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Duddingston House


The designed landscape at Duddingston House is now in multiple ownership, and includes a golf club and a school, but the character of the informal 18th-century parkland remains. There are 18th- and 19th-century plantings and remnants of water features. Around the house is a late-20th-century formal garden and grass terraces tracing a previous formal garden.

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

No information available.

Location and Setting

Duddingston Park is located to the south-east of Edinburgh, on the south-east side of Holyrood Park and just to the east of Duddingston Loch. It is bounded by the A1 on its north-east side, by minor roads to the north and west, and by the railway line and housing on its south and east boundaries. The park lies at some 150' (46m) above sea level, in flat landscape, about 1 mile (1.5km) from the south shore of the Firth of Forth. The underlying rocks are Carboniferous, yielding coal, sandstone, limestone and brick clay in the parish; the soils at Duddingston are sandy and well drained. There are good views from the house, particularly north-west to Arthur's Seat which rises to a height of 823' 251m within Holyrood Park, and fine views can be obtained over Duddingston Park from the Queen's Drive through Holyrood Park.

The house is set almost in the centre of the former boundaries, and was originally set due south of the small loch, which has since been drained. General Roy's map of 1750 shows a dwelling to the west of the present house, and shows a long avenue leading to it from the south-east but no other designed landscape. Fields are shown enclosed on either side of the river. By the 1st edition OS map of 1851, a landscape design in the picturesque style had been laid out with several water features in the park, including the ponds and the Braid Burn which was diverted around the southern side of the park. The temple is shown in the north of the park, and a large area of kitchen garden, divided into five compartments, to the north-west of the house. An area of formal garden was laid out to the south of the house at that time. Parkland trees are shown as planted in small groups in the parks. By the 2nd edition OS map c.1895, the kitchen garden area was apparently not kept up to the same extent as in the past. The loch to the north of the house had been drained, and the Braid Burn's course more canalized. The south-west of the park is shown as the 'Cavalry Drill Grounds' and must have been laid out as a golf course shortly after the survey for this edition. Since 1959, the north-west area of the park has been developed as a school and the former kitchen garden has been built over. There are 207 acres (84ha) in the designed landscape today.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The House is an early neo-classic design and has an impressive Corinthian portico on its east front. It is the only country house designed by Sir William Chambers in Scotland and it is his only classical country house to survive unaltered. The stables and court of offices are linked by a corridor to the main house and are included in the listing as A. The building on the west of the courtyard has an attractive cupola and is linked to the stables to the north and kitchens to the south by loggias. There is also an 18th century Ice House, listed C. The Gatepiers (late 18th century) with their curved screen walls, are listed B. The classical Temple designed by Sir William Chambers is listed A. The roof was restored by pupils of Holyrood School in 1973.


The parkland was laid out in the 1760s as a Deer Park and was recorded then as having a freely wooded park. By the early 19th century, after the death of the 8th Earl of Abercorn, the pleasure grounds were described as having been 'very ornate at one time'. A book called 'The Beauties of Scotland' was quoted by Loudon in 1824:

"This villa, with the pleasure-grounds or park which have been annexed to it, exhibits an example of all that money or art can do to adorn a nearly flat surface, through which a small stream of water naturally runs; clumps, groves, canals, lakes, Isles, cascades, temples, shrubbery, serpentine walks, and spreading lawns. In every corner, art and expense have been ostentatiously displayed, and nature is evidently employed merely as her handmaid. Such a place as this, however, has considerable beauty, and excites much interest in a country like Scotland, where bold natural scenery so much abounds, by the striking contrast which it exhibits to the general aspect of the surrounding territory." (Vol. 1.354)

The southern of the two ponds in the north of the park had disappeared by 1900 but remnants of the cascades, canals and hills can still be traced along the course of the burn. There are some fine parkland trees remaining in the policies today, mainly of oak and beech, dating from the 18th century and mid- 19th centuries. The main drive to the north-east has some particularly old trees along it. About 125 acres of the park is now laid out and managed as a golf course.


The woodlands at Duddingston are limited to a strip of boundary shelter planting, first laid out in the 1760's design. Some older trees remain from this period, and also from c.1850, but the majority of the trees date from the 1950s when the woods were replanted. There has been some natural regeneration of oak, beech, sycamore, ash and sweet chestnut.

The Gardens

The area of formal garden laid out to the south of the house on the 1851 map had become less defined by the 2nd edition OS map of 1900, and has since been lost. There is a formal rose garden to the east of the house, laid out around a central sunken pond, with a small fountain in its centre and steps leading from it to the rose beds. It is a recent addition designed and built by Mr W. Gladstone in 1983. Some grass terraces remain as traces of a former scheme. There is a ha-ha fence separating the garden from the park.

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 designed landscape that had high artistic value in the past and still forms an attractive setting for the category A listed Duddingston House and makes an important contribution to the surrounding scenery.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

No information available.

Site History

The designed landscape was first laid out in the early part of the 17th century and improved during the latter part of that century. The estate was looked after throughout the 18th century. In the early part of the 19th century the park was extended and the large walled garden laid out. The garden has been maintained without a break ever since

The lands at one time belonged to the family of Thomson, one of whom was made a baronet by Charles I in 1637. They were then acquired by the Duke of Lauderdale in 1674 who gave them to his daughter, the 1st Duchess of Argyll. In 1744 Bonnie Prince Charlie encamped his cavalry in the north-west part of Duddington prior to the Battle of Prestonpans; this area is now known as the Cavalry Park.

In 1745, James Hamilton who succeeded as 8th Earl of Abercorn in 1744, bought the lands of Duddingston from the Duke of Argyll and commissioned Sir William Chambers in 1760 to 'build a modest but elegant house suitable for a confirmed bachelor'. The house was built between 1763-68 and has been described as 'a very important early landmark in British neo-classicism'. The cost, with its pleasure grounds, was reputed to be #30,000, and Loudon refers to the grounds being laid out by Robinson. A painting by George Barret c.1770 shows the park laid out with young parkland trees.

In 1764 the 8th Earl of Abercorn purchased the estate of Paisley, where he founded the now town of Paisley in 1781. Duddingston was still kept as his first residence until his death in 1789, when he was succeeded by his nephew as 9th Earl. The estate was then passed down through the family for many years but was let out to, among others, the Dowager-Countess of Morton, and to Sir Molyneux Nepean. In 1883, the 1,500 acre estate belonged to the 10th Earl, 1st Duke of Abercorn but, at around this time, a considerable portion of the estate was acquired by the Benhar coal mining company. In 1894 the south-western part of the estate was leased by the Insurance and Banking Golf Club, renamed Duddingston Golf Club after World War I, and the land was finally purchased by the club in 1972. In the 1960s Holyrood School was built in the north-west area of the park, which is now quite separate from the rest of the policies. In 1959 Mr E. Gladstone, a master cabinet maker and building contractor, purchased the house, together with the surrounding nine acres of land in the centre of parkland from the Duke of Abercorn and set about its restoration 'as a labour of love'. It took four years of painstaking work to restore enough of the house to enable him to open it as an hotel in 1963.

Associated People
Features & Designations


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


  • Icehouse
  • Temple
  • Country House (featured building)
  • Description: Neo-classical style
  • Earliest Date:
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential





Open to the public


Electoral Ward





  • Historic Scotland