The designed landscape was laid out before the mid-19th century, prior to the construction of the new house in 1861-63; the designer is unknown. The plant collection was established by Sir Alexander Cross between 1947 and 1963.
The name of Battleby is derived from the Battle of Luncarty which was fought approximately half a mile to the east of the site in c.990 AD. The earliest known owners of Battleby were the Lyndoch family. At that time, a farmhouse stood on the site of the present house and was known as Redgorton Farm. It was sold, with land, to the Maxtone-Grahams who built the present house c.1862 and carried out much of the tree planting which remains today. A new home farm was built about half a mile to the east of the new house by Kirkhill in 1901. The house was leased for some time and references exist to tenants of the late 19th & early 20th century period. During World War I the house was used as a hospital. In 1947, the estate was purchased by Alexander Cross, who had previously leased the house. He succeeded to the Baronetcy in 1950. During his ownership until 1963, when he died, he amassed the plant collection for which Battleby became noted. Mr S.A. Hay purchased the estate shortly after Sir Alexander's death and sold it to the Countryside Commission for Scotland in 1970. The house was converted to office accommodation and the headquarters of the Commission was established at Battleby one year after purchase.
Battleby House, listed Category B, is a two-storey red sandstone building with low pitched roofs. It was designed by David Smart of Perth between 1861- 63. A large mock Tudor-style extension, built on the east facade of the house at a later date, was removed earlier this century. The Battleby Centre, designed by architects Morris and Steedman of Edinburgh, was converted in 1974 from the old stable and garage courtyard which had previously been part of Battleby farm before it was moved one- third of a mile to the east in 1901. In 1974 the Battleby Centre received the RIBA award for Scotland and in 1975 a European Architectural Heritage Award. A timber pavilion/summerhouse overlooks the front lawn at the main entrance and two stone seats flank a second thatched summerhouse overlooking former tennis courts above the Park. Three stone urns stand along the south elevation of Battleby House.
The Park area lies on rising ground to the west of Battleby House and its front driveway. It is now maintained as open lawn which provides the setting to Battleby House and serves as a separating element between the woodland walks and the private area around the house. Between 1963 and 1984 it was grazed by cattle and sheep but this ceased when the area was restored to a mown lawn area in 1985. Comparison of the 1st & 2nd edition OS maps shows that the Park extended further into what is now known as South Plantation prior to 1906. It is thought that it was once laid out as a golf course. The front lawn on the south-east side of the house is also important in providing an open setting for the house.
Former bedding out areas between the front lawns and the house have been replanted with shrubs for easier maintenance. An area of Shrubbery has been planted near the Gardener's Cottage, and a Juniper Garden has been laid out in recent years to the south of the Display Area. There is an Azalea bed to the east of the Centre.
There are several separate woodland areas at Battleby. The largest of these is Rookery Wood which forms the southern boundary to the policies and lies south of the B8063. It provides a visual enclosure and shelter to the landscape north of the road around the house and is composed largely of oak with birch, sycamore, beech, Douglas fir and Scots pine and an understorey of Rhododendron and elder.
The road-side strip along the north edge of the B8063 extends for some 460' (140m) from the east drive. It is important both for its contribution to the approach to Battleby House and the wider landscape of the parish, consisting of oak, sycamore, and other associated deciduous species as well as Douglas fir and Scots pine.
West Plantation runs along the crest of the River Almond/Sochie Burn ridge and forms the western boundary of the policies. Like Rookery Wood, it provides shelter and a distinctive visual backdrop to the more ornamental areas around the house. The western edge of the wood is oak and lime with mixed conifer and deciduous species in the core; many of the sycamore beech, elm, cypress and cedar are mature. The eastern edge of the woodland is more ornamental, extending to the area of the former tennis courts.
Big Wood lies to the north of Battleby House and is the second largest of the woodland areas. It includes many mature oak planted at the time of the original layout of the designed landscape, together with conifers and species and hybrid rhododendrons. The 1st edition OS map of c.1867 shows a footpath system through the woodland which has been cleared in parts of invasive understorey species since 1970. A new waymarked footpath through Big Wood has also been constructed linking through from the Display Area to the Park and West Plantation.
Top Wood is an extension of Big Wood lying north of the estate yard. Its content is similar to the other woodlands with oak, sycamore, birch and conifers. It has a thick understorey of Rhododendrons , including R. ponticum. This has overgrown the original footpath system which once extended through this area.
North Wood was originally planted between 1865 - 1901 as an extension to Top Wood. Like West Plantation, it has an outer edge of mature oak and lime with an inner core of larch and Scots pine. Rhododendrons have invaded the western area from Top Wood.
The Plant Collection was established by Sir Alexander Cross between 1947-1963. A survey of the trees in the collection was made by Eric Robson in 1970 who noted that the collection is a worthy and valuable one with many individual trees, outstanding by virtue of their comparative size or rarity value. Of particular note were the shrub and small tree specimens of Kalmia latifolia, Acer nikoensis and Fothergilla monticola. The emphasis of autumn colour was a factor in the range of plant material used.
The collection is dispersed throughout the area between Battleby House and the enclosing woodlands to the west and south in what is considered as three distinct areas: Battleby House/Battleby Centre area, South Plantation, Big Wood and the inner edge of West Plantation. Battleby House area lies to the south of the house between the south and east drives. The east drive forms a service and public entrance to Battleby Centre. The main south drive is planted with an irregular avenue of mature oak, copper beech and birch. The South Plantation lies between the Park and the B8063. West Plantation continues north from South Plantation towards Big Wood.
A full survey of the plant collection was undertaken by J. Keenan from the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden in 1972 and his report lists all the ornamental trees and shrubs in the collection at that time and comments on their management requirements. It noted that 'this is a first rate collection, seldom presented in this fashion elsewhere in Scotland'. Some of the specimen trees are labelled.
The Display Area was developed in 1973 from what was formerly the kitchen garden of Battleby House. A range of greenhouses stood against the wall at the north end of the garden which was enclosed on the other three sides by a high corrugated-iron fence. Sir Alexander Cross also kept a collection of orchids in the greenhouses. At the time of the acquisition of the estate by the Countryside Commission for Scotland in 1970, the area was leased as a market garden. In 1972, the lease was vacated and the greenhouses were demolished due to their poor condition. The following year this south-facing sloping area was landscaped to form three terraces. A display of landscape materials, furniture & equipment, and construction techniques is now displayed on the terraces. The management aim for the area is to promote good design standards of manmade facilities in the countryside and to display products and surface-treatment in a natural outdoor setting, thus giving practical help and providing technical information for those concerned with provision of such facilities.