garden which has been continued by her son, the present 16th Earl of Dalhousie, who inherited from his brother in 1950. The 16th Earl and Countess have also remodelled the walled kitchen garden.


18th Century (1701 to 1800)

Associated People
Features & Designations


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


  • Ornamental Bridge
  • Description: The Image Bridge
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Ornamental Bridge
  • Description: Stannochy Bridge
  • Icehouse
  • Castle (featured building)
  • Description: The 18th-century remodelling incorporates parts of the original 13th-century castle.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


18th Century (1701 to 1800)





Open to the public





  • Historic Scotland