Cardross is a heavily wooded park situated on a plateau above the River Forth, with views to the south over the Carse of Stirling and the Campsie and Kippen Hills. The parkland at Cardross is roughly rectangular with the house placed in the centre. The garden around the house consists of a flat lawn running down to a small ha-ha. There is a paved area by the house with a double ribbon line of box, and Cupressocyparis leylandii 'Haggerston' growing in the curves. The area around the house is protected by mature trees with an understorey of Rhododendron.
Type of Site
Early parkland landscape with garden around the house and arboretum.
Location and Setting
The Cardross Esate lies off the B8034 road, north-east of Stirling, and to the south-east of the Lake of Menteith. Cardross is a heavily wooded park situated on a plateau above the River Forth, with views to the south over the Carse of Stirling and the Campsie and Kippen Hills. There is a view to the north along a vista of oak to Ben Ledi.
General Roy's Military Survey of c.1750, shows Cardross House surrounded by a square park. Cardross Castle is labelled and indicated east of the present Cardross House. An estate map of 1767 shows more detail and indicates the house in the present position, with the entrance drive from the west, a vista to the north, avenues to the south-west, very much as it is today. The offices were moved north from the site they occupied to the south-east of the house and the drive was extended through the park with another entrance to the north. The walled garden was built in the 19th century.
Comparing an estate plan of 1761 with the 1st Ed O.S. 1:2500 (25in) map of 1859, the estate has expanded on the east and western perimeters. To the west, with the building of the Cardross Bridge in 1774 over the River Forth, and to the east probably in the late 18th early 19th century with the building of the walled garden and the stableblock. The estate was further added to in the east, taking the boundary out to the Meikle Burn. The Glen is really an extension of the area of garden around the walled garden which includes ponds where the burn has been enlarged.
Cardross House originally had a Z-plan layout with a circular stair tower to the north, and a square tower on the south. The date 1631 is inscribed on the ceiling. In the late 18th century, the north front was given a symmetrical facelift with a recessed front. A Gothic two storey stable block, circa 1790, lies to the north-east of the house, replacing earlier offices to the south-east. It has a two-storey symmetrical frontage to the south, with a blind arch in the centre and corner pavilions.
The walled garden lies to the north of the stable block, with a curved north wall and a low south wall. There is a wrought iron hand gate on south wall with stone piers. There is an early sundial, which sits on a later column, with a brick plinth. The Erskine graveyard is situated in the far east of the policies with six gravestones, bearing the Erskine, Bruce, and Stirling names, from 1767 onwards. They are all simple except for neo-medieval cross of 1849 to George Keith Erskine. A small stone walled garden lies on a bank to the south of the house, possibly late 18th century. The garden is roughly semi-circular in shape, with a coursed rubble wall. There are moulded cap stones. The front wall is low and topped by a thorn hedge. Access is by a narrow wrought iron gate on the eastern side. There is a dried out cross- shaped pond in the centre of the garden, with a central fountain. Between the park and garden to the south of the house is a small stone ha-ha, with stone wings to east and west. These may be connected with the pavilions that used to exist on this front. A small larch pole rustic hut with pantile pointed roof, has been constructed in the garden near the house. A recent rustic hut sits on the site of an earlier summer house backing onto the walled garden. The earlier cobbled base has been re-used. A building described as a Heather Tower in Hunter, 1883, was made by a Mr Wyber, who had been gardener at Cardross for about 50 years. It was built of larch and Scots fir pillars, 'sparred and thatched with heather outside, and lined with moss inside.' The lower part was a summer-house and the tower was about 40 feet high. It was built as a viewing tower to look at Stirling Castle and Abbey Craig. This must be the building marked on the 2nd Edition O.S. 1900 as a Pagoda, although nothing remains today of this building apart from the foundation. Any view of Stirling Castle has been long obscured by tree growth.
Drives and Approaches
The main approach is from the west along the line of the drive shown on the 1761 survey. The drive goes directly east to the house through the parkland. A fork in the drive leads to the back of the house, or otherwise the drive continues past the front of the house where there is an entrance court on the north front of the house. The drive then takes a right angled turn to the north, past the stableyard and walled garden to the back lodge.
