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The Burn


The designed landscape at The Burn was laid out in the late-18th century. It comprises well-preserved parkland with largely 19th-century planting, woodland of various ages and a walled garden. Lawns with specimen trees near the house lead down to a canalised burn, which also flows through the walled garden. This garden is divided into three sections, two of which are productive.

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:

Location and Setting

The Burn is situated at the foot of Glenesk, approximately 1 mile (2km) north of the village of Edzell and 6 miles (10km) north of the town of Brechin. The River North Esk forms the western boundary of the site. At The Burn, the river also forms the boundary between Grampian and Tayside Region. To the north and west, the surrounding landscape is largely upland grazing with forestry blocks along the sheltered banks of the River North Esk. To the east and south, the landscape broadens out to the Howe of the Mearns and the Vale of Strathmore. The River North Esk on the west boundary is an important feature from within the landscape; magnificent views can be gained from the woodland walk along the edge above the river. The Loyes Suspension Bridge crosses the river almost due west of the house. The forestry belts, which enclose the policies, restrict views into the site and also serve to generally restrict views out to the wider surrounding landscape.

The mansion house at The Burn is situated in a central position within approximately 190 acres (77ha) of policies which lie in an elongated band between the River North Esk and the Glenesk Road. Historically the policies extended beyond the present boundaries. Doulie Tower and Gannochy Tower were built as follies by Lord Adam Gordon, the latter lying outwith the current policies to the south of Gannochy Bridge. Lord Adam Gordon was also responsible for planting some 87 acres of woodland on the opposite bank of the river which belonged to the Panmure Estate but was thought to be scenically important from The Burn.

The burn of Kirkton was diverted through the policies as part of the original layout by Lord Adam Gordon in a scheme similar to that of one of his contemporaries, Sir Archibald Grant of Monymusk, Aberdeenshire. Entering on the northern boundary, the burn was canalised through the walled garden and it continued south through the amenity woodland. In front of the house, a small waterfall was constructed and a hooped bridge crosses over the burn south-west of the house to the river walk through the Park.

The diverted Kirkton Burn supplied water to the byres and stable and probably also to the house itself. It provided a water supply for the laundry, boiler house and garages up until World War II. The water was also exploited to turn the water wheel at the sawmill, the derelict remains of which lie to the south of Gannochy Bridge.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The original mansion house and adjacent stable block were built in 1791- 96. The stable clock is dated 1797. Between 1933-35 the additions of 1805 and 1814 were demolished and rebuilt. Both mansion house and stable block are now listed category B. The original architect is unknown; the architects for the rebuilding in 1933-35 were J.A.Ogg Allan of Aberdeen. Also listed B are the gatelodge and gatepiers, the public shelter, erected by Mr G.H. Russel in c.1935, and the screen walls. A sundial. stands on the lawn on the west side of the house. It was made for Lord Adam Gordon by Wm Robb of Montrose in 1796 and it originally stood on the lawn to the east of the house. The Doulie Tower. was built as a folly and picnic place at the north end of a riverside walk. The Loyes Suspension Bridge crosses the gorge west of the house; it is closed off as it is in a dangerous condition. The remains of the Ice House are still visible behind the Gardener's Cottage.


The parks at The Burn lie to the west and east of the main drive which runs through the policies, flanked by woodlands from the South Lodge to the walled garden. They are divided into four separate areas by the east drive from the house and the walk between the south drive and the river. Together, the parks form an impressive setting to the house. They are enclosed by ha-ha walls, the condition of which has deteriorated with age. Within each enclosure, there are many fine parkland trees; some beech, horse chestnut and walnut trees remain from the original planting by Lord Adam Gordon whilst the majority of trees are younger, dating from the 19th century, and of mixed species. Some beech have been replanted in the parks and horse chestnuts have recently been added along the walk to the River North Esk from the south drive. Comparison of the 1st & 2nd edition OS maps shows that the western parkland originally extended to the edge of the river but, by the late 19th century, a woodland strip had been established between the park and the river and the ha- ha enclosure extended along its length. A cattle tunnel, now disused, linked the west park with the byres and stables to the north of the house and served to avoid the cattle being seen from the house on their way to being milked.


The original woodlands on the estate were laid out over some 526 acres by Lord Adam Gordon at the end of the 18th century. The majority of his plantings were felled and sold in the 1940s and are outwith the policies today; some have since been replanted as amenity woodland; others, for example part of Round Green Plantation on the east side of the policies, have been allowed to regenerate with birch and rhododendron. Within the present 190 acres of policies, the woodlands to the north and east of the site are managed for amenity by the Forestry Commission. They are mixed deciduous and coniferous plantations, established within the last thirty years. The woodlands which flank the main drive and River North Esk are amenity woodlands which were laid out in the late 18th century, probably by Lord Adam Gordon. An additional area of woodland was added along the western edge of park between 1850-1900, thus forming a completed woodland edge to the river within the area of the policies. A riverside walk leads up to the Doulie Tower above the gorge.

