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The gardens include formal terraces and are noted for an extensive collection of trees and shrubs. There is also a water garden, an arboretum and a productive walled garden. The estate woodlands are a distinctive feature of the local scenery.

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

Tillypronie lies on the southern slope of Baderonach Hill 1,558' (475m) one of the foothills of the Grampian Mountains, approximately 7 miles (11km) north of the River Dee. The village of Tarland is situated some 4.5 miles (7km) to the south-east. Aberdeen lies approximately 34 miles (55km) due east. The A97 runs through the estate on the western boundary of the policies linking the river valleys of the Don and the Dee. Tillypronie stands c.1,125' (343m) above sea level. The name itself means 'top of the hill', and the site is extremely exposed to harsh weather conditions although shelterbelts have been planted to temper these effects. The site commands magnificent views across the Vale of Cromar to the south and to the surrounding Grampian Mountains. The setting is of prime importance to the house and designed landscape. The estate woodlands are highly significant within the overall landscape of the area.

Tillypronie House lies on the south side of the drive which runs along the edge of Baderonach Hill linking Reinacharn Lodge in the east with the A97 in the west. The designed landscape extends north to the woodlands on Scar Hill, south to the edge of the adjacent agricultural land, west to the A97 and east to the old laundry. The woodlands on the estate, largely outwith the designed landscape, have been extended since 1870 as the estate expanded. Today the policies comprise some 371 acres (150ha).

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Tillypronie House was begun in 1867 for Sir John Clark of Tillypronie; the architect is unknown. Improvements were made to the house when the terraces on the south side of the house were laid out between 1925-35 by Sir Thomas Royden. The Laundry has been converted for residential use.


A small area of parkland lies to the west of the house, dissected by the main drive. This area contains various parkland trees and three small decorative ponds. The fields are used for grazing.


The woodlands are the most scenically prominent feature of the designed landscape. Those which have been influenced by the designed landscape lie north of the original drive to Tillypronie, as shown on the 1st edition OS map, and between it and the new drive created between 1865 and 1910. Reference to the 1st edition OS map shows that much of Scar Hill, to the north-west of Tillypronie, was afforested by this time, largely by Scots pine, larch and spruce. Most of the timber had been felled in the early 1900s, and by 1951 only some 500 acres remained. Almost 90% of this was lost in the gale of January 1953. Thus the present woodlands, again largely coniferous, have been planted since this time.

The Gardens

The ornamental garden was laid out on the former parkland by Sir Thomas Royden in the late 1920s and 1930s on the south-facing slope below the terraced gardens. It incorporated a lochan and an area of woodland which had been established by c.1910 by Sir John Clark.

In 1926 designs for the garden improvements were prepared by George Dillistone, garden architect of Tunbridge Wells, but were never adopted. Instead, a beech hedge which once stood on the line of the terraces was transplanted to form the new southern boundary of the garden. Rocks and boulders were imported along the stream edge. Some 40 varieties of heather were introduced, planted amid the common ling which was uprooted from the hill above.

Since 1951, a large collection of trees and shrubs has been established amid sweeping lawns; it includes some 150 varieties of dwarf conifer. The water garden created around the lochan and stream is now particularly beautiful with its massed planting of Astilbes and Spiraeas. In 1983, advice on planting in this area was given by Vernon Russell-Smith.

The formal garden lies on terraces laid out on the south front of the house in the late 1920s and early 1930s by Sir Thomas Royden. A herbaceous border extends the length of the middle terrace, whilst shrub roses are massed on the lower level. A formal rose garden has been laid out at the east end of the middle terrace, below which a rockery has been established.

Walled Garden

The kitchen garden is sited on a south-facing slope at Hillside which once lay on the western boundary of the Pronie Estate. It is indicated on the 1st edition OS map of 1865. It is presently fully maintained and stocked with vegetables and flowers in beds retained by box hedges. The whole layout of the garden is particularly prominent across the park from the drive. Two modern double- glazed greenhouses stand at the east end of the garden, well stocked with plants from Hever Castle, the Astor family's former home in Kent.


Some specimen trees were planted throughout the policies by Sir Thomas Royden but the arboretum of Tillypronie has been largely established since 1958. In that year, a ten acre pinetum was laid out beside the drive to the west of the house and park. It included some 300 named varieties of conifer, some of which had been raised in the estate's nursery. By tradition, trees have been planted at Tillypronie to commemorate particular visits or events. Two Californian Redwood trees were planted in 1867 on the drive to commemorate the building of the house. In 1960 a copper beech was planted by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II opposite the front door to replace an Abies magnifica planted by Queen Victoria in 1867. A woodland walk links the house with the kitchen garden. Beside the path, clumps of Rhododendron 'Pink Pearl' have been planted which commemorate the Pearl Anniversary of Lord and Lady Astor.

