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Remnants of the early-19th-century policies survive at Rosneath on a promontory with outstanding views now developed as a caravan park. There are specimen trees around the old house site, wrought-iron gates from the ornamental gardens and a walled garden with some old fruit trees in it.

The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. The site was removed from the Inventory on 04/05/2016.

Location and Setting

Rosneath is situated at the end of the peninsula at the mouth of Gareloch, facing Helensburgh, 3 miles (5km) due east, and 6 miles (10km) south of Garelochhead. The site is on the promontory between Rosneath Bay and Castle Bay and is enclosed inland by woodlands. In scenic terms the setting is magnificent with views northwards to the Argyll and Dunbartonshire Hills, eastwards across Gareloch to Helensburgh, and southwards across the Firth of Clyde. Rosneath House was demolished in 1961 but it had been set to take full advantage of the surrounding views. The site is very visible from the surrounding area by land and by sea, and the house was a famous landmark.

General Roy's map of 1750 shows the older castle at Castle Bay with radiating avenues leading from it. The designed landscape was extended in the early 19th century at the time the new house was built and incorporated all the land southwards from the Castle to Rosneath Point and west to the policies of Camsail House. The layout shown on the 1st edition OS map of 1865 reveals an extensive area of woodland and shrubbery along the shore with parkland inland. Two large gardens existed at that time: a large kitchen garden and orchard at Parkhead, and an ornamental garden to the south of Rosneath House. A pond, possibly for curling, was shown to the east of the house. The detail of the design has been lost this century, and there are 324 acres (131ha) in the designed landscape today.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Parkhead is a crescented building, a quadrant which faced the north end of the old gardens. It appears first on the 1st edition OS of 1860. The building appears to have been used variously as servants' accommodation, as stables, and in later years as piggeries. It is currently being converted for housing.

The Walled Garden which lies to the south of Parkhead is of unusual design with a long north/south axis. Rosneath Farm was built as the new office for the mansion house in c.1800 by Alexander Nasmyth and was designed as an eye-catcher in the view from the house. The elaborate design consisted of two main blocks with a detailed Gothic north façade, with two octagonal turrets at each end and a tall central square tower. It was partly demolished in 1961. To the south of the site of the mansion house stands a wrought-iron trellis work arbour.


The parks formerly extended south from an avenue which ran due east from Parkhead to Robert Ness. A long carriage drive extended southwards from the house into Greenisland Plantation and north past the offices to the old gardens; it was recorded as having been left to grass by 1893. Photographs from the opposite shore of Gareloch show the view of the parks and parkland trees to have been very scenically important. The woodlands are still significant in the view but the parklands have now been ploughed and most of the individual trees have been lost. The area around the house was put to lawns with specimen trees, and there are still some fine trees remaining in this area including a Cedar of Lebanon and some Holm Oak. The Caravan Park is sited in this area.


Rosneath was renowned in the 19th century for its trees including two very large silver firs, known as 'Adam and Eve', which were reputed to be the largest in Britain at 130', and over 200 years old in 1891. The drive up to the house passed through the policy woodlands of fine old specimens of oak, ash and sycamore, with some Scots pine. The plantations of Gallowhill and Greenisland were felled for the war effort and have been replanted since by the Forestry Commission as commercial woodlands. The policy woods along the drive are still of mixed deciduous species with hybrid Rhododendron invasion and some scrub invasion.

The Gardens

There are few traces remaining of the gardens today. They are shown on the 1860 map as an extensive rectangular enclosure, subdivided into sixteen compartments and extending for about twice the length of the south front of the house. They were described in 1893 as 'delightful, old-fashioned gardens ... with long stretches of mossy turf and quaint arrangement of laurel and heath plants, groups of flowering shrubs and old fashioned bushes, trimly kept walks with heavy box borders, all vastly superior to the formal arrangements now in vogue'. The wrought-iron arbour within the Caravan Park is a remnant of this garden.

The Walled Garden lies to the south of Parkhead which is built as a crescent along the north semi-circular wall of the garden. On the 1st edition OS map the upper garden appears to have been laid out in an ornamental fashion, while the southern section was an orchard. The enclosed area is currently under grass and there are still some fruit trees along the walls.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. The site was removed from the Inventory on 04/05/2016.

Reason for Inclusion

Unfortunately much degraded today, the designed landscape at Rosneath still has historical value and does play a part in its contribution to local scenery.

Site History

Rosneath was a traditional stronghold of the Argylls. The early castle was remodelled in 1630 and destroyed by fire in 1802. The mansion house was built by Bonomi in 1803 and the landscape redesigned at that time. Documentary evidence relies on Roy's map of 1750 and the OS map editions, together with paintings and photographs.

Traditionally, Rosneath was a stronghold of the Argylls and held an important defensive position on the Firth of Clyde. The Castle was enlarged in 1630 by the then Marquis of Argyll, and old paintings show it to be a fortified house. The Castle suffered from a fire in 1802, and in c.1803 the 5th Duke of Argyll commissioned the Italian architect, J. Bonomi, to design a new castle on a site just to the west of the old one. Correspondence between the Duke and Robert Mylne at Inveraray referred to building on the same site as the former castle, after which it was decided to build on a new higher site with views extending to north and south. Bonomi's grand design, described by some as a palace and illustrated by P. Nasmyth in 1809, had two main fronts, both decorated with huge Ionic columns. This exterior decoration was never finished, although the north front was nearly completed and had a very grand portico. The south front featured a balustraded, circular tower, and was to have supported a semi-circular two-storey Ionic-columned portico which apparently was never built. The park and gardens were laid out at about the same time, possibly with the help of Alexander Nasmyth.

By the end of the 19th century Rosneath was a famous landmark, and old photographs show the attractive layout of woods and parks viewed from Helensburgh. At that time it was owned by the 9th Duke of Argyll who had married in 1871 HRH Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria. After Princess Louise's death in 1939, it was left to the Duke of Kent who was killed in action. Ownership of Rosneath then passed to a Mr Woodward who lived in the house for a short period until it was requisitioned for World War II. During the war, Churchill, Eisenhower and Montgomery held talks at Rosneath concerning the D-Day offensive.

By 1954, when the present owners purchased the house and 55 acres of surrounding land for a Caravan Park, the house had already been partially demolished, and in 1961 it was declared dangerous and finally demolished. The farms were sold separately and the woodlands were sold to the Forestry Commission.

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • Mansion House (featured building)
  • Description: A mansion house designed by Bonomi and demolished in the mid-20th century.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Specimen Tree
  • Gate
  • Description: Wrought-iron gates from the ornamental garden.
  • Walled Garden
  • Description: Contained ornamental planting and an orchard.
Key Information





Principal Building



Part: standing remains






  • Historic Scotland