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Mount Stuart (also known as Kerryniven, Kirrieniven)


The designed landscape at Mount Stuart largely retains its early-18th-century structure. The Wee Garden, covering two hectares, was added in 1823 and houses a collection of trees and shrubs from the southern hemisphere. There is a late-19th-century rock garden with water features, designed by Thomas Mawson and since renovated. Mawson also designed a hillside walk with pools, representing Christ's walk to Calvary. The kitchen garden, redesigned as a box-edged potager by Rosemary Verey in the 1990s, now combines ornamental and productive planting. Further developments in the 20th and early-21st centuries include a visitor centre and associated garden.

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

Mount Stuart is situated on the Island of Bute, some 5 miles (8km) south of Rothesay. The setting of the house is important for the fine views it affords eastwards across the Firth of Clyde and out to Great Cumbrae. The designed landscape provides vistas through the policy woodlands out to sea. The policy woodlands are visible when approaching the island from the east.

The mansion house was built set back from the clifftop facing east with views across the gardens and out to sea. The designed landscape extends to the shore, the shore drive and Beech Walk skirting the former cliff line along the raised beach. When first laid out, the grounds extended northwards as far as Scoulag Church but were extended to Kerrycroy in c.1820. To the west, the folly on Mount Montague was a designed viewpoint which has since disappeared and the western boundary of the designed landscape is now formed by the minor private road through the estate to Kerrylamont. The South Lodge marks the southern extent of the designed landscape, which covers some 670 acres (283ha).

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The Victorian House, Italian Gothic in style, was built by Rowand Anderson. Its Georgian predecessor, of which only the wings remain, was built by Alexander McGill for the 2nd Earl in 1722. The chapel at the north end has a tower which is a replica of the tower of Saragossa Cathedral. The house is also noted for its Great Hall, 60 feet square and supported with huge marble pillars. Mount Stuart is listed category A.

There are many other features and buildings in the grounds which are of architectural interest including the 'Beehive' Well, the Garden Cottage and the Park Lodges. The North Lodge is listed, category B; Kerrycroy village, to the north of the park, is listed as a group in category B. The Home Farm is also listed B, as is the 17th century sundial in the Wee Garden. The identity of the figure surmounting the column which stands to the left of a clearing near the house is not known but the inscription, a quotation from Virgil, reads (You will remain in my memory) 'So long as I am conscious and my spirit controls my limbs'. The Private Chapel, originally a Presbyterian church dating from the 17th century, is listed category A.

Paths and Walks

This area, the Green Paths Triangle, to the north of the Lime Tree Avenue and south of the kitchen garden, lies to the west of the main drive and is striking in its layout of converging paths. The current layout is shown on the 2nd edition OS map of c.1900, and the triangular layout is marked on the earlier 1st edition map of 1860 although at that time apparently not planted up. It is possible that this area was so delineated as early as the mid-18th century, as the gardener's notes of the 1750s refer to a Maze used as a tree nursery which is not obviously marked in the 1758 survey, although this plan does not extend as far north as the Green Paths Triangle. Today the hedges enclose conifers now grown to maturity.


The parks are grazed; there are less individual parkland trees today than were shown on the 1759 plan but those shown on the 1st edition OS plan remain. The north-west Deer Park was severed by the movement of the public road in the 1820s and is now in arable use. The new main drive was planted up on either side with rhododendrons which are now c.50 years old; it by-passes the 1722 kirk and churchyard. The Forty Five Avenue, which runs north/south to the east of the house and is about one mile in length, is being kept as an avenue and the 200-250 year old beeches will be replanted. The Lime Tree Avenue is 600 yards long, 18' wide and contains 153 trees, while the Beech Walk is 510' in length and 12 yards wide. In 1881 the total length of walks at Mount Stuart was recorded as 8.75 miles.


In 1879 the tallest ash in Scotland was recorded by Sir Herbert Maxwell as being one at Mount Stuart of 134' in height. He also referred to the fine specimens of cedar. The woodlands date from the early 18th century; some are now mature and very dense, and are being cleared and thinned. The woods to the north of the Lime Tree Avenue including the wilderness area, have not yet been cleared and have an undergrowth of self-seeded Rhododendron and bamboo. Knocknicoll Wood and Black Wood are mainly coniferous plantations now, with a deciduous edge on the side facing the house. There is also some coniferous planting along the coastal strip.

