Reason for Inclusion
One of the oldest gardens in Scotland, the terraces and woodland around the category A listed Fingask Castle date from the late 17th century. The 19th century topiary and woodland gardens are of high artistic value.
Type of Site
No information available
Main Phases of Landscape Development
No information available.
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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
The late 18th century designed landscape lying along the ravine and around the terraces, and the topiary garden gives Fingask high value as a Work of Art.
The 17th century terraces and the associations with the Threipland family gives this site high Historical value.
Horticultural, Arboricultural, Silvicultural
The age of the older yew trees, and the range and size of the topiary figures gives Fingask some Horticultural value.
The designed landscape is a setting for a listed category A building giving Fingask outstanding Architectural value.
The woodland canopy contributes to the surrounding scenery especially from the A85(T) and gives this site some Scenic value.
The flora in the 17th century woodland and the undisturbed pastures give Fingask some Nature Conservation value.
Location and Setting
Fingask Castle is situated near the village of Rait about 1 mile (1.5km) north of the A85(T), some 8 miles (13km) north-east of Perth and some 10 miles (16km) west of Dundee. It lies on the west side of a deep ravine formed by Craig Burn, overlooking the Carse of Gowrie and the River Tay
and the Sidlaw Hill rise to the north. The policies are bordered by woodland which stretches alongside the ravine. The Castle stands 200' (61m) above the Carse of Gowrie and the gardens are protected from the cold easterly winds by woodland. The surrounding land is mainly farmed and
the Carse of Gowrie is primarily arable. There are extensive views from the terraces southwards across the Firth of Tay towards Fife. The stretches of woodland growing along the steeper slopes of the hillside contribute some variety to the surrounding flat landscape, particularly from the A85(T).
The Castle lies on the western side of the policies overlooking Craig Burn. The designed landscape extends along the escarpment to Eliza's Temple to the west, to Craighead to the east, to the Mill Dam to the north, and the road to Rait to the south. Documentary evidence for the extent of the designed landscape relies on General Roy's plan, dated 1750, and the 1st edition Ordnance Survey plan, dated 1861. The terraces and a
small woodland block can be seen on the earlier plan but these were absorbed into the 19th century 'picturesque' design which can be clearly
seen on the 1861 OS plan and today extends to an area of some 344 acres (139ha).
The terraces stretch southwards from the Castle to the edge of the escarpment overlooking the Carse of Gowrie. On the east side, the 19th
century landscaping was designed along the Craig Burn.
About 1592, the tower of the Castle was constructed around a 12th century building. In 1642, during the Civil War, the castle was ransacked; in 1672 it was bought by Patrick Threipland in a dilapidated state. Patrick became Provost of Perth and was created a Nova Scotia baronet in 1678. In about 1674, he renovated the Castle, added a wing, laid out the terraces and planted the woodland. These additions are shown on General Roy's plan of c.1750. The family followed the Jacobite Cause and the estate was forfeited in 1717. A description of sale, dated 1717, indicates the presence of flower gardens, two terraces, a bowling green and a long avenue which was compared to that at Glamis Castle. The wife of Sir David Threipland, 2nd Baronet, (1666-1746) leased the estates from the York Building Company and looked after them forher family. In 1745, the Castle was partially destroyed by Government troops as a penalty for supporting the Uprising. Following Sir David's death in 1746, his daughter managed the estate until her brother Stuart eventually bought it back in 1783. Stuart was an eminent physician, who looked after Prince Charles Edward and subsequently practiced in Edinburgh. Improvements to the estate began under his factor, James Stobie. They were continued by Stuart's son Sir Patrick, (1762-1837) a noted scholar who had been educated in France. Patrick was recognised as a significant 'improver'; he laid out the park and planted up the ravine. His son, Patrick, 5th Baronet, created the topiary gardens and introduced the statuary which is shown on the 1861 OS plan. The estate was sold in 1917 to the Gilroys and in 1925 Mills & Shepherd modernised the Castle. The Murray Threiplands bought back the Castle and part of the policies in 1967.
Fingask Castle, listed category A, was built in about 1592 and was considerably altered and added to around 1674. It was badly damaged in 1745. Additions, including a servants' wing, were made in the mid-19th century. In 1925 the Castle was renovated under the supervision of the architects Mills & Shepherd and the late Georgian entrance tower, the servant's wing and other additions were removed. It is a three storey L-shaped House with one tower in the centre of the south facade and another on the south corner of the eastern face. The Sundial, listed category A, was constructed in 1562 and was removed from Holyrood Palace. It is considered to be one of the oldest sundials in Europe and is made from a complex design of four rampant lions supporting the bell capital and a mermaid figure. The Statuary, listed category B, consists of a series of statues by David and William Anderson of Perth and smaller pieces by Charles Spence, a local mason; all made in the mid 19th century. The most important ones are considered to be the 'Last Ministrel', 'Tom O'Shanter', 'Kate's Watty and Meg' and 'Willie brewed a Peck O' Maut'. The figures of Prince Charles and Flora MacDonald are by William Anderson. The Auld Mercat Cross from Perth is made up of fragments said to be from the 12th century. It was restored following its destruction by Cromwellian forces and moved to the garden around 1850. The octagonal Font also said to be 12th century stands on a 19th century base. Both are listed category B. The Well-Head standing to the west of the Castle, listed category B, consists of an ornate figure with a grotesque head and a shell basin with a lizard carved on it. It was probably constructed by David Anderson. St Peter's Wishing Well, listed category B, is of medieval origin and contains an inscription offering a drink to 'weary pilgrim'. It lies near Craig Burn. The ruined Doocot, stands to the west of the Castle. The North Lodge, lies at the eastern end of the ravine where the Burn flows into the Carse. The hexagonal Kitchen Garden Walls, listed category B are of brick and probably built at the end of the 18th century. The monument, is on the north side of the ravine on the edge of the woodland. Eliza's Temple, now a ruined folly, is sited on the western edge of the park. The Den House is an uninhabitable two storey cottage and there are other Cottages near the Kitchen Garden. There is also a rustic Curling Pavilion and a Curling Pond.
The parkland is divided into two parts by the garden and woodland planted along the ravine. The southern section extends up to Eliza's Temple which is beautifully sited in gentle undulating pasture. Broadleaf trees were planted in the park around 1800. Woodland shelter belts, planted on the steeper slopes of the escarpments, curve round the meadows and within them attractive paths, especially the Bride's Walk, meander around the park. On the northