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Doune Of Rothiemurchus


The designed landscape extends along the east banks of the River Spey, to the west of its confluence with the Milton Burn. Remnants of the formal avenue survive and, in views from The Doune, serve to draw the eye south-east. The estate woodlands contain significant stands of Caledonian pine, which broadly, cover the area of 18th century pinewood.

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

Formal landscape dating from the 17th/early 18th century, significantly informalised in the 19th century by parkland laid out in a picturesque design.

Location and Setting

The Doune of Rothiemurchus lies in Strathspey, 4km south of Aviemore and is accessed by the B970. The designed landscape extends along the east banks of the River Spey, to the west of its confluence with the Milton Burn, which issues northwards from Loch an Eilein. Strathspey, broad at this point, forms a division between the Cairngorm and Monadhliath mountains.

The designed landscape dominates its surroundings and, together with Kinrara on the Spey's west banks, contributes to the landscape character of this section of Strathspey. The broad open strath is flanked by undulating hills. These hills contain views along the length of the broad flat floodplain, mainly southwards, where the parkland extends along the riverside, accentuating the long views. Panoramic mountain views are also intrinsic to Rothiemurchus. The Doune provides an elevated vantage point in the valley, from which these views are appreciated. Remnants of the formal avenue survive and, in views from The Doune, serve to draw the eye south-east.

18th century estate surveys indicate a formal landscape laid out east of The Doune, including a grand formal avenue linking The Doune with Ord Bàn (Henderson, 1762; Tait, 1789). As the 19th century landscape became informal, so the southern section of this avenue was removed, a late 18th/early 19th century development (1868, OS 6").

By the 19th century, parkland extended across the valley floor to include the lower, east-facing slopes of Ord Bàn and the banks of the Milton Burn. The extent of the designed landscape remains unchanged since.

The estate woodlands contain significant stands of Caledonian pine, which broadly, cover the area of 18th century pinewood (Smout, 1997, p.116).

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The Doune dates from the late 17th century with various additions up to the mid 19th century. The principal block faces south and is five bays wide and two storeys high. Above the entrance door is a Venetian window. The Doune Farm Cottages comprise a single-storey cottages range, built to a 'U' plan dating to 1800-10.

The West Lodge (1805), remodelled by Elizabeth and Jane Grant in 1812, is a single storey white-harled cottage with projecting piended roof supported by brick pilasters forming a veranda. Rothiemurchus Croft House, built between 1812-14 to the design of the Grant sisters, is a picturesque white-harled, two-storey, irregular three-bay house with a single storey south wing. The Polchar, also 1812-14 to the 'design' of the Grant sisters, is a symmetrical, single storey and five-bays, originally built for the gamekeeper.

The James Martineau Memorial, built c 1900, is a three-sided column with carved interlacing Celtic designs standing on a triangular plinth and enclosed by a simple spearhead railing. The Old Church and Burial Ground, built in 1830, incorporates remains of an earlier church. It is currently roofless. Rothiemurchus Old Manse, is a standard, white-harled single storey Parliamentary of 1830. The lean to extensions on the north east are later.

Drives and Approaches

Three main drives approach the house from the north, east and south. There is no access from the west due to the course of the river. The north drive leads through woodland west of The Polchar. It then divides; one branch leading north-westwards to Doune Farm and then through woodland north-west of The Doune. A second branch leads off southwards through the parkland laid out in the bottom of the valley, to then approach The Doune from the south-east.

The east drive enters the parkland from an elevated gateway on the B970 adjacent to the former Kitchen Garden. It takes a sweeping informal approach to the south west front of the house.

The West Lodge, situated 900m due south of The Doune, stands on the B970. It provides a long sinuous approach through informal parkland to the house.


The parkland lies south and east of The Doune along the low-lying flood plain. Most is now arable although some parkland trees survive, the most prominent being remnants of the early/mid 18th century avenue south-east of the house. Most groups of parkland trees were lost in the 20th century (1899, OS 6").


The estate woodlands are long-established and recorded from the 16th century. Extensive forest survives on the hills. The policy woodlands are mixed, generally comprising beech, sycamore, lime, elm, ash and oak with Scots pine, firs, larch and spruce. The parklands are framed by woodland on the lower valley slopes and along the course of the Spey.

Water Features

An ornamental pond lies adjacent to, and to the west of, the north drive leading to The Doune.

Walled Garden

The Kitchen Garden, built on a new site in the early 19th century, occupies a sheltered spot south-west of The Polchar. The garden was fenced and consisted of two compartments. The northern contained an oval-shaped flower garden with formal beds. The southern was a productive fruit and vegetable garden with a range of glasshouses. These are ruined and little else survives apart from the traces of some footpaths and a few fruit trees.


A Pinetum was established on and adjacent to The Doune in the 19th century. The collection includes Giant fir (Abies grandis), Caucasian fir (Abies nordmanniana), Incense cedar (Calocedrus decurren}s), Lawson cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana), Nootka cypress (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis), Wellingtonia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) and Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). The largest specimens were measured in 1989 for The Tree Register of the British Isles, which recorded a Sitka spruce of 59m (197ft) high and many other conifers in excess of 40m (120ft). In some areas, there are thickets of Rhododendron, including both species and hybrid forms.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

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

A picturesque designed landscape of outstanding historical value, that is documented in Garnt's Memoirs (1845) and forms the main ornamental landscape character along this stretch of Strathspey. Formerly a 17th/early 18th century formal design, it was significantly informalised in the 19th century by parkland designed according to picturesque principles.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

Early/mid 18th century; late 18th/early 19th century.

