Lahill is a good example of a mid-19th-century villa set within a contemporary 'gardenesque' landscape. Relatively rare and modest in scale, the site retains its character, with a marked contrast between the inner parkland, haughland and long-distance panoramic views.
Type of Site
Gardenesque parkland planting and improvement field system surrounding a villa.
Location and Setting
The Lahill designed landscape is situated in the East Neuk, 5km (3.5 miles) east of Lower Largo, to the north of the A917 (Lower Largo-Elie) and adjacent to Charleton House. It is one of a series of designed landscapes set out on the Methil-Elie coastal terrace, which is cut by a series of lowland dens. The designed landscape is laid out on slopes extending southwards from Lahill Craig, 785' above sea level and the highest point of Newburn parish.
Panoramic views from the south garden terraces of Lahill extend over the Firth of Forth and the East Lothian coastline. Other views northwards from within the policies are dominated by Largo Law. Long views within the policies from the drive, extend the length of the designed landscape. Lahill House is revealed to view only during the final stages of the hill-approach.
The designed landscape has changed very little since 1854 (1854 survey, 1st edition OS ) and the boundaries are unchanged.
Lahill House, Scottish Jacobean in style, with crowstepped gable ends and finialed gabled dormers, was rebuilt c.1830 by Hugh Birrell. It incorporates an earlier 3 bay house and some late 18th century fabric in its east range. It was extended in the mid and late 19th century. To the east, a range of ancillary buildings comprising stables, coach-house and offices form an L-shaped range with separate range to the south, linked to the main house by a 3m high screen wall. They are built of whin rubble, with yellow long and short ashlar dressings. The terrace, on the south front of the house, is formed by a low rubble retaining wall decorated with urns and two sets of stone steps. Beyond is a second terrace, which acts as a ha-ha in separating off grazed land from the gardens.
Lahill Mains, outwith the Inventory boundary but within the policies, is situated to the north of the house. It is a mid 19th century farmhouse of whin rubble, with yellow long and short ashlar dressings.
The Lodge, situated at the end of the drive is a late 19th century, simple square plan, single storey lodge with windows to the eaves. The roadside boundaries of the policies are formed by rubble walls.
Drives and Approaches
The entrance into the Lahill designed landscape is from the south, past the lodge. The serpentine drive passes across an area of flat haugh land, enclosed to north and south by woodland belts. To the east the New Burn has been diverted to form a small lake. After crossing the burn the drive climbs steeply and follows the contours to swing round and approach the house from the west, across the inner park.
The drive was originally more wooded in its middle section, forming a screen between the haughland and inner parkland. A drive or walk led off the main approach, through the easternmost haughland and around the east side of the hill to the New Burn and to Coates (1854 O.S. 6"). This has now disappeared.
An inner parkland, now used mainly for horse grazing and divided into pony paddocks, surrounds Lahill House on its north, west and south sides, its east side being close up to the wooded den of the New Burn. Originally areas along the drive were wooded and divided from an outer area of parkland that swept along the burn and comprise the low-lying haughland. The drive has now been opened up. On its south side the policies are bordered by perimeter belts with ornamental specimen trees concentrated at the entrance.
The parkland immediately at the west front of Lahill House is ornamented with raised tree mounds. Some planting of specimen trees survive atop the mounds, but most trees have been lost in recent years. This is a particularly 'gardenesque' feature.
Some areas of woodland have been lost, particularly along the middle section of the drive between the haughland and inner park. Within the inner park small groups and clumps of trees have been lost (1854 O.S. 6"). Other areas of woodland have been re-planted with coniferous shelter-belts, principally the section sheltering the north haughland. Remnant and existing planting indicate a good mix of broadleaved and coniferous species, with beech and sycamore predominating within the perimeter belts. Conifers appear to have been used in roundels and as accents to highlight areas.
- 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 a mid 19th century villa set within a contemporary 'gardenesque' landscape. Relatively rare and modest in scale, the site retains its character, with a marked contrast between the inner parkland, haughland and long-distance panoramic views.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
Mid 18th century; 1830s onwards
Lahill, formerly known as Halhill or Lawhill, belonged at one time to Sir Andrew Wood of Largo (c.1455-1539). About 1700 it was bought by John Craigie, Professor of Philosophy at St Andrew's University, who named part of the policies Dumbarnie, after his brother's Perthshire estate (Miller 1895, p.153; Cunningham, 1907, p.107). By the 1740s, 'Lawhill' comprised a formal layout of enclosures, laid out to either side of a main avenue oriented north-south (focusing on Lahill Craig?) and a cross avenue to the south. The enclosures included some arable and woodland, with pasture and formal courts around the house (Roy 1747'55). Ann Craigie married Colonel Charles Halkett (of Pitfirrane) in 1767, and thereafter the family were known as Halkett-Craigie. Sometime during the mid-late 1700s Mr Craigie:
'of Lawhill (now Hall-hill) began inclosing, and the farmers seem fully convinced of its advantages'This situation has been long admired for variegated scenery and an extensive view. The scene now before me, consisting of wood and waters and hills and dales, is such as the writer of romance might have delighted to feign; Hall-hill at present appears in ruins; but a new mansion-house, as is believed, will soon add to the beauty of these rural wilds.' (OSA 1795, pp.130-6).
In ruins by 1792, Hallhill mansion was rebuilt by 1831 by the neighbouring Drumeldrie architect, builder and valuer Hugh Birrell (1794-1873), who may have designed it (Gifford 1992, p.303). It incorporates parts of the earlier 18th century house. The earlier landscape consisting of a formal layout of enclosure fields and shelter belts, associated with Mr Christie's 18th century agricultural improvements (Sharp, Greenwood and Fowler 1828) was re-designed to form a landscape park complementing the new villa, but retaining the regular layout of the northernmost agricultural lands. The name reverted to Lahill.
The villa, overlooking the New Burn valley, was laid out with two terraces on the south front, the lower used as a Bowling Green. The parkland extended on south-facing slopes down to, and incorporating, the banks of the New Burn. It was enclosed by a series of perimeter belts with serpentine lines, closely planted clumps and roundels. The parkland was ornamented with small copses, roundels and a scatter of parkland trees. It was a highly ornate, gardenesque scheme in Edward Kemp's use of the word, where he defined ' three principal kinds of style recognised in landscape gardening: the old formal or geometrical style, the mixed, middle, or irregular style, which Mr Loudon called the gardenesque; and the picturesque.' (1854 survey, 1st edition OS; Kemp 1850, p.17).
About 1845 the property was bought by Andrew Rintoul (d.1853) of the Dundee printing family (Miller 1845, p. 154). In 1907 Robert S. Lorimer prepared a plan of the feu at Lahill, Largo. It depicts a house, walled garden set with corner pavilions, outbuildings and an outline garden plan, with a long walk lined by buttressed yews. Although a burn, presumably the New Burn, is shown it is difficult to relate the plan to the Lahill policies and it may have been an outline plan for new build that was never realised, although it does appear to be a setting out plan. There is an Arts and Crafts Jacobean memorial to Professor James Lorimer (d.1890) by Robert, his son, in Newburn Old Parish Church (Gifford 1992, p.334).
The property remains in private ownership.
- Features & Designations
Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland
- Country House (featured building)
- Description: Lahill House, Scottish Jacobean in style, with crowstepped gable ends and finialed gabled dormers, was rebuilt c.1830 by Hugh Birrell. It incorporates an earlier 3 bay house and some late 18th century fabric in its east range.
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