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House of the Binns


The original layout of the mid-18th- to mid-19th-century designed landscape at the House of the Binns remains today. Well-preserved parkland surrounds the house on all sides. There is also a woodland walk on a hill with views to the Firth of Forth. A small formal parterre and early-19th-century grass terraces are associated with the house, and the structure of the walled garden remains.

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

The House of the Binns is situated just over 0.5 miles (1km) from the southern shore of the Firth of Forth, some 16 miles (25.5km) from Edinburgh. The A904 and B9109 form the southern and western boundaries of the site. The Binns is so called after the two hillocks on which the landscape is set. The immediate surrounding landscape is agricultural, dissected to the south of the A904 by the M9 motorway. The estate of Hopetoun House lies to the east. On the coastline to the west and north, across the Forth Estuary, are the industrial and naval developments of Grangemouth, Bo'ness and Rosyth.

The setting of the house enables magnificent panoramic views to be obtained north to the Bridges of the Forth and beyond to Fife, and south to the Pentland Hills. The designed landscape of The Binns, in particular the Tower, is highly significant in the locality.

The House of the Binns lies on the west slope of Binns Hill. The designed landscape extends south to the A904, west to the B9109, north to the edge of the park at Mannerston and east to the edge of the woodland. Documentary evidence of the development of the designed landscape is provided by General Roy's map of c.1750, the first edition OS of 1855 and the 2nd edition OS of c.1900. Comparison of these maps shows that the estate expanded in the late 18th century. Prior to 1944, the woodlands which now form the eastern boundary of the estate were part of the policies. The panoramic views from The Binns are an important part of the designed landscape. There are 227 acres (92ha) in the designed landscape today.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The House of the Binns is listed category B. The original part appears to have been the north-west portion of the present entrance front. By the late 17th century, it had been extended to the south-east and south-west to form a quadrangular house. It was further extended on the south side in the mid-18th century to form the present dining room and morning room and was subsequently remodelled in the castellated style in c.1810 by Robert Burn. It has a three-storey, main north facade, with two-storey wings and one-storey 18th century additions. Binns Tower, listed category B, was built in 1826 to the specification of Alexander Allan, reputedly as the result of a wager placed by Sir James Dalyell. A sundial stands in the formal garden to the south of the house.


The parkland extends to all the boundaries of the site and provides a magnificent setting for the house. There were two drives designed to sweep through the parkland. The west drive is the present main access route to the house and approaches the house from the north side. A driveway runs east off this drive past the derelict stables to the walled garden. The parkland to the north of the house is separated from the formal lawn by a ha-ha. The main east drive has not been used since 1913. The Sergeant's Pond is situated near the west drive. It was constructed by General Tam Dalyell as a watering place for the horses of the Royal Scots Greys. A caravan park was established in 1978 in a valley in the south-east corner of the site and a new entrance at the west end of the Mill Dam Wood has been constructed and this links with the line of the former east drive.

An Orchard which was situated next to the walled garden, shown on the lst edition OS map, had been incorporated into the parkland by c.1910. Binns Tower, a folly, is situated at the highest point of the park. Comparison of the lst & 2nd edition OS maps shows the park to be well stocked with trees, the numbers of which appear to have been reduced by 1910. Today, however, many fine trees remain in the park of mixed ages and species and new parkland trees are being planted. An orchard has recently been established on the edge of the park on the west side of the house.


A small area of woodland remains as part of the policies in the south-east corner of the site which is now part of the Caravan Park. It straddles the burns flowing into the Mill Dam which has now silted up. The trees are mixed deciduous of mixed ages.

Woodland Garden

The woodland garden is situated on the west side of Binns Hill above the house. Woodland walks run through it, forming the pedestrian access to the Tower. The routes of the pathways can be seen on the lst edition OS map. Many of them have been totally overgrown but some were recently exposed. General Tam's cave is situated beneath the escarpment to the south-west of the Tower, reputedly used by him for meditation.

The Gardens

The ornamental garden lies to the south of the house and links with one laid out to the south of the walled garden. There is a small private garden to the south of the house which is laid out as a parterre, filled with herbs, which are resilient to the attentions of the resident peafowl. The terraces next to the south front were laid out in the 1820s by the 5th Baronet following the additions to the house. They are now largely lawn with specimen shrubs and herbaceous borders adjacent to the house. Most of the plant material is modern and, in places, contravenes the character of the garden. The path to the walled garden is lined with ornamental trees, in particular holly varieties which were extensively cut back some years ago by commercial nurserymen for foliage. A walk down the west side of the walled garden is overgrown. Along its southern boundary a conservatory, removed since the last war, overlooked the pond which remains surrounded by yew and other ornamental plants. This garden is now overgrown with invasive species and the water feature is becoming silted.

