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Hatton Castle


This is a well-wooded 18th to 19th-century designed landscape centred on Hatton Castle. Developed from an older, late medieval estate, the policies feature sinuous entrance drives, lakes, estate buildings, a mausoleum and a distinctive walled garden. The site is also known for the presence of one of the UK's largest rook colonies.

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

A well-wooded 18th to 19th-century designed landscape centred on Hatton Castle. Developed from an older, late medieval estate, the policies feature sinuous entrance drives, lakes, estate buildings, a mausoleum and a distinctive walled garden. The site is also known for the presence of one of the UK's largest rook colonies.

Location and Setting

Hatton Castle designed landscape is located 2.5 miles (4 km) south east of Turriff in the agricultural heartlands of Banff and Buchan, Aberdeenshire. Largely enclosed by thick perimeter plantations, it is difficult to appreciate the design from close by. However, vantage points from the surrounding hill-slopes and ridges, such as the Hill of Darra to the east, reveal panoramic views of the castle, parks and woodlands extending over terrain that rises steadily from west to east. The scenic value of the mixed woodland canopy is particularly apparent in these views, contrasting as it does with an otherwise mainly open farming landscape. The rolling terrain within the designed landscape is drained by two watercourses, the Burn of Balquholly to the west, which flows northwards towards the Idoch Water, and a minor burn to the east, flowing within a narrow wooded valley known as the Den of Balquholly. Both of these features preserve the name of the late medieval estate and the former stronghold of Balquholly Castle. A network of small burns and drains also criss-cross the centre of the designed landscape and feed the Lakes of Hatton, just north of the castle. While the historic estate of Hatton covered a very extensive amount of land over several parishes, the inner designed grounds around the mansion can be more closely defined. The boundary is formed by the modern A947 to the west, and elsewhere mainly by the edges of woodland belts and plantations. This boundary encompasses a total of 328ha (810ac.).

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Hatton Castle is a substantial, three-storey and attic castellated mansion built in 1814. It incorporates fabric from the house of c.1745 and the older Balquholly Castle. Rubble-built and harled, it features a round tower at each corner with corbelled parapets and a central gothic doorpiece with shafted columns. A sundial stands nearby, with sphere finial and panel bearing the words 'Jean Meldrum 1703'. To the south east of the castle, the early, coped stone garden walls enclose a large, irregular plot of ground and are notable for seven beehive recesses, or bee boles located on an east facing wall (IBRA Bee Boles Register 2010). Other significant features in and around the centre of the designed landscape include Hatton Home Farm, c.1800 with single-storey square court and two-storey west frontage with dovecot, a late 18th-century, rectangular coach house, and to the south west, a double L-plan block of rubble-built estate cottages, constructed c.1860 probably to the designs of A and W Reid of Elgin. The Hatton Mausoleum is more certainly attributed to A and W Reid with Mackenzie, and surviving design plans date it to 1861 (RCAHMS). Located in Crow Wood off a track from the main north drive, it is a red rubble-built, gothic-style, T-plan structure with buttresses and a circular window over the doorway. At the principal entrance to the designed landscape, Hatton North Lodge was designed by William Leslie in 1828. It is a harled and castellated building with an imposing, high archway. The more modest, single-storey, symmetrical South Lodge with a central porch marks the entrance of the other main approach.

Drives and Approaches

The two main drives through the designed landscape were established as part of a wider scheme of earlier 19th-century landscape development and informalisation. From the north-west, the principal, scenic carriage drive enters via the tall archway of the 1828 castellated North Lodge. It curves through woodlands and over the Lakes of Hatton before entering the main park and terminating at the carriage circle by the castle. From the west, the other key approach to the castle enters at the South Lodge and passes the estate houses and coach house.

Formerly, in the 18th century, the main approach to Hatton Lodge had been a wide, straight avenue leading directly from the west ' a route still partly visible on some aerial photographs (RCAHMS). Preliminary ideas for the new, more sinuous drives appear sketched in red over the 1769 plan of the policies (NAS RHP2529). They were complete by the 1840s and described in the New Statistical Account as meeting 'at a well chosen point, with two neatly constructed lodges, and artificial lakes [which] happily unite in giving to this domain much to please the eye and gratify the taste' (1845: 995).


Hatton Castle is not associated with a classic, sweeping parkland landscape. Instead, the land surrounding the castle and pleasure grounds mainly comprise arable fields and pastures. The configuration and development of this working landscape is recorded in surviving maps and documents. The 1769 plan, for example, reveals a regular system of named infields and outfields, often bordered with plantation belts, and including the intriguing 'Make Him Rich Infield' (NAS RHP2529; NAS GD248/127/4/57/2). Changes made to this landscape during the 19th century helped to create the more fashionable and informal aesthetic of the era, and can be traced via the early editions of the Ordnance Survey (1864-71 OS; 1899-1901 OS). These bear witness to the alteration of field divisions and boundaries and the planting of new shelter belts and curving perimeter plantations which were not only helpful for shelter, but which also produced a more secluded and pastoral effect.


