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Maxwelton House (also known as Glencairn Castle)


The designed landscape at Maxwelton House dates from the 19th century with some earlier features such as parkland plantings and a 17th-century wall along the drive. There is mixed broadleaved woodland, a woodland garden designed around a pool and a water garden with a cascade. Formal gardens around the house and courtyard date from a period of rejuvenation 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

Maxwelton House is situated on the north banks of the Cairn Water about 4 miles (6.5km) east of Moniaive on slightly rising ground above the B729 at the junction between the A702 Thornhill to St. John's Dalry road. The surrounding lowlands are farmed, protected from the north by the Keir Hill. There are extensive views south across to the moorland of the Dalmacallan Forest especially to Slatehouse Hill and Bogrie Hill. To the west there is a long view up the Cairn Water to Moniaive. The mature shelterbelts provide a woodland canopy in an open landscape. The house and associated buildings, white in colour, are highly significant from the B729.

Maxwelton lies within 139 acres (56ha) of designed landscape, which extends north to the lodge, south beyond the B729 to the Cairn Water, west to Shancastle and east to the Chapel. Documentary evidence of the development of the designed landscape is provided by General Roy's map of c.1750, the 1st edition OS map of c.1860 and the 2nd edition of c.1900. Comparison of these maps shows that the designed landscape was extended to roughly its present form between the mid 18th and 19th centuries but was further extended to the east after 1868 when the Chapel was built.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Maxwelton House, listed category B, was originally built as a 14th century tower house. It was altered and added to in the 18th & 19th centuries and restored between 1968-1972 by Michael Laird and Partners. The South and North Gatepiers are both listed category C(S) and were built c.1800. The North and South Lodges were both built in the 19th century. The Game Larder is an 18th century octagonal building recently converted to toilets for garden visitors. The Chapel, listed category B, was built in 1868. The original architect is unknown but local builders, Wauch & Son, were responsible for restoration work commissioned in 1968. There are several other ancillary buildings around the stable courtyard, some of which have been converted into cottages and others into facilities for the garden visitors, including a museum showing many of the old domestic and farm implements. There are three rustic Summerhouses constructed in the late 19th century, two of which are listed B.


The parkland extends south and east from the house and is enclosed by a stone wall. A small group of lime, planted in c.1850, sits on the top of a hillock in the eastern park. There are also specimen trees of lime, sycamore and beech. The parkland to the south stretches down to the Cairn Water and does not appear to have ever been planted with specimen trees. On the hill beyond the Cairn Water are some fine sycamore and ash trees standing in the pasture to the east of Old Crawfordton Farmhouse and these are important to Maxwelton as 'borrowed' landscape. These trees were planted in the 18th century or earlier and are shown on General Roy's plan of c.1750.


The main block of woodland is called Shaw Wood and was replanted c.1850-1880 as a mixed broadleaved woodland mainly with beech, oak, larch, ash and some sycamore. A few fine specimens of the earlier planting were left. In the 19th century a summerhouse was built on the edge of the Cairn Water and drives were made to it throughout the woodland. An example of this planting is a large beech near the river.

The entrance drive is lined with magnificent conifers planted in c.1880; included amongst them are fine Douglas firs and Silver firs. Many of the woodland strips to the north of the house have been replanted recently (c.1960- 1970) with a mixture of conifers such as Sitka spruce, Norway spruce, Douglas fir, larch and maples.

Woodland Garden

The woodland garden extends around a small pool just to the north-east of the house, along the path to the chapel and in a small area around it. It is mainly planted up with hybrid Rhododendrons, but there are also specimens of the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and several birches and Primulas. The path to the chapel has recently been cleared. Around the chapel are several interesting trees including three young Spanish chestnuts (Castanea sativa), and various cherries and maples planted since 1968. To the south of the chapel, the meadow around the loch is full of wildflowers and several attractive seedling birch as well as willows and alder specimens. The island in the centre of the loch is reached by bridges from the banks.

