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Keith Hall


The late-18th-century designed landscape at Keith Hall is a good example of the work of Thomas White senior and includes informal parkland. There are late-19th- and early-20th-century plantings of ornamental trees and shrubs around a lake, and a terraced walled garden. The policies are now in divided ownership and formal gardens near the house were restored in the late-20th century.

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

Keith Hall is situated on a gentle escarpment above the broad fertile valley of the River Urie just to the north of its confluence with the River Don in the rolling Aberdeenshire lowlands. It lies on the B993, about 1 mile (1.5km) east of Inverurie, some 15 miles (24km) north-west of Aberdeen. The canopy of the woodland belts around the park contributes to the scenery of the more open surrounding agricultural land. Throughout the park there are views out, particularly westwards across the River Urie to Inverurie.

There was an extensive formal landscape shown on General Roy's plan of c.1750. The square blocks of woodland shown on this plan were modified during the late 18th or early 19th century and the informal design is clearly shown on the OS plans of c.1850 and c.1900. The designed landscape is bordered by Inverurie to the west and the B993 to the south. Two minor roads enclose the two other sides. The designed landscape today extends to about 1,016 acres (411ha) and comparison of available map evidence indicates that the present form is consistent with the 19th century extent.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Keith Hall, listed category A, incorporates the original Caskieben Castle which was a Z-plan tower. The wings and distinctive ogee capped towers were added by the 1st Earl of Kintore between 1696-8 to create a small mansion. Plans for alterations were prepared by William Adam but were not executed. John Paterson carried out repairs to the structure in 1788, and John Smith designed alterations between 1806-1812. Plans for further alterations prepared by David Bryce in 1851 are not thought to have been executed and William Ramage of Aberdeen was paid for work there in 1854. Major additions and alterations were commissioned between 1895-1914. Drawings for some of this work were prepared by Sidney Mitchell and James Garve & Sons of Aberdeen. The interior was again refurbished in 1938-41. Since 1984, the building has been completely restored and divided into separate apartments.

The Stables were built between 1806-12 to the design of John Smith who is also thought to have designed a new Bridge, Kennels, and the Home Farm. The South Lodge is thought to be the work of Archibald Simpson. The Kitchen Garden and North Lodge were built by William Ramage of Aberdeen in 1854.


The park extends to the east and south of Keith Hall. It was laid out following an improvement plan for which Thomas White was paid in 1794. Formal features of the earlier landscape development of c.1690-1700 were incorporated into the informal parkland and woodland, and some oaks of this period remain today. The sinuous drive from the south-west entrance of the policies to the house was laid out following the White plan although the straight east drive was retained from the earlier scheme. Along the southern boundary, the park is defined by a wall. The parkland clumps remain in the park which is in agricultural use and some are being replanted.


The plantations border the park to the south along the southern boundary of the policies and along the north drive. Many rides shown on the 1st edition OS map remain in the woodlands. Part of the southern woods has been replanted with conifers, having been destroyed by fire some twenty years ago. Much of the ornamental wood along the north drive has been lost but the small area around the old castle has been planted with beech, ash, elm, oak and some lime. Many of the strip shelterbelts indicated on the OS maps around the policy boundaries have gone.

The Gardens

In the early formal design, indicated on Roy's map of c.1750, a long avenue stretched southwards from the house and today it has been replaced with an avenue of conifers leading down to the lake which was established by the 9th Earl on his return from Australia after 1895. He also was responsible for the establishment of ornamental planting around the lake to the form shown in the sale catalogue of 1914. Many of the conifers and Rhododendrons planted during the period 1895-1914 remain. The area is now owned by Keith Hall Gardens Ltd which has carried out major improvement work since 1984.

The area on the west side of Keith Hall was the site of a formal garden with flower beds as described in the sale catalogue of 1914. The garage accommodation for the house owners is located in this area and the remainder is now largely lawn. The Bowling Green, Tennis Court and Croquet Lawn, described in the sale catalogue, have since gone.

Walled Garden

The walled garden lies to the north-east of the house and is enclosed by a brick wall. It is laid out on a series of terraces, facing south, which are united by flights of stone steps. Estimates for the construction of the garden were submitted in 1853 by William Ramage, and the work was carried out the following year. At its height, the garden had magnificent flower borders, fruit cages and vegetables and it also had six types of glasshouse. Photographs of 1914 show that the garden was kept up in good condition until at least that date. The upper terrace is now used as a commercial nursery.

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 good example of the late 18th century parkland design of Thomas White Senior. The woodland canopy makes an important scenic contribution and the ornamental gardens are of note.