The mature Hatton Castle woodlands form one of the strongest scenic components of the designed landscape. The broadleaf canopy and perimeter belts of spruce, larch, pine and beech make a major scenic contribution to the surrounding agricultural landscape and also provide a secluded and attractive setting for Hatton Castle itself. The habitat value of the woods is also well known, as they are home to one of the UK's largest rook colonies. Some 65,000 birds were counted in the 1940s, and the colony is thought to be of considerable antiquity (Watson 1967, Cocker 2000: 134). Notable specimen trees, measured and declared champions in 1985, meanwhile, included an impressive Chinese scarlet rowan, a beech, and a Copper beech ( ).

Alexander Duff (1718-64) and his wife, Anne (1725-1805) sponsored much of the original planting during the earlier and mid-18th century, (NAS GD248/389/5/4) and the plan of 1769 shows sizable blocks and belts labelled as 'fir woods' or 'different kinds of wood' (NAS RHP2529). These plantations were supplemented during the 19th century, with the present structure largely established by the start of the 20th century (1864-71 OS; 1899-1901 OS; Transactions 1909).

The Gardens

The leafy gardens of Hatton Castle occupy a distinct, central area within the designed landscape. Open lawns fringed with mature broadleaf trees provide the immediate setting for Hatton Castle, while to the south and south-east, there are further, narrow lawns and wooded paths, and also a small body of water. During the mid-later 18th century, the core gardens exhibited a similar mixture of elements but also contained a more formal combination of water features, comprising several pools and a cascade (NAS RHP2529). These were subsequently removed as part of the earlier 19th-century project to informalise and modernise Hatton Castle and its landscape. While these garden water features were removed, the Lakes of Hatton were created immediately to the north-west of the castle and garden grounds. Set in woodland, these narrow, curving lakes with small vegetated islands fulfilled a more fashionable, informal landscape aesthetic, and were shown off to good effect by the routing of the main carriage drive over two bridging points over the lakes. In 1842, the author of the New Statistical Account mentions 'stately swans and cygnets'moving majestically on the surface of the water' (1845: 995), an effect that completed the scenic impression of proceeding along the approach drive. Associated features present during the 19th and early 20th century include a boat-house and weir (1864-71 OS 25') and a curling pond (1899-1901 OS 25').

Walled Garden

The large, two acre walled garden occupies a gentle, south-facing slope some 120 metres south-east of the castle. Accessed by a tree-lined path, and retaining much of its historic structure, this is a striking garden that now attracts visitors as part of Scotland's Open Garden Scheme ( ).

The garden was probably built sometime in the earlier 18th century, and is depicted for the first time on the 1769 plan (NAS RHP2529). Old accounts from Hatton Lodge which list seeds and tools purchased in 1788 and 1801-2 shed light on the range of vegetables cultivated during these years (NAS GD248/485/4/34; NAS GD248/127/4/35), while the presence of seven bee-hive recesses, or bee-boles, are clear testimony to bee-keeping. The first Ordnance Survey edition shows that by the late 1860s, the garden had been extended southwards to incorporate a minor burn, and that potting sheds and a glasshouse had been built along the southern wall (1864-71 OS 25'). Hothouse cultivation was clearly a popular success in the Victorian era, with further glasshouse accommodation erected by the turn of the century (1899-1901 OS 25'). Today, comparison with these older maps show that the present interior layout follows the same 19th century structure of paths and plots, although succeeding generations have also made their own distinctive mark. A central yew dome, for example, is thought to have been planted c.1918 to commemorate those lost in World War I (Galbraith 2010).

In the last couple of decades, the present owners have reorganised much of the planting schemes. A recent article describes how the owner has lined the paths with box-hedging, added pleached hornbeams and replaced the Edwardian rockery with colourful herbaceous borders, while also commencing a project to rejuvenate the yew dome (Galbraith 2010). Substantial vegetable plots are still cultivated, while the southern parts of the garden comprise open lawns (ibid).

