Straloch is a good example of an early to mid-18th century enclosure landscape, with a parkland landscape developed in the mid to later-19th century with the assistance of James Giles, the artist who assisted other land owners in the vicinity with the laying out of policies, particularly at Haddo.
Type of Site
Medium sized landscape park with garden around the house.
Location and Setting
The Straloch estate is situated north of Aberdeen off the A947 between Newmachar and Whiterashes. The house is set in a slight dip within well wooded policies with views over the parkland to the south.
There are no known estate plans of Straloch but General Roy's Military Survey, 1747-55 shows a series of square parks and plantations running north-west south-east along the line of the Burn of Straloch roughly on the same area that the estate covers today. The 1st Ed OS, 6' 1866 admits a little of the earlier regularity to the north but otherwise the landscape is that seen on the ground today.
Straloch House, is a five-bay, two-storey and attic house of 1780, with attached end wings. The Stableyard is 19th-century and lies to the north-west of the house. It consists of standings, loose boxes and tack room. North Lodge is a single storey, early 19th century Tudor style building, with plain gatepiers beside it, with hand gate and curving entrance walls.
The stone-built 5m (15 feet) high Walled Garden lies to the north of the house and is late 18th century. The garden within was originally divided into three compartments but these have now been removed. A central section of the north wall is lined with brick. There is a Dairy/GameLarder to the west of the house, which consists of an inner octagonal chamber with iron pillared verandah outside. It is built of brick, with a window on each face.
Drives and Approaches
The main approach from the east is no longer used but this was designed by James Giles for the last owners' great-grandmother to remind her of her Dorset home, Creech Grange. It is depicted on the 1st Ed OS map (6',1866. and 25'). The first half of the drive is quite well wooded on either side with mixed deciduous planting, affording glimpses into the farmland to the south and north. Then one enters an area of more formal parkland with large clumps of trees and plantations. Tree belts alongside the drive are all finished off with copious amounts of stone dykes, giving a very crisp and finished-off look to the landscape. The clumps are mixed deciduous including a mix of ash, oak, and beech. Many of the clumps seen from the drive are alos enclosed by stone dykes. The drive from the south-west is mainly through an area of coniferous plantations and is no longer used. The 1st Ed OS map (6') shows it as an area of boggy land with some coniferous planting.
The parkland lies to the south of the house forming an apron, in a regular shaped enclosure bound to the west by the canalised Burn of Straloch. A track forms a boundary to the south-east between the parkland and the more productive ground. There is a mixture of clumps of trees and scattered individuals including beech, Wych elm and lime.
The policies are bordered by woodland belts to the north and north-east. The road that leads off the A947 is planted with beech. There are inner mixed belts of beech, sycamore and fir around the area of the former tree nursery in the walled garden.
Beside the back of the house, between the house and garden, there is a specimen corded beech tree, with a an intriguing gnarled fingered trunk. Several young beech whips were planted together and then bound and twisted as they grew, to create the interesting trunk. Up until a recent gale, there was a specimen corded beech by the main house at Park House (q.v.) near Banchory, and they can also be seen at Haddo (q.v.). It is very possible that this is a signature feature of James Giles, who designed parts of all of these properties. The garden lies to the north of the house and is composed of shrubbery alongside a very unusual narrow gently curving canalised burn which has been taken off the Burn of Straloch in a small loop and then joins up with the burn again further to the north. This appears on the 1st Ed OS map. In many ways it has more the appearance of a rill, and it is punctuated at regular intervals all along its length by. There is a small waterfall further to the north on the Burn of Straloch where it becomes part of the garden layout. Further to the north again is a footbridge which leads to a walk which goes to the lane to the west. In the northern part of this shrubbrey area is the site of St Mary's Chapel and St Mary's Well, which is adjacent to the northern end of the walled garden. What is now an area of shrubbery with azaleas to the north east of the canalised burn and south of the walled garden was a formal garden. The massed azaleas are very similar in planting pattern to that found at Park House (q.v.) near Banchory, another landscape linked with James Giles.
