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Lauriston Castle


The 19th-century landscape at Lauriston Castle includes parkland, woodland gardens with some conifer plantings, a pond garden and formal gardens. The early-21st-century Edinburgh-Kyoto Friendship Garden was created on the site of the former kitchen garden and is designed around a mid-19th-century Doric column.

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

Lauriston Castle is situated on the north-west edge of Edinburgh's urban fringe, approximately 3.5 miles (6km) from the city centre and 0.5 mile (1km) south of the shores of the Firth of Forth. Private housing surrounds the site to the south and east. To the west lies Barnton Estate and, beyond, Cramond village on the banks of the River Almond. To the north, agricultural land allows undisturbed views across the Forth estuary. The mature tree canopy of the designed landscape and its surrounding boundary wall gives Lauriston Castle some significance in its urban fringe setting.

Lauriston Castle lies within 37 acres (15ha) of designed landscape. Documentary evidence is provided by General Roy's Map of c.1750, the plan of the Estate by Thomas Carfrae of 1855, the 1st & 2nd edition OS maps of c.1860 and 1900, and the photograph albums of the gardens which are kept in the house. Comparison of the maps shows that the designed landscape has not altered greatly in size. The uninterrupted views across the agricultural land to the Firth of Forth are important from within the policies.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Lauriston Castle, listed category A, was built as a Tower House c.1590. It received extensive additions in 1825-27. Porches were added c.1845 thought to be to the designs of William Henry Playfair, a close friend of the then owner, Lord Rutherfurd. In 1872, the second storey library was added to the north side of the courtyard. The Castle is now a museum, preserved intact with furniture from the Edwardian era. The Dairy, was built for Miss M.G. Mipherson Grant in the 1850s. The architect is unknown. It was converted for use as a toilet block by the present owners. The Curator's House was built in 1927, to a design by E.J. Macrae.

The Mineral Well, is situated in the glade to the south-east of the Castle. Analysis of the water has shown it to be similar in mineral content to St. Bernard's Well in Edinburgh. It is embellished with stonework in the form of a lion's head from the Cartsburn estate, dated 1672, and brought to Lauriston after 1871 by Thomas Macknight Crawfurd. The Sundial, listed B, is dated 1684. Lectern in form, it has 26 hollow and facet dials. It too was brought from Cartsburn. Two Sphinxes stand on the main drive, although they have been moved from their original position. It is thought that they were brought to Lauriston by the Reids.

A fine Victorian Greenhouse stands in the garden to the east of the Castle; it has lost its ornamental urns. A Statue of Mercury was in the garden but has been moved inside the house at present, due to the risk of vandalism. The Statue of Diane on the island in the pond is a 19th century bronze by J.O.J. Falquiere (1831-1900), presented to Edinburgh District Council in 1971 and sited there by them.

Two pillars which were formerly capped by urns, stand in the garden; one adjacent to the Castle and one in the field which was the kitchen garden. The Gateposts into the service yard are capped by carved lions, and show part of the Coat of Arms of Thomas Macknight Crawfurd. They require some restoration. The original gateposts at the main entrance, together with their wrought iron gates, have gone. Stone balustrades flanking the drive above the pond were recently replaced following extensive damage to the originals.


The parkland extends to the west and south of the Castle. It now includes the area which was the kitchen garden prior to c.1930 but excludes an area to the south of the Castle which appears as parkland on the 2nd edition OS map of c.1900 but is now part of the garden. The entrance drive sweeps through the park from the south-west corner. Trees have recently been planted in the form of an avenue along the edge of the drive. An avenue along what was the edge of the kitchen garden remains. Other parkland trees are grouped along the edge of the drive. Varieties are beech, sycamore and willow, and date from 1860-90.

The parks are grazed by cattle and horses. A post and rail fence, with barbed wire reinforcement encloses the park. A car park has been sited on the north side of the drive at the entrance to the park. Since 1910, a footpath has been made across the park between mature parkland trees.

Woodland Garden

The woodland garden extends around the perimeter of the site. Footpaths are incorporated through it although two of those shown on the Carfrae plan of 1855 as running parallel to the west/east path along the northern boundary have gone. The tree canopy is formed from lime, sycamore and horse chestnut, mostly dating from c.1880 with some later additions. The understorey is dominated by yew and Rhododendron and, in spring, daffodils line all the walkways. Some Victorian conifers remain, among them Monkey puzzle (Araucaria araucana) and Cryptomeria japonica.

A picnic area has recently been created in the woodland garden south-east of the house, incorporating new tree planting of rowan, ash and gean.

