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Hopetoun House


The early-18th-century designed landscape at Hopetoun House, based on a plan prepared by William Adam, largely retains its original structure. There are generous formal lawns and well-preserved parkland, some of which is grazed by deer. The estate also includes a woodland garden, a wooded wilderness area, a walled garden and an important plant collection.

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:

Location and Setting

Hopetoun House designed landscape is set within rolling, lowland farmlands on the south coast of the Forth estuary, two miles west of South Queensferry and ten miles northwest of Edinburgh.

The house and its immediate formal gardens occupy a broad terrace above the shore, while parkland, large deer park enclosures and mixed woodland plantations cover gently-undulating ground that rises to the south. An extensive, continuous belt of mature, mixed woodland runs the length of the shoreline and is a distinctive feature in long-distance views towards Hopetoun from across the Firth of Forth. Hopetoun House is also visible from the Forth Bridges immediately to the east.

From within the designed landscape, views are channelled by formal avenues, which are a key part of the whole design (see under 'Landscape Components: Avenues and Vistas') They include a principal 0.8 mile (1.25km) east-west avenue which was aligned with North Berwick Law, a prominent, conical hill in East Lothian (although this view is now obscured by the Forth Bridges). To the north of the house, a great terraced platform called the High Sea Walk permits further long-distance views to Blackness Castle to the west and across the Firth of Forth in an arc from Culross to North Queensferry with the Ochil Hills providing the more distant backdrop. The Forth Rail Bridge (a World Heritage Site) and the neighbouring road bridges also feature in outward views, particularly from the east front of the house.

Hopetoun House designed landscape covers approximately 469 hectares (1160 acres). Its boundaries are formed by the Forth coastline to the north, the Midhope Burn valley to the west and the southern edges of Hopetoun Wood and the South Deer Park to the south. At The Weddle, the 'Old East Gate' of the former east approach drive to Hopetoun House marks the easternmost extent of the designed landscape.

Beyond the designed landscape boundary, the wider Hopetoun Estate covers approximately 2266 hectares (5600 acres) of mainly agricultural land and incorporates the surrounding historic estates of Midhope, Philpstoun, Morton, Duddingston, Butlaw, Duntarvie and Craigton. Several of these estates retain their historic houses and elements of associated designed landscapes.

The mudflats immediately to the northwest of the designed landscape are designated by Scottish Natural Heritage as a wetland of international importance (a Ramsar site), a Special Protection Area and a Site of Special Scientific Interest in recognition of their international and national nature conservation interest (

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Hopetoun House is the focal point of the designed landscape and is one of the finest stately homes in Scotland. The first phase of the house was built between 1696 and 1710 to the designs of Sir William Bruce. It was substantially remodelled and enlarged on a palatial scale by William Adam in 1721-48. John Adam added the massive outer-wings in line with his father's plans, and Robert and John Adam completed many of the interiors between 1750 and 1756.

The Estate Buildings are located a short distance to the southeast of the house and include a workshop converted to an estate office, kennels, a former slaughterhouse and a steading which dates from 1774. Parts of the estate office grouping, which have been restored and converted in recent years, have a mid-18th-century character and may be the work of William Adam.

There are two 18th-century, classical-style summerhouses within the garden grounds to the west. The first is located midway along the south perimeter wall of the Great North Terrace. It has a carved segmental pediment, probably removed from the principal elevation of Hopetoun House during William Adam's alterations. The second summerhouse, known as 'The Pulpit', is located southwest of the house in the South Grounds, and has a carved Hope armorial panel in the pediment.

The Hopetoun Mausoleum is sited in parkland near the west end of the grand axial avenue. It was built in 1831 to the design of William Burn in the Romanesque Revival style with a roof made from stone slabs and griffin gargoyle rainwater spouts. Beside the mausoleum is the Temple of Peace, a tempietto, (a small temple-like building), with a scrolled ironwork dome supported on Corinthian columns.

