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Features of the early- to mid-18th century formal designed landscape survive, including a drive and remnants of a water garden. There is a 19th-century arboretum on the site of an 18th-century formal garden known as the Paradise Garden. The 18th-century walled garden is now a plant centre.

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

The House of Monymusk is situated on the edge of the eastern foothills of the Grampian Mountains, some 20 miles (32km) north-west of Aberdeen. The River Don flows through the policies to the north of the house and the B993 borders the park to the south. The policies lie in a slight bowl on the relatively flat plain of the Don. Pitfichie Hill, 1,243' (379m), and Millstone Hill, 1,340' (408m), the lower slopes of which are afforested, rise on either side of the River Don to the north-west of the policies. Beyond them, the peaks of Cairn William, 1,468' (448m), and Bennachie, 1,733' (528m), are particularly significant from the site. The canopy of the extensive woodland planted around the house and up the steeper slopes of the hills dominates the local scenery.

The house lies on gently sloping ground overlooking the River Don. The designed landscape extends north to the River Don and south to the woodlands between the former railway line and the Ton Burn. The extent of the planting by Sir Archibald Grant, 2nd Baronet, can be clearly seen on General Roy's plan c.1750. Innovative agricultural improvements, both during the early 18th century and at the end of the 19th century, have greatly influenced the form of the designed landscape which today extends over some 499 acres, (202 ha).

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The House of Monymusk is listed category A. The exact date of the central tower is uncertain but it is thought to date from the late 16th century and was added to during the 17th century. The building was reconstructed by Alexander Jaffrey between 1719- 20. Plans were drawn up by William Burn in 1837 but they were never executed. In 1886 the house was restored under the guidance of J.M. Dick Peddie who also added a billiard room. The Home Farm is listed category B and was built between 1720-40. There were some additions to the outbuildings in the late 19th century. The Main Gates are listed category B and the centre piers were built by Alexander Jaffrey c.1719-20. The main gates were moved to their present position in 1838 when the barmkin wall and tower round the courtyard were demolished. Piers and Stones west of the drive to the house are thought to have been erected c.1890. Monymusk Bridge is a fine mid-Victorian suspension bridge although now very dilapidated.

Much of Monymusk Village is listed category B and was built around 1720. Many of the houses were modernised at the end of the 19th century by John Birch from London to the original 18th century plan and it still retains its picturesque quality and uniform character.


The park has always been confined to the south side of the River Don. In the 18th century, long avenues extended to the east, west and south sides of the house and the remains of them can be seen on the 1st edition OS map. A Prisoner of War Camp was constructed over the Deer Park in World War II and, following its demolition, a housing estate was built. The two parks adjacent to the river are still grazed but the majority of the 19th century parkland is now cropped.

The south drive from the B993 is bordered by a wide double avenue of magnificent beech trees, some of which were probably planted in c.1730, whilst some were replanted in the late 19th century and others more recently. The south drive is now rarely used and the subsidiary drive to the Home Farm is now the main vehicular entrance. Longer drives through the woodland strips on the east and west sides are no longer used. The B993 is bordered by a beech hedge.


Sir Archibald Grant, 2nd Baronet, is said to have planted over 48 million trees and the surrounding woodland blocks of Kirktown Wood, Glashie Wood, Moor of Mains Wood, Gallowhill Wood, and the large blocks of Pitfichie Wood were probably all planted by him, with broadleaved trees, mainly oak, ash, birch and gean with some fir trees. In 1824 Monymusk was considered 'remarkable for its extensive plantations'. During the late 19th century Sir Archibald, 7th Baronet, replanted and increased the overall areas of wood. Between 1914-28 over 4,000 acres of timber in the Pitfichie Forest were felled and in 1942 the land was sold to the Forestry Commission. From 1947, the Forestry Commission replanted the woods with conifers, and today over 90% is younger than 40 years old. Most of the remaining woodland blocks are being replanted as commercial stands with native and exotic conifers with a few broadleaved trees scattered throughout the plantations on the perimeter.

Sir Archibald Grant and Alexander Jaffrey used the wide valley carved by the River Don to create their Paradise Garden some three miles north-west of the house. They set out a formal garden which is shown on a plan drawn around 1730. Features such as quadrants of yew and a ring of beeches remain but much of the surrounding woodland was planted during the 19th century as an arboretum with Wellingtonias, Hemlock, Douglas fir, Chamaecyparis nootkatensis, C. lawsoniana and other conifers. Several larch planted in the 1750s were grown from some of the original seed sent to Monymusk at the same time as that sent to Blair Castle, and the tallest larch tree, measured by Alan Mitchell in 1981, was over 124 ft. Up until World War II the gravel paths were raked and brushed. In 1953, many of the mature trees blew down in the severe gale.

