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Carberry Tower


The designed landscape at Carberry Tower comprises well-preserved 19th-century parkland, a late-19th-century arboretum with a wealth of specimen trees under-planted with rhododendrons, and an early-20th-century formal garden. This garden takes the form of a sunken area with an ornate box-edged parterre.

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

Incorporating some elements of previous mid-18th and early 19th century layers, a late-19th century designed landscape of parkland with specimen trees and mixed deciduous clumps, amenity deciduous woodlands covering half the policies, an arboretum and shrubberies housing a fine tree and shrub collection and an ornate Italian sunken garden created in 1910.

Location and Setting

Carberry Tower is situated 7 miles (11.5km) south-east of Edinburgh, 3 miles (5km) to the north-east of Dalkeith and 2 miles (3km) south of Musselburgh on the south shore of the Firth of Forth. The A6124 forms the south-west boundary of the estate and the B6414 forms the south-east boundary. The northern boundaries are formed by minor roads and tracks. To the west of the site the landform slopes gently down to the River Esk from Queen Mary's Mount which rises to 150m to the east of the house. Queen Mary is reputed to have surrendered here on this mount after the Battle of Pinkie in 1567. The entire estate is underlain by a coalfield which was known as 'The Carberry Jewels' and was thought to contain the finest coal in the country. The mine was founded in the late 19th century and supplied electricity to the house until 1962, soon after which it was closed. There are views from the higher ground and from the Tower across the East Lothian lowlands and north across the Firth. Views into the designed landscape are limited by the policy woodlands which enclose and shelter the parkland.

Carberry Tower is set in the north-west of a designed landscape which extends to the junction of the A6124 and the B6414 at Crossgatehall at the south of the policies. Queen Mary's Mount rises at the east of the policies and Carberry Mains lies to the north. Documentary evidence of the development of the designed landscape is provided by General Roy's plan of 1750, the 1st edition OS of c.1855 and the 2nd edition OS map of c.1900. In the mid-18th century, the Tower was surrounded by several sheltered enclosures and two access roads are shown on Roy's plan. By the mid-19th century, the field pattern had been redesigned and laid out as parkland. In the later half of the 19th century the parkland was extended to the north and to the east to Queen Mary's Mount, and the field pattern was revised yet again, avoiding the regular lines prominent in the earlier design. The walled garden adjacent to the house was removed at this time and a new larger garden constructed to the north-east of the house. The policy woodlands were greatly expanded and several individual parkland trees and clumps were planted. The extent of the designed landscape remains similar today and covers 269 acres (109ha).

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Carberry Tower, listed B, is a 16th century tower with two main storeys, a massive crenellated parapet, and there is an iron fire bucket. Improvements were made to the Tower in 1830 and, in 1861, David Bryce was commissioned to build the East Range. In 1909 further additions were made by Thomas Ross. The Stables, listed B, are mid- 19th century, probably by David Bryce, and are arranged around a quadrangle. The stables have a loft doocot and have been converted for residential and sports facilities. The Chapel was built in 1965 to the designs of Ian Lindsay & Partners and was given a Civic Trust Award in 1978.

The Main Gate and Lodge is Baronial in style, listed B, and is by David Bryce. There are also a large sawmill, a summerhouse near the curling pond, and several pieces of ornamentation within the formal and walled gardens. These include a sundial in the formal garden which has a 17th century polyhedral dial stone, and several urns and stone lions which decorate the walls. There were also many ornamental statues and an elaborate sundial in the walled garden which is now under separate ownership.


The parkland at Carberry is attractively planted with individual parkland trees and with clumps of mixed deciduous trees. There are some fine beech, oak, sycamore and horse chestnut in the park, mainly from 80-140 years old, and the view of the park east of the house is particularly important. The area around the house is kept as well- trimmed lawns, surrounding the many fine specimen trees; there are many varieties of daffodils planted in this area. Two main drives were put in in the late 19th century: one approaches from the Main Gate west of the house, while the south drive takes a more sweeping route through the south parks. The latter is used only as an estate road today. An ornamental curling pond was put in in the late 19th century, replacing the rectangular curling pond which existed in the west of the park. This has some drainage and siltation problems today but still forms a very attractive feature.


Almost half of the policies at Carberry were planted up as mixed amenity woodlands by the 15th Lord Elphinstone in the later half of the 19th century. Some of the older hardwoods have been felled and replacement planting has been undertaken. The boundary woodlands have been left for scenic reasons and to provide shelter for the new planting. The woodlands are managed from the nearby Dalkeith Estate.

