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Gardie House


Gardie House is an early example of a formal 18th-century designed landscape and classical house of 1724, with early 19th century 'model' farm and cottage. An example of the smaller Scottish country house, unique in Shetland.

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

18th century formal landscape contemporary with and integral to the setting of a classical mansion.

Location and Setting

Gardie House is situated on the west coast of Bressay, north-west of the Bressay-Lerwick ferry terminal. It sits on the eastern shore of Bressay Sound, directly opposite Lerwick.

The designed landscape is situated on gently rising ground with Gardie's main front facing the Sound and Lerwick, which are intervisible. The site is a prominent landmark for those leaving and arriving in Bressay Sound.

The designed landscape comprises symmetrical rectilinear walled enclosures and courtyard gardens set symmetrically around the mansion house, leading down to Gardie Pier. This pattern has not changed in extent since its establishment in the 18th century (1878, OS 6"; 1900, OS 6"). The designed landscape measures c 30ha (74 acres), including c 2.3ha (6 acres) of courtyard gardens.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Gardie House, built in 1724, was altered in 1820 and 1905. The classical country house comprises a principal seven-bay block of two-storeys with attic. The central five-bays have a raised wallhead which supports a wide pediment. A finely-dressed ashlar porch projects from the centre of the principal elevation, which is harled with stugged and droved red sandstone dressings and details. Early 20th century additions designed by James Aitken (of Lerwick), include the shallow-pedimented attic over the central bays, with widely-spaced windows, the parapeted porch and small single storey wings. On the west is a forecourt enclosed by high walls. A screen wall pierced by a central, classical gate forms the west forecourt boundary and main entrance, and there are symmetrical three-bay pavilions at its junction with the side walls to north and south.

The garden walls are of flagstone rubble, linking the various buildings. South-east of the house the Walled Garden has flagstone rubble walls, 2-3m high, mainly without copes and showing signs of subsidence.

West of the House is Gardie House Cottage, with its associated outbuildings and garden walls, dating to 1820. The Cottage, extended c 1880, is a single-storey and attic, three-bay symmetrical Gothic building with harled walls. Its also faces the sea. Garden walls adjoin the south gable of the cottage and the east gable of the wing, the latter connecting with the stables. One wall supported a glasshouse, now demolished. The Stableblock, north of Gardie House, is harled with droved and polished ashlar dressings. Its principal elevation faces south-west to Gardie House with a two-storey tower topped by a square pyramid roof with a weathervane. In plan, the stables are symmetrical and U-plan with flanking L-plan wings. The west range contained stable accommodation, the north a dairy and hen house and the south range a byre for one cow. It is now used as a store.

Gardie House was originally approached from the sea, with a landing at Gardie Pier. It is contemporary with the House (1724). The associated cement rendered boathouse was built c 1950.

Drives and Approaches

The principal approach from Gardie Pier to the west, was along a path leading to the forecourt gates. A public pier and ferry terminal at Maryfield, c 300m further south, have superseded the Gardie pier. Current access, by car, leads south-west from the Heogan Road along a drive.


A series of large square parks surround Gardie House and the farm steading. All are enclosed by drystone dykes, and are disposed in a symmetrical layout around the house and gardens. The axis of the design is the straight track leading from the pier to the farmsteading. These fields are integral to the designed landscape, as clearly illustrated on A. M. Skene's drawing of 1818. They are in agricultural use as cultivated grassland.

The Gardens

The forecourt has a central oval lawn, bounded by a gravel path linking the main entrance gate to the front door. Borders, lined by modern, low stone walls, are set against the boundary walls. Groups of mature sycamore stand in the angle of the west wall. The forecourt south wall is pierced by an arched gateway leading to the South Garden.

West of the House is a large rectangular enclosure containing a rectangular grass terrace, accessed by a flight of steps, which leads north-westwards from the house, and retained by a drystone wall. This raised walk provides views west over the Sound, and east over a sunk lawn. There is no record of the function of this area, which is cut by an open water channel.

The Cottage and its accompanying walled garden occupy the northern corner of this enclosure. The Cottage garden comprises a terraced lawn bounded by a stone-lined water channel on its south-eastern side. Two flights of stone steps remain at each end of the glasshouse terrace.

South-east of Gardie House is the rectangular, sheltered, former Kitchen Garden. Its subdivision into four compartments by minor footpaths (1878, OS 6") has been restored by the Scott family and the compartments used for a combination of vegetables, flowers", trees and shrubs, and sculpture displays. A framework of wind- tolerant shrubs has been planted for shelter. The southern corner of the garden retains some elm and sycamore trees.

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

An early example of a formal 18th century designed landscape and classical house of 1724, with early 19th century 'model' farm and cottage. An example of the smaller Scottish country house, unique in Shetland.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

1724, 1812-36

Site History

Gardie House was built for Magnus Henderson in 1724, by Forbes, a mason from Aberdeen. It was built with its show front facing south-westwards, to the sea, and was innovative for its time, being two rooms deep in plan with its principal apartments on the first floor. The landscape layout is contemporary with the House and comprises a series of formal walled gardens, set within drystone-walled parks symmetrically disposed with the mansion at their centre. The site is linked to a harbour.

In 1799, Elizabeth Nicolson, wife of Thomas Mouat of Garth (see Belmont), inherited Gardie from James Henderson, her uncle. In 1812, Mouat and Nicolson let the property to their nephew William Mouat (d.1836). He added a square, ashlar porch to the main front and to the north-east of the House, he built a 'model' farm steading, albeit diminutive in scale, containing a stable, dairy, hen house and a byre for one cow (Skene, 1812 shown in Finnie, 1990, p.83). Sir Walter Scott visited Shetland aboard the Lighthouse Commissioners' yacht and hired a boat from Lerwick, to be rowed around Bressay and Noss. He landed at Noss sound 'to dine at Gardie House (the seat of the young Mr Mouat) on the Isle of Bressay' We are most hospitably treated' Young Mr Mouat, son of my old friend, is an improver, and a moderate one.' (Scott, 1814). In 1820, Mouat built a Gothic cottage onto the north garden walls adjoining Gardie House.

In 1845 Gardie House was described as:

'the most imposing house of Bressay' Several spots near the mansion house were, some years ago planted with willows and ash. The plants of ash are not in the same state of progress as the willows' there are various plants of aspen, poplar, laburnum, elm and plane tree thriving well. The climate does not appear to favour evergreens'There is not, so far as I have heard, any instance of a hot house in this country, except, here; and its vines produce an exuberant crop of grapes.' (New Statistical Account, 1841).

Later in the 19th century the layout of the main courtyard garden was altered, forming an oval lawn at its centre. The House was altered to its present form in 1905. The House remains in private ownership.

Features & Designations


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

Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential





Open to the public




  • Historic Scotland