A survey of the arboretum was made in 1978, by students of Heriot Watt University, which identified and mapped each specimen.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

Open occasionally under Scotland's Garden Scheme.


The Hon. Philip Astor


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 Tillypronie designed landscape makes a major contribution to the surrounding scenery and the gardens are an outstanding work of art, containing a remarkable range of trees, shrubs and plants.

Site History

The designed landscape was laid out in the late 19th century following the construction of Tillypronie House. The gardens were established in the 1920s and 1930s and have been further developed since 1951. Historical map evidence is confined to the 1st & 2nd edition OS maps of 1865 & c.1910.

In the late 15th century, the estate was part of the lands of Mar, belonging to the Erskine family. They were dispossessed of their estates and title by the Crown but were later reinstated by Mary Queen of Scots in 1565 as being the legitimate heirs. Records show that, by 1696, the lands of Pronie were part of the Blelack Estate and owned by a branch of the Gordon family. The estate was again confiscated by the Crown during the 1745 rebellion. The rightful owner, Charles Gordon, repossessed the lands one year before he died in 1785. He was succeeded by his sister's grandson, Charles Rose Gordon, the 'Red Laird'. He too died without issue and the estate was sold in 1794 to Willian Gordon (no relation). On his death, his son inherited the lands. Blelack was sold separately to Sir Alexander Anderson and then, in 1865, to Sir Thomas J. Coltman (Mr Justice Coltman). Four years later, his son, William Coltman, bought the neighbouring estates of Deskry and Pitellachie. In 1851 his daughter, Charlotte, had married John Forbes Clark, attache to Sir Robert Gordon, British Ambassador in Vienna. In 1855 John Clark retired from diplomatic service, the same year in which his father, Sir James Clark, purchased the Pronie Estate. Sir James, an eminent Royal Physican, had been created Baronet in 1838 by Queen Victoria. It was he who, with the Earl of Aberdeen, had recommended Balmoral to the Royal Family. The Pronie Estate had been purchased soon after rebuilding work had commenced at Balmoral. In 1860, Sir James retired to Bagshot Park, Surrey.

The Pronie Estate was visited often by Sir James' son and daughter-in-law, John and Charlotte, where they stayed in the Lairds House which stood on the site of the present Laundry. They commissioned the present house and the foundation stone was laid by Queen Victoria in 1867. Sir James Clark died in 1870. On the completion of the house, many improvements were made to the estate. On Sir John's death, in 1910, Tillypronie was inherited by William Hew Coltman, his wife's nephew and grandson of Sir Thomas J Coltman. Thus, the estates of Tillypronie, Blelack, Deskry and Pitellachie were combined.

In 1922, Tillypronie was sold to Falconer L Wallace, Younger of Candacraig, who resided at Tillypronie for three years until his father's death. During his ownership, the western boundary of the estate was extended from Hillside Cottage to what is now the A97. Up until this time, access to Tillypronie was by courtesy of an agreement with the Migvie estate.

In 1925, Tillypronie was sold to Sir Thomas Royden, 2nd Baronet, who was created 1st Baron Royden in 1944. Sir Thomas acquired the estates of Blelack, Blackmill and Migvie. At Tillypronie, between 1925-35, Sir Thomas laid out the terraces to the south of the house and the informal gardens beyond, in addition to planting many ornamental trees and shrubs throughout the policies. During World War II, the house and nearby Reinacharn Lodge were let to Albyn School for Girls. Sir Thomas Royden died without issue in 1950. One year later the estate, which then included some 8,500 acres of land, was purchased by Mr. Gavin Astor, grandson of 1st Viscount Astor. Soon after, some 5,300 acres of the neighbouring Towie estate were acquired. Mr. Gavin Astor and his wife, Lady Irene Haig, youngest daughter of the late Field Marshall Earl Haig of Bemersyde, carried out many improvements to the estate. In 1971, he succeeded as 2nd Baron Astor of Hever and, since his death in 1984, improvements to the garden have been continued by Lady Astor. The estate is now the property of their younger son, the Hon Philip Astor.

Features & Designations


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


  • Garden Terrace
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: Tillypronie House was begun in 1867 for Sir John Clark of Tillypronie; the architect is unknown.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Herbaceous Border
  • Rockery
  • Planting
  • Description: Golden Jubilee garden.
  • Tree Feature
  • Description: Pinetum.
  • Greenhouse
Key Information


Country Estate



Principal Building

Detached House





Open to the public




  • Historic Scotland, 'Tillypronie', {Gardens and Designed Landscapes}, [accessed 21 October 2007]


  • Historic Scotland