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Craigengillan (also known as Over and Nether Berbeth and Kraigthead, Darbeth, Barbeth, Berbeth)


The Craigengillan estate largely retains the structure of its 18th-century layout, which is currently being restored and enhanced by investment in hedge and tree planting and the creation of lochs. Closer to the house there are formal gardens, a walled garden and a Japanese garden. The drystone walls, first built in the late-18th century, were renowned for their construction technique. The wider estate has a glen and several sites of high value for nature conservation.

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

A complete designed landscape dating from the latter half of the 18th century, incorporating a Category A listed mansion house, formal gardens, walled garden, Japanese garden, garden buildings and notable drystone walling, extensive policy woodland, rocky gorge, and industrial archaeological remnants.

Location and Setting

Craigengillan is located immediately to the southeast of Dalmellington village, with its northern boundary abutting the A713 Ayr-Castle Douglas road. The end of Ness Glen marks the southern boundary, whilst the south-eastern boundary follows the minor public road from the A713 to Loch Doon.

Craigengillan lies 14 miles from the sea, at 170m above sea level at Bogton Loch to the north of the estate, rising to 290m at the summit of Carwaur, and 367m at the top of Auchenroy Hill.

To the north of Craigengillan, between Patna and Dalmellington, the landscape is largely barren treeless moorland. To the east, south and southwest of Craigengillan, lie the heather and tree covered slopes of Auldcraigoch Hill, Bryan's Heights and the Wee Hill of Glenmount. The landscape to the south becomes more rugged with rocky outcrops and the Ness Glen gorge, at the south end of the estate. There are fine panoramic views of the surrounding hills from Craigengillan House and different parts of the gardens and landscape. There are also spectacular views of the rocky gorge through Ness Glen.

Until the 1840s, the landscape around Craigengillan and around the village of Dalmellington was largely agricultural. Stone quarrying took place on the land before ironstone and coal were discovered locally and were mined extensively during the industrial revolution. Although the iron smelting ceased more than 30 years ago, and the coal mining will finish in the next few years, the impact on the local landscape has been considerable. However the landscape is now (2011) recovering and more closely resembles its pre-industrial state. The nearby Conservation Village of Waterside contains many buildings and blast furnaces now listed for their industrial archaeological importance.

Craigengillan was first established as an estate in 1580, encompassing 12,140 hectares and extending to Carsphairn in Dumfries and Galloway. The current estate comprises 1,162 hectares, and the designed landscape covers all of this area, bounded to the north by Dalmellington and the B741 road, to the west by the Forestry Commission of Scotland plantations established on Auldcraigoch Hill, to the south by the end of the Ness Glen, and the east by Bellsbank village and Bellsbank forestry plantation.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The core part of Craigengillan House was built in 1765 when it was then called Berbeth. It was then enlarged in the early 19th century and later romanticised with the addition of crowstepped gables. A glazed Gothic arcaded porch was extended along the front and a tall battlemented tower built at the side, both in the early 19th century and possibly by David Hamilton. Exceptional interior work was carried out by Jansen of Paris in 1902 to the main hall, staircase, drawing room, boudoir and morning room.

The late 18th century two-storey Stable Court has an impressive central entrance tower which consists of a round-arched vaulted entrance passage, above which sits a Venetian-style window, a towerblock inset with a clock and crowned by a leaded dome and weathervane.

The remarkable subterranean Ice House situated near the north wing of the house is reachable by ladder and descends eight metres to a two-metre wide vaulted passageway. The ice chamber is at the end of this passage, another four metres below ground. The whole structure is made of dressed stone. The melting ice drained into The Tunnel, another unique piece of construction and engineering, consisting of a two-metre high vaulted roof and a floor with a carved stone channel. The entire structure is built with dressed stone and it runs for 200 metres, draining the main lawn as well as taking the overflow from the water garden.

The Gatehouse at the entrance to Craigengillan and Home Farmhouse were built into the landscape in the late 18th/early 19th centuries. Derelict farm and mill buildings lie adjacent to the farmhouse and there is an unusual ha-ha enclosing a roundel close by that could have been used as a drying green. The two-storey stone-built former gardener's house of Pine Cottage was built around 1860 and has recently been completely renovated. The two ruined (until recently) Glessel Cottages adjacent to Glessel Burn probably date from the early 19th century, although Pont's 1654 map shows a settlement on this area. The westernmost cottage, long known as 'Find Me Out', has an adjoining stone walled garden and animal enclosure. This and the adjacent 'Forget Me Not' cottage have been restored.