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

Extensive woodlands and varied garden grounds provide an attractive setting for Hatton Castle and contribute to the scenic and nature conservation value of the landscape south of Turriff. During the 19th century, the designed landscape was appreciated as a work of art in its own right, and the beautifully maintained walled garden remains an important feature today. Eighteenth-century plans and documents also form excellent sources of evidence for the historical development of the policies.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

c.1740s-1760s; 19th century

Site History

While the Hatton Castle designed landscape is largely 18th to 19th century in character, the history of the lands can be traced much further back. Documentary sources indicate a late medieval estate, with the lands of Loscraigie granted in 1309 to the Mowat family, and renamed Balquholly by the 16th century (Baptie 2000: 1-2). There was certainly an associated 'strong castle of Balquholy [sic]', in existence by the early 16th century, if not from long before (Scot. Hist. Soc 1906: 42; Gifford 1978).

One of the main catalysts for change in this landscape was the arrival of the Duffs of Hatton in the earlier 18th century, and their subsequent projects to develop a more modern property and designed landscape. Long troubled by financial struggles, the Mowats were obliged to sell their established seat. Negotiations begun in 1709 were eventually finalised in 1729 when the castle, grounds and tenanted lands were fully signed over to Alexander Garden Duff of Hatton (1688-1753), described approvingly in the Statistical Account as a 'man of great character in the country' (1796: 402).

In the decades that followed, Duff's son, also Alexander (1718-64), together with his wife, Anne Duff (1725-1805) set to work. By 1745, the old castle had been remodelled and largely rebuilt to form a new house called Hatton Lodge (Pratt 1901: 373). Eighteenth-century letters and receipts provide snippets of evidence for other works, including planting campaigns (NAS GD248/389/5/4) and the cultivation of a wide-range of kitchen produce (NAS GD248/485/4/34). The most valuable source for the design of the policies during this period is an excellent plan dated to 1769 (NAS RHP2529). It shows a straight, formal drive to the new residence and an interesting arrangement of water features in the core garden grounds, including a cascade. The nearby kitchen garden is depicted on this plan, together with a more informal area of paths and clumps of trees. Slightly further afield, meanwhile are the plantations, fields, offices, home-farm and cottages. The various building, landscaping and planting works were not cheap, and in a letter of 1788, Anne Duff notes 'I have laid out so much money upon this place' (NAS GD248/389/5).

Widowed in 1764, Anne Duff outlived her husband by a further 41 years, and retained the life-rent of Hatton Lodge. Although a sentimental poem penned in 1786 alludes to a 'harmonious family' (NAS GD248/82/4/27), this may not always have been the case with surviving correspondence suggesting that relatives, who already possessed the wider estate, also wished to secure the lodge and core grounds. Whether the threat was perceived or real, Anne Duff was perturbed enough to write, 'I hope law and justice unite in securing me in that liferent'Although I am old, and my ungracious opponents young'.I hope still I shall not live to see him possessed of this place I reside' (NAS GD248/389/5/2). In the event, Anne Duff retained the property until her death in her 80th year in 1805.

The early 19th century ushered in another major period of change in the landscape. The core designed policies of Hatton Lodge and the wider agricultural estate were united under the ownership of Garden Duff, 8th laird of Hatton (1779-1859). Keen to establish a suitable family residence, he initiated building and landscaping projects, chief among which was the construction of Hatton Castle itself in 1814. Work in the grounds included new, curving entrance drives and lodges, the introduction of exotic plants and shrubs, and the creation of the Lakes of Hatton (New Statistical Account 1845: 994) - projects that reduced any remaining old-fashioned, straight-lined formality and promoted a more informal aesthetic.

Heightened agricultural prosperity during the mid-19th century benefitted the fortunes of the wider Hatton estate. Significant improvements and additions were made to the existing building stock of steadings, byres and cottages, with Turriff architect, James Duncan (1828-1907) overseeing the design and remodelling work (The Hatton Estates 1887: 10-11). Local tradesmen were employed for the construction, thus providing a boost to the prosperity of the area as a whole (1887: 11). Within the pleasure grounds around the castle, meanwhile, there were further additions, including the mausoleum of 1861 and significant planting campaigns overseen by the head forester (1864-71, OS; 1899-1901, OS; Transactions 1909).

The Hatton estate and designed landscape passed down through succeeding generations of the Duff family during the 20th century and remains the James Duff family home. Unlike many other designed landscapes, the walled garden remained in use during the mid-20th century, tended by three gardeners and Lady Duff, the great aunt of the present owner (Galbraith 2010). The focus on the walled garden remains strong, and for the past 20 years, the present owners have worked on the design and planting within the enclosure, making it a fine addition to Scotland's Open Garden scheme ( ).

Features & Designations


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


  • Castle (featured building)
  • Description: Hatton Castle is a substantial, three-storey and attic castellated mansion built in 1814. It incorporates fabric from the house of c.1745 and the older Balquholly Castle.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential





Open to the public




  • Historic Scotland