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The extensive, well-preserved parkland associated with Dawyck House includes remnants of an 18th-century formal layout. The woodland garden, situated on a steep slope above the River Tweed, was largely developed during the 19th and 20th centuries and is now an outpost of Edinburgh Botanic Garden. It contains many first introductions of exotic conifers as well as woodland shrubs and perennials. There are early-19th-century formal terraces around the house.

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:

A unique, historic arboretum with many early conifer introductions. Now managed by the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Dawyck Botanic Garden is set within the wider 18th and 19th century designed landscape of the Dawyck estate, featuring a main house, formal garden terraces, surviving tree-lined vistas and wider parkland, woodland and forestry elements.

Location, Area, Boundaries, Landform and Setting

Dawyck is set within the upland valley of the River Tweed, 8 miles (12 km) to the south west of Peebles. It is formed by the core garden areas around Dawyck House, including the Botanic Garden grounds, and the surrounding Dawyck Estate, which comprises parkland, farmland and commercial forestry plantations. Occupying the rising ground above the south bank of the Tweed, the designed landscape is located at the heart of the Upper Tweeddale National Scenic Area.

The wider landscape is characterised by the meandering river, prominent hillside woodlands and the strong relief of the narrow, steep-sided valley and flanking, rounded hills. Dawyck offers significant variety and interest in this landscape through the visual contrast between the open and forested components and the mixed textures and exotic conifers of the Botanic Garden arboretum. Due to its height above sea-level and inland situation, Dawyck exhibits an almost continental climate and the garden is considered to be the coldest of the four managed by the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.

Vital protection is offered by the large coniferous plantations that delimit most of the boundary of the designed landscape (to the south-east, south and west), while within the arboretum, the tributary valley of the Scrape Burn, which drains the upper hillslope from south to north and which descends towards Dawyck House through a glen, offers microclimate conditions for localised planting. The designed landscape encompasses some 431ha (1065ac) and is bounded to the north by the Tweed and to the north-east by the old track from Dawyck Mill to Lour.

Principal Building

Dawyck House is a Scottish Jacobean mansion built to designs by William Burn, 1832-7 with substantial later additions by John A. Campbell in 1898 and extensions by Robert Lorimer in 1909. Built to replace an older residence, the house is distinguished by its long north and south fronts and busy skyline of crow-stepped gables, turreted towers, and diagonally-set chimney-heads. Garden terraces and stonework to the south were executed c.1820s-30s by a team of Italian landscape gardeners with later remodelling and architectural ornamentation (urns and faceted globe finials) by Edinburgh architect, John Lessels, 1871.

Through the trees to the south-west of the house, the L-plan chapel is of coursed whinstone with sandstone dressing and is another creation of William Burn (1837). Erected on the site of an earlier chapel, it contains a late-medieval font and features a three-light stained glass north window. The distinctive stone bridge over Scrape Burn was built in 1856, and is known as the Dutch bridge on account of its design. The square walled garden to the north of Dawyck House was built c.1898 with high brick walls and contains a small greenhouse.

A late 19th-century, picturesque lodge at the main entrance to the policies features a timber-gabled entrance porch and decorative gunloops. A short distance to the west, stables with central gabled pend, were built c.1863 and converted c.1909 to accommodate motor cars. On the main road, the picturesque row of Bellspool Cottages c.1800, were also reconstructed in 1909 when Arts and Crafts detailing was added. In the western part of the designed landscape, Wester Dawyck comprises an early 19th-century house, originally built for James Naesmyth c.1819 with late 19th-century extensions. A more recent architectural addition to the designed landscape is the visitor centre, a low, glass-fronted complex erected in 2008 to replace its smaller predecessor.

Entrances and Approaches

The main, shared approach to both Dawyck House and the Botanic Garden enters from the road at Bellspool, close to the River Tweed. Passing through gate piers and by a picturesque lodge, it leads through parkland before diverging. This drive was established during the second half of the 19th century and replaced the preceding formal approach to the north. Depicted on 18th-century maps and estate plans, this straight, tree-lined approach mirrored the alignments of the wider formal landscape. It led south-west from a fording point through the Tweed and at a gateway to the north of Dawyck House, it turned a 90° angle to accomplish the final approach.