Only the base stones remain of the circular Gazebo which occupies a prominent viewpoint position on Corson's Knowe, close to the house and overlooking the River Doon and Dalfarson Park. Just the stone enclosure remains of the Summerhouse above the formal gardens, and there are only traces of the brick foundations of the Observatory in the woodland north of the drive. The Well, a domed stone water cistern dated 1802, set within the upper part of the formal garden, and built to bring water to the stables, is being (2011) restored.

Linn River Bridge is a single rusticated stone-arched bridge carrying the drive over the River Doon. Dalcairney Bridge is a single-arch reddish sandstone bridge which was built in the early 1800s and carries the road over the dramatic falls of Dalcairney Linn. Stone Bridge carries the old drive over the River Doon. It dates from the late 18th century and is of single-span sandstone construction with a partly stepped parapet. Muck Bridge crosses Muck Water next to the Gatehouse at the entrance to Craigengillan and has a cast iron parapet with urns. The new steel and wood Ness Glen Suspension Bridge was built in 2004 at the entrance to Ness Glen to the south of the estate, and is based on a similar bridge at Blair Castle in Perthshire.

There are many Walls, Dykes and Ha-has in the designed landscape at Craigengillan. Many of the field boundaries are stone dykes in varying states of repair. They are built from large granite boulders that were pushed through Loch Doon from Carsphairn by glaciers, before being deposited on the slopes below Ness Glen. Along the line of the original drive between Linn River Bridge and Stone Bridge there is a well-built ha-ha, about 500 metres long, in good condition today with minimal maintenance during the last 100 years.

Drives and Approaches

The original stone drive which was used until 1770 and followed the east bank of the River Doon is clearly visible today. The road engineer John McAdam built the new three-kilometre drive from Dalmellington in 1770 and it remains the same today. The first half of the drive is open in character with views over Bogton Loch and the wetlands. The drive then becomes increasingly wooded and fine specimen trees become more frequent as one progresses towards the house. The specimens include cedar, silver fir, yew, lime, beech, Turkey oak, Wellingtonia and Douglas fir, and some of the wooded areas are underplanted with box and Rhododendron.

Paths and Walks

The Ladies' Walk through the Ness Glen is one of the most spectacular walks in any designed landscape.

The Ness Glen carries the River Doon in its stream stage from Loch Doon to Dalfarson Park. It was described as 'One of the finest examples in Britain of a true rock gorge'' in the Ordnance Survey Gazetteer of Scotland in 1903. The Ordnance Survey Name Book for the 1856 1st Edition maps describes the gorge at length, paying particular attention to the path that had been constructed and the planting that had been done:

'The river side of the low walk is edged with a row of trees, the branches of many of which have been forced by the application of pressure during their early growth, to droop over the water. On the other side trails of ivy and shrubs of the evergreen class and rose bushes have been trained up the rocks for some distance, and thus, by softening the ruggedness of that portion of the glen immediately under the eye of the visitor - affording him a means of contrast with the terrors overhead, whose sublime character might suffer from a close inspection ' has been effected the only introduction of art which could in any way have heightened the effect of this imposing scenery.'

The stream has cut a 60-metre deep channel through the rock with straight perpendicular sides, barely wider than its own width. The humidity within the gorge supports one of the biggest collections of ferns and mosses in southern Scotland, with vigorous growth draping the trees and cliffsides. The recently restored footpath along the Ladies' Walk follows the original path constructed by Quentin McAdam, 'who conceived the idea of making the beauty spot readily accessible and opening it to the public.' Many new footbridges have been installed to enable the continuation of the walkway and a new Suspension Bridge has been built at the entrance to the glen. A new footpath has been created leading to Dalcairnie Falls and onwards to the summit of Auchenroy.

The drive is used by walkers and there is an old public right of way crossing the estate. The current owner is creating (2011) a new public footpath from the Doon Valley Museum in the centre of Dalmellington through policy woodlands and Dalfarson Park, crossing the River Doon over the Suspension Bridge and then leading up through the Ness Glen to the shores of Loch Doon.


The two principal areas of parkland are to the northeast of the house, House Park and Dalfarson Park. The recently constructed Craigengillan Loch was installed in House Park. Both parkland areas show up clearly on Armstrong's map of 1775 and the 1856 OS 1st Edition map, as do parkland areas on Bellsbank Brae and Dalcairnie. New parkland tree planting has been done to re-establish the old parkland pattern. This has been in the form of cedar, lime, oak and Sequoia roundels at Bellsbank Brae, Dalcairnie and in the area known as The Promised Land.