The Gardens

This ornate, sunken garden lies immediately to the south of the house and its box- edged parterres are overlooked from the main rooms. It was put in for the 16th Lord and Lady Elphinstone shortly after their marriage in 1910. Originally the box-edged beds were infilled with coloured gravels; at a later stage with Polyanthus, Primulas, hyacinths and forget-me-nots; and today they are filled with roses. Early photographs show not only the ornate sundial which remains today but also a cherub statue at the west end, and a fountain. The fountain has gone but the pools remain as central features to the pattern.

Walled Garden

The 1st edition OS map shows that a walled kitchen garden was built originally immediately adjacent to the Tower on its east side. This area was grassed down and a new garden built north of the stables probably between 1860 when the stables were added and 1870 when the Sequoia Avenue was planted, leading up to the new garden. The Gardeners' Chronicle of 1905 describes its layout at that time, with a considerable extent of glasshouses giving a wide range of fruit, and 'the Souvenir de la Malmaison Carnations are quite a feature of the place'. Vegetables were grown amongst herbaceous beds, surrounding well-trimmed lawns and gravel paths, with roses in abundance. A moon-gate led from one compartment of the garden, and outside the main garden was the 'flower-garden' laid out with irregularly shaped beds. Early photographs show several unusual small statues in this part of the garden. It was kept up as a vegetable and flower garden until c.1961. In recent years, it has been used as a turkey farm and is currently used for raising pheasant chicks.


Approximately 35 acres of land around the tower were planted with a great variety of interesting trees and shrubs. The 15th Lord Elphinstone was an 'ardent horticulturalist' and the 16th Baron and his wife were also keen plantsmen. Alan Mitchell has measured over a hundred interesting trees here in 1985, not including all of the fine trees in the Sequoia Avenue which was planted in the 1870s and leads up to the walled garden. Originally fifty trees were planted in two rows to form this avenue and it is an impressive sight today although currently fenced off as a horse paddock. There are too many fine trees to list individually; one of the most striking is an old copper beech near the tower, and younger specimens include Metasequoia glyptostroboides, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, Nothofagus dombeyi, Liriodendron tulipifera and several species of Acer and Sorbus.

The variety of the colour and texture of these trees is striking and is highlighted by the profusion of shrubs, including many fine Rhododendrons and Azaleas. These are planted all along the walk to the curling pond. In 1984, several more specimen trees were planted and recorded.

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

The formal gardens, architecture and attractive wider designed landscape of Carberry Tower are of national importance because they also show several different phases of landscape development and have a rich historical associations with Queen Mary and Lady Elphinstone.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

A mid-18th century formal layout was redesigned and informalised in the early 19th century, further redesigned in the late 19th century and formal gardens laid out in 1911.

Site History

The formal landscape of the mid-19th century was redesigned in the early 19th century and laid out as parkland. It was completely redesigned in the late 19th century to its present structure. The formal gardens were laid out in 1911. There are no known design plans or landscape designers involved.

In the 13th century, the lands were owned by John de Crebarrie from whose name the estate probably derives its title. The lands were at one time Crown property and later passed to Dunfermline Abbey. In 1541 the Abbey authorities leased them to Hugh Rigg who built or enlarged the Tower.

In 1567, after the Battle of Pinkie, Queen Mary surrendered here on Carberry Hill now called Queen Mary's Mount. By 1587 the church lands were annexed to the Crown and the superiors became the Maitlands of Lauderdale. The Rigg families continued to lease Carberry until 1659 when it was passed to Sir Adam Blair. In 1689 it passed to Sir Robert Dickson of Inveresk who sold it to John Fullerton whose niece Elizabeth married in 1774 the Hon Wm Elphinstone, third son of the 10th Baron, whose son succeeded to the title.

The Elphinstones held Carberry from 1801-1961. Alterations and additions were made to the old Tower from c.1830. The 15th Baron succeeded in 1861 and was involved in political and court life. The park layout was entirely redesigned during his time and the arboretum started. His son, Sydney Herbert, the 16th Baron Elphinstone, married Lady Mary Bowes Lyon in 1910 and they carried out further improvements to the Tower and particularly to the grounds. The formal gardens to the south of the tower were laid out in 1911 and they added to the specimen trees and shrubs in the parks. The 16th Lord Elphinstone died in 1955 and Lady Elphinstone died in 1961 when the Tower and part of the estate were gifted by the family to the Church of Scotland. It is now managed as a residential conference centre, and an annexe and a chapel have been built in the grounds. The remaining part of the designed landscape has been sold in separate lots although fencing of the separate holdings is discouraged. The woodlands and most of the parkland are in the ownership of the Buccleuch Estates.

Associated People
Features & Designations


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


  • Sundial
  • Summerhouse
  • Parterre
  • Avenue
  • Description: A double sequoia avenue.
Key Information





Principal Building






Open to the public


Electoral Ward





  • Historic Scotland