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Falkland Palace


The mid-20th-century gardens at Falkland Palace comprise terraced gardens around the Palace, partly on the site of 16th- and 17th-century terraces. An orchard remains on its original site, and there is also a water garden. The terrace known as the pleasure grounds has a herbaceous border 180 metres long and island beds planted with shrubs, small trees and perennials enclosing a glade.

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:

Location and Setting

Falkland Palace is situated on the north side of the town of Falkland; it is bounded by the major road, A912, from Muirhead to Strathmiglo. To the south the Lomond Hills rise up to Fort Glasslie on East Lomond some 1,699' (518m) high, and to the north- east the River Eden meanders through the flat plain of the Howe of Falkland. The climate is affected by the cold north-easterly winds which sweep across the Howe. The soil is neutral and drains naturally. Falkland Palace, built on a sandstone ridge, overlooks the rich agricultural plain and the building dominates its surroundings. The gardens are enclosed by high walls and do not affect the surrounding scenery which is dominated by the dramatic outline of the Palace and the nearby buildings in the town. There are extensive views of the hills to the north from the garden.

The Palace and gardens lie between the A912 to the north and the streets of Falkland to the south and are surrounded by a high stone wall on three sides. The fourth side opens to the west onto a small orchard with views to the House of Falkland. Descriptions of a park and forests in the 16th century exist but there are no records of its extent. The grounds were derelict during the 18th and early part of the 19th century and the first records of the 19th century garden are shown on the 1st edition OS plan of 1867. From the courtyard there are long views across the Howe but the views are not emphasised in the setting of the Palace; it was probably sited on the slight hill for defensive rather than aesthetic reasons. The designed landscape extends to about 23 acres (9ha).

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Falkland Palace is listed category A. It was begun in the early 16th century, and has stone work by Nicholas Roy, Moses Martin and others; it was altered in 1840 under the supervision of William Burn, and restored in 1893-6 by John Kinross. Falkland Palace Castle is listed category B and is a Scheduled Monument; only fragments remain in the second terrace. The Walls enclosing the gardens and stables are listed category B and were built during the 16th & 17th centuries; they were restored by John Kinross in the 1890s.

The Royal Stables, Tennis Court and 'Caichpule' are listed category A and were built between 1513-1538. They too were restored by John Kinross in 1895 and were renovated in 1955. This is the only 'real' tennis court in Scotland and is the oldest in Britain. The Bridge between the Palace and the House of Falkland dates from 1890 and is listed B. The Visitor Centre was built in 1965 for the National Trust for Scotland by Schomberg Scott. There are several pieces of ornamentation within the garden, including one Sundial designed by Schomberg Scott.

Water Features

Enclosed by tall yew hedges, the garden simply consists of two raised rectangular water basins surrounded by low growing Junipers and is separated by two long borders accentuated by four Pencil cedars, Juniperus virginiana. The entrance is guarded by two large urns filled with Gentiana sino-ornata. Wisteria, Clematis varieties and vines all grow up the facing wall of the Stables and Tennis Court.

The public is not allowed behind the buildings where the NTS has a small vegetable garden, propagating and lining out area, and several 'picking' borders supplying cut flowers for the Palace. The tool shed is attached to the west side of the Tennis Court.

To the west of the garden a new orchard was planted in the 1900s, 1940s and 1970s and it surrounds the old curling pond which has been turned into a 'bowling green'. The woodland drive from the House of Falkland, owned by the Crichton Stuarts, crossed under the lane at the small bridge which is still there built into the wall.

The Gardens

The enclosed gardens are formed from a series of terraces which are further divided into several garden 'rooms'. The terraces were probably completed during the 16th century at the same time as the tennis court but only the outline remains. The gardens were restored during the late 19th century but by World War II they had been swept away and the ground was used in the 'Dig for Victory' campaign for growing potatoes. Between 1947-52 Major Michael Crichton Stuart commissioned Percy Cane to redesign the gardens.

The age and history was important to Percy Cane who wrote 'The new gardens were designed to retain and to throw into higher relief the palace as it is at present and also, because of their architectural and historic interest, to preserve and bring into the scheme those traces that remain of the earlier and more extensive, palace'. This he achieved by planting columnar Lawson cypresses, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, to replace the ruined east facade.