Site History

The formal landscape which existed around Keith Hall in the 18th century was extended in the informal style following an improvement plan prepared by Thomas White in 1794 for the 6th Earl of Kintore. Some further improvements were made by the 8th Earl between 1844-80 and again by the 9th Earl between 1895- 1914. The gardens have been restored since 1985.

In the early years of the 14th century, Sir Robert Keith received grants of lands which were forfeited by the Earls of Buchan. Sir William Keith later received large areas of land in Kincardine and Aberdeenshire through his marriage to the heiress of Sir John Fraser. Lands in Fife were also added to the Keith estates in exchange for the Barony of Dunottar.

Sir William Keith was created Lord Keith between 1446-51 and, in the latter years of the 1450s, he was created Earl Marischal and Lord Keith. In 1651, the Regalia of Scotland was saved from the siege of Dunottar by the youngest son of the 6th Earl Marischal, the Hon Sir John Keith. It was in recognition of this that he was later created 1st Earl of Kintore in 1677.

In 1662, Sir John married Margaret, daughter of the Earl of Haddington. The following year, they bought Caskieben Castle, which was renamed Keith Hall. Some repairs were carried out soon after Sir John purchased the Castle but major work did not begin until the latter years of the 17th century. Some planting is known to have been carried out, notably of elm and laburnum.

The 1st Earl died in 1715. The 2nd Earl lived only until 1718 and was succeeded by his son John. In 1729 he married and work recommenced at Keith Hall but with limited finances. William Adam was commissioned but his plans for remodelling the remainder of the house were not carried out. By 1751, it is recorded that planting established by the 1st Earl had become neglected. Roy's plan of c.1750 indicates the presence of a simple, formal landscape by the mid-18th century. A survey plan of 1781, not studied in the course of this research, shows formal avenues converging on the house from the south and east indicating that the 4th & 5th Earls of Kintore made no major changes to the landscape.

In 1778 the 5th Earl died. The title of Earl of Kintore and the estates passed to Anthony Adrian Falconer, 8th Baron Falconer, through his great-aunt, Catherine, the daughter of the 2nd Earl of Kintore who had married the 5th Baron Falconer in 1703. By the time of his succession, Keith Hall had been empty for seventeen years and the 6th Earl commissioned the interior to be refurbished despite the fact that his main home was at Inglismaldie, Kincardineshire. In 1788, architect John Paterson was commissioned to carry out major alterations. In 1794 Thomas White prepared a plan for informal improvements to the landscape. Between 1806-12, architect John Smith was employed to build new stables and to alter the existing offices. A new bridge was built as well as the kennels and stables. Work ceased on the death of the 6th Earl in 1812.

The 8th Earl of Kintore, Francis Alexander, inherited Keith Hall in 1844. David Bryce was commissioned to prepare plans for alterations to the house which were published in 1851 but the extent of the work actually carried out to his design is uncertain. William Ramage of Aberdeen submitted estimates for work in the garden in 1853. The following year, the house was altered by him, the garden laid out and the North Lodge built. It has been suggested (Giles Worsley, CL, May 28th 1987) that the 8th Earl had plans prepared by well known architects but the actual work was executed by Ramage.

The 9th Earl succeeded in 1880. Between 1889-95, he was Governor of Australia but, on his return to Keith Hall, he commissioned alterations to the offices and south elevation of the house. Architect Sydney Mitchell prepared some plans but James Garve & Sons of Aberdeen were also involved in 1903. The 9th Earl improved the gardens and created the lake to the south of the house. In 1914 however, his trustees sold the estate which, at that time, extended to some 17,126 acres (6,936ha). The house and a small part of the original estate was repurchased by the 9th Earl and inherited by his son, the 10th Earl, in 1930.

The 10th Earl married Helena, Duchess of Manchester, in 1937 and, soon after, the interior of the house was almost completely remodelled. The present 11th Earl of Kintore inherited Keith Hall in 1966. His son, Lord Inverurie, lived there for some time before moving to the converted stables. In 1984, the house and some 25 acres (10ha) of immediate gardens were sold to Mr Kit Martin. He, with the assistance of architect Douglas Forrest, has carried out a major restoration of the house and has converted it into separate apartments. The garden is now owned by Keith Hall Gardens Ltd which was formed to restore and maintain the gardens for the benefit and use of the owners of the house.


  • 18th Century (1701 to 1800)
  • Late 18th Century (1775 to 1799)
Associated People
Features & Designations


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


  • Mansion House (featured building)
  • Description: Keith Hall, listed category A, incorporates the original Caskieben Castle which was a Z-plan tower. Restoration and conversion work was done on the house after 1984.
  • Lake
  • Garden Terrace
  • Description: Terraced walled garden.
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


18th Century (1701 to 1800)





Open to the public


Electoral Ward

Inverurie South and Port Elphinstone




  • Historic Scotland