The Dawyck parklands of Fore Field, Greenhouse Field and Bowers Knowe Deer Park occupy a swathe of the lower valley ground along the south bank of the River Tweed. Mostly enclosed by woodlands, they feature sizable clumps of broadleaves and a good number of individual specimens including beech, ash and oak. This informal design, largely established during the earlier 19th century, was certainly in place by the time of the first Ordnance Survey, (1855-8, OS 25' and 6'). There remain, however, distinctive older design features within the present parklands. Most notable are the lines of trees that denote the principal vistas. Although now blocked with a belt of hardwoods planted in the late 20th century to preserve the privacy of Dawyck House, the main vista extending from the house down to the Tweed is otherwise intact. The limes that form the East Avenue, to the east of Dawyck House, meanwhile, also persist as a strong, linear historic landscape feature within the otherwise sinuous structure of the 19th century parkland setting.


The diverse woodland elements at Dawyck are of vital importance to the overall character of the designed landscape.

Coniferous plantations

Long established forestry plantations extend around the margins of the designed landscape and along the upper hillsides above the arboretum and Dawyck House. Although managed on a commercial basis, they are also critical in providing shelter for the gardens.


Accessed by a network of historic walks and more recent grass and gravel paths, the arboretum forms the heart of Dawyck Botanic Garden. The collection of historic conifer trees extends up and down the Scrape Burn Glen with the Dutch Bridge over the burn forming a key viewing stage. As a group, they are scenically impressive in terms of scale, form, texture and grandeur. Individually, they each possess a story that links them and Dawyck to the wider historical context of arboriculture collection, plant expeditions and scientific discovery from the late 17th to 19th centuries.

Although a few specimens have been lost over the years, numerous great conifers remain. They include Dawyck's oldest tree; a European silver fir planted in 1680, an elderly European larch, planted 1725, a Douglas fir that stands at over 50m tall, and a Brewer's weeping spruce; one of the first to be introduced to Britain in 1908 and a conservation concern in the wild due to its limited range in the Siskiyou Mountains of Oregon and northern California. There are also several fine specimens of the Dawyck beech, (Fagus sylvatica 'Dawyck'), propagated from the original unique fastigiate-form tree discovered by Sir John Naesmyth in 1860. Below these majestic specimens are a range of ferns, flowering shrubs and seasonal plants that create pools of texture and colour within the garden. Snowdrops, then daffodils and Himalayan blue poppies (Meconopsis 'Slieve Donard') flower from the early spring to early summer, while the collection of rhododendrons, first developed by F. R. S. Balfour in the early 20th century, is continually replenished, and presently numbers over 80 different species.

Today, the strategy of new planting implemented over recent decades by the Royal Botanic Garden has given rise to new areas of interest in the arboretum. Organised into groups according to geographic origin, planting 'regions' now include Europe, China, Japan and the Himalayas, near the top of the garden. Meanwhile, through their involvement with the International Conifer Conservation Programme (ICCP), the RBGE at Dawyck has also developed important new stands of Dawn redwoods, critically endangered in the wild, and Sicilian firs, the most threatened conifer species in Europe.

Heron Wood Reserve and Cryptogamic Sanctuary

Located above the arboretum, to the east of Scrape Burn Glen, this mixed woodland reserve offers a varied range of habitats and also contains the world's first cryptogamic sanctuary, an area dedicated to the study of organisms whose reproductive cycle occurs out of sight, such as fungi and mosses. Heron Wood is a long-established area of woodland and the site of an old heronry, first mentioned in 1497 and further described in 1715 (Bulloch and Urquhart 1964; Pennicuik 1715). Management under the RBGE now prioritises the preservation of habitat and the encouragement of biodiversity in this attractive woodland. Trees include oak, holly, silver birch, beech and mature Scots pine, grown from seeds gathered from the original Caledonian forest near Braemar during the 19th century. Unlike other parts of Dawyck, fallen timber is left in place to encourage a rich micro-habitat for ground flora.

Water Features

The Fish pond, Scrape Burn and the Dynamo Pond provide three very distinct water features at Dawyck. Although Scrape Burn is a natural hydrological feature, there are signs that it has been manipulated in its upper trajectory through Scrape Glen and alongside the house in order to create small rills and more dramatic cascades. The bubbling, fast-flowing water contrasts with the Fish Pond, which lies outside the Botanic Garden boundary in the centre of the long, tree-lined, former vista between Dawyck House and the Tweed. Cartographic evidence suggests that this long, straight-edged canal with semi-circular ends was a symmetrical, ornamental placid water feature created in the last thirty years of the 18th century (Armstrong 1775; Home 1797). At the top of Scrape Glen, and accessed via improved visitor paths, Dynamo Pond was formerly part of the infrastructure designed to generate electricity for Dawyck House through piping water down the hill. It was restored in 1983.

