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Cluny House


The mid-20th-century woodland garden at Cluny House was created under the canopy of mid- to late-19th-century conifers on a steep slope overlooking the Strathtay Valley. There is a wide variety of small trees and shrubs, some of them tender, and particularly good collections of Himalayan and Chinese woodland perennials and alpines.

The following is from the Historic Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Scotland website:

Type of Site

A woodland garden, initiated in 1950, created under the canopy of trees planted in the 19th century, with informal terrace, steep wooded hillside, woodland walks and glades with channelled views towards the Tay valley, where plants introduced from the Himalayas from plant hunting expeditions in the 1930s have experienced ideal growing conditions. This rare collection hosts, for example, Himalayan and Chinese alpines, tender tree species and shrub and tree species chosen for seasonal colour.

Location and Setting

Cluny House is situated on a minor road between Weem and Strathtay some 5 miles (8km) east of Aberfeldy and 4 miles (6.5km) west of Strathtay. It lies facing south- east at some 600' (183m) above sea level on the grassy hillside above the steep wooded slopes of the Tay valley. A minor road borders the site to the south and, along the northern side, it is edged by fields. The soils are light and acid with natural deposits of peat giving some wet areas while others remain quite dry. The average annual rainfall is about 40". In winter the climate is severe and the gardens are liable to late spring frosts. The woodland canopy protects the garden from the cold easterly winds, and on the western side the ground rising to Cluny Rock, 1,339' (408m), also protects it from the prevailing winds. Along the steep slopes of the Tay valley there is a mixture of small fields and patches of woodland. Above this patchwork is open moorland rising to the Uplands of the Western Grampians. There are long views up the Tay westwards to Ben Lawers 3,984' (1,214m) and Ben More 3,852' (1,174m) and southward across the valley to Grandtully Hill 1,747' (532m). The woodland contributes to the surrounding scenery and can be seen from the A827 running along the south side of the valley.

Cluny House lies in the centre of the northern half of the policies. The house and Cluny Wood are clearly shown on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey plan, dated 1862. The small park to the east of the house is now the woodland garden which has been created since 1950. Today the designed landscape extends to an area of some 114 acres (46ha).

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Cluny House was built in the 1800s, enlarged in the 1850s, and modernised in the 1950s. The Stables and Outbuildings were contemporary with the house and the Kennels were rebuilt in the 1880s.

The Gardens

The Garden was created by the Mastertons under a canopy of mature trees, mainly conifers. Some of the trees were planted in about 1850 and others in about 1880. There is a magnificent cut-leaf beech on the lawn which was planted at this time. At the opposite end, there is a large silver fir and there are also two large Wellingtonias dating from this period. The house sits on a broad terrace which is cut into the bank. Formerly part of the entrance drive, the terrace is now a wide lawn containing several island beds filled with precious sun-loving plants including some remarkable Lilies. From this terrace the garden extends down the steep wooded hillside. Many smaller trees, such as Snakebark maples and white berried Sorbus, have been planted throughout the garden and particularly on the edge of the lawn, identifying the entrance to the narrow paths which lead down the hill and through the woodland. The paths zig-zag down the steep slope and curl around some of the larger tree trunks. Trees with colourful bark have been planted near to them so that the visitor can appreciate their texture.

There are also several flowering trees overhanging the paths. Between the trees or larger shrubs, small raised beds full of Primulas, gentians, lilies and many other interesting perennial plants flourish, many of them naturalizing. Each glade or bed has been carefully thought out. Following denser planting there are often openings in the canopy which give breathtaking glimpses of the Tay valley far below, although these are becoming obscured by tree growth.

Under the shelter of the tall canopy grow some tender trees which are most unusual in this part of central Scotland They include Hoheria lyallii, Embothrium coccineum, and Eucryphia x nymanensis. The Mastertons have collected many birches and maples particularly for their coloured bark. They have also chosen plants such as Disanthus cercidifolius for their autumn foliage, although since the survey in 1982 some of these plants have died. Behind the house the bank rises steeply and here the Mastertons planted a shrubbery shortly after they arrived. On the north side they have built a small greenhouse where most of the propagating and raising of seeds take place. Above the bank to the west on the crest of the hill, lie the stables, kennels, barn and other outbuildings. Beyond them the Mastertons have purchased some extra land and have already planted it with special trees and large shrubs.

However the real glory of the garden are the Himalayan and Western Chinese alpines including Primulas, Meconopsis of all kinds, and lilies. Many of these alpines, which barely grow at all elsewhere in the country, grow well here. Cluny has been awarded the National Collection of Asiatic Primulas from the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts


07818 065966

Access contact details

The gardens are open from February to October, 10am to 6pm. Visitors are welcome in the winter also on a donation basis.


Mr J and Mrs W Mattingley


The following is from the Historic Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Scotland website:

Reason for Inclusion

An outstanding woodland garden developed in the 1950s and containing a valuable and rare collection of plants many of which were brought from Himalayan and Chinese plant hunting expeditions.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

The policies were laid out by the 1860s with tree planting in 1850 and 1880, the garden created since 1950.

Site History

The policies had been laid out by the 1860s and the garden created from 1950.

Little is known about the early history of the site. The house was built in about 1800 and additions were made in about 1850 to convert it into a shooting Lodge. In the 1860s, the main drive swept up the hill from Edradynate where there was a Lodge at the eastern end of the policies marking this entrance. In 1950, the Masterton family bought the house and surrounding woodlands but, by then, the policies and Walled Garden which lay at the foot of the hill were no longer part of the estate. The Mastertons created the garden with a unique plant collection based on many plants introduced by the Ludlow and Sherriff plant hunting expeditions to the Himalayas in the 1930s. The Mastertons found that they could grow many of these plants and that the plants also naturalized themselves in the moist cool summers and the dry winters under snow cover.

Features & Designations


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


  • House (featured building)
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
Key Information


Woodland Garden


Ornamental Garden

Principal Building






Open to the public




  • Historic Scotland, 'Cluny House', {Gardens and Designed Landscapes}, [accessed 14 November 2007]


  • Historic Scotland