Paradise Wood was recently designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Sir Archibald, 13th Baronet, in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy Council, is in the process of drawing up a management plan for its regeneration. The wood contains 180 species of vascular plants and is one of the best sites for terrestrial molluscs in Europe.

The Gardens

There is a small modern garden to the west of the house created and maintained by the present owners close to the neglected Victorian shrubbery. In the mid- 18th century, the small burn to the south of the house was canalised. The long canal was broken by four stone, evenly spaced, cascades or weirs; today only two remain but the stonework of the others can be seen.

Walled Garden

The kitchen garden wall forms the south side of Home Farm Yard suggesting that it was built here during the mid 18th century. The high stone wall is faced with brick and during the 19th century supported a long range of glasshouses. Old photographs show there was once a fountain and the flower borders were planted adjacent to the vegetables. All have been removed and it is now leased as a market garden.

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

The woodland within the designed landscape makes a major contribution to the local scenery, as well as providing a valuable wildlife habitat. The landscape also has a long and well-documented history and provides the setting for a category A listed house.

Site History

A large formal landscape was laid out to the designs of Alexander Jaffrey in the early 18th century. Thomas Winter, George Brown and Robert Robinson also worked at Monymusk in the early mid-18th century.

Since the mid-16th century, the House of Monymusk has been owned by only two families: the Forbes and the Grants. In 1549 Duncan Forbes obtained possession of the estate. For the previous 300 years it had been an Augustine Priory sited on an early 4th century Christian settlement. Duncan Forbes built the central tower (Monymusk Papers 1713-1755, edited by Henry Hamilton, page xi) adjacent to the old Priory. Throughout the turbulent 17th century the family prospered and even built a second tower, Pitfichie Castle, as the dower house. However, by 1712, debt forced the sale of the estate to Sir Francis Grant, 1st Baronet, Lord of Cullen, who made his son Archibald the factor on his 20th birthday in 1716.

Over the following 62 years Archibald, later 2nd Baronet, transformed the run- down property into one of the show pieces of 18th century agricultural improvements. He planted over 48 million trees and, with the help of Alexander Jaffrey, he laid out a large formal landscape and a delightful 'Paradise' garden on the banks of the Don about three miles away.

There is an unsigned plan of 1719 made prior to the alterations which depicts a grand scheme for canals and allees in woodland. Thomas Winter, a surveyor, later came from Norfolk to assist Sir Archibald in 1726. About 1730 Jaffrey produced plans for the Paradise Garden. The scale of the formal design laid out there can be seen on General Roy's plan of c.1750 and on an unsigned survey dated 1761 of 'Monymusk Land and Policies'. Another survey, dated 1774 and beautifully drawn by George Brown, shows the changes to the formal layout made during the mid-18th century. Robert Robinson was a frequent visitor and received payment in 1762 for 'Surveying, Planning or Overseeing'.

In 1782, Archibald Robertson drew three landscape views of Monymusk and, in 1848, James Giles painted a water-colour. A further unsigned plan, dated 1846, and the 1st edition OS dated c.1850, also show the remnants of the formal landscape modified under the influence of the 'romantic' or informal fashion. Although many of the trees have gone there has been little change to the formal gardens.

At the end of the 18th century Sir Archibald's grandson inherited. He had four sons, two of whom inherited the estate, and it was the youngest brother, Robert, who considered at least three schemes for remodelling the house. He also undertook improvements to the farm buildings. His second son, Francis, began to tackle the problems of the estate at the end of the 19th century. He died in 1886 before much could be done and was succeeded by a distant cousin, Sir Arthur, who rebuilt most of the cottages and farm buildings and also modernised the village.

The present laird, Sir Archibald, 13th Baronet, inherited from his father, Sir Francis, 12th Baronet, in 1966. The family has retained all the papers and plans of the house, gardens and estate for the past 260 years and these now provide an invaluable record of the 'improvements' undertaken by successive enlightened owners.


18th Century (1701 to 1800)

Associated People
Features & Designations


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

  • Site of Special Scientific Interest

  • Reference: Paradise Garden
  • Historic Environment Scotland Listed Building

  • Reference: Main Gates
  • Grade: B


  • House (featured building)
  • Description: The exact date of the central tower is uncertain but it is thought to date from the late 16th century and was added to during the 17th century. The building was reconstructed by Alexander Jaffrey between 1719- 20.
  • Drive
  • Description: The south drive with a double beech avenue created in the early-18th century but since replanted.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Planting
  • Description: Remnants of a water garden.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Tree Feature
  • Description: Arboretum.
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


18th Century (1701 to 1800)





Open to the public