The Gardens

The structure of the gardens around Dawyck House derives mostly from 19th century projects to build and adorn formal garden enclosures and walks. Rectangular lawn terraces enclosed by low stone walls extend from the main fronts of the house and are connected by paths and short flights of stone steps. The initial, earlier 19th century earth-moving and construction was executed by Italian landscape gardeners, who had previously worked for relatives of the Naesmyths (Daniel and McDermott 2008: 8), while later remodelling of the walls, and the addition of distinctive stone urns and finials, took place c.1871.

Although the gardens immediately around Dawyck House remain private, the associated 19th-century walks, with their stone seats, steps, plinths and lichenated urns are now incorporated within the Botanic Garden, and help provide an appropriate architectural setting for nearby planting schemes, such as the large groups of herbaceous perennials (Hosta, Ligularia, Geranium and Gunnera), hardy ferns and rhododendron.

Other garden elements in the Botanic Garden include the Scottish Rare Plants Trail, developed during the 1990s to help conserve rare or threatened wild species, the Beech walk, which crosses the long vista above Dawyck House, and the Azalea Terrace. This walk, with a mown grass path, is banked by highly scented azaleas planted to produce an exceptional summer display. Part of the 19th-century garden scheme around Dawyck House, the terrace was restored in the late 20th century and is now one of the most photographed parts of the Botanic Garden. The Azalea Terrace also forms a good vantage point for appreciating the alignments of the older formal garden of the 18th century. From the upper part of the walk, views extend along the historic lime avenue on the other side of Dawyck House, which stretches for nearly half a mile (0.75 km) to the north-east.

Walled Garden

A square walled garden commissioned by Mrs Balfour c.1898, is located a short distance to the north of Dawyck house. Protected by high brick walls, the garden contains a small greenhouse along the north-west wall and has long been divided into quadrants. Two are laid to grass, while those nearest the greenhouse are densely planted with vegetables and flowers.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts


01721 760254

Access contact details

Open daily from 1 February - 30 November
March to October, 10am - 5pm
February and November, 10am - 4pm

For more details visit the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh website or contact 01721760254


Detailed directions can be found on the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh website.


  • Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

  • Dawyck Estate


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:

Distinguished by its exceptional history of planting, documented early introductions, range of plant material and surviving heritage trees, Dawyck arboretum is of outstanding national and international significance for its horticultural value, historic importance, and role in nature conservation. The designed landscape is also notable for the presence of the archaeological remains of Lour fort and settlement, scheduled on account of their national importance.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

17th-18th century, 1820s-50s, 1898-1930s, 1979-present

The long, horticulturally outstanding history of Dawyck is well documented. It features three families, all instrumental in creating the present design structure, and more recently, the Royal Botanical Garden of Edinburgh (RBGE), the driving force behind the collection of the present Botanic Garden.

13th- 17th Century

From the 13th to late 17th centuries, the lairds of Dawyck were the Veitches. Their estate encompassed the old medieval and post-medieval village of Lour, the earthwork remains of which form part of a nationally-important archaeological site towards the north east of the designed landscape. In a region otherwise devoid of trees in the 1500s and 1600s, the Veitches established a significant tract of woodland, probably of Scots pine, beech and oak (Daniel and McDermott 2008: 6), and introduced many species then unknown in Scotland.

In 1650 they planted Scotland's first horse chestnuts, two of which survived until 1932, and later, the first Silver firs. One of these, planted 1680, still stands on the edge of Heron Wood and is the oldest tree at Dawyck.

Troubled by debts, John Veitch sold the long-held family estate in 1691 to Sir James Naesmyth, a prosperous advocate who commissioned a new house to replace the Veitches old peel tower and who began the task of transforming the surrounding grounds. Roy's map of the 1750s is a good indication of the emerging formal landscape developed during the lifetime of Naesmyth (d.1720), and his son, also Sir James, while an estate plan drawn up in 1797 reveals the full formal design (RCAHMS A67234 CS). It is a symbol of order, status and financial wherewithal; long, tree-lined axial vistas centre on the house and dissect the substantial woodlands above, which are also criss-crossed by diagonal rides and clearings.

