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The house and grounds at Keir were once part of a larger estate and have been developed continuously since at least the mid-18th century. There is parkland with 18th- and 19th-century plantings, notable formal terraced gardens dating from the mid-19th century and woodland gardens with a wide variety of trees and shrubs. The formal gardens have distinctive topiary and other planting.

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

Keir House and grounds lie off the M9 motorway at Junction 11 on rising ground at the confluence of the Rivers Teith and Allan some 2 miles south-west of Dunblane. The surrounding landscape is highly varied with arable land predominating in the Carse of Stirling and more pasture land on the higher ground. The nearby Touch Hills to the south and Ochil Hills to the east introduce an element of more upland scenery in longer views. The house is largely contained by mature trees and it is the formal gardens to the south and north and the woodland gardens to west and north east, completely surrounded by the park, which are most important for the setting of the house. No outlying features play a prominent part in the designed landscape, but the surrounding woodland does open in places to give long views from the house and garden across the Carse to Stirling Castle, and to the Ochil Hills to the east. The area is moderately well wooded and the designed landscape is not an especially important feature of the surrounding landscape.

The house lies in the centre of the policies. Documentary evidence of the extent of the landscape influenced by design resides primarily in a plan by Thomas White, Snr. dated 1801, which is at Keir House. This shows a designed parkland extending from the River Allan to the east. There is no certain evidence, except the age of some of the remaining trees that these proposals were carried out, but certainly the area of Gallow Hill and Park of Keir, between the M9 and the railway, bears considerable resemblance to the proposals shown. Today the extent of the designed landscape covers some 1,352 acres (547ha).

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Keir House, listed category A, was originally Georgian, with additions in the period 1820 to 1831 by David Hamilton, further alterations between 1849 and 1851 by Alfred Jenoure assisted by William Stirling II (Architect) for Sir William Stirling Maxwell, between 1899 and 1901 by Sir R. Rowand Anderson, and further work and final developments carried out by Balfour Paul in about 1912 who was Anderson's partner and successor.

West Terrace, listed category B, was built by Sir R. Rowand Anderson between 1899 and 1901. He also designed a Sundial, listed category B, in about 1906. The Entrance Tunnel and Terrace, were built between 1846 and 1860 at the same as the Garden Seat was added. Both are listed category B. Three Bridges, all listed category B, were also constructed between 1849 and 1862. Two are footbridges over Home Farm Drive and the other is near the William Stirling Cenotaph. A circular Column, listed category B, made of open brick work, is sited at the east end of the Upper Terrace. The Wall, listed category B, enclosing the Woodland Gardens includes Slave Gateway, Gate and Stairs to Lodge Drive and Swan Gateway in the listing. The Walled Garden, listed category B, was built in about 1820 in the style of David Hamilton and gateways were added about 1850. The Screen Wall and its Pavilions, listed category B, were built between 1849 and 1862. Other features in the Gardens include another terrace with a Column of open brickwork, a small Fountainhead, made from boulders, a rustic Bridge, an Archway and a small Cascade. These are all listed B for the group. The Bathing House, listed category B, is a gothic building with a pointed arch and was built by Sir R. Rowand Anderson about 1893.

The Ice House, listed category B, was built in the early 19th century. The Water House, listed category C(S), was built about 1871. The Garden House and Stud House, listed category C(S), were built between 1849 and 1862 and the Garden House has additions by Sir R. Rowand Anderson dated 1904.

The Home Farm, listed category A, was originally by David Bryce and remodelled in 1858 by Jenource and Stirling. It is built around a central courtyard with three storey clock tower. The Lodge, listed category B, is dated 1861. The North Lodge, listed category C(S), is attributed to David Hamilton in about 1820. The South Lodge, listed category A, has twin Greek Doric column archways and was built about 1820, probably by David Hamilton. It was moved and re-erected when the motorway was constructed. Old Lecropt Churchyard, listed category B, has fine gatepiers and the wrought iron gates were added by Sir R. Rowand Anderson in the early 20th century.


The parkland falls into five areas. Four of these, to the south and west are managed as traditional grass parks, while Meikle Park is cultivated. In 1748 these areas were shown as small plots of pasture surrounded by woods but they were then transformed by agricultural improvement. The 1801 plan by Thomas White shows scattered trees and clumps throughout an extensive parkland with flowing lines of shelterbelts, woodlands and a curving driveway. Sir Henry Steuart of Allanton's gardener is thought to have assisted Charles Stirling, the laird's brother, to lay out the grounds in about 1817. The road was resited and the lodge constructed by David Hamilton and William Stirling II between 1820 and 1830. Sir William Stiring Maxwell continued the planting and enlarged the woodlands. Today many of the parkland trees remain with oak, lime and beech probably dating from the period 1790 to 1810 and copper beech and ash dating from the period 1860 to 1880. The layout of the main entrance to the site from the north and east was altered, and the lodge resited, to make way for the recent M9 construction.