Trees within the amenity woodlands are predominantly beech. Along the riverside, some Scots pine, oak, birch and rowan have been established at the woodland edge. In the woods to the north of the house, varieties include beech, horse chestnut, Wellingtonia and a fine cut-leaf beech, all aged c.150 years and less. Rhododendrons have colonized the understorey and, nearer the walled garden, there is some natural regeneration. Also in this area, Monkey puzzle and yew remain from earlier ornamental plantings. A footpath through this woodland to the walled garden follows the line of the canal, another footpath returns alongside the now overgrown wall.

The Gardens

A formal garden is thought to have been originally sited within the immediate vicinity of the house although no such garden is suggested on either the 1st or 2nd edition OS maps. A croquet lawn is sited on the south side of the mansion house and a putting green on the lawn opposite the west front; the sundial forms the centrepiece of the west lawn. Beyond the putting green, lawns slope down to the canalised burn where some specimen trees and shrubs have been established. In the spring the bank is covered by a mass of daffodils. There is also an attractive rock garden at the edge of the footpath down to the burn. The lawns extend around to the east of the house to the ha-ha, beyond which, on the edge of the park, stands a tennis court. Yew and other ornamental shrubs form a barrier between the lawns and tennis court.

Walled Garden

The walled garden, rectangular in shape, is situated on the north edge of the policies. Reference to the 1st & 2nd edition OS maps shows the garden divided into three compartments with the burn of Kirkton running through it in a north/south direction. Perimeter footpaths are indicated around both the inside and outside walls on the 1st edition OS map. The south-facing walls of the garden once carried all varieties of fruit trees. Greenhouses housed additional tender fruit and flowers and there were extensive herbaceous borders.

After World War II it was managed as a market garden. Since then, two-thirds of it has reverted to produce for the house. In the eastern third, a house has been built surrounded by lawns which extend down to the burn of Kirkton, along either side of which runs a magnificent herbaceous border.

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

A late 18th century designed landscape most notable for its semi-ancient woodlands and the Site of Special Scientific Interest at Gannochy Gorge.

Site History

The designed landscape of The Burn was laid out from an area of previously barren land between 1791-96 and further embellished by subsequent owners. There are no known designers. Documentary map evidence is provided by the 1st edition OS map of c.1860 and the 2nd edition OS map of c.1900. Since our visit the estate maps of 1796 and 1819 have been found to be extant and are in the possession of Mrs T.E. James, daughter of Mr G.H. Russel.

Little is known of the early history of The Burn except that the lands were part of the Thanage of Newdosk and later of the barony of Arnhall. Lord Adam Gordon, a son of the 2nd Duke of Gordon, acquired the estate in 1780, when he was Commander-in- Chief of the Army in Scotland, at which time it was in 'the wildest state of barrenness'. He began an extensive series of improvements during which time some 475 acres were cultivated, and 526 acres were planted, whilst a further 87 acres of his neighbour's land was planted at no cost to the owner, the Hon William Maule, in 'order to hide deformities and create agreeable prospects'. In addition, some six miles of walks were laid out which, in many places, were blasted through solid rock. The house was built between 1791-96 with the intention that His Lordship would retire there. When he did eventually retire in 1798, he was able to enjoy his achievements at The Burn for only three years before his death in 1801. The estate was then sold to a neighbour, Mr Brodie of Arnhall, who added to the house and made further improvements to the grounds. In 1814, it was again sold, to a Mr Shand, who is thought to have continued improvements begun by Mr Brodie as well as adding his own. In particular, he redirected the Glenesk Road to its present alignment, prior to which it had passed through the policies between the house and the gardens. In 1836, the estate passed to Major William McInroy and, during his time, Queen Victoria is known to have visited the property. Colonel Charles McInroy, a nephew, inherited in 1896 and, in 1921, the family sold The Burn and Arnhall Estates to Mr G.H. Russel who also bought the nearby estate of Dalladies. At this time the area of the three estates extended over some 4,000 acres (1,620ha).

Between 1933-35, the house was altered and modernised, and during World War II, it was used as a Hospital. In his time as laird, Mr Russel had made many improvements to the estate but in 1945-46 the lands of Arnhall, Dalladies and part of The Burn, were sold. Large areas of low-lying ground by the village of Edzell were acquired by compulsory purchase for the establishment of RAF Edzell. The mansion house, policies and parts of the woodland (190 acres in all) were gifted to the Dominion Students' Hall Trust, (now London House for Overseas Graduates) together with an endowment in 1946/47. Since then, The Burn has been managed as a holiday and study centre for students and graduates of the UK, the Commonwealth and the USA.


  • 18th Century (1701 to 1800)
  • Late 18th Century (1775 to 1799)
Associated People
Features & Designations


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

  • Site of Special Scientific Interest

  • Reference: Gannochy Gorge


  • Folly
  • Description: The Doulie Tower
  • Sundial
  • Mansion House (featured building)
  • Description: The original mansion house and adjacent stable block were built in 1791- 96.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
Key Information





Principal Building



18th Century (1701 to 1800)





Open to the public





  • Historic Scotland