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House Of Falkland


House Of Falkland is a designed estate landscape with picturesque waterside walks, formal gardens, parkland and pleasure grounds.

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

Designed estate landscape with picturesque waterside walks, formal gardens, parkland and pleasure grounds.

Location and Setting

The House of Falkland is situated off the A912 on the west side of Falkland.

The house and gardens lie on a low-lying plain below the Lomond Hills in the Howe of Fife. The wooded grounds of the designed landscape are viewed against the backdrop of East Lomond. The policies extend across the Lomond Hills to include Black Hill and Kilgour Craigs, Arraty Craigs and Green Hill. The Maspie Burn forms a deep, rocky gorge known as the Maspie Den, containing a series of waterfalls. From within the estate, the garden front of the house has been deliberately aligned to give panoramic views of East Lomond. Similar striking views north over the Howe of Fife are obtained from the Tyndall Bruce Monument. Perimeter belts of planting limit views into the estate from the A912. From the minor road to the south there are only glimpsed views north into the parkland.

The extent of the designed landscape has not altered since the late 19th century (1854, OS 6"; 1894, OS 25").

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

House of Falkland, designed by William Burn 1839-44, is a 2-storey, English-Jacobean style mansion. Later internal alterations were carried out by Robert Schultz Weir, 1887 and 1892. Alexander Roos designed the Formal Garden and Garden Terraces. The Formal Garden Terrace is rubble-built and was once decorated with urns, all of which have been removed. Stone Pedestals in the garden were also once surmounted by stone urns. Dressed Stones from the terrace steps, lie in the shrubbery, south-west of the house. The Fountain, to the east of the house, consists of a stone basin with a square stone pedestal supporting a large urn and lotus-flower water spout. A second Fountain, with a circular stone bowl, urn and water spout, lies west of the house. Also on the west front, a Lion Mask Fountain is built into the terrace wall. This issues into a clam shell and semicircular basin. Two Fountains and a Garden Feature which stood on rising ground to the south of the house have been superseded by a conifer plantation and pheasant rearing pens.

On the east drive are the 2-storey Stables, quadrangular in plan, by John Swinton, 1823, and probably altered by William Burn c 1839'44. The clock tower was designed by Donald A Stewart in c 1901. In the courtyard is a Horse Trough. The Tudor style East Lodge by William Burn c 1844 is single-storey and attic with decorative barge-boards. The Gate Piers are square with ball finials and flanking balustrades. To the west is a large decorative Fishpond and two small ornamental Bridges which cross the burn feeding the pond. The Gothic-style Crichton Stuart Memorial Chapel in the park to the east of the house was designed by Reginald Fairlie. It was begun in 1912 but left unfinished, and contains a memorial tablet designed by Hew Lorimer.

Gilderland Bridge over the Maspie Burn was designed by William Burn, 1844, as was the small, more ornate Bridge over the Mill Burn (with its urn finials removed), south of the formal garden. There are several other small Rubble Bridges with cascades along the Maspie Burn, to east and west of the house. A man-made Tunnel lies on the west side of the Maspie Burn, south of the house.

The east-west walk in the north parks has a stone bastion at its east end but the Summerhouse on the bastion is no longer extant. The classical Temple of Decision (Roos, erected 1850-6) on Green Hill is now ruinous. It was acted as a key focal point when viewed from the principal rooms in the house. The Bruce Monument on Black Hill is a large obelisk.

The designed landscape is bounded by Rubble Walls along the Leslie road to the south and the Strathmiglo road to the north. An Ice-house, originally thatched, is built into the south bank of the Maspie Burn to the north-east of the house. Nineteenth-century Kilgour Farm Steading is built on land associated with the site and burial ground of Kilgour Chapel.

