Lost Gardens of Perthshire
With so much to see and discover in Perthshire you need a good base from which to explore. Fortingall is ideally positioned for you to seek out the lost castles and gardens of Perthshire. Many are places of interest that are not on the main tourist routes and some are most certainly, well off the beaten track.
The following list of Lost Gardens has been selected by the hotel for your enjoyment. In many instances there will be no obvious signs, but the list leads you to some very interesting and historical sites. Those in private ownership are marked.
BALVAIRD CASTLE - NO 1698 1153
Fortified Tower House built around 1500. Take the M90 south from Perth then left onto the A912 at junction 9. Open to the public. The Tower House itself is only open on summer weekends. A large walled garden was built to the north east and another garden existed to the south.
BLAIR ATHOLL - NN 8657 6618
You could spend an entire day and more here. Head north, up the A9 from Ballinluig. There are lost gardens to ponder over, but please do visit the magnificent 9-acre Walled Garden – the Hercules Garden – restored to its original Georgian design. This and the Castle are must see items on any itinerary. Open April to October – tickets can be purchased online.
CARSE GRANGE - NO 2712 2540
This is most intriguing – remains of an ancient orchard forming part of the historic orchards of the Carse of Gowrie – East Perthshire. There were at one time around 51 orchards in this area, but now only 17 are traceable. So what you might say, however they date from the early 12th century and were mostly established as part of a monastic settlement, and yes some of the fruit trees still exist from that time. Carse Grange has been broken up, but it is rated highly for its cultural heritage, economic potential and biodiversity value. The site should be of interest to most.
CASTLE LYON - NO 3019 2910 (ALSO KNOWN AS CASTLE HUNTLY)
Castle Lyon – now an HMP Open Prison – dates from 1452. It was the summer base of the Earl of Strathmore who also held Glamis Castle – home of the Queen Mother. It is well known for having a ghost – The White Lady. Located about 7 miles west of Dundee in the Carse of Gowrie, the Castle had both a kitchen and formal garden, and was surrounded by a series of walled enclosures and terraces on which the gardens were based. Have a look, but do avoid getting locked up!
CASTLE MENZIES - NN 8376 4961
The nearest to Fortingall and well worth a visit – it has several ghosts and Custodian Major David Henderson is both a first class host and raconteur. David will take you through the history of the Castle, now the formal home of Clan Menzies, and guide you round inside. And yes, Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed there despite his host being a supporter of the Hanoverian Government, as did Butcher Cumberland on his way back from Culloden in 1746. The gardens that surrounded the Castle were sophisticated – walled enclosures with parterres and orchards to the north and west. The Duke of Cumberland and his garrison destroyed much of the gardens and pulled down most of the walls in an effort to make the castle less defensive. The picture of Prince Charlie in the Fortingall Hotel dining room is believed to have been painted from inside Castle Menzies – his Jacobite troops were encamped to the front of the Castle – you can make out their tents. The Castle and gardens must have been an impressive sight prior to the Butcher’s visit. Outlines of the gardens can be seen in dry summers from overhead.
CLUNIE CASTLE - NO 1132 4401
To be found on the small island in the Loch of Clunie – not to be confused with the Castle of Clunie which stood on Castle Hill to the west side of the loch. Stone from the Castle of Clunie was quarried to construct Clunie Castle – the then residence of the Bishop of Dunkeld. Situated beside the A923 between Dunkeld and Blairgowrie. Merits a look alongside any search for the Lost Castles of Perthshire.
COUPAR ANGUS ABBEY - NO 2232 3980
This was a Cistercian monastery near Coupar Angus – founded by Malcolm IV of Scotland. It formed part of the Archdiocese of St. Andrews, but was disestablished in 1606. The only surviving part of the Abbey to be seen today is the gatehouse. Women found the Ley Tunnel in the 19th century near the entrance to the churchyard – it is believed that one entered and never returned. A local mason found the entrance again in 1982 and went in some distance before being blocked by a section where the roof had caved-in. It is thought that the Tunnel ran for 2½ miles to a souterrain at Pitcur. The Abbey gardens or monk’s yards were rented out to laymen with specific instructions of what and where to grow – mostly vegetables and acres of fruit. This ties in with Carse Grange (see number 3 above).
