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Pittencrieff Park


Pittencrieff Park comprises grassed areas which were once parkland, a rock garden and formal gardens as well as later park developments. The main formal garden lies within the old kitchen garden and includes a central walk and island beds. An informal area known as The Glen is a remnant of former planting and rockwork on the banks of the Tower Glen. The site incorporates Dunfermline Abbey church and the ruined facade of the Royal Palace.

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

Pittencrieff Park is situated on the west side of the town of Dunfermline; the park is bounded by roads, and the main access road from the north is the A994. The park slopes gently to the south but is steeply incised by the glen on its eastern side. The Tower Burn flows through the glen and around the ancient fortress of Malcolm Canmore's Tower and, in fact, the name of Dunfermline derives from 'the fort on the crooked burn'. It has been suggested that the burn was diverted around the fortress to form a moat and that the glen is artificially deepened through the early coalmining activities of the monks of the former Dunfermline Abbey. The Abbey and Palace ruins form a magnificent backdrop to the north-east of Pittencrieff Park and views can be obtained southwards to the Forth Road Bridge and the Lothian hills. Views inward to the Park are limited by its high surrounding walls.

Pittencrieff House is set in the centre of the Park just south of the Tower Hill with extensive views to the south. The designed landscape extends over 76 acres within the boundaries of the Park today, and appears to cover a larger area than in 1750 when Roy's map was produced. At that time, shelterbelts extended around fields to the north and west of the Park, but the designed landscape was concentrated on a formal layout surrounding the house and up to the stables where a drive left to the north-west corner of the Park. By 1853 the north entrance had been moved to its central position; the tree belts to the west and south of the house had been removed and the shelter planting put in to the south-west of the house. The formal layout had been changed to a picturesque design with the north park planted up with individual parkland trees. The Laird's Garden is a remnant from the previous formal layout, but its square shape has been rounded. The layout of the Park has remained basically the same since it became a public park in 1903 with the addition of the park buildings, ornamentation and pathways. There are 76 acres (31ha) contained in the Park.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The house was built in 1610 and heightened in 1731; it is a three-storey rectangular mansion house, harled with margins and is listed A. It was remodelled inside and restored in 1911 by Sir Robert Lorimer. The early 19th century dovecot is listed B. The Ambition Fountain to the west of the house was sculpted by Richard Goulden in 1908 and is listed B. Richard Goulden also sculpted the Andrew Carnegie statue raised by public subscription in 1914, listed B, and the fountain within the Music Pavilion. The Louise Carnegie Gates were put up in 1928 at the east entrance and are large wrought-iron gates, listed B. The Tower Bridge carried the Dunfermline to Stirling road across the Glen and is a striking double bridge listed B. On Tower Hill are the remains of Malcolm Canmore's Tower, a scheduled monument, listed C(S), and popularly regarded as Macbeth's stronghold before Malcolm's time. Malcolm Canmore's son Alexander I laid the foundations of the nearby Abbey Buildings of which the Guest House later became the royal residence. However, it was not known as the Royal Palace until it was largely rebuilt and gifted to Anne of Denmark on her wedding to James VI in the 1590s. Charles I was born here in 1600. It was abandoned when James VI moved south to England in 1603 but its facade is still a prominent feature from the Park. Dunfermline Abbey church is the final resting place of Robert the Bruce. New park buildings were introduced in the early 1900s and included the Music Pavilion, Peacock Restaurant and Aviary. A large range of glasshouses built in 1913 were replaced in 1973 by the present Floral Hall. A small hexagonal rabbit house is a recent addition.


The former parks are now under regularly mown grass. Paths have been laid through the park from the entrances to the aviary in the south-west, the pavilion in the west, to the children's playground and playing fields in the north and to the Andrew Carnegie statue. Two childrens' paddling pools have been put in to the south-west of the house, south of the Rock Garden. The house is in use during the summer months as a local history and costume museum. The former stable-court has been demolished and replaced with the Italian Garden. There are two toilet blocks in the Park. A Model Traffic Area for children to learn road sense was put in at the north of the Park in 1950. A Demonstration Garden has been on trial in the last few years but has now been abandoned; it is surrounded by hedges. The maze (added in the 1970s) was badly vandalised and has been removed. There were never many trees in the southern half of the Park, but many have been lost from the north half. New trees, mainly beech and oak, were put in during the early 1900s.

Water Features

The Glen' is the local name for the Tower Burn glen as it meanders around Malcolm Canmore's Tower and through the Park. Photographs of it in the early 1900s show steep, shaly slopes held by a retaining wall above the burn, with waste-pipes and rubbish tips down the slopes. The watercourse was impure at this time. Following Mawson's suggestion, the glen was landscaped with rockwork and steps to make the paths safe and attractive. A Japanese garden was subsequently put in (contrary to Mawson's & Geddes' views) and a small summerhouse remains in this area although much of the ornamental planting has gone. The thatched roof of the summerhouse was burned by vandals and has been replaced with tiles. The waterflow in the burn has reduced over the years and the cascades are not as obvious as they were designed to be. The Glen is not so intensively managed as it used to be in recent years; some of the plant material has become overgrown with weeds and many of the glen-side trees have been lost with consequent effects on the slope stability.

The Gardens

The Rock Garden was put in to the west of the house in the 1900s and was planted out again in the 1950s. A five year programme to replace some of the plant material and widen the pathways is in progress. It has been designed to provide spring and autumn colour and contains some interesting trees and shrubs, including Metasequoias, Embothrium, Cryptomerias and Eucryphia.