Drives and Approaches

The main approach to House of Falkland lies through the East Lodge, which terminates at the West Port, leading in from Falkland. This leads to the stables, with the Maspie Burn to the north. The drive, dominated by an avenue of lime (Tilia x europaea), provides a straight approach alongside the east park, to then rise gradually as it nears the house. To the rear, north side of the house, it divides; the right fork leading and joining up with other policy tracks. The other leads to the entrance front. The Avenue was recorded in 1879, when it was described thus: 'an avenue of Limes from the entrance gates towards the house. It is 36 feet in width and 12 feet distant in lines. One lime has a girth of 8 feet 9.' (Jaffrey and Howie 1879, p.29). This suggests that the Avenue's origins may be older, however, it does not figure on Winter's 1757 plan and it may simply have incorporated earlier Parkland planting.

The approach from the north and west is from the Pillars of Hercules. The roads in this area have been historically re-aligned to be further away from the house. A North Drive leads in from the A912, but is no longer used. It led over the Arraty Burn through mixed coniferous deciduous woodland, which screens the house, before leading between square parks set to either side. After then crossing the Maspie Burn, the drive joins the East Drive. Part of this approach is bordered by a beech (Fagus sylvatica) hedge with oak (Quercus petraea) and lime standards. Holly (Ilex aquifolium) has been interplanted and cut back.

A medieval road led from Falkland to Kilgour Church, just to the north of the Arraty Burn, crossing the area of the Trenches.

Paths and Walks

Extensive walks and drives led through the policies and exploit the watercourses, dens and high ground. Much of this 19th century path network survives but some are now overgrown. Initially, this provided a 'picturesque' experience through areas of mixed broadleaves and exotic conifer plantations.

West of the house, a tunnel leads through steep ground rising from the Maspie Burn, into the Maspie Den. The walk then leads up to and underneath the Yad waterfall. To the north, the Maspie Burn was laid out with a network of pleasure walks and ornamented with small bridges. East of the house a walk, on the north banks of the Maspie Burn, leads through the policies to Falkland Palace. A network of walks or drives lead westwards to the Temple of Decision, on Green Hill, and the Tyndall Bruce Monument on Black Hill. Other natural features, Arraty Den, Arraty Craigs and Kilgour Craigs were similarly exploited by longer rides. The Gilderland Walk, west of the house, was laid out at the same time as the Gliderland Bridge (1840s), as a ride to Kilgour Craigs for Lord Bute.


Parkland to the east of the house was formerly laid out around Nuthill House. It was then re-orientated and 'borrowed' to form the east views from the House of Falkland, set higher in the landscape. The Mill Burn, flowing through the centre is set with cascades. The main trees comprise lime, beech, ash and sycamore. A knoll to the east of the house frames this view and was planted with exotic pines.

South of the House of Falkland and its terraces, the rising ground was made into a park and arboretum, when the house was constructed. Perimeter plantings of broadleaf trees enclose the park to the south and east, with the Maspie Den woodland enclosing the west side. A few original trees remain. The area is now largely planted with young conifers.

All the higher ground across the east and south parks has been planted with groups of trees including Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), beech, lime, horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), oak, and sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa). A knoll, south of the house, called the 'Rising Mound' is planted with Scots pine, oak, and sweet chestnut. It used to contain two fountains and steps (1854, OS 6"; 1894, OS 25"; 1912-13, OS 25").

In contrast, land to the north is laid out with four near-rectangular fields, or parks. The southernmost, flanking the North Drive, are now playing fields. In the early 19th century, a tree nursery was located in the south-west park (1854, OS 6"). The north-east park is now arable with some oak trees.

Avenues, largely beech but also some of lime and oak, line many of the roads and paths. Rows of trees line many of the field boundaries, others are planted with hedges, notably beech. Other field boundaries are formed by dry-stone dykes or field walls.

The Gardens

The formal gardens lie on the south, east and west fronts. The geometrical flower-beds and walks no longer survive, but Roos' design is clearly discernible. The yews in each corner bed, originally clipped, are overgrown. Two fountains survive, on the east and west front. Illustrations and descriptions indicate a third fountain, central to the south garden (M'Intosh 1853, p.618). It may not have been executed as it is not shown on contemporary maps (1894, OS 25") or photographs.

Walled Garden

The location of Nuthill House's kitchen garden is likely to have been the nursery in the north-west park (shown on various plans dating from 1821-94). In the latter part of the 19th century, the garden at Falkland Palace also seems to have been a kitchen garden for House of Falkland, reached by the walk along the Maspie Burn.