The Main East Gate is situated on the approach drive through the East Shore Wood, near Society Point. It was built in 1893 to the designs of Robert Rowand Anderson and features curved quadrant walls with Tuscan columns and crowning vases, and a wrought-iron over-panel with the family crest. The nearby Main Gate Lodge with pediment porch is also by Anderson. The East Lodge and Gate and West Lodge and Gate are associated with secondary approach drives leading to the house that were established during the 19th century (see under 'Landscape Components: Drives and Approaches'). There is also a Mid Lodge located in the central parkland area to the west of the house at the western end of the Lime Avenue. The remains of an ice house, depicted on the 1st Edition of the Ordnance Survey map(Linlithgowshire, 1856), is located some 150 metres northeast of Hopetoun House.

Architectural features that predate the building of Hopetoun House, and which became part of the designed landscape, include Abercorn Kirk which dates from the 11th century. Before the construction of the nearby Hopetoun Mausoleum in 1831, the Hope family used the Hopetoun Aisle, added to the rear of the Kirk by Sir William Bruce in around 1702. The consolidated remnant of the early 17th-century Staneyhill Tower (Scheduled Monument No 1911) is located on the central ridge within the South Deer Park enclosure. A pair of Obelisk Gates within the Deer Park boundary wall to the east of the tower have tall pyramidal caps and ball-finials. The gatepiers are probably early 17th century and contemporary with the tower. Thatch Cottage to the east of the Obelisk Gates may partially date to the 18th century. It has a picturesque thatched, half-piended roof and round-arch windows.

The L-plan Society House is located at the small settlement known historically as 'Society' on the Firth of Forth shoreline near the Main East Gate. The masonry and circular tower with conical roof of this former coaching inn are of a mid-18th-century character. The round-headed windows of The Weddle, a former lodge located near the 'Old East Gate' at Butlaw, appear similar to those of the Thatch/Obelisk Cottage near Staneyhill Tower.

Drives and Approaches

The main East Approach Drive from South Queensferry follows the old coach road along the shoreline with views northwards across the Firth of Forth. The drive forks into the East Shore Woodland, through the Main East Gate, and continues over rising ground before emerging into expansive levelled parkland with open views west towards the house in the distance. The drive eventually joins the principal east-west avenue before reaching Hopetoun House. The processional sequence of changing levels and reveals is a deliberate device, with the framed view of house and sky designed to provoke an emotional response and heightening the sense of drama on the approach to the house.

The West Lodge Approach is no longer in use, but remains evident in the present landscape. It starts at the West Lodge and Gates and heads northeast through the Midhope Glen woodland, passing behind Abercorn House and Kirk before sweeping informally through the parkland towards the Mid Lodge at the west end of the Lime Avenue. Part of this former west approach drive, now a track, is lined with yew trees.

A further approach drive extends from the East Lodge through a belt of woodland flanked by open grazing land towards the Obelisk Cottage and former quarry. It then turns northwards to connect with the South Deer Park Road before joining the principal eastern approach near the top of the Great Avenue.

Paths and Walks

The High Sea Walk runs around the perimeter of the Great North Terrace retaining wall. It has two projecting circular-plan bastions which overlook the large North Deer Park on the Firth of Forth shoreline. Clipped yew hedging along the terrace perimeter provides shelter from the wind while simultaneously obscuring outward views towards Fife.

The Wilderness area on the levelled ground of the North Terrace retains a fragmented network of earlier, formal pathways. Clair-voie or 'clear view' railing panels in the retaining walls mark former vistas through the pleasure grounds.

Hope's Walk crosses the tree-lined slope of the Corrie Burn valley beneath the southern perimeter wall of the Great North Terrace, with picturesque views over the rolling parkland.

Niddrie Walk is a north-south axial avenue to the west of the Oval Basin (see under 'Water Features'). It is part of the principal historic north-south axial route through the Hopetoun estate, passing through the South Deer Park over the Top Reservoir causeway to Parkhead. Roy's survey of the mid-18th century shows this route extending to the south along the western edge of Hopetoun Wood to Woodend.