The parkland at Cardross is roughly rectangular with the house placed in the centre. In the 18th century it was much smaller but it expanded to the west, probably in the late 18th century when Cardross Bridge was built in 1774. It expanded to the east with the building of the walled garden, probably in the early 19th century, and the development of the Glen into an arboretum, along the Meikle Burn. There is a slip garden between the arboretum and walled garden which is lined with fastigiate yews. The arboretum contains specimen Douglas fir, sweet chestnut, hollies, copper beech, Himalayan cherry (Prunus serrula), purple plum, oak and various other conifers.
The parkland retains features relating to the 1761 plan, including the oak vista to the north of the house, and part of the vista to the south which includes some old sycamores. There was an ancient sycamore, mentioned in Hunter's 'Wood's of Perthshire', but it died in the last ten years.
The garden around the house consists of a flat lawn running down to a small ha-ha. There is a paved area by the house with a double ribbon line of box, and Cupressocyparis leylandii 'Haggerston' growing in the curves. The area around the house is protected by mature trees with an understorey of Rhododendron. The trees include deodar (Cedrus deodara), x Cupressocyparis leylandii, sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), common silver fir (Abies alba), and Noble fir (Abies procera).
The part walled garden to the north-east of the house is now unused, but it also formed part of the pleasure gardens. There are remains of paths and box hedging and planting including fruit trees and yew trees.
- Visitor Access & Directions
Access Contact DetailsThe house is open for group visits but the garden is not.
- Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland
A plan of 1761 shows the layout of the policies, with the present house in the centre surrounded by square parks, a vista to the north of the house which survives today, and a vista to the south (part of which survives today).
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
An ancient site which may have gardens and a designed landscape from as early as the 15th century. Today's attractive early to mid-19th parkland is of importance scenically and for nature conservation. The architectural features and potential archaeology are also very significant.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
Parts of the house date back to the 15th century, and there is likely to have been an associated garden. The present landscape probably dates back to the 17th century, and many of the trees are early to mid-18th century. The other main phase of development is the 19th century arboretum area and walled garden.
Cardross is an important historic site, the name means the 'fort on the promontory'. There was a Roman castellum on the estate. The house is famous for its plaster ceiling of circa 1598, which according to Thomas Hunter in 'Woods, Forests and Estates of Perthshire', 1883, is said to represent a Dutch garden and was thought to have been executed by Italian craftsmen who had been working on Holyrood Palace.
The forests in and around the Lake of Menteith were reputed to be the favoured hunting grounds of the Scottish court when based at Stirling in the 15th century. Cardross was the residence of the Commendators of Inchmahome, and the last Commendator commissioned the plaster ceiling in the drawing room.
The park at Cardross was famed for being well wooded and it still gives this impression. The parkland trees are mainly oak, and it is possible that this was an area of natural oak woodland that was selectively felled to create the park.
A plan of 1761 shows the layout of the policies, with the present house in the centre surrounded by square parks, a vista to the north of the house which survives today, and a vista to the south (part of which survives today). This was drawn up when the estate belonged to John Erskine of Carnock. Thomas Hunter states in 1833, that 'The park was formed by the late Mr Erskine of Cardross towards the beginning of this century (19th century), the ground having been before that time subdivided in small enclosures by deep sunk fences and high hedges, which, when taken away, made the present park, and set off the place and fine trees to advantage.' There is some truth in this. The hedges and ditches were removed, opening up the park, and much of the planting dates from the 18th century.
A curious feature on the estate plan is a circular channel of water, with grass in the middle, to the north-east of the house, at the end of the sunk ditch along the drive, with grass in the middle. It seems unlikely to be a design feature but more probably a utilitarian feature, such as a type of fishpond.
The offices were to the south-east of the house but were replaced in the early 19th century by a range to the north-east, probably at the same time that the walled garden was built to the north of the stables. The garden was expanded around the walled garden at this time and the Meikle Burn enlarged in several places to make ponds. This part of the policies was called the Ass Park on the 1762 plan. An arboretum called the Glen, an extension of the area around the walled garden, was developed in the 19th century as an arboretum. This has been continually added to.
The present entrance drive from the west is the same as that on the 1761 plan and then extended in the 19th century to the east and north. A small walled garden to the south of the house was built in the late 18th, early 19th century.