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 prime and rare example of mid-19th century garden design by the collaboration of designers William Burn, Alexander Roos and Donald Beaton. This was further elaborated during the 1890s, by designs in the Arts and Crafts style, by Robert Schultz. The site's interest is enhanced by its associations with the royal Palace of Falkland, with which it forms a contiguous designed landscape and a shared and related history.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

18th, 19th and 20th centuries

Site History

The House of Falkland estate was formed in the 19th century by engrossing the estates of Nuthill and Kilgour. Their early histories are connected with Falkland royal palace and its hunting park (q.v. Inventory, Volume 4, pp.382-6). About the time James VI left Scotland in 1603, a keeper of the Palace had been appointed with the right to reside there. The post was both hereditary and saleable. David Murray, 1st Viscount Stormont (d.1631) was the first such keeper. He acquired the lands of Balmbrae (Balmblae) beside Falkland and intended to build a house at Nuthill in 1626, but its exact location is uncertain (Derek Carter Associates, vol.1, p.31-2).

The first direct evidence for a residence at Nuthill, in 1654, indicates it to have been a simple, tower-house (Blaeu, 1654). By the 1670s Stormont's lands had been sold and, in 1726, the Nuthill portion was acquired by Alexander Thomson, a shipmaster of Dysart. The lands of Falkland Palace remained in separate ownership. During the residency of the Thomsons, the Nuthill lands were laid out with a 'New Park' to the south of Nuthill House, enclosed and surrounded by an established field system (Winter 1757). The 'ferm toun' of Kilgour was acquired and together they made 'one of the most valuable properties in the Parish of Falkland' (Directory 1770). Ownership of the estate changed hands a couple of times at the turn of the 19th century, before being purchased by Professor John Bruce (1745-1826) in 1821.

Bruce, descended from the Bruces of Earlshall, made his fortune working for the East India Company in the 1770s and, subsequently, was appointed Professor of Logic at Edinburgh. A former M.P., he was a friend of Pitt, the Prime Minister as well as one of his Majesty's printers for Scotland. He embarked on a series of land purchases, acquiring neighbouring farms and estates, eventually establishing an estate extending northwards from the Lomonds to the River Eden, including Myres Castle. He purchased the former Palace, royal hunting park and Wood of Falkland from General George Moncrieff and thereby acquired the Keepership of the Palace. Between 1821-26, he established a series of improving leases, held by tenants for 19 years, built farm steadings, roads and bridges, enclosed land and undertook drainage works on a truly extensive scale.

He rescued Falkland Palace, seriously despoiled during the Commonwealth and which was becoming increasingly ruinous due to being plundered for its masonry. Repair works were undertaken, an apartment in the Palace housed his factor and the garden became a kitchen and fruit garden for Nuthill House. A new North Entrance Drive leading to Nuthill was constructed and new stables were built. Bruce seems to have commenced landscaping the pleasure grounds by planting along the Maspie Den, building timber bridges and walks along the burn. A tunnel was constructed to lead the walk through a rocky outcrop by 1830 (Maxton, 1830), and may have been part of an overall scheme by Bruce intended to lead to the Yad waterfall. The completed picturesque walk leading under the Yad waterfall was not completed until after 1830.

On his death, Nuthill was inherited by his niece, Margaret Bruce (1788-1869), who married O. Tyndall (1790-1855), in 1828. Together the Tyndall Bruces continued work at Nuthill and at Falkland Palace until Tyndall's death. They commissioned the architect William Burn, to design a new house, the 'House of Falkland'. This replaced Nuthill House, which was demolished. William Sawrey Gilpin (1762-1843), the landscape designer and author of Practical Hints for Landscape Gardening (1832), visited Falkland in September 1840 and met with William Burn. Burn noted to Tyndall Bruce that 'a more fortunate event never occurred as his advice will be of incalculable service' (SRO GD 152/53/3/14/4). His opinion appears to have been sought on the siting of the new house and in the initial planning of the accompanying garden. Burn designed many of the bridges on the ornamental walks and the entrance lodge.