The policy woodland borders the drive and extends around the formal gardens. The drive woodland becomes finer as one progresses towards the house, with a fine range of exotic specimen plantings such as Wellingtonia and turkey oak. Around the formal gardens, the policy woodland is dominated by a backcloth of cypresses, cedars, Wellingtonia, yews and maples. Beyond this planting mix and higher up the slope are mature beech, pine and Douglas fir. The woodland is criss-crossed by a network of paths and rides.

There are over 300 hectares of woodland on the estate, in addition to the avenues and individual parkland trees. Of the more recently planted woodland, some small-sized Sitka spruce plantations remain on the estate, but considerable areas of coniferous planting have been cleared and replaced by a traditional native broadleaved and Scots pine mixture.

The 35 acre Craighead Wood to the south of the mansion house was cleared of spruce and replanted in 2004 with hardwoods, predominantly oak, and the old 19th century paths restored. Replanting has been limited to the lower slopes of Craighead in order to retain the views of the skyline ridge, part of the dramatic backcloth to Craigengillan House. A fort of timber construction, the Fort Carrick Outdoor Activities Centre, has been created on the Craighead ridge. In 2009 Galloway Forest Park was designated as the first Dark Sky Park in Britain. Inspired by this, the Scottish 'Dark Sky Observatory' and Visitor Centre is being established within 200 yards of the Fort.

Auchenroy Wood, on the slopes of Auchenroy Hill, was planted in 2004 with a mixture of entirely native species, including oak, yew, hazel, wild cherry, rowan, birch, ash and juniper. The summit of the hill, knowes and gorges have been left open and large glades established within the outer boundaries. For natural effect, straight lines have been avoided and the upper margins tapered upwards with wild cherry and juniper. Individual tree specimens, including Scarlet and Turkey oaks, Wellingtonias and Grand firs, have been planted within the wood to reflect and extend the influence of the Craigengillan designed landscape.

Over the last 9 years careful tree planting has been carried out with the aim of extending the influence of the core Designed Landscape to the whole estate. This is reflected in the design of the new Auchenroy Wood, the Diamond Wood and the planting of lime avenues and roadside trees right to the A713 and the edge of Dalmellington. 18 new roundels of parkland trees have been created, as show on the enclosed plan. Species chosen are those that mirror those within the immediate parkland around Craigengillan House. They include Wellingtonia, horse chestnut, Atlantic and other cedars, Noble and Grand Firs, oak, beech and lime.

Craigengillan has been selected as one of 60 sites in Britain to plant a Diamond Wood of 80 acres to mark the Queen's Jubilee in 2012. Although the site of the proposed wood is largely outside the boundary of the designed landscape at Shalloch, the Diamond Wood will make an important contribution to the structural backdrop to Craigengillan House. The wood will be approached by footpath from within the designed landscape, passing the dramatic and picturesque Dalcairnie Falls.

A further 120 hectares of broadleaved trees are being planted on Carwaur and Shalloch Hills (2012). The woods have been carefully designed to enhance and extend the designed landscape and to create a mosaic of woodland and hill pasture.

Water Features

Bogton Loch covers more than 60 acres and has a small island called Elisabeth Isle, believed to be a crannog. The loch is a favourite site for birdwatchers and is fringed by extensive reedbeds and wetland that provide a rich and undisturbed habitat for wildlife. Wildflowers include meadowsweet, orchids, valerian, and ragged robin. Salmon and trout pass through the loch, but pike is the predominant fish. Otters are sometimes seen. Shear Loch, the source of the Glessel Burn, is a peaty hill loch fringed with waterliles.

The River Doon runs through Craigengillan for approximately four kilometres and contributes much to the character of the landscape. Loch Doon is the source of the river but is not within the designed landscape. The river Doon enters Craigengillan through the Ness Glen rock gorge. The landscape here is Highland in character with ancient Scots pines, rowans and silver birches on top of the craggy banks. Having passed through the glen, the river runs through the grassland and specimen trees of Dalfarson Park in front of the house, then through woodland, reedbeds and undisturbed wetlands, before reaching the open expanse of Bogton Loch. Now swollen by many small burns the river has developed a lowland landscape character from the loch to the estate boundary, before it continues to the sea, finishing its course by passing under the Brig O'Doon, immortalised by Burns.