The parkland at Hopetoun includes three large deer park enclosures, the largest of which lies between Hopetoun Wood and the Midhope Burn. Extending over gently rolling terrain, they are largely informal and picturesque in character with native broadleaf trees grouped in clumps or as individual specimen trees.

The National Tree Register records a number of champion trees within the Hopetoun parklands. These include a veteran field maple in the West Park, which is a country champion and one of the finest of its type in Scotland. There are a further 26 local champions in the parks, including beech, cedar, yew, spruce, birch, pine, alder, larch and fir. Further parkland trees are mostly a mix of oak, fir, beech, ash, lime and sycamore with the vast majority exceeding 100 years old. Those in the deer park area near the Mid Lodge are of mixed age, mainly ranging from 100-200 years old.

To the east of Hopetoun House, St. Kilda sheep graze on the park, which is enclosed by a long ha-ha running parallel to the south side of the Great Avenue. The North Deer Park is grazed by red deer and a herd of fallow deer graze the South Deer Park.

Open areas of former parkland to the far east of the designed landscape were historically associated with Butlaw and include the site of the former Royal Navy Hospital, which was demolished in 1933. They have been part of the Hopetoun Estate since at least the beginning of the 19th century and are enclosed by mature shelter belts planted around that time.

At the time of writing (2016), recent planting has re-established tree-lined axial avenues shown on maps and surveys of the mid-18th century.

Avenues and Vistas

A principal 0.8 mile (1.25 km) grand axial avenue, intentionally aligned with North Berwick Law in East Lothian, extends east to west through the designed landscape, with the house as the central component and prime focal-point. The view to North Berwick Law is now obscured by the Forth Bridges. A 'Great Avenue' formal drive approaches the house on this axis from the east, and continues through gardens and parkland to the rear of the house as a grassed, tree-lined avenue over rising ground. This feature was established during the circa 1696-1710 phase of development at Hopetoun and remains a key part of the present landscape. To the east of the house, the avenue passes between a pair of ornamental sphinx statues, designed by John Cheere around 1740. They are located on the perimeter of a semi-circular terraced lawn some 150 metres in diameter with a surrounding ha-ha wall and associated dyke.

The long, replanted Lime Avenue runs parallel and to the south of the principal axial avenue. It extends from the Mid Lodge along the south side of the West Lawn to the house.

To the north of the designed landscape, the south wall of the High Sea Walk terrace is aligned with Hopetoun House, with the sightline passing through the West Bastion to Blackness Castle on the West Lothian coast just over 2 miles (3.5 km) away. The East Bastion is on the alignment between Blackness Castle and the head of the Great Avenue, indicating that Blackness Castle was an important benchmark during the initial measuring and laying out of the grounds.


Policy woodlands within the designed landscape are, from west to east: Midhope Glen, the Morton and Smiddy Hill Clumps, Hopetoun Wood, Bog Wood, and the East Shore Wood.

Bog Wood and the East Shore Wood form a continuous strip of mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland hugging the south shore of the Firth of Forth. These substantial areas of policy woodland incorporate mature species of beech, larch, fir and oak amongst younger self-seeding species such as sycamore.

The largest woodland area is Hopetoun Wood, bordered to the south by the A904 and Abercorn Road to the east. It is shown on Roy's map of 1750 with a network of rides and a clearing centred on a standing stone known as the 'Jousting Stone' or 'Justice Stone'. The 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1856) shows a 'fish and curling pond' to the north of the wood, which survives in the present landscape.

Additional mixed deciduous plantations were established at Hopetoun for game cover after 1910. Since the Second World War, coniferous plantations have been added and at the time of writing the estate is developing its woodlands, including Hopetoun Wood, on a commercial basis (2016).

A pinetum was established in the 19th century just south of the kitchen garden near Parkhead and some of the older trees were measured and recorded by Alan Mitchell in 1984. Within this wooded area are the remnants of a grotto and associated rockwork.