Woodlands around Keir were probably extensive and valuable in the 1600's. Roy's map of 1750 shows a heavily wooded area west of the house. Most of the woods have been managed and a number replanted with conifers but originally some, such as Little Hill, would have been linked to the garden by woodland walks, and contained features such as the Icehouse and a Monument. The woodland south-west of the house and drive, around the Lower Glen, contains the ruins of the Cascade/Grotto and the Bathing House, dating from 1893.

Woodland Garden

To the west of the house, around an area known as the Glen, is a woodland garden and pinetum begun by Sir William Stirling Maxwell in approximately 1850. Mature specimens of oak and one larch in this area probably survive from the original parkland of the early 1800's. Most of the mature conifers date from the 1800's while others were planted in 1940 by Mrs Archibald Stirling. Numerous exotic shrubs and plants have been planted beneath the canopy. The northern part of this garden has large conifers and more formal borders and was probably planted first. A curved wall, with elaborate gates and statues creates a focus for an avenue of exotic conifers planted in approximately 1860. Paths lead down from the formal gardens through the shrubbery to the unusual Yew House, formed from clipped yew.

To the east of the house is an arboretum which was originally planted between 1820 to 1840 but was decimated by gales in 1955 and 1968 and subsequently replanted. Early rhododendrons were planted in 1880 but there have been other more recent introductions including Rhododendron wardii from the Kingdon Ward collection. Recent planting has concentrated on exotic Magnolias, Sorbus, Stewartias and such like. Two gates give access from the drive to this area, one a Salve gate of 1849 to 1862, with ironwork possibly designed by Robert Lorimer at a later date; the second a curved staircase in a curtain wall.

Both woodland gardens are full of interest and unusual plants. Many of the new introductions to Scotland have been included since 1850 and so an interesting plant collection has developed although it is not scientifically based, not all the specimens are labelled and no records have been kept. Both areas are well designed and well maintained and continue to be added to. Alan Mitchell measured over 94 trees in 1970 including several conifers which were some of the first introductions into this country.

The Gardens

These were originally laid out as 'The Green Terrace' in 1750 to 1760. These were developed by Sir William Stirling Maxwell between 1848 and 1856 around an old Spanish chestnut tree, thought to date from the early 16th century, which still survives although held together by chains. There is no known architect but the style is Spanish/Italian and may have been influenced by Sir William's familiarity with Spanish Art. James Niven assisted Sir William before 1866. Sir R. Rowand Anderson and his young partner, Balfour Paul, created further steps, terraces and fountains in the grand style in about 1905.

Today the pencil cedars trained up the face of the house, which were replaced in about 1950, are a particular feature of Keir. Extensive topiary, clipped yew hedges, a bowling green, a formal rose garden, striking herbaceous borders and the 1920 south- facing rockery are all characteristic of the terraces as they are today, and they are still embellished by architectural ornamentation dating from several periods. Planting has continued over the years during the occupation of Mr Archibald and Mr William Stirling and the gardens remain as a lavish tribute to their designers.

Walled Garden

The glasshouses and vineries were built in about 1800 and the houses still retain some of the Georgian glass. The walls are red brick and are thought to date from about 1820. Part of the garden is still used for vegetables, but the other half has been put down to grass.

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

An outstanding rare example of an intact designed landscape exhibiting different styles of garden and landscape design. The parkland designed by Thomas White and the formal gardens by James Niven provide an important setting for the category A listed Keir House.

Site History

It is probable that there was a designed landscape in the 16th century. It was modified in the mid 18th century and redesigned in the early and mid 19th century. The gardens were laid out in the mid 19th century and have been kept up ever since. The Woodland Gardens were added in the 1920s.

The Stirling family first acquired the estate in 1448. It was enlarged between 1517 and 1553 and the original house was probably built in that period. The family prospered until the political upheavals when they sided with the Jacobites. As a result the estate was forfeited but the family continued to live at Keir. Between 1750 and 1760 there were further improvements to the house and to the landscape, and an enlightened programme of agricultural improvement was undertaken with estates in Jamaica helping to finance all the work. This work continued into the early 19th century and between 1820 and 1840 further extensive alterations were made to the house and the landscape was further embellished.

Sir William Stirling Maxwell, who was laird from 1847 to 1878, working with Architects Alfred Jenoure and William Stirling II, remodelled the house and created the lavish formal garden assisted by James Niven before 1866. Sir William had spent three years on a Grand Tour of the Levant and was influenced by Spanish works of art on which he was an expert. He was also renowned for the modern agricultural methods which he introduced to his land. His grandson William inherited the estate in 1932 and he, and especially his wife, continued to develop the gardens. The house and garden were sold out of the Stirling family in recent years.

Associated People
Features & Designations


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


  • Icehouse
  • Sundial
  • Garden Terrace
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Bath House
  • Topiary
  • Country House (featured building)
  • Description: Keir House, listed category A, was originally Georgian, with additions in the period 1820 to 1831 by David Hamilton, further alterations between 1849 and 1851 by Alfred Jenoure.
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential





Electoral Ward

Dunblane West




  • Historic Scotland