Muck Water flows under the bridge at the gatehouse and across the northern edge of the designed landscape. This small river passes through an area known as the Promised Land which was used as an airfield during the First World War. Dalcairnie Burn enters the estate through Dalcairnie Glen, and runs close to the site of Berbeth, the original estate house. It forms a dramatic waterfall at Dalcairnie Linn before running in a series of rapids and pools through a wooded gorge, and then finally meandering through meadow and wetland to Bogton Loch. A tributary of the River Doon, the Glessel Burn enters the southwest corner of the designed landscape via a waterfall, and then flows past the (formerly) ruined Glessel Cottages and former gasworks before meeting the Doon at the mouth of the Ness Glen.

There are several man-made water features including the Japanese water garden (see under Gardens), the three curling ponds to the north of the estate by the drive and Bogton Loch. In 2001 the marshy ground in Mansion Park, in front of the house, was excavated to create the new Craigengillan Loch. The edges have been sown with wildflower seed and the islands planted with willows and lent lilies (Narcissus pseudonarcissus). The Ladies' Loch, also known as Wee Berbeth Loch lies in a fold in the hills to the north of the house, and was constructed sometime between 1775 and 1856. It is not shown on Armstrong's map of 1775, but does appear on the 1st Edition OS map of 1856. There was a boathouse which suggests that the loch was used for recreational purposes. A well-constructed stone culvert runs from the loch to the Home Farmhouse, diverting water from the loch to feed a mill. This suggests the loch had a practical purpose too. The Duck Pond, to the west of the house was also constructed between 1775 and 1856 and was created to provide wildfowling and a water supply to the hothouses and Japanese water garden.

The Gardens

The principal formal garden lies to the southwest of the mansion house and is shaped in a natural amphitheatre. There are several notable ancient trees on the slopes, including sycamore, Scots pine and beech. The stone base of the old Summerhouse lies halfway up the northern slope overlooking the lawns. Lining the steps towards the Summerhouse is an avenue of conifers that has now outgrown its intended effect and is out of proportion with its position.

A mature specimen yew tree interrupts the expanse of lawn and forms a focal point in the gardens. There are formal herbaceous borders along the northern side of the lawn. Extensive shrubberies and an informal woodland garden containing a dog cemetery surround the north and western sides of the lawn.

At the western end of the lawn is an Edwardian Japanese water garden, established by James Pulham & Sons in 1904 and extended in 1910, consisting of boulders, specimen shrubs and a series of cascades and interconnecting pools that eventually drain into The Tunnel. The Japanese water garden is currently (2011) under restoration informed by good surviving evidence of natural and Pulhamite rockwork. Further clearance is required to establish the full extent of the water garden. As part of the clearance and restoration, an additional feature and associated footpaths have been discovered north-west of the water garden: a rectangular paved area surrounded by low walls with steps leading down to the lawn.

Closer to the back of the house is a simple parterre arrangement and a sundial, enclosed by one-metre high yew hedging. A network of paths connects the main structural elements of the formal gardens.

To the north and east of the house are more formal lawns, partly edged with Victorian cast iron post and rail fencing, with plantings of Rhododendrons and mixed shrubs, many of which have now outgrown their intended effect. The remaining walled kitchen garden is walled on three sides and still contains the remnants of cold frames, as well as palm, carnation and vine houses. There is also a slate-roofed potting shed built of brick and then rendered.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

Parts of the estate have recently been opened up for walking and other outdoor pursuits.


Mr Mark Gibson


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

Craigengillan is a rare example of a complete and unfragmented estate landscape, started in the 16th century and held by one family (McAdam) for almost 400 years. The designed landscape dates from the late 18th/early 19th century and includes a Category A listed mansion house, and stables, formal gardens, a walled garden and a Japanese water garden, added in the early 20th century, incorporating Pulhamite rockwork, rockeries and waterfalls. Garden buildings and notable drystone walling, extensive policy woodland, a rocky gorge and industrial archaeological remnants are also elements of the designed landscape.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

The estate at Craigengillan has existed since the 16th century, but the layout of the gardens and designed landscape was carried out in the late 18th/early 19th century. The Japanese Garden, rockeries and waterfalls were added in the early 20th century.