Water Features

A 60 metre, (190 foot) Oval Basin, or 'Reflecting Pond', with a central jet fountain is located on the West Lawn. This significant water feature was one of the first recorded focal points of the early garden at Hopetoun. It is aligned with the house on the central axis.

Top Reservoir, also known as 'The Gullets', is a large, rectangular reservoir located on high ground in the South Deer Park. It survives as one of the significant components of the early 18th-century landscape, built to feed the Oval Basin jet. The former axial north-south approach to Hopetoun from Parkhead passes across a narrow causeway over the Top Reservoir. The reservoir is aligned with the Obelisk Gates at the far east of the deer park enclosure.

The Gardens

The French-Baroque influenced, square-plan parterre (now the West Lawn) was probably created between the house and the Oval Basin during the Bruce/Edward era of garden development around 1705 with scroll and shell motif hedging surrounded by statuary. The hedging and statuary may have been removed as little as 20 years after its creation as it is not shown on William Adam's plan. In the present landscape, the worked soil along the curving lines of former hedges retains more water and causes the grass to appear greener in these areas, particularly during dry summers. The scroll pattern of the former parterre is visible in aerial images of the West Lawn. Recessed arches in the west-facing wall of the south wing of Hopetoun House hold yew trees as a backdrop to the parterre.

There is a diagonal cut through the woodland garden area, or South Grounds. This is a survival from the early to mid-18th century and is a prominent formal device within the pleasure grounds, framing views back towards the house from the southwest, and reflecting the influence of 17th-century, French designed landscapes.

The Wilderness area on the levelled ground of the North Terrace has good examples of maturing birch, beech, fir and sweet chestnut. Mature yew and holly may indicate the grown-out borders of an 18th-century network of vistas across the North Terrace. The Wilderness area also contains the site of the 16th-century Abercorn Castle (Scheduled Monument Reference 7869) in the form of a mound within a clearing. It is referred to on William Adam's undated plan as a 'mount with a bank and evergreen wilderness round', and was planted with Cedar of Lebanon, probably during the mid-to-late 18th century.

A formal garden is aligned on an axis with the south flank of Hopetoun House. From a sundial near the house, the path extends southward, passing round the perimeter of a bowling green, and leads to the 'Little Garden'. Here, the path is flanked by urns and a small stream with step cascades passes underneath. A garden house is shown at this location on William Adam's undated plan but there is no evidence of it in the present landscape. A photograph of this 'Little Garden' in the Gardeners' Magazine of 1906 shows a regular pattern of shrub planting in grass flanked by Cedar of Lebanon (no longer extant but named on the Ordnance Survey map, surveyed in 1856).

James Leslie's Survey of the Hopetoun estate in 1756 shows a serpentine pathway (a path that winds one way and then another) along the south boundary wall bordering the Deer Park Road. Depicted as interspersed with planting, this was possibly an early shrubbery walk.

Walled Gardens

The walled garden is located to the southeast of the house and was probably established during the Bruce/Edward period, with 'bricks for the kitchen garden north wall...fired in 1705' (Brown, p301).

It is large and rectangular and is dissected by a stream which flows west to east through the centre of the garden. The north and south areas slope towards the stream in the form of a valley. The north area is subdivided: the east compartment adjoins the Gardener's Cottage and is now a formal rose garden with borders. The west compartment contains a nursery for the gardens, a vegetable garden, and formal and informal private garden areas.

Maps and written accounts help chart the history of the walled garden. The undated William Adam plan depicts a semi-circular 'canal... for water foull [sic]', but this is not evident in the present garden. In circa 1820, ornamental conifers were established in the southwest corner and those surviving include two of the first specimens of Himalayan spruce to be introduced to Britain in 1818. Other early introductions within the garden include Chinese redwood.

