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The site of an early fort lies just outside the grounds of Castlehill House and there are standing stones on the property. There are terraced gardens around the house, orchards, a millpond with pondside planting, a trough garden and a walled garden with a combination of flowers and produce. A late-17th- or early-18th-century windmill stump provides a focal point.

The following is from the Historic Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. This site has since been removed from the Inventory, but this text has been retained as an archive copy.

Type of Site

20th century ornamental gardens representing typical phases of the century's garden-making trends including terraced gardens with rock garden plants and roses, an orchard, trough gardens, woodland and pond gardens and walled garden with fruit, roses and mixed borders.

Location and Setting

Castlehill lies 5.5 miles (9km) to the north-west of Dumfries and approximately 2 miles (3km) from the A701(T) road. It is set in the low hills of Kirkmahoe above Nithsdale and 1km from Duncow village. Several small burns flow down to Nithsdale from the moors above and many mill ponds have been created along their courses, including the pond at Castlehill. The site is bordered by minor roads to the east and south. The house is set above a gentle slope to the south and has extensive views across Nithsdale and the Solway plain, and as far as the Lakeland Hills. The house is visible from the minor road to the south but the gardens are screened from view from the surrounding area.

The layout of the approach roads, woodlands and mill pond has remained the same since the 1st edition OS map of c.1850 although the layout of the gardens has been changed since then. The 1850 map records the windmill in the field to the south of the house as being in ruins at that date. The designed landscape at Castlehill comprises some 12 acres (5ha) of terraced gardens, walled garden, orchard and shrubbery.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Castlehill is a two-storey Victorian house with columned porch and bow- windows. The windmill stump in the field south of the house is listed B; it is of Dutch design dating from the late 17th/early 18th century. There are several ornaments in the gardens, including the urns decorating the terraces, the raised troughs to the east of the house, and a memorial sundial to Sir Arthur's brother. There are also some standing stones to the west of the garden.


The woodlands lie to the north and west of the house and contain a mix of deciduous trees, including oak, beech, chestnut and sycamore dating from the mid-19th century. The woods have been thinned to allow natural regeneration. There are some younger conifers, aged between 30-40 years old, and the woodlands outwith the policies are dedicated under Forestry Commission Dedication Schemes and managed by other members of the family as part of the farm. There is a copse of sycamore, yew and holly along the east drive, underplanted with spring bulbs.

The Gardens

The stepped terraces are sited along the south front of the house, constructed by Mrs Duncan to enable easy gardening without having to bend. The terraces are planted out with rock garden plants, and white roses are grown along the terrace. To the south of the terraces are fruit trees on lawns with daffodils naturalised throughout. Beyond this orchard, views extend across the field to the old windmill and to the hills in the south.

To the east of the house are some troughs filled with gentians. The path leads past the troughs to the walled garden which is enclosed by a brick wall and beech hedge and which is planted out with fruit bushes. Hybrid tea roses grow in the centre and there is a fine Magnolia in the north-west corner. Shrubs and spring bulbs are grown in the south-facing border.

The mill pond lies to the west of the house and is fed by a small burn but is subject to drying-up sometimes in summer, as a result of which it has become silted in places. The north banks are lined with Rhododendrons under a canopy of woodland. Spring bulbs grow in profusion along the south bank, as do clumps of other plants including water reeds, Cornus, Iris and Primulas. A walk leads along the south bank of the pond and on its south side is a raised bed planted with heathers, Azaleas and roses. The park leads up the glen to the standing stones and also leads to the cherry orchard. This is planted on the south-facing slope of Castle Hill from which the view extends to the hills of the Lake District. A white rose hedge shelters a grass path and a seat has been positioned to take advantage of the view. Daffodils have been planted in broad swathes around the orchard. A lower path leads back to the terraced garden.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts


The Duncan family


The following is from the Historic Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. This site has since been removed from the Inventory, but this text has been retained as an archive copy.

Reason for Inclusion

An attractive garden comprising pondside, terrace and trough plantings, which forms an attractive setting for a Victorian house.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

20th century.

Site History

The gardens have been laid out and developed in the 20th century by Mrs A. Duncan and, since 1970, by Sir Arthur and Lady Duncan.

The site of one of the numerous early forts in this area lies just to the north-west of Castlehill House and the shape of it can still be distinguished on the ground today. A farmhouse was built at Castlehill before the 1st edition map of 1850. The windmill is thought to date from the 17th century and is of Dutch design. The present house dates from the mid-19th century and has the initial K carved above the porch and is thought to have been built for a Kennedy. The gardens are of more recent design and were begun by Mrs. Adeline Duncan who had the terraces to the south of the house constructed and planted up. The present owner is her great-nephew and the gardens were developed since Mrs Duncan's death by her son and daughter-in-law, Sir Arthur and Lady Duncan, who moved to Castlehill in 1970. Sir Arthur Duncan was Chairman of the Nature Conservancy Council between 1953-61, and there are some insect-houses to the north of the house where Sir Arthur continued his studies until his death. Lady Duncan continues to develop the gardens and has added a trough garden and a walk beside the pond up to a viewpoint on the slope of Castle Hill.

Features & Designations


  • House (featured building)
  • Description: A two-storey Victorian house.
  • Terrace
  • Pond
  • Description: Millpond.
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential








  • Historic Scotland