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Garden of the Season – Dumfries House

December 28th 2022

Why should we visit?

Surrounded by mature woodland and bisected by the Lugar Water, the gardens surrounding Dumfries House are some of the most highly-cultivated in Scotland. They are also a place of training for craftsmen and women and so the many pavilions that are dotted through the estate are beautiful examples of traditional building techniques.

The combination of designed parkland, shrubbery walks, mature trees and water features makes this a garden full of surprises.

Story of the Garden

Dumfries House was built in the 18th century by Robert Adam for the 5th Earl of Dumfries, William Crichton-Dalrymple, who filled it with furniture by Thomas Chippendale and other leading cabinet makers. Eventually it passed to the Bute family whose main residence was Mount Stuart near Rothesay, so while the house was maintained, it was never altered and its priceless collection of furniture was intact when the then Prince Charles set up the Dumfries House Trust in 2007 in order to save the house and contents from being broken up.

Since then significant work has been carried out to restore the 2,000 acre estate and the gardens that surround it.


The Queen Elizabeth II Walled Gardens cover five acres and are intensively cultivated, producing vegetables for the estate restaurant and a profusion of flowers from spring until autumn. Restoring these gardens involved terracing the entire gardens over a 12-metre drop, creating space for a formal rose garden on the top level and a wide bed of delphiniums at the bottom. A heritage-style greenhouse is home to pelargoniums, begonias and other hothouse plants and the adjacent Kauffman Education Gardens are where school children from across Ayrshire come to find out about growing and cooking.

Don’t Miss

The Chinese Bridge was built from a design that dates from 1899. Made from delicate ironwork, it has a pagoda on its central span. It joins the woodland with the arboretum, where a collection of young trees has recently been underplanted with shrubs and camassias for an extended season of colour.

Dumfries House 2

Dumfries House 1

Anything else to look out for?

Cyclamen, primroses and Helleborus ‘Emma’ begin to appear on the woodland floor late in the year while in the Rothesay Garden, near to the entrance of the estate, seedheads, hips and haws continue to provide interest throughout the winter.

The circular maze created from tall yew hedges is spectacular when covered with frost and the recently-opened adventure playground is an exciting attraction for young visitors.

Best Time to Visit

In April the formal ride that leads from the gardens to the Temple Gate is lined with thousands of daffodils and in June and July the rose garden is filled with scent and colour.

Autumn brings rich tones in the trees and during the winter snowdrops grow beneath them.

Any Recommendations in the Area

The Baird Institute in Cumnock holds an important collection of Mauchline Ware, the distinctive wooden items that are associated with East Ayrshire.

It also contains archives, photographs and artifacts relating to Keir Hardie, founder of the Labour Party, who lived in the town.


Dumfries House is just off the A70, 1.5 miles west of the junction with the A76.


The estate is open daily, dawn to dusk, and entry is free. Entrance to the Walled Gardens may be restricted by adverse weather conditions.

Tel: 01290 425959

Courtesy of The Herald