Impressive formal terraced gardens and parterres were laid out and the pleasure grounds were enlarged southwards. The final garden design was the collaborative work of the Tyndall Bruces, the architects William Burn and Alexander Roos and the horticulturalist and gardener Donald Beaton. This collaborative work is important as it combined the talents of two of the most prominent garden designers and innovators of the period. Correspondence between Roos and Tyndall Bruce details some of the discussions and refinements around the designs (SRO GD152).

Beaton, born at Urry, Ross-shire, was a renowned gardener, author and hybridist. He was invited to design the flowerbeds at Falkland in c 1844, by which time he was the main, notable publicist of the bedding system. He had become famous as Head Gardener at Shrubland Park (Suffolk), which under his direction became one of the pre-eminent Victorian gardens of the period. He has been described as 'one of the gardening world's most original stylists' and his name was acknowledged as the 'standard for excellence in garden decoration' (Elliott 1986, p.13-14). Roos designed an Italianate entrance lodge at Shrubland Park (1841), which probably afforded him a direct introduction to Donald Beaton (Colvin 1995, p.281).

Although he vied with Fleming (the Head Gardener at Trentham, the Duke of Sutherland's estate) in bedding experiments, Trentham served in effect as a demonstration ground for many of principles expounded by Beaton in his writings. His works enabled a study in:

'harmony of colour; the true definition of contrast; the graceful blending of the trailing with the erect species'; the importance of heights and proportions of growth as well as colour in parallelism and contrast. Each season brought innovation to the gardens:'every year they are diversified, every year more expressive; and the thousands of plants required in its decoration brings the arrangement to a gigantic scale' (Elliott 1986, p.90).

His consideration and design work with bedding displays, alongside his horticultural knowledge and the increasing development of hybrid varieties, contributed to important contemporary debates on colour theory (for a good discussion see Elliott 1986, pp.123-34). His interests in hybridisation led to Darwin's description of him as 'A clever fellow and a damned cocksure man' (Desmond 1994, p.58).

Roos was described by Charles M'Intosh (Book of the Garden 1853, p.619) as 'an Italian architect and landscape gardener of rising eminence'. M'Intosh was sufficiently impressed by his work at Falkland to include the garden layout in his book, although in the final execution, there are minor differences from the illustrated design (M'Intosh 1853, vol.1, plate 29). He prepared plans for the terrace garden in 1843, details of which were modelled on Sir Jeffrey Wyatville's work at Claverton Manor (near Bath) for John Vivian in c1820 (SRO GD152/198/18/4-5). 'The inner parterres on either side of the principal fountain were planted with scarlet geraniums, verbenas and similar showy plants, while the outer ones at the angles were laid out in coloured sand' (M'Intosh 1853, p.619). Roos advocated the contrasts that could be obtained by the use of:

'brickdust, Mineral Coal, Copper Ore, various kinds of Shells, Chalk, Colored Marbles, broken in small particles, quartz, Iron Ore, Glass, and particularly the remains of a Glass casting which is thrown away at the manufacture, Sands, puzzolana, and in fact any sort of mineral or coloured marble which you can procure in your neighbourhood.' (SRP GS152/53/4/Bundle 27/9).

In addition to the formal gardens, he was involved in the South Park, the interior decoration of the house, he designed the Gothic Fountain at Falkland which Bruce presented to the burgh (1853) and the Temple of Decision, set on Green Hill.

Tyndall Bruce was a close friend of the 2nd Marquess of Bute, a relationship originating in their Eton school days. On the Marquess' death in 1848, he became one of two Trustees to administer the six-month old heir's estate. Tyndall Bruce recommended Roos as architect to the Bute Estate. Thereby from 1851-68, he was responsible for the Bute Estate's urban development in Cardiff, including the shrubberies and arboretum at Cathay's Park, Cardiff.