The walled garden is said to be late 18th century and has walls 5m (15 feet) high. It is now used as a tree nursery but the owner has stipulated that the central path is kept and the yew hedges either side that backed the herbaceous borders. The central section of the north wall lined with brick is curious. However an espaliered Maidenhair tree used to be grown against this wall and the brick wall may have been inserted to facilitate its growth. This tree was last seen in 1982. There was never a glass-house against this part of the wall as the glass-houses were built outside the walled garden to the north. There is a wooden hand door in the south wall. Part of the north wall has been breached to make a wider entrance.
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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
Straloch is a good example of an early to mid-18th century enclosure landscape, with a parkland landscape developed in the mid to later-19th century with the assistance of James Giles the artist who assisted other land owners in the vicinity with the laying out of policies, particularly at Haddo.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
18th and 19th centuries.
The name Straloch, according to William Alexander, comes from Strath Loch, Black Strath; Loch in old Gaelic means black. The earliest record of Straloch is a charter granted to Henry Cheyne in 1348. The Cheynes owned Straloch for 250 years and in 1600 sold it to the Gordons of Pitlurg a branch of the House of Huntly. John Gordon was the first laird of that family and was succeeded by his brother, Robert, who was a famous cartographer sometimes known as the Great Straloch. Robert's grandson, another Robert, was the founder of Robert Gordon's College. It must be the Gordon's Straloch depicted on General Roy's Military Survey, 1747-55. It very clearly shows a north approach or vista which suggests that the present house and its site may have been preceded by another building which would have terminated this avenue or vista, possibly in the vicinity of the walled garden. The walled garden may have been attached to the earlier house in the manner of 17th century lairds houses. The present Straloch does not follow the north south lines of the parks as indicated on General Roy's survey of 1747-55, but is set at an angle facing south east which suggests a later building. The present house is dated to 1780. Further research is required in this area. It is also worth noting that the site of the Chapel of the Virgin Mary is to the west of the walled garden built by the Cheynes.
The Gordons sold Straloch in 1758 to John Ramsay. A Mary Ramsay married Francis Irvine of Drum, and the second son inherited Straloch. The Ramsays of Straloch became the Irvines of Barra and Straloch. The estate was recently sold to the present unrelated owners. The date of 1780 attributed to the house therefore relates to the Ramsays.
Little is known of the early garden but Alexander Innes-Shand, a Times journalist and cousin of the last owners' great grand-mother wrote about the garden at Straloch in his book 'Memories of Gardens', 1908, in the following terms.
'The first garden I am thinking of, where my youthful footsteps strayed among birds' nests and strawberry beds, had a kitchen department of a couple of acres, lying four-square like the New Jerusalem, enclosed with lofty walls lined with fruit trees, and backed up by belts of woods that broke the gales. Between it and the house was a wilderness of shrubbery, threaded by broad gravel paths, all of them ending in the triangular flower garden, bounded on one side by thick copses and on the other by the murmuring burn. It fell in a succession of tiny cascaded, between which the trout shot to their holes on the falling of your shadow....That garden was within easy reach of the house.... Most accessible at the apex of the triangle was a bed of musk filling the air and straggling out beyond its boundaries to strike its roots beneath the turf. Behind was a bed of the hardy heaths which flourish in their white and purple in that latitude, beautiful though without scent.'
The descriptions continue including one of the walled garden which describes the flowers and the layout.
'Never anywhere else have I seen such dense beds of lily-of-the-valley, each the size and shape of a Titan's coffin, as flanked that gate on either hand. A capricious plant it is, and will only take kindly to favourite soils. While the flower garden was rather laid out for colour and effect, the upper part of the kitchen garden was given over to old fashioned flowers, set in a maze of quaintly cut box-bordered beds. And from side wall to side wall, beneath the spread eagled plum and cherry trees, stretched an unbroken border, six inches wide, of the Gentianella as bright and of as deep an azure as any that bloom by the springs in the Alps.'
- Associated People
- Features & Designations
Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland
- Country House (featured building)
- Description: Straloch House is a five-bay, two-storey and attic house of 1780, with attached end wings.
- Earliest Date:
- Latest Date:
- Key Information
Newmachar and Fintray