The Gardens

The terraced lawn to the south of the house was the site of an extensive knot garden, planted during Isabella Laurie's time c.1830 and well illustrated in the old photographs. It became overgrown and was finally removed c.1970. The garden has been replanted by Mrs Stenhouse who began the task in 1968.

The sheltered courtyard surrounded by the harled walls of the house has been beautifully planted up with delicate and tender shrubs and interesting climbers which grow up to the first floor. A formal garden, enclosed by a yew hedge, was made on the west side of the house in 1969. Below the retaining wall on the south side of the house, a long border has been filled with a mixture of shrubs and herbaceous plants containing many unusual and sun-loving plants, using the protection of the south- facing wall. Additional borders have been carved out of the western side of the lawn.

There is a tall wall running along the entrance drive which was built c.1700; along the wall, several extensive borders have recently been planted with Rhododendron and other ericaceous plants leading up to a magnificent cut-leaf beech (Fagus sylvatica heterophylla). On the western side of the house, a path leads to the kitchen garden flanked by lawns in which drifts of daffodils are naturalised under lime trees planted c.1880. At the bottom of the garden overlooking the park is a delightful Victorian rustic summerhouse, made with an interesting oak branch construction and a shingle roof which has replaced the original heather thatch.

To the south of the kitchen garden there is a small 19th century water garden with a 12' cascade which has recently been planted up with unusual trees and shrubs including Snakebark maples.

Walled Garden

The kitchen garden is maintained for vegetables and cut flowers. One of the early fruit glasshouses remains against the tall wall and is filled with tender Rhododendrons, nectarines and plants grown for the house. Other free- standing glasshouses, hidden behind the wall, are used for propagating, growing early vegetables, and raising geraniums. All the greenhouses are well maintained.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

The site is open Sundays to Fridays between May and September.


Maxwelton House is 2.5 miles east of Moniaive, off the A702.


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 attractive parkland landscape which makes an outstanding contribution to the surrounding upland scenery. The specimen trees in the woodland garden, and the knot garden in the terraced lawn are also of note.

Site History

The designed landscape was laid out during the 19th century based on an earlier landscape, probably 17th century, shown on the map produced by General Roy in 1750. There are no known landscape designers.

In the late 15th century, Glencairn Castle was built by the Cunninghams, Earls of Glencairn. A small portion of the estate and the castle was sold in 1611 to Stephen Laurie, a prosperous merchant from Dumfries, and the name was changed to Maxwelton House. Stephen's eldest son John probably altered the house and grounds in 1641 as noted on the armorial stone. His great-granddaughter, Annie Laurie, was the subject of the song made famous by Lady John Scott (Alicia Spottiswoode of Spottiswoode) sister-in-law of the 5th Duke of Buccleuch.

Admiral Sir Robert Laurie (1764-1848) inherited the estate in 1805. He built the wheel stair to the house in 1823 in the course of an extensive phase of improvements which established the designed landscape indicated on the 1st edition OS map. The property was left to his nephew, John Fector, who took the name of Laurie in 1848. His wife, Isabella, made numerous additions both to the house and gardens after his death and built the Chapel as a memorial to her husband. John Laurie's nephew, the Rev. Emilius Bayley, inherited the estate. He too assumed the name of Laurie. Maxwelton remained in his family until 1966, when Major General Sir John Bayley sold it to a firm of property dealers. In that year, the owners obtained permission to partially demolish the house and alter the interior. In 1968, before the proposed work had started, Maxwelton was rescued by Mr & Mrs Hugh Stenhouse. The Stenhouse family embarked on a major restoration programme for the designed landscape which they maintain today.

Features & Designations


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


  • Summerhouse
  • Description: A 19th-century rustic summerhouse, one of three on the estate.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: Maxwelton House, listed category B, was originally built as a 14th century tower house. It was altered and added to in the 18th & 19th centuries and restored between 1968-1972 by Michael Laird and Partners.
  • Cascade
  • Courtyard
  • Pool
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential





Open to the public


Electoral Ward

Cairn Valley




  • Historic Scotland