A description of the walled garden in the Gardeners' Chronicle, 1896, describes six 42 foot long glasshouses (no longer extant). Rare plants established within the glasshouses were sent to Hopetoun from Australia by the 7th Earl of Hopetoun and 1st Marquess of Linlithgow around 1895 while he was Governor General of the Australian Commonwealth. A description in the Gardeners' Magazine, 1911, describes herbaceous borders in the walled garden being many hundreds of feet long and the south side of the stream 'tastefully designed and devoted to moisture loving plants'.

The walled garden areas were not seen at the time of the review (2015).

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

The house and grounds are open to the public daily from Easter to the end of September.

For more detailed visitor directions visit the Hopetoun House website.


Hopetoun Preservation Trust


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

One of Scotland's finest designed landscapes, dating from the 18th century and comprising of category A listed buildings, an important plant collection, fine parkland and woodland, all of which make a major contribution to the surrounding landscape.

Site History

Hopetoun House designed landscape is the product of three main phases of landscape development; circa 1696-1710, circa 1721-1756 and circa 1848-1895.

It is associated with the Hope family, who hold a record of public service in Scotland dating back to at least the 16th century, and who were active in the world of law and commerce. Sir John Hope (1632-1682) originally came to West Lothian (formerly Linlithgowshire) in 1657 to expand his silver and lead mining enterprises. He purchased the lands of Abercorn in 1678, and enlarged his new estate through steady acquisition of the surrounding lands.

In 1696 his widow, Lady Margaret Hamilton, appointed Sir William Bruce (c.1630-1710), to create a set-piece country house and estate landscape influenced by Italian and French classicism. Described by Sir John Clerk of Penicuik as the 'introducer of architecture to Scotland', Sir William Bruce was the foremost Scottish gentleman-architect of his day. At Hopetoun, he collaborated with associate draughtsman and surveyor Alexander Edward (1651-1708) and the Bauchope family of master masons. Around 1701, Edward brought back plans and drawings from Europe for the 1st Earl of Hopetoun including seventeen views of the gardens at Versailles. Although no plan drawings of Hopetoun by Bruce or Edward are known to survive, Edward's axial plans for Kinnaird House (1697) and his proposed layout of the grounds at Hamilton Palace (1708) provide a good indication of what was envisioned for Hopetoun. The concept of a grand axial avenue purposefully aligned with significant features in the historic landscape had also been used by Bruce at his own Kinross House (1672, aligned with Loch Leven Castle) and at Balcaskie House (circa 1670, aligned with the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth).

A significant piece of evidence for the early designed landscape is William Adam's undated plan of Hopetoun. In this, he describes the view east from the house as 'carrying your eye over two miles of the River Forth to the island and ruins of Inchgarvie and from thence North Berwick Law, being a high mount in the form of a sugar loaf which terminates the avenue'. The owner of Hopetoun at this time was Sir Charles Hope (1681-1742). Elected Member of Parliament for Linlithgowshire in 1702, aged 21, he was created 1st Earl of Hopetoun in 1703. In 1723, he became a founding member of 'The Honourable Society of Improvers in the Knowledge of Agriculture in Scotland' presided over by his cousin, Sir Thomas Hope of Rankeillor.

The period 1700-1710 witnessed major planting and landscaping work in the grounds. The Great North Terrace and the Oval Basin, both key features of the present landscape, were under construction between 1700 and 1705 (Brown 2012: 300). The earliest identified payment for a gardener at Hopetoun dates to 1703 (Hogg 1975). Between 1703 and 1710, thousands of shrubs and trees were planted, imported from London and the nurseries of other Scottish estates (Brown 2012: 301).

Numerous eminent 18th century travel writers, naturalists and historians visited Hopetoun, describing the grandeur, the layout and the vistas in favourable terms. A model of the garden existed in 1710 (Robertson, p.17), the same year that Scottish physician and antiquary, Sir Robert Sibbald wrote of Hopetoun that 'Sir William Bruce and Mr Alexander Edward, Great Masters in Architecture and contrivance of Avenues, Gardens and Orchards, have raised a stately house with avenues in all quarters'.