Water Features

The pond is situated to the south of the Castle. It was created from a quarry, said to be the source of the building materials for the original Tower House. The size of the pond was reduced in the 1950s when the water supply became insufficient to fill the original breadth. An island in the pond has been planted up with Rhododendron hybrids amid which stands the Statue of Diane, already described. The surrounding garden is largely mown grass with some ornamental trees and shrubs. The area has been extended to include part of the park.

The Gardens

The formal gardens lie to the north of the house. They include an area of formal lawn, used for croquet, which is separated from the Castle by a row of seven clipped yew trees. Reference to the 19th century maps shows individual trees on the lawn which have since gone. This terrace was ornamented by urns along the house frontage by the Reids; the walk extends westwards into the woodland garden and gives extensive views across to the Fife coast. To the east of the lawn lies a rose garden, the structure of which is shown on the map of 1855. Box hedge enclosures now contain beds of hybrid tea roses and compartments are divided by the Italian wrought-iron gates which are probably 17th century. There are no records of the former plant material and the statues and other ornamentation have been removed. A formal garden shown to the west of the house in the 19th century maps has now gone.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

The grounds are open daily except Fridays between April and October, weekends only during the winter season.


Lauriston Castle is situated three miles west of the centre of Edinburgh.


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 Victorian and Edwardian landscape design, the landscape structure of parkland, gardens and architectural features was laid out in 1823-55, with additions made between 1871 and 1902.

Site History

The designed landscape was laid out between 1823-55 with additions by later owners, in particular Thomas Macknight Crawfurd between 1871 and 1902. There are no known designers.

In the late 13th century, the farmlands of the estate were recorded as belonging to the Crown. Since 1290, the estate has known 32 different lairds. In the late 15th century the lands belonged to the family of Lawranstoun who took their name from the estate. In 1540, they sold to the Forresters of Corstorphine who, in 1590, sold to Sir Archibald Napier of Edinbellie, Stirlingshire & Merchiston, following his second marriage to Dame Elizabeth Moubray. Sir Archibald commissioned the Tower House, the core of the present Castle; his initials are carved on a pediment above the right-hand window and his wife's initials above the top left-hand window. His son by his first marriage was John Napier (1550-1617) who invented logarithms. Sir Archibald was succeeded by his son by his second marriage, Sir Alexander, who became a Lord of Session and was titled Lord Lauriston after the sale of the estate in the early 1620s. He died in 1629 and three other families owned the estate between then and 1683 when it was bought by William Law, an

Edinburgh goldsmith and financier. In the same year however, Law died. His son, John, inherited but neither he nor his successors lived there and there are no records of any tenancy during the next 140 years. John William Law sold the estate in 1823 to Thomas Allan, who commissioned William Burn to extend the Tower House to its present form. Allan died suddenly in 1833, without heirs. Two years later, the estate was bought by William Ramsay, an MP who owned the neighbouring estate of Barnton. He joined three Lauriston fields to the Barnton estate and then sold the Castle and remainder of the estate to Andrew, Lord Rutherfurd, (1791-1854) Solicitor General for Scotland and subsequently Lord Advocate in 1866. Between 1859-71, the residency period of Miss M.G. Mipherson Grant of Aberlour, the model dairy to the east of the house was built. Thomas Macknight Crawfurd purchased Lauriston in 1871, and immediately commissioned alterations to the house, among these being the creation of a link between the coachman's quarters and the main house, thus making a side entrance. Many pieces of ornamentation were added to the house and gardens from his 17th century family home of Cartsburn.

In 1883 the OS Gazetteer described beautiful pleasure grounds around the house, although conflicting reports suggest that the house and grounds were neglected for a period before their sale to William Robert Reid in 1902. Reid was proprietor of Morison & Co, cabinet makers in Edinburgh, and it was he who 'modernised' the house and amassed the collection of Edwardian furniture which remains in the house today. He gradually reduced the number of trees in front of the house and remodelled the pond, a former quarry, decreasing its depth to make it safe. He died in 1919 and, on the death of his wife several years' later, the house and grounds were gifted to the City of Edinburgh. During the World War II, the house was occupied by the Home Guard. Since then, it has been maintained as a museum and the grounds opened for public recreation.

Associated People
Features & Designations


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


  • Castle (featured building)
  • Description: Lauriston Castle, listed category A, was built as a Tower House c.1590. It received extensive additions in 1825-27.
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  • Sundial
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  • Greenhouse
Key Information





Principal Building






Open to the public





  • Historic Scotland