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Leith Hall


The well-preserved park at Leith Hall was laid out in the early-19th century and is now grazed. There are two informal ponds in a wooded area of the park and a large late-19th-century walled garden which was extended in the early-20th century. The later section includes a rockery.

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

Leith Hall is situated in the shelter of Knockandy Hill to the north above the wide vale of the Gadie Burn and the River Bogie, some 7 miles (11km) south of Huntly and 3.5 miles (6km) north-east of Rhynie. The site is bounded by the B9002 to its west and south and by estate roads to the east and north. The house and gardens are situated at 600' (183m) above sea level. The gardens are exposed to south-westerly winds and there is a short growing season. The house has a very attractive setting with Knockandy Hill rising above it to the north and with extensive views across agricultural land and parkland to the south and west. The Correen Hills form a feature in the views to the south with the Grampian Mountains beyond in the distance. The designed landscape is visible from the B9002 and from the railway line.

The house is set above the River Bogie with views to the south and east. The extent of the designed landscape has remained the same since it was laid out around 1800 and it is bounded by the B9002 to the west and south and by the estate roads to the Home Farm to the north and east. The railway line carved through the estate in c.1845 and has separated the former parks to its south from the policies, although a bridge carries the east drive across the railway to the East Lodge. By the 1st edition OS map of 1868 the East Garden had been established but is shown as being planted informally at that time. The east pond existed to the south of the house in 1868 but the west pond was made in the 1900s, by the Hon Charles Leith-Hay, who also created the West Garden from what used to be called the donkey-paddock. There are 366 acres (148ha) within the designed landscape today.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Leith Hall is listed A; it is quadrangular, the nucleus being the 17th century tower house on the north side, with additions in 1756, 1796, 1868 and 1900. It has distinctive end pavilions put on at the end of the 18th century, a Scottish Baronial west front, a 1796 south front turreted to match the 17th century house and an early 20th century porte-cochere on the east front. The 1868 work was by A.W. Reid who carried out further work in 1875 with Melven. The walled garden is listed B for the group which includes the collection of Pictish Symbol Stones (notably the Wolf Stone and the Percylieu Stone), querns, curling-stones etc. in the East Garden. The semi- circle of offices, listed B, was built in 1754 and it is thought, from an 18th century plan that it was possibly intended for a further half to have been added to complete the circle.

The Home Farm dates from the early 19th century and is listed B. The remains of a vitrified fort are at 1800' on the Hill of Noth to the west above Leith Hall. The two bridges on the east drive were designed by Charles Leith-Hay in the early 1900s, and he also designed the garage additions to the stables, the wrought-iron gates to the garden, the moon gate in the East Garden, and the gates on the east and west avenues, which were made up by Mr Mackenzie, a local blacksmith. To the south of Leith Hall lie the old Kirk and Victorian Ice House.


The parkland was laid out around 1800 when improvements were being made to the house by General Leith-Hay. Some of the clumps of trees have gone since then, but the parkland today is very attractively planted with clumps and single parkland trees, many sycamore and some beech, and new trees have been planted in recent years. The parks are grazed and most of the land is let to the Home Farm. A herd of Soay Sheep, descendants of those brought from St Kilda in 1901, is grazed in the north park. There are two approaches to the house: the main entrance now is the west drive, formerly lined with an avenue; some of the trees have been blown down in gales and replacement planting of limes and Norway maples has been undertaken. A car park has been put in at the south- east end of the west drive under the shelter of the mature trees here.

To the south of the house the lawn extends to a shrubbery and shelter woodland belt; aconites and snowdrops flourish there in the spring. There is a weeping ash on the lawn. The Trust is proposing to cut a vista through the shelter area which has grown high and obscured the views from the house to the south and south-west. A new ha- ha has been put in to the east of the house. In the area north of the house some commemorative Scots pine have been planted: one planted by Queen Mary in 1928 and one by the Princess Royal in 1943.


Most of the policy woodlands are based on shelter plantings dating from the 1800s. The woodland to the west and south of the house is planted with deciduous species with some specimen conifers, and an understorey of shrubs. To the north and south- east of the house, the woods have been replanted on a commercial basis with varieties of spruce and Scots pine. The plantation to the south of the east drive needs thinning out.

Water Features

There are two ponds in the park, to the south-east of the house. It is thought that the east pond was put in by Sir Andrew Leith-Hay in the 1830s and it was certainly there by the time of the 1st edition OS map in 1868. This map shows only a marshy area where the west pond is now, and there are records of this west pond being dug out manually in the 1900s under the direction of the Hon Charles Leith-Hay. This pond covers an area of 1.5 acres and the surrounds were planted up in the 1900s with what are now mature trees. The pond was silted up and weed-covered in 1980 and has since been cleared and restored. There is a footpath to the ponds and an observation hide by the east pond. This area forms one of the guided walks conducted by the NTS Rangers for Grampian Region.

