Inchmarlo 1837

Banchory, Scotland

Brief Description

Features include an informal woodland and water garden, which was created in the mid-20th century. There is streamside planting beside a burn and an understorey of rhododendrons and other shrubs. The estate is now in several ownerships. Part of it comprises a Continuing Care Retirement Community with luxury apartments and a country club with a golf course. There is also commercial forestry on the estate.


The park at Inchmarlo House was laid out in the early-19th century. Additions to the estate woodlands were made throughout the 19th and early-20th century.

Detailed Description

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

Inchmarlo House is situated on the north bank of the River Dee some 2 miles (3 km) north-west of the town of Banchory and 18 miles (29km) south-west from the city of Aberdeen. The A93 forms the southern boundary of the site. The surrounding valley landscape is a mix of afforestation and agriculture. Views are gained south across the River Dee to the Blackhall Forest and the Scolty Monument and west to the Grampian Mountains. The house and parkland are significant from the A93; the woodlands can also be seen from here and from the minor access roads to the north and east of the house.

The house stands overlooking the parkland and the River Dee. The designed landscape extends north to the Home Farm, west to the Lodge and east to the road which passes the Queen's Lodge. In recent years, improvements to the A93 have cut through the south-west corner of the parkland at Invercanny. The designed landscape today includes some 253 acres (102ha).

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Inchmarlo House, listed category B, was built as a two-storey classical mansion in the mid-18th century. A third-storey and balustraded parapet was added in the mid-19th century. Bow windows on the front facade and an east wing, added in the late Victorian period, were removed in 1949. The Stables have been converted to a gardener's and a chauffeur's apartment. South Lodge is thought to be the oldest of the three lodges. The Queen's lodge stands at the entrance to the Queen's Drive, east of the house, and is now privately owned. The West Lodge stands at the now redundant western entrance from the A93.

Pieces of garden ornamentation were given to Lord Aboyne, a relative of the family and removed from the site prior to the sale of the estate in 1983.


The parkland lies to the north of the west drive and south of the house between the west drive and the A93. The latter used to run along the southern boundary of the park until a recent road improvement cut through it, north of Invercanny. The present park was laid out in the early 19th century with an informal layout, contrasting to that drawn on General Roy's map of c.1750. An elongated pond is featured south-west of the house on the 1st edition OS map of 1871 and remains today. The oldest parkland trees, dating from c.1800, are lime, oak and sycamore, some of which stand in clumps around the pond. Some sycamore and younger 'exotic' parkland trees of copper beech, larch and Norway spruce date from c.1850. Visually, the parkland extends up to the house in a series of terraces. The driveway which ran along the front of the house in the 2nd edition OS of c.1910 has now gone.


The majority of the woodlands within the policies are composed of Sitka spruce which has been planted since the last war. The shelter enclosure of the north park is a beech and mixed conifer woodland dating from this period. The woodland between the house and the South Lodge is a mixed broadleaf and conifer woodland which has been interplanted with exotic conifers about 30 years old. An area which was the tennis court has been colonized by birch seedlings. There is a fine Scots pine plantation, established at the end of the last century. A young beech plantation is situated to the east of the house.

Woodland Garden

The woodland garden lies to the east of the north drive. Old photographs in the possession of Lady Adam Gordon show that there were woodland walks in this area prior to the development of the garden as known today. Under the woodland canopy of 19th century Douglas fir, Scots pine and amidst the Rhododendron ponticum understorey, Mr Charles Cox established the garden and the rock garden within it. The collection of Rhododendrons of the Taliense series and the Berberis spp. were probably a gift from E.H. Cox, his cousin. Colonel ∓ Mrs A.H. Bowhill further developed the garden, felling some of the trees to create clearings in order that light could penetrate.

A burn flows through the garden, which Colonel Bowhill used to form a 'stepped waterfall'. Next to the burn, dwarf Rhododendrons, Hostas, Primulas and Meconopsis are well established, part of the fine collection amassed by the Bowhills. Lady Adam Gordon contributed much of the plant material from her garden at Littleworth, Surrey which was formerly owned by Clara Mangles, who won an RHS Award of Merit for the Littleworth form of Rhododendron wightii in 1913, now grown at Inchmarlo. In addition to Rhododendrons, many other plants grow well; among them, Eucryphia 'Nymansay' and Juniperus squamata 'Meyeri'. Specimens of the collection of Japanese maples were among the trees measured by Alan Mitchell in 1981.

Walled Garden

The walled garden lies to the north of the woodland garden. It has three walls which form the enclosure of the formal garden. On the north-facing wall stands a derelict lean-to potting shed which overlooks the disused kitchen garden. A range of glasshouses which once stood against the south face of this wall has been removed since 1977.

The longer west and east walls of the garden are about 3m high, approx lm lower than the north wall. An open ironwork fence forms the southern enclosure. The original layout of the garden is shown on the 1st & 2nd edition OS maps. Today, the garden is dominated by intricately shaped hedges of purple-leaved Prunus pissardii 'Atropurpurea' which enclose herbaceous borders. Specimen trees stand on the surrounding lawn, among them, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, Parrotia persica, and various maples and rowans. Many plants were labelled with their botanical name by the Bowhills, and some labels remain.

  • Pond
  • Description: An informal pond in the parkland which has some early-19th-century plantings around it in the form of clumps of lime, oak and sycamore.
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: A mid-18th-century house with later additions.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:

Detailed History

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

Most notable for its 20th century collection of Rhododendrons, Japanese maples and other ericaceous plants, the designed landscape comprises woodland, parkland, walled garden and some interesting architectural features.

Site History

The designed landscape was laid out in the early 19th century. Additions to the woodlands were made throughout the 19th and early 20th century. The woodland garden was begun in the 1930s but dates largely from 1948.

The estate of Inchmarlo was owned by the Douglas family of Tilquhille in the mid- 18th century when the present house was built. It is not known when the family sold the estate but by 1883 the proprietor was Duncan Davidson Esq of Tillychetly. His family was responsible for the Victorian additions to the house, and planted many trees in the woodlands.

The Queen's Lodge and the Queen's Drive are named after Queen Victoria, who chose to drive through the estate from the railway terminal at Banchory on her way to Balmoral rather than use the main road to the south.

By the 1930s the estate had been sold to Mr Charles Cox, a cousin of E.H. Cox of Glendoick. He, in turn, sold the property to a timber merchant at the time of World War II who exploited the woodland stock before selling the house and grounds to Colonel & Mrs A.H. Bowhill in 1948. They greatly improved the gardens and restored the house to its Georgian proportions. Their daughter, Lady Adam Gordon, inherited the property which was sold in 1983 to Skene Enterprises (Aberdeen) Ltd. It is now being developed as a Continuing Care Retirement Community incorporating luxury houses and apartments, a Retirement Home and a Country Club with 75 acres of policies. A local landowner now owns most of the policy woodlands.