The Gardens

The layout of the Formal Garden is shown in the 1759 Fowles Survey. The gardener at this time was Alexander MacGregor who, when the 3rd Earl was in London, sent him a weekly record of the weather and the work carried out in the garden. These accounts provide a fascinating record of the gardener's work at that time, and also give tantalising glimpses of the complexity of the garden layout, referring to the 'twist walks on the east side of the bowling green, the Maze' (which possibly was used as a tree nursery), 'the Summerhouse Walk lined by beeches, the Clyde Walk, the Flower Garden, the Toward walk, the lime hedges about the parterre, the Laburnums in the Grove, the thorn hedges about the North (kitchen) Garden, the apple hedge in the South (kitchen) Garden, the Tulip Tree Cabinet, the Bastern (lime) Cabinet and the Ashleaf Cabinet... the limes and beeches in the lines next to the walk of the ring, the twist down by the cascades to the Summerhouse Walk, and also the condemned 30' walk to the west of the Bowling Green'.

While much of the detail of the layout has since gone, there are some fine trees in the garden and also the area south of the house, where specimen conifers have been planted. The formal garden at one time included the flower and vegetable gardens and also the Dahlia Collection introduced to this country from Mexico by the 3rd Earl. The parterre had been converted to a bowling green by the 1st Edition map of 1860; the steps to the earlier bowling green, now a tennis court, remain and this area is surrounded with bulbs in the spring.

The Ween Garden was put in south of the main Formal Garden and incorporated the Racers Burn within it. Its layout has remained substantially the same, although the large ring was originally subdivided into segments. It is a walled garden to the west of the Forty Five and was designed by the 2nd Marchioness in 1823, and is now known as the 'Wee Garden'. There was a summerhouse to the south of this garden; this has since disappeared and that area of the policies left in a relatively natural informal state. The sundial has recently been moved from a corner of the Wee Garden to the centre of the ring. The garden contains many southern hemisphere plants and ornamental shrubs which are being encouraged. More southern hemisphere plants are being added while maintaining the character of the garden. Interesting plants in the Formal and Wee Garden include:- Euchryphia, Kalmia, Cryptomeria, Brodick hybrid Rhododendrons, Griselinia, a weeping Sweet chestnut, also tree ferns, flax and Hebes from New Zealand.

The Racers Burn flows from the Wee Garden, under the Forty Five into the Water Garden created a few years ago and still under development. Today ornamental planting extends from the Wee Garden along the water garden with Gunnera, Embothrium, Iris and Primula spp.

The Rock Garden was created by the 3rd Marquess between 1893 and 1898 and put in at the west front of the mansion after rebuilding. It was originally designed by Thomas Mawson and Gibson but was remodelled by the Dowager Lady Bute after the last war. It has many water features, water being piped from the Scoulag Burn, and it is currently being restocked.

Walled Garden

The kitchen garden was one of two, and was divided into eight compartments in the 1850s. Only one wall remains today. Old orchard trees remain and the garden is also used for cut flowers and vegetables. Glasshouses are in use.

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

One of Scotland's most notable designed landscape and outstanding in many ways, the gardens and grounds at Mount Stuart have been influenced by many designers, most recently Rosemary Verey. They host an impressive collection of trees and shrubs, as well as providing the setting for a category A listed building and making an impressive scenic contribution.

Site History

In general, the designed landscape at Mount Stuart has retained a similar structure from its inception in 1717 to the present date. The main changes have been the moving of the public road to the west of the house, and the gradual loss of the twists and small paths within the formal garden layout. A new bowling green was laid out by the 1st Edition map of 1860 on the former parterre area in front of the house, and a tennis court was later constructed on the former site of the bowling green. The Wee Garden was added to the south of the policies in 1823 and the Mawson Rock Garden was added to the north of the house in 1893-8.