Site History

The Rothiemurchus Estate is referred to in the 16th century for its 'great and large firrwoods' in the vicinity of Loch an Eilean (Smout, 1997, p.115). The Doune, the Grant's mansion house, dates from the late 17th century. The door lintel dated 1598, comes reportedly from Muckrath Castle. According to Elizabeth Grant, The Doune takes its name from the hill above, which 'had been fortified in the ruder ages when the dwelling of our ancestors had been upon the top of it... the moat is perfect and two or three steep terraces along the side' (Grant, 1898).

By the mid 18th century, The Doune had an entrance forecourt on its south-east front, leading to a formal tree-lined avenue aligned upon Ord Bàn. Initially, the avenue led mid-way uphill, creating a prominent ride c 80m wide (Henderson, 1762), but by 1789 it seems to have stopped at the foot of Ord Bàn (Tait, 1789). A walled garden was situated north of The Doune. It was subdivided into six compartments, with a 'Cornyard' attached to its north-east side (Henderson, 1762; Tait, 1789).

The Caledonian pinewoods of the estate were a potential source of income, which the Grants attempted to exploit without much success until the early 19th century. Between 1769-71, wood sales reached £370 per annum compared with £175 from farm rentals on the estate. By the turn of the 19th century 'the timber was beginning to be marketable,' (Grant, 1898, p.7) and by 1803 'Mr. Grant annually cut down perhaps £1500 of timber; and yet when riding through his woods, not a tree to the eye is missing.'

From 1797 onwards, Sir John Peter Grant aggrandised the house and extended it eastwards to his own designs. His plans included a west wing to mirror the east with a connecting colonnade (unexecuted) and a variety of estate buildings. Elizabeth Grant noted 'my father had always had a turn for beautifying Rothiemurcus with cottages; it was more that, at first the effect of the picture in the scenery, than the wish to improve the dwellings of his people...' (Grant, 1898, p.321). Grant's Memoirs written between 1845-54 offer an informative and vivid social history of the estate and its development from 1797 through to 1815.

In 1808 the farm steading, which had surrounded The Doune, was demolished and rebuilt to the north of Doune Hill leaving the grounds to be landscaped. The new steading was admired by James Robinson in A General View of the Agriculture of the County of Inverness (1808) as a 'large steading of handsome offices' with Doune Farmhouse and the grieve's house part of the complex.

A new walled garden was built c 1812 in the shelter of the:

'hollows in the birch wood between the Drum and the Miltown moor; a fashion of the day, to remove the fruit and vegetables to an inconvenient distance from the Cook, the kitchen department of the garden being considered the reverse of ornamental. The new situation... and the way it was laid out, was the admiration of every body, and there could not well have been any thing of the sort more striking to the eye, with the nicely managed entrance among the trees, and the gardener's cottage so picturesquely placed... A very enjoyable shrubbery replaced the dear old formal kitchen garden, with belts of flowering trees, and gay beds of flowers, grass plots, dry walks and the Doune hill in the midst of it, all neatly fenced from the lawn' .

According to his daughter, the inconvenient form and arrangement of Sir John's early cottages, like the West Lodge, Boring Mill and The Polchar (c 1805), gave way to improved designs built as a result of his 'Searching through our drawing books for a model for the Croft... he now better understood the wants of a household. He picked out a great many pretty elevations, suggested the necessary changes, and left it to Jane and me to make correct drawings and working plans' (Grant, 1898, p.322).

These cottages were all in the picturesque style, with heather-thatched roofs, tall chimneys and lattice windows. At the West Lodge 'Ayrshire roses' were trained on the walls, honeysuckle clothed the verandah 'and we put all sorts of common flowers in a border between the cottage and the road. It was a very pretty cottage, particularly suited to the scenery...' (Grant 1898, p.322).

The Polchar, a gamekeeper's cottage, was later leased by Dr. James Martineau, (the Unitarian divine) for five months annually between 1877 until his death in 1900. He extended the cottage in the cottage ornée style.

When Sir John was appointed a Judge in Bombay in 1827, Georgiana, 6th Duchess of Bedford, 5th daughter of the 4th Duke and Duchess of Gordon (see Kinrara) leased The Doune. Married (in 1803) to John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford (1766-1839), the great agriculturist, art collector and horticulturist, Georgiana improved the policies. As her mother had revealed views at Kinrara, so she cleared views to the east and to the south, to Doune Hill where the enclosed pleasure grounds were opened up to lawn. Although much of the wood was clear-felled in the 1830s, regeneration was good, as saplings regenerated 'as straight and thick as trees in a nursery' (Smout, 1997, p.116). The church and burial ground, which included the Grant family enclosure, was rebuilt, on an abandoned ancient site, at this time. The 6th Duke of Bedford died at Rothiemurchus in 1839.

In 1848, Sir William Grant succeeded; he became Governor of Bengal from 1859-1862 and Governor of Jamaica 1866-1873. In 1877, the mansion house was again extended, being heightened to three storeys by the architect John Lessels. By 1882, the estate contained 9,895ha (24,457 acres).

In 1900, a monument was erected to Dr James Martineau. The estate continues in private ownership.

Features & Designations


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



Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential







  • Historic Scotland