The descending terraces to the old castle and tennis court were designed to be 'unvarying green' and the ruined north range enclosing the courtyard was marked by a formal paved flower garden now planted with yellow and red roses edged with clipped lavender, Senecio greyii and pyramids of golden yew. The sweeping vista from the courtyard is partially blocked by the growth of the oak trees planted some 60-70 years ago. The drive is bordered by an avenue of lime, Tilia x europea, planted about 100 years ago. Mary de Guelder and wife of James II is supposed to have laid out a walk in this area between two oaks known as the 'Queen's Quarrels' which may have been planted to provide the wood for the quarrels, or arrows, for the cross-bow. On the other side of the small stream a small coniferous plantation has recently been planted as shelter.

The garden to the east of the Palace was called the Pleasure Grounds by Percy Cane and it is on this large terrace that he created his masterpiece. It is overlooked by two smaller paved terraces running along the west and south sides and, at the visitor's entrance, an imposing owl dominates the large chequered- paved terrace set out as a draughts board. The south borders along the Visitor Centre lead to the sundial by Schomberg Scott and are planted for foliage effect with Hostas and expanses of Alchemilla mollis.

The design for the Pleasure Grounds was influenced by a 17th century engraving and has a central glade enclosed by six large island beds. A grass walk meanders around the terrace between the straight edges of the outer borders and curving lines of the inner islands. Along the 'Palace Dyke' (the wall) lies the magnificent 590' (180m) herbaceous border planted for a succession of flowers with a central block of reds, yellows and oranges, at their best between July and September. All the planting is bold and generous and a wide range of plants is used, though the present selection was chosen by the NTS when they replanted the borders in 1970s. The island beds are planted in layers, with the small trees like Cherries and Maples in the middle, descending to shrubs such as Laburnum, Fothergilla monticola, Weigelia, and Philadelphus; these are surrounded by smaller plants such as Potentillas, Hostas, periwinkle and other groundcovers.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts


01337 857397

Access contact details

The palace and gardens are open between March and October.


Falkland Palace is in the village of Falkland, 10 miles from junction 8 of the M90. Stagecoach Fife buses stop in the village 100 metres away and the Palace is on National Cycle Route 1.


The National Trust for Scotland


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

Dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, the attractive well-stocked gardens were re-designed by Percy Cane in 1947-52. The Royal Palace is category A listed.

Site History

The original gardens were probably created at the same time as the Castle in the 12th century. They were certainly present during the 16th century and were known to have been redesigned and replanted in the early 17th century. There were ornamental gardens and shrubs in the 1880s before the 3rd Marquis began his restoration, and between 1946-52 Percy Cane completely redesigned them. The NTS has looked after the gardens since 1952.

The first records of the original castle are dated 1120 when it belonged to the MacDuff family who held the hereditory right to crown the Kings of Scotland. In 1451 the present Palace was begun by James II and by 1456 the first records of the garden and gardeners' wages appear. In 1485 over eight 'barrels of onions' were produced. By 1488 James IV had completed the south and east ranges and the garden was enclosed by a fence, which was replaced by a stone wall in 1413. Falkland Palace was used as a home where the Stuarts could relax, play tennis, practise archery and hunt deer, wild boar, and ride out hawking in the Forest of Falkland.

During her visits between 1561-65, Mary Queen of Scots played as a 'country girl in the park and woods'. Her grandson, Charles I, laid out a new garden in 1628 with sundials and pillars. The last member of the Royal family to stay at the Palace was Charles II in 1650 when he was invited by the Scots to become their king. By 1654 the parliamentarians had burnt the Palace down. Rob Roy and his Highlanders occupied the remains of the Palace during the 1715 uprising.

In the 18th & 19th centuries the Palace was controlled by hereditory Keepers who assumed the right to look after the property. In 1887 John Crichton Stuart, 3rd Marquis of Bute, acquired the keepership and undertook a scholarly and thorough restoration of the Palace.

His work was continued by his son, Lord Ninian, who was killed in World War I. During World War II, the garden was used to grow vegetables and by 1946 little remained of its layout when Major Michael Crichton Stuart came to live at the Keepers residence in the gatehouse. He asked Percy Cane to design a new garden for him within the old garden walls. In 1952 Major Crichton Stuart gave the Palace into Public Domain and arranged that the National Trust for Scotland should become Deputy Keeper. The family still lives at Falkland Palace.

Associated People
Features & Designations


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

  • Scheduled Ancient Monument

  • Reference: Falkland Palace Castle


  • Orchard
  • Herbaceous Border
  • Palace (featured building)
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Garden Wall
  • Description: Sixteenth- and 17th-century walls that were restored in the 1890s.
  • Garden Terrace
  • Description: Terraced gardens around the Palace partly on the site of 16th- and 17th-century terraces.
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential





Open to the public





  • Historic Scotland

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