COUPAR GRANGE - NO 2298 4266
Part of COUPAR ANGUS ABBEY above. Gardens contained orchards and fish ponds.
DOUNE CASTLE - NO 7284 0107
Hugely recommended by Fortingall Hotel – granted as Dower lands by James II to his Queen – Mary of Guelders – there is evidence of extensive garden works. Early documents record payments to a Gardener in 1461. Visit and review how the gardens may have been laid out.
DRUMMOND CASTLE - NN 8447 1807
A rare gem near Crieff – the Castle was built by John, 1st Lord Drummond around 1490. The castle is not open to the public but visitors to the splendid gardens are most welcome. The 2nd Earl is credited with transforming the gardens around 1630-1636. Early records mention Lord Drummond sending cherries to James IV in 1508 when the monarch was out hunting in nearby Glen Artney Forest. There is an impressive sundial that was installed in 1630. The 4th Earl planned and started an avenue of four rows of trees from the castle to Perth – 20 miles away! One of the Gardeners employed at the time was John Reid who later wrote the Scottish Gard’ner – the very first Scottish gardening book published in 1683. The formal gardens were abandoned in 1745 following the annexation of the estate after the second Jacobite Rising, but both the parterre and formal terracing were re-established in the early 19th century. Queen Victoria visited in 1842 with Prince Albert.
HOUSE OF NAIRNE - NO 0738 3284
The House of Nairne in the Parish of Auchtergaven was the main residence of the Nairne family – build date is unknown but it was destroyed by fire and replaced by another building in 1706. The latter was demolished after the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. The house site is no longer visible but an aerial survey has revealed the lines of the avenue and some of the plantations around the house which provides evidence for a plan of the gardens. A visit may yield some finds.
MONCUR CASTLE - NO 2835 2951
Close to Dundee, this one time 17th century family seat of the Kinnaird family was destroyed by fire in the early 18th century and is now a roofless ruin – only the shell of this castle remains. The crop marks in the arable fields around it show the lines of the ditches for the avenues radiating from the house. Private.
SCONE ABBEY - NO 1144 2664
And right to the heart of Scotland – the principal seat of the Scottish Kingdom. A visit to the Scone Abbey site should take in a tour of Scone Palace – a 400-year-old Murray stronghold. This Augustinian abbey dates from the 12th century, although it has long been believed that Scone was the centre for an early medieval Christian Cult – the Culdees (Companions of God) – dating from as early as 700 AD. The precise location of the abbey has now been established – it was destroyed by a mob from Dundee in 1559. The abbey’s importance and role in the history of Scotland is significant – it had important royal functions being next to the coronation site of Scottish kings at Moot Hill and housing the Stone of Destiny until it was stolen by Edward 1 of England. Many Scottish kings, including Robert the Bruce, were crowned here. Visit the site and you will sense the glorious but turbulent past. There were gardens, typically monastic, but produce was grown and supplied to the king. Records show strawberries and cherries being sent to the king’s master cook in 1496 and herbs in 1501. The Scone Palace gardens should be included in any visit.
TULLIBARDINE CASTLE - NN 9098 1391
Not far from Blackford and no longer standing, but famous for a massive planting of thorn bushes by Sir William Murray, owner of Tullibardine – in the shape of James IV ‘s flagship the Great Michael. It was ‘12 score feet long and 35 feet broad within her walls which were 10 feet thick’. The ship outline may be traced on foot, but the hawthorn bushes fell prey to the plough. The feature may well have been in honour of James IV in the years after Flodden. A visit to nearby Tullibardine Chapel is well worth the effort – it’s one of the most complete and unaltered small medieval churches in Scotland. It is a tribute to the powerful Murray family. Finally, pause for a while at the Tullibardine Distillery to enjoy a dram or two.