The considerable extent of parkland planting is attested in two estate reports. By 1871, the end of Tyndall Bruce's period, the parkland trees were comprised:

'the greater part of the Hardwood kinds usually planted together with Scots Pine, Larch, Spruce and Silver Firs. They are of various ages from those only a few years planted up to the matured and well developed specimens of 100 years standing. The younger ones of them are arranged for the most Part in the form of plantations on the boundary of the park, but the older specimens stand chiefly in groups and as single trees on the central part of it'.

Further comments on the 'Top of the Flower Garden' note the need for ' thinning here, as the Larch are generally matured in growth, they should be removed.. and also diseased Elm' Openings should be replanted with Silver Fir alone at 5 feet apart as this kind will not fail to grow healthily even under the drip of the older trees '.' (NRAS 3633: Falkland Estate: Report on the Woods and Plantations by James Brown L.L.D., 11 November, 1871).

The considerable number of exotic species planted Is mentioned in an 1879 account, which records :

'Liriodendron, with a girth of 3 feet 8 upon the lawn, where the following healthy Coniferae were also planted out, Abies Douglasii, 59 feet in height, 4 feet 6 in girth, and 40 feet in diameter of branches. Abies Nigra, 29 feet in height and 2 feet 5 in girth. Abies Cephalonica, 49 feet in height and 5 feet in girth. Cryptomeria Japonica, 31 feet in height, 3 feet in girth, and 31 feet in diameter of branches. Pinus Pinaster, one of the two trees measures in girth 5 feet. Pinus Cembra, 37 feet in height and 3 feet 2 in girth. Pinus Excelsa, 41 feet 9 in height and 4 feet 4 in girth. Sequoia Sempervirens, 50 feet in height and 4 feet 6 in girth.' (Jaffrey and Howie 1879, p.27).

Plant lists relating to the laying out of the South Park and parterres in the Tyndall Bruce period survive (GD 152/Bundle 63/4/6'22).

Following Tyndall Bruce's death in 1855 an obelisk was raised to his memory on Blackhill. His widow also commissioned the sculptor Sir John Steel, to design a monument to her uncle, Professor John Bruce, and her father, Colonel Robert Bruce. A second commission, a statue in memory of her husband, now stands beside Falkland Parish Church.

Following Margaret Tyndall Bruce's death in 1869 her cousin, Lt Col Walter Hamilton, inherited the estate. It remained in his family until 1887 when the estate was sold to John Patrick Crichton Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute (1847-1900). The sale included the Keepership of Falkland Palace and the 3rd Marquess embarked on a major task to rebuild and restore it using archaeological and documentary evidence. In the 1890s, he commissioned the architect Robert Schultz Weir, to reform the interior of House of Falkland. Schultz's garden design is no less significant. He has been credited with 'an active and practical career a more fitting expression of the ideal of the Arts and Crafts movement.' (Stamp, 1981). From 1896 Lord Bute and Schultz laid out the Private or Palace Walk, the Palace Orchard and garden buildings for the park, including a circular, thatched summer-house, the Curling Pond Clubhouse, and erected new bridges over the Maspie Den. The summerhouse is no longer extant, only the walk leading to it survives. The curling pond has been converted to a bowling green and the clubhouse reed thatch has been replaced by pantiles (q.v. Inventory, Volume 4, p.382-6). He designed a Fish Pond and bridges alongside the East Lodge in 1897.

In 1900, the estate was inherited by Lord Ninian Crichton Stuart and passed to Major Michael Crichton Stuart in 1915. The present owner, Ninian Crichton Stuart, succeeded in 1981. The House of Falkland is currently leased to House of Falkland School Ltd, an independent residential school. The Falkland Heritage Trust has been formed to safeguard the House of Falkland and secure its future for the benefit of the nation. A Conservation Plan has been prepared and a programme of landscape restoration work commenced in 2002.


Victorian (1837-1901)

Associated People
Features & Designations


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


  • Mansion House (featured building)
  • Description: House of Falkland, designed by William Burn 1839-44, is a 2-storey, English-Jacobean style mansion. Later internal alterations were carried out by Robert Schultz Weir, 1887 and 1892.
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Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


Victorian (1837-1901)





  • Historic Scotland