The lower grounds around the house, with its surrounding levelled garden, feature an ornamental canal between the house and Tweed, enclosed parks and a kitchen garden with greenhouse. James Naesmyth, a botanist who probably studied under Linnaeus in Sweden, planted European larches in 1725, trees which were then virtually unknown in Scotland. (An oral tradition also exists that Linnaeus actually came and planted the trees himself, (R.Balfour pers.comm. 2009) ). The policies were certainly admired, with Mostyn Armstrong commenting on the 'taste and elegance' of the gardens, which had rendered Dawyck the 'model of imitation' among the gentry of Tweeddale' (Armstrong 1775).

19th Century

The 19th century brought significant change with Sir John Murray Naesmyth (1803-76), a keen plantsman himself, exercising a strong influence on the development of the landscape. Having been partially destroyed by fire, the old house was demolished in 1830 and over subsequent years a new residence was built to designs by William Burn, and a new garden scheme executed. Paths adorned by urns, seats and balustrades now led family members and guests out into gardens and woods that increasingly became an arena for the exhibition of new, exotic trees and plants. These were acquired by Naesmyth through his interest in the contemporary expeditionary journeys to the Far East and Western North America, and the exotic conifers tracked down by the likes of David Douglas. Beyond the immediate grounds of the house, the tree-lined vistas were retained, while the rectangular enclosures of the lower fields were removed in order to create a more fashionable tract of parkland. Sir John Murray Naesmyth is also known for locating and transplanting an unusual upright seedling beech at Dawyck in 1860, the original Fagus sylvatica 'Dawyck', or Dawyck beech.

In 1897, the estate was sold to Mrs Balfour, widow of Fife merchant Alexander Balfour. By this time, much of the structure of the present designed landscape was in place. However, unlike other late-Victorian and early-Edwardian gardens, which commenced a slow decline during the 20th century, the plant collections and woods were maintained and enriched further. In particular, F. R. S. Balfour achieved renown as a forester, nursery-man and collector, who subscribed to Ernest Wilson's expeditions to China. Although a couple of his innovations later proved unfortunate (such as the introduction of the invasive salmonberry shrub and a small herd of Japanese Sika deer), Balfour succeeded in supplementing the already diverse plantings with a great range of rhododendrons, hybrids, more rare conifers and huge numbers of the more humble daffodil, still very much a feature of the spring time gardens at Dawyck.

20th Century

The involvement of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and the division of the Dawyck Estate dates to the late 1970s. A hurricane-force gale had decimated the plantations in January 1968 and the damage was compounded by a further storm and severe frost in 1973. Recognising both the value of the gardens, and the impossibly high cost of restoring them, the then owner, Colonel Balfour gifted the arboretum to the nation in 1978 on behalf of the Dawyck Estate. Dawyck House and its immediate garden-ground was sold separately. Under the direction of the RBGE, the immediate priority was to repair the storm damage, remove damaged timber, clear invasive shrubs and weeds, and to develop a new infrastructure of paths and bridges through which the gardens could be enjoyed by visitors. This process continued well into the 1980s, with the Dawyck Botanic Garden opening to the public for the first time in 1984.

21st Century

Visitor numbers have steadily increased since then and a new, larger visitor centre was opened to cater for the growing numbers in 2008

Decisions about the botanical garden at Dawyck are now subject to a collection policy, recently defined in 2006 (Daniel and McDermott 2008:19-21). Objectives include the maintenance of the woodland canopy for future generations, the preservation of the historic structure of the gardens, and the continuation of the rich horticultural and arboricultural tradition. Conservation is now a primary driving force, with collection programmes, garden features and horticultural practice increasingly determined by the need to maintain habitats, or establish breeding populations of rare and threatened plants or trees. Since the 1990s, an altered grass-cutting regime has encouraged the growth of native wild flowers, for instance, while the International Conifer Conservation Programme (implemented 1991) remains instrumental in monitoring world-wide conservation concerns and developing new planting programmes. As a whole, the collection is well studied, documented and monitored, with recent initiatives increasing the accessibility of information via the Internet through a searchable catalogue of the living collection.

Associated People
Features & Designations


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


  • Avenue
  • Ornamental Canal
  • House (featured building)
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Planting
  • Description: The woodland garden is situated on a steep slope above the River Tweed.
  • Garden Terrace
Key Information





Principal Building






Open to the public


Electoral Ward

Peebles and Upper Tweed




  • Historic Scotland