The Stuarts are descended from John Stuart, the natural son of Robert II who was made Hereditary Sheriff of Bute in 1385. The Stuarts were also hereditary keepers of Rothesay Castle and lived there until 1685 when it was destroyed by fire and assault. The family then lived in the mansion house which had been built in 1680 in the Rothesay High Street. In 1703 Sir James Stuart, the 3rd Baron was created Earl of Bute, Viscount Kingarth, Lord Mountstuart, Cumra and Inchmernock. He was succeeded by his son in 1710 and in 1718 the foundations were laid for a new house at Mount Stuart designed by Alexander McGill. The 2nd Earl married Anne Campbell, daughter of the Duke of Argyll, and much of the grounds at Mount Stuart were planted out from 1717, from which time accounts exist for young trees and seed. The 2nd Earl died in 1723 and was succeeded by his son aged 9 years. Although building work continued, the 3rd Earl did not visit Mount Stuart until 1734. In 1736 he married Mary Wortley Montague and they spent more time at Mount Stuart. He was a keen gardener and in 1737 started a Journal of Planting from the time of the first laying out of the gardens by his father.

A plan of the grounds drawn up for the 3rd Earl in 1759 by John Fowles shows a parterre in front of the house (ie. to the east), a bowling green to the south and a kitchen garden immediately to the north of the parterre. These were laid out as three of many compartments of a larger, formal design which extended from the house to the clifftop, and contained designed vistas, clearings and avenues. The Lime Tree Avenue and the Forty Five Avenue are marked as is the main drive. The Deer Park is shown to the north-west of the house, the Wilderness to the north-east. A folly on the top of Mount Montague provides a focal point to the west, and a Druid Temple is marked in the Deer Park. John Fowles's survey recorded 305 acres of gardens and paddocks, 'of which there are 135 acres under gardens and plantations, 120 acres in the Deer Park and the remaining 50 acres are divided into eight small enclosures and paddocks'. He also refers to 'the forest trees of very great size and beauty' and states that half of the Deer Park is arable.

The 3rd Earl became gradually more involved with political life in London. He was made a Knight of the Garter in 1762 and was Prime Minister from 1762-3. He was a patron of the Arts and also an arts collector, and he commissioned Robert Adam to build his new house at Luton Hoo. He was influential in the foundation of Kew Gardens and published privately his own botanical tables. He died in 1792 and was buried in Rothesay. The 4th Earl was married first in 1766 to the daughter of Viscount Windsor, and later to Frances the daughter of Thomas Coutts. He lived for part of the time at Mount Stuart and in 1805 employed Buchanan and Menzies to report on agricultural conditions and improvements needed on the estate. For his diplomatic service he was created Viscount Mountjoy, Earl of Windsor and Marquess of Bute in 1796. He died in 1814 and was succeeded by his grandson who was already 7th Earl of Dumfries in succession to his maternal grandfather.

The 2nd Marquess and his wife, Maria, the daughter of the 3rd Earl of Guilford, were frequently in residence at Mount Stuart and made many improvements to the estate and gardens, adding the English style estate village of Kerrycroy to the north of the estate. In 1823 Lady Bute designed a new small garden to the south of the formal compartments, south of the bowling green. William Burn was commissioned to design a new north entrance lodge and the ruins of Rothesay Castle were partly conserved at about this period.

After the death of his first wife, the 2nd Marquess married Lady Sophie Hastings, daughter of the Marchioness of Hastings, in 1845. Their son John was born in 1847 and succeeded as 3rd Marquess six months later. After his marriage in 1872, he had extensive improvements made to Mount Stuart but a fire in 1877 destroyed the upper floors of the house. Rowand Anderson was commissioned to submit plans for its rebuilding, most of which was completed in 1885. A new garden to the west of the house was designed for the 3rd Marquess in 1898 by Thomas Mawson. The 3rd Marquess died in 1900 and his son inherited his interest in restoring old buildings, becoming Chairman of the Scottish Historic Buildings Record Council and President of the Scottish History Society, an interest which is carried on today by the 6th Marquess. Mount Stuart was used as a hospital during World War I.

Associated People
Features & Designations


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


  • Avenue
  • Description: Two 18th-century avenues, the Forty Five and Lime Tree Avenue.
  • Sundial
  • Pavilion
  • Description: The glass pavilion in the kitchen garden, moved from the Glasgow Garden Festival of 1988.
  • Mansion House (featured building)
  • Description: The Victorian House, Italian Gothic in style, was built by Rowand Anderson. The house is also noted for its Great Hall, 60 feet square and supported with huge marble pillars.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Planting
  • Description: The Wee Garden houses a collection of trees and shrubs from the southern hemisphere.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Planting
  • Description: A late-19th-century rock garden with water features.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: The kitchen garden, redesigned as a box-edged potager by Rosemary Verey in the 1990s.
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential





Open to the public





  • Historic Scotland