Importance of Site
A site included in the Inventory is assessed for its condition and integrity and for its level of importance. The criteria used are set out in Annex 5 of the Scottish Historic Environment Policy (December 2011). The principles are represented by the following value-based criteria and we have assigned a value for each on a scale ranging from outstanding value to no value. Criteria not applicable to a particular site have been omitted. All sites included in the Inventory are considered to be of national importance.
Work of Art
Drumkilbo has some value as a Work of Art due to the layout of the garden and the planting by the late Lord Elphinstone.
Drumkilbo dates from the 14th century although the present designed landscape dates mainly from the late 19th century. Its development since then, in particular the contribution of the Lorimer terraces, gives Drumkilbo some Historical value.
Horticultural, Arboricultural, Silvicultural
The plant material in the gardens have some Horticultural value.
The house is listed category B and the landscape thus has high Architectural value.
The mature woodland canopy of the shelterbelt provides some significance in the open agricultural plain of Strathmore.
The woodlands of Drumkilbo provide a little Nature Conservation value.
The present designed landscape structure was established during the first half of the 19th century. Improvements were made to the designed landscape during the latter part of the 19th century and to the gardens in the 1920s and between 1951-70.
Drumkilbo House was built around a 14th century tower originally built by the Nairn family; its subsequent history is uncertain but in c.1811 it was converted into a grand farmhouse by the Oliphant family. In 1872, it was sold by the Warncliffe family to the Cox family of Dundee. Reference to the 1st edition OS map of c.1850 shows that the structure of the designed landscape was established by this time. The Coxes made many improvements to the policies, particularly in the 1920s when Sir Robert Lorimer was commissioned to renovate the house and lay out the formal garden. The estate was sold to the 17th Baron Elphinstone in 1951 and it was he who established the majority of the planting which remains today. His nephew, James Alexander, inherited the title of 18th Baron Elphinstone in 1975 and has retained the house and policies although the remainder of the estate was sold in 1984.
Drumkilbo House, listed category B, is a 14th century tower house, converted into a farmhouse c.1811. It was enlarged by Sir Robert Lorimer between 1920-22 and altered in 1963 by Robert Hurd & Partners. The Garden Walls and steps adjacent to the house were designed by Sir Robert Lorimer in the 1920s. Various pieces of garden ornamentation also date from this period. The Gatepiers at the entrance drive are also thought to have been designed by Lorimer.
The Home Farmhouse and Steading, listed category B, lies to the south- west of the house. It dates from 1857 although part of the farmhouse is thought to be older. The Gardener's Cottage lies to the south of the house. The Walled Garden lies to the east of the house and was established in its present form in the late 19th century as shown by comparison of the 1st & 2nd edition OS maps.
In this rich agricultural land there are few woodland blocks. The woodland consists of the narrow shelterbelts planted c.1800 mainly with deciduous trees including beech and oak.
The drive from the A914 follows the line of one of the shelterbelts. It is lined with specimen trees mainly beech although some conifers were planted at the end of the 19th century. A larch, recently felled, was dated by the rings to c.1730. The shelterbelt along the drive widens out at the south end to surround the gardens.
The garden was created by the 17th Lord Elphinstone between 1951-70. The garden divides into two areas: the area around the entrance drive and the garden under the woodland shelterbelts which enclose the policies. Several large trees remain including a sweet chestnut planted c.1750, two magnificent limes dating from 1800 and some beech.
The entrance drive is dominated by a large copper beech and an enormous yellow azalea. A tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), cut down only five years ago, was said to be the oldest in Scotland. To the north of the drive, across the old tennis court, a pond was made and surrounded with waterside plants, such as Hostas, Primulas etc.. Recently, however, the pond has been filled in. To the east of the drive, attractive grass glades have been cut out of the woodland and these have been filled with interesting trees and shrubs. One glade leads to an old elm about 200 years old, and around another corner there are two oaks, the red oak (Quercus rubra) and the evergreen oak (Quercus ilex), probably planted by the Coxes. The beds are planted with small trees such as Magnolia kobus and a good example of Cornus nuttallii. Under these trees, species Rhododendrons and small shrubs are carefully arranged and it was here Lord Elphinstone planted his collection of lilies. The gardens are described in an article in Country Life of September 9th 1965. On the other side of the drive there is a group of lilac and sumach (Rhus typhina).
The Formal Garden is situated on the west side of the house. The structures in the garden were designed by Sir Robert Lorimer c.1920. The garden consists of two terraces, separated by a low retaining wall and linked by steps and a small paved area. A high 10' wall and yew hedge separates the garden from the drive on its north side. A summerhouse is situated on the south side of this north wall, overlooking the garden. A long herbaceous border has recently been reduced in size but still provides a colourful display in the summer. Several notable shrub honeysuckles grow here. In the lower terrace, which was formerly an orchard, some of the old apple trees have been retained and the curving beds have been planted with old fashioned roses, Japanese maples, flowering shrubs and groundcover plants. Roses and Clematis climb through the trees, and bulbs are naturalised in grass swards. Part of the old shelterbelt planting protects the garden from the west winds and in it there are the remains of a footpath edged by evergreen shrubs. There are also several large trees including a good specimen of Douglas fir.
The kitchen garden is located in the south-east corner of the garden. It is enclosed by walls on three sides and by a hedge on the fourth. The eastern wall curves along the boundary between the garden and the farmland. Along the southern section, where the wall is only 1.75m high, there are fine views across to the Sidlaw Hills. The kitchen garden is well stocked with vegetables, and fruit trees are grown against the walls. Apple trees along the borders were trained as espaliers. Cut flowers for the house are lined out in rows and the formal rose garden contains colourful floribunda and hybrid- tea roses. A modern greenhouse, recently erected, is filled with a fine display of pot plants, tomatoes and tender climbers.