Walled Garden

The walled garden is divided into two by an internal north/south wall. It lies to the west of the house, north of the west drive. There are indications that there was an earlier kitchen garden somewhere to the north-west of the present garden, and that when the East Garden was built by Colonel Alexander Leith-Hay it was to provide a kitchen garden nearer to the house. The area of the East Garden lies adjacent to the semi-circular office buildings and is shown on the 1st edition OS map as planted informally. Mrs Leith-Hay ran it as a market garden until World War II, when it was let to a commercial concern until 1965. One third of it is now kept in vegetables. The Moon Gate in the north wall was put in by the Hon Charles Leith-Hay, and the collection of Pictish Stones is kept in the north section of this garden. There are beds of floribunda roses below this and a lawn stretching to the south wall, with a row of Sorbus 'Joseph Rock' and ornamental and fruit trees in the south section. A broad herbaceous border and high hedges run north to south down the south-sloping garden.

The garden was extended in the 1900s to form the West Garden by the Hon Charles Leith-Hay, who designed the gates and the layout of the rock garden in the west half of this section. The rock garden has been rebuilt and replanted with alpines and dwarf conifers in recent years. There are extensive views to the hills in the south-west from the top (north) end of the garden. An impressive, attractively planted herbaceous border extends almost the whole length of this garden along its east wall, and the path curves sinuously alongside it. Halfway along it, a path branches off to the rock garden and this is lined with a rose border backed with trellis for climbing roses. To the south of the rock garden is an area of lawns with specimen trees and shrubs.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

The garden and grounds are open daily all year. The hall is closed to the public.


Leith Hall is on the B9002, 1 mile west of Kennethmont.

Buses run from Huntly.

The nearest stations at Huntly and Insch are both 7 miles away.


The National Trust


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

This very attractive designed landscape hosts many interesting trees and plants and a wide variety of wildlife habitats. It also provides the setting for an A-listed house.

Site History

The first surviving estate plan was drawn in 1797 by George Brown. The park was planted up during the early 19th century and further additions were made in the early 20th century by Charles Leith-Hay to his own designs.

The Leith Clan was settled in Aberdeenshire by the reign of Alexander III. The Leith- Hay family of Leith Hall are directly descended from William Leith of Barnes, Provost of Aberdeen in the reign of David Bruce, and Steward of the royal household of Queen Joan. He went to London as a hostage in 1346 after David II was captured in battle. Leith Hall was started in c.1650 by James Leith, the 13th laird, on the site of a former house known as Peill Castle.

The 13th Laird built the present north wing and was succeeded by his son John who died in 1727. Roy's map of 1750 shows only two enclosures at Leith Hall; one around the house and one to the north-east planted as woodland. John's grandson married Harriet Stewart of Auchluncart and additions were made to the house in 1756 in the form of a low, one-storey building around a central courtyard with pavilions at each corner. They had three sons; the eldest having died young, the second son, Alexander, succeeded as 16th laird in 1776, and in 1796 the south wing was built up to form the central south section of the present house, with Regency style features. George Brown drew up plans of the estate which indicated a kitchen garden to the north of the present garden. Other 18th century plans show formal gardens around the house and up to the stables which are shown with a complimentary mirror-image building to the east of the drive. It is not known whether the gardens were ever implemented but the east half of the stables was not.

Alexander had a distinguished military career becoming a General in 1813. His younger brother James also had a successful career, becoming Governor of Barbados where he died in 1816; he is buried in Westminster Abbey. The General also built the model Home Farm in the early 19th century to the north of the earlier semi-circular court of offices, and he extended the east front of Leith Hall House. The General died in 1838 when he was succeeded by his son Sir Andrew Hay of Rannes and Leith Hall, MP for Elgin from 1833-8 and a member of Lord Melbourne's administration. He also had a distinguished military record, serving in the Peninsular Wars and writing about them in later years. He also wrote 'The Castellated Architecture of Aberdeenshire', published in 1810, which features his own lithographs, including an entry on Leith Hall. He died in 1862. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Colonel Alexander Sebastian Leith-Hay CB, who by 1885 held 26,000 acres in Aberdeenshire, and who added the west front of the house in 1868 in Scottish Baronial style, and created the East Garden. In 1900 the East Porch and Entrance Hall were added by his nephew Charles Leith-Hay, who married the Hon Henrietta O'Neill. Together they extended the gardens to the west and created the rock garden. The East Garden was let out as a market garden during World War II and only the vegetable gardens were kept up from then until 1965, when they were restored by Colonel and Mrs P. Gascoigne, Mrs Leith-Hay's niece and her husband. The Hon Mrs Leith-Hay made Leith Hall over to the National Trust for Scotland in 1945.

Associated People
Features & Designations


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


  • Border
  • Description: A long, serpentine catmint border in the walled garden.
  • Pond
  • Description: Two informal ponds, one mid-19th century and the other early 20th century. The ponds have ornamental and nature conservation value.
  • Sculpture
  • Description: There are Pictish symbol stones, querns and curling stones in the east section of the walled garden.
  • Rockery
  • Description: An early-20th-century rock garden in the west section of the walled garden, which was enhanced recently by the Scottish Rock Garden Club.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: Leith Hall is listed A; it is quadrangular, the nucleus being the 17th century tower house on the north side, with additions in 1756, 1796, 1868 and 1900. It has distinctive end pavilions put on at the end of the 18th century, a Scottish Baronial west front, a 1796 south front turreted to match the 17th century house and an early 20th century porte-cochere on the east front.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Herbaceous Border
  • Description: Zig-zag herbaceous border.
Key Information









Open to the public





  • Historic Scotland