Site History

Earlier evidence of occupation on the site include an ancient Bronze Age burial mound on the western shore of Bogton Loch, and the clearly visible medieval field systems and steadings on the Scheduled Monument of Dalnean Hill and at Dalcairney, Auchenroy and Glenhead. Craigengillan was first established in 1580 as the seat of the McAdam family, and it remained in their hands for more than 400 years, until 1999.

Much of the designed landscape structure seen today dates from the latter half of the 18th century. The principal part of the mansion house was built in 1765 and over the next 30 years the fields were enclosed with granite dykes, trees were planted and extensive drainage work undertaken.

John McAdam succeeded to the estate in 1757, and was a great engineer and innovator. He and his kinsman John Louden McAdam became road engineers and invented tarmacadam. John Louden McAdam returned to Scotland from America in 1783, where he had pioneered the 'macadam method' of roadbuilding, building roads slightly higher than ground level to enable them to drain effectively and withstand erosion. Upon his return he embarked on an extensive road and bridge building programme in Ayrshire. John McAdam also used his engineering skills to devise a new method of drystone walling. This involved constructing the wall in sections so that it was much easier to maintain and repair. Together with one of his key estate workers, John McKenzie, he established a school of drystone walling, to which dykers came from all over Scotland to the estate to learn the McAdam method. 'It was said in 1847 that Craigengillan stone dykes were the most extensive and best-built anywhere in the country.' (Moore, 1972).

John McAdam also founded McAdam's Bank in Ayr, and was a patron of the arts who gave early support to Robert Burns, who in turn wrote a poem to McAdam. Armstrong's map of 1775 shows many of the field enclosures, bridges and tree plantings had been completed, as well as the main drive which formed a more direct route to Dalmellington. John McAdam also constructed a dam and sluice gates at the foot of Loch Doon to prevent flooding on the estate. As well as being enthusiastic road builders and engineers, many later McAdams were enthusiastic horse breeders and sportsmen and by 1800 the category A listed stable block was built. During the Boer War the estate shipped 40 horses to South Africa which were used in the Relief of Mafeking.

Quintin McAdam constructed a romantic footpath through the Ness Glen in 1826 with the intention of making the beauty spot accessible to everyone. The glen was described in the 1903 Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland as 'one of the finest examples in Britain of a true rock gorge'. The mansion house was extended around this time, and the Gothic gatehouse built. The formal gardens were laid out during this period, and the cistern, ice house, tunnels and Ladies' Loch were created. In early Victorian times, probably around 1840, the northeast tower and crowstepped gables were added to Craigengillan House and the model home farm was built.

In 1902, interior designers Jansen of Paris were contracted to remodel much of the interior of Craigengillan House. This is possibly the only documented example of Jansen's work in Scotland. They were considered to be the best designers in France in the early 20th century.

The formal gardens were completely redesigned at around this time and the Walled Garden was opened up. The Walled Garden of the early 1800s, as shown on the 1st Edition OS map of 1856, was much reduced in 1900 with the enlargement of the formal gardens. The Japanese water garden was established by James Pulham & Sons in 1904 and extended in 1910. Pulhams also planned and built hothouses within the walled garden in 1914. Much of the immediate policy planting was carried out during this period. This includes many of the conifers which have now outgrown their intended size. Little was done after the early 1900s to alter the designed landscape, apart from the planting of spruce plantations and a limited number of individual hardwoods.

Since 2000, the current owner has planted 27 kilometres of new hedgerows to link the key elements of the designed landscape together by following natural contours. The size and pattern of field boundaries on the organic farm now reflect the medieval fields surviving on the Scheduled Monument of Dalnean Hill.

The gardens are gradually being restored as part of the wider estate management plan. Four kilometres of drystone dykes have been rebuilt according to the old McAdam method. A considerable amount of restoration work has been carried out on the mansion house, stable block and other buildings within the designed landscape. A new loch was created below the house in 2001, two lochs dug out either side of the approach drive and another loch created next to the footpath below Dalcairnie Falls. 27 kilometres of new footpaths have been created. Some of the spruce plantations have been felled and replanted with more historically accurate species, and many specimen trees and tree roundels have been planted. The curling ponds adjacent to the drive are being re-instated.


  • Late 18th Century
  • 18th Century
Features & Designations


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

  • Scheduled Ancient Monument

  • Reference: Dalnean Hill
  • Site of Special Scientific Interest

  • Reference: Bogton Loch
  • Site of Special Scientific Interest

  • Reference: Ness Glen


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


Country Estate



Principal Building



Late 18th Century





Open to the public





  • Historic Scotland