In his 'Journey Through Scotland' of 1729, the travel writer and government spy John Macky described the view from the 'terras [sic] to the north of the parterre' as 'the finest [he] ever saw anywhere'. Macky noted that he was able to see 'Stirling and its castle' and described several vistas 'from each of the many walks that run from the parterre, some of them ending in a parish church, some in an old tower' (Macky, p.202). The undated plan of Hopetoun by William Adam illustrates a clearing on the north side of the parterre (West Lawn) for a proposed statue of George I, with four avenues radiating from this point towards the Firth of Forth. Modern mapping suggests that these avenues may have been deliberately aligned with, from west to east, Culross, Broomhall, Rosyth Church and the ruins of Rosyth Castle on the Fife shoreline.

The landscape framework established at Hopetoun by Bruce and Edward was modified to some extent by William Adam and his architect sons during their extensive remodelling and expansion of Hopetoun House in the period up to 1767. Hopetoun was among William Adam's first commissions and he may have trained under Sir William Bruce for a period in his early career. In 1727, William Adam and Sir John Clerk of Penicuik visited a number of influential country seats in England, including Cliveden, Chiswick House and Wanstead Park.

The 1st Earl was succeeded by his son, John in 1742. Meanwhile, Adam continued to work on Hopetoun House until his death in 1748 at which point John Adam (1721-92) took over, completing the interiors. William Adam's second son, Robert (1728-92), accompanied the 2nd Earl on a grand tour of Europe in 1754.

General Roy's mid 18th-century survey and John Leslie's 1756 estate survey both depict a more extensive designed landscape to the west, beyond the boundaries of the present designed landscape area, than is now evident. The North Berwick Law axial alignment appears to have extended further west as a planted avenue across the Hopetoun estate lands of Midhope to the neighbouring policies of the House of the Binns (q.v. Inventory).

Historic maps reveal a period of change from the mid 18th to mid 19th century. Comparison between General Roy's survey and the 1865 Ordnance Survey map indicates the loss of some parts of the earlier design, with many of the vistas closer to the house left to 'naturalise' in the more informal or Romantic fashion of the later 18th century. However, the underlying framework remained largely consistent with the mid-18th-century design as depicted by Roy.

Contemporary opinion of the designed landscape remained positive in the late 18th and 19th centuries. The Statistical Account for 1781 refers to Hopetoun as a 'princely seat...visited by all those who travel through Scotland, and fully celebrated by every itinerant bookmaker'. In 1817, the 4th Earl of Hopetoun inherited the title and estate, and further improvements were made to the gardens around this time, such as the extension of the east and west approach drives. The famed naturalist and garden designer J.C. Loudon (1783-1843) visited around 1824 and described the gardens as 'typical of the highest development to which the art of gardening had attained' (Loudon, 1824). Written accounts of the walled garden around the turn of the 20th century, meanwhile, suggest that it was an important and pioneering horticultural establishment at that time, particularly for glasshouse species (see under 'Landscape Components: Walled Garden').

Charles William Frederick Hope, 3rd Marquess of Linlithgow, was instrumental in establishing the Hopetoun House Preservation Trust in 1974. The objectives of the Trust 'are the conservation of Hopetoun, its buildings, collections and parkland; the educational use of these facilities and the enjoyment of the visiting public'. In the first decades of the 21st century, a number of tree-lined avenues and vistas across the parkland have been reintroduced, based on 18th-century surveys and estate records.

Associated People
Features & Designations


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

  • Historic Environment Scotland Listed Building

  • Reference: Estate buildings
  • Grade: B
  • Historic Environment Scotland Listed Building

  • Reference: Main Gate of Main Drive
  • Grade: B


  • Summerhouse
  • Ha-ha
  • Description: Curving ha-ha surrounding the formal lawn on the east side of the house and separating it from the drives.
  • Bandstand
  • Great House (featured building)
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Ornamental Pond
  • Description: The Round Pond, refurbished in 1999.
  • Hedge
  • Description: Clipped yew hedges lining paths in the wilderness area.
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential





Open to the public


Electoral Ward





  • Historic Scotland