A small formal garden has been laid out immediately to the west of the house focussing on the 'Ambition' statue. It is laid out with stone flags, lawn and island beds, with roses and herbaceous plants.

The former kitchen garden lies to the east of the house and offices. The Floral House, a large range of hothouses, was introduced in 1973 replacing an earlier range of tropical houses and it contains palms and also benches for colourful displays. Prior to 1913 the glasshouse range was on the north-east rather than the north wall of the garden; both Mawson and Geddes had suggested removing this and building a new Conservatory on the present site. The Laird's Garden is laid out today as a formal garden with well-trimmed lawns and island beds planted out with bedding plants and old varieties of roses. A central walk along the west-east axis, known as the Laird's Walk, has been maintained over the years and is kept as a green path with herbaceous borders. An ornamental gate leads to the park at the west end. A path leads from the east of this garden into the Glen. The original yew hedges are kept up around the edge of the 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

Gifted to the people of Dunfermline by Andrew Carnegie in 1903, the layout and features of Pittencrieff Park have included design work by Patrick Geddes, Thomas Mawson and Robert Lorimer.

Site History

Pittencrieff House was built c.1610 for Sir Alexander Clerk and since then has had a succession of owners. In 1708 Brigadier General John Forbes was born in the house, and in 1740 it was enlarged with stones from the Dunfermline Palace ruins. In 1762 the estate belonged to Sir Alexander Ramsay who commissioned Robert Robinson to do some work for him. It was sold in 1762 and again in 1800. By 1867 it was owned by James Hunt Esq, who held 945 acres in the shire. He claimed ownership to the site of the royal palace and refused public access to the historic features in the grounds. He was bitterly opposed by the Morrison family (Andrew Carnegie's maternal relatives) who were thus banned from entering the Park even on the one day a year when it was open to the public. In 1862 they took the case to the House of Lords and won.

Andrew Carnegie was born in 1835 and in 1848 his family emigrated to America where he became one of the richest men in the world. Returning to his native Scotland, he bought Pittencrieff Park from Colonel James Maitland Hunt and gifted it in 1903 with an endowment of three-quarters of a million pounds to set up the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust in order to bring 'sweetness and light' to the people of Dunfermline. He is quoted as saying that it was 'the most soul-satisfying public gift I ever made, or ever can make'. In 1903 the Trust asked Thomas Mawson and Professor Geddes to prepare separate plans for the laying out of the Park. They took their brief to extend further than the Park walls, and their plans included recommendations for improvements within the town of Dunfermline. Both plans were acknowledged and shelved and the Park was subsequently laid out by James Whitton, Superintendent of Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Some work was also undertaken by Messrs Backhouse, the famous Alpine specialists of York in 1904 on 'the large rock work' and they are recorded as supplying plants in 1907. (The Geddes Plan suggests that their ideas for a Tropical House should be emulated at Pittencrieff.) Altogether, £4,360 was spent on landscaping the grounds at this time. In 1911 Sir Robert Lorimer was commissioned to carry out improvements to the house, and in 1913 the Conservatory was built.

Improvements to the Park at this time included the restoration of the Glen area as suggested in the Mawson plan; Geddes also made suggestions for improving the water quality and character of the Glen. It would seem that many of the suggestions for the Park in the Mawson and Geddes plans were followed up at a later stage. Both designers suggested removal of the glasshouse range along the north-east wall of the Laird's Garden and replacement with a grand conservatory along its north wall. Geddes suggested inter alia: removing the ha-ha, using the house as a museum, putting in a really good rock garden and also a zoo. Mawson suggested providing an Aviary and a concert room, a yew walk and a maze. All these ideas have been put into effect, but many of their other suggestions were not, notably the provision of Formal Gardens to the south of the house and of a lake in the south of the Park. Mawson describes the Park as it was in 1904 'the old Abbey and Palace ruins, the lovely glen and fine views to the south, the exceptionally favourable fall of the ground and the fine well-matured timber are all unique features into which the new work is to be deftly interwoven. Only one feature is lacking and that is an expanse of water which I am hoping you may be able to provide in the lower fields.'

In 1976 the Carnegie Trust handed the Park over to Dunfermline District Council which runs and manages it today. The Trust is still the formal owner and the Trustees are consulted on major developments.


  • 20th Century (1901 to 1932)
  • Early 20th Century (1901 to 1932)
Associated People
Features & Designations


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

  • Scheduled Ancient Monument

  • Reference: The remains of Malcolm Canmore's Tower


  • Conservatory
  • Description: A conservatory built on the site of the early-20th-century glasshouses.
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  • Ornamental Pond
  • Description: Lily pond.
  • Dovecote
  • Statue
  • Fountain
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  • Museum (featured building)
  • Description: The house was built in 1610 and heightened in 1731; it is a three-storey rectangular mansion house, harled with margins and is listed A. It was remodelled inside and restored in 1911 by Sir Robert Lorimer. Pittencrieff House is now a museum.
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  • Kitchen Garden
  • Entrance
  • Description: The Louise Carnegie Gates were refurbished in 2000.
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  • Pavilion
  • Description: The Glen pavilion.
Key Information





Principal Building

Parks, Gardens And Urban Spaces


20th Century (1901 to 1932)





Open to the public





  • Historic Scotland