Walled Garden

The Walled Garden was maintained as a kitchen garden until World War II. The exact date of its construction is unknown. It is presently leased to a landscape contractor as a tree and shrub nursery although part of it is retained by Mrs Dalyell to provide cut flowers for the house. The bases of two greenhouses in the centre of the garden, built by Mrs Eleanor Dalyell, are now used as enclosures for flowers. A range of potting sheds on the north side of the south boundary is derelict.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts


01506 830175

Access contact details

The house is open from March to October for guided tours only.

The grounds are open daily throughout the year.


House of the Binns is 15 miles west of Edinburgh. The nearest station is Linlithgow 3 miles away.


The National Trust for Scotland


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

With a rich historical association with the Dalyell family, House of the Binns is an attractive designed landscape which makes an outstanding contribution to the surrounding scenery, contains architectural features of exceptional interest and provides high nature conservation value.

Site History

The designed landscape was laid out between 1750 - 1850 and the original structure remains today.

There is evidence to suggest that The Binns has been inhabited since prehistoric times and it is thought that Binns Hill was the site of a Pictish Fort. The earliest written records of the lands of the Bynnis date from 1335. It is not known whether a house existed there at that time but there was one certainly by 1478 owned by Archibald Meldrum, son of the late James Meldrum of the Bynnis. When it left his possession is uncertain but, in 1599, the proprietor, James, Lord Lyndsay, sold it to Sir William Livingston of Kilsyth and in 1612 it was purchased by Thomas Dalyell. Since then the House of the Binns has been the home of the Dalyell family.

In 1601 Thomas Dalyell married Janet Bruce, daughter of Sir Edward Bruce of Kinloss, Master of the Rolls to James VI of Scotland. Sir Edward and Thomas joined the King in London in 1603 when he succeeded to the throne of England, with Thomas in the capacity as Deputy Master of the Rolls. He returned to Scotland some nine years later and, with the fortune which he had accumulated, purchased The Binns. His son, Thomas, is thought to have been born in 1615 and grew up to be the most eminent man of the family history, General Tam Dalyell. Educated at home, he travelled on the Continent before returning to Scotland to sign a petition protesting against the enforcement of the Book of Common Prayer in Scottish churches. A Royalist, he became elevated in the armies of Charles I and II until, in 1654, he was forced to flee with the latter to the Continent. He then joined the Russian army where he was promoted to General and made a Noble of Russia. After the Restoration, General Tam returned in 1666 to take charge of His Majesty's Forces in Scotland and thirteen years later was made their Commander-in-Chief. He founded the Royal Regiment of Scots Dragoons in 1681, who were to become the Scots Greys in 1877 and, as their Colonel, oversaw their first muster at The Binns. Between the time of his return to Scotland and his death in 1685, he added to the house which his father had built.

A Baronetcy was conferred on General Tam's son, a title which had been intended for his father. The 4th Baronet, Sir Robert Dalyell, carried out improvements to the house and grounds in the mid-18th century and these were continued by the 5th Baronet, Sir James, in the early 19th century. His brother, Sir John Graham Dalyell, was knighted in 1836 in recognition of his services to literature and science and succeeded his brother as 6th Baronet in 1841. Shortly after the 19th century improvements, land had to be sold to meet their cost.

During World War II the house was occupied and, inevitably, the gardens suffered a period of neglect. In 1944, Mrs Eleanor Dalyell of The Binns sold the woodlands and land to the east of the present boundary and granted a Charter of The Binns to the National Trust for Scotland with an endowment for its upkeep in order that the 'history, legend and memory of the family of Dalyell of The Binns, shall be preserved...' for the benefit and enjoyment of the nation. Mr Tam Dalyell, MP for Linlithgow, presently resides at The Binns with his family; Mrs Kathleen Dalyell is the National Trust Representative for the House of the Binns.

Associated People
Features & Designations


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


  • Sundial
  • Folly
  • Description: Binns Tower on Binns Hill.
  • Country House (featured building)
  • Description: It has a three-storey, main north facade, with two-storey wings and one-storey 18th century additions.
  • Latest Date:
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential





Open to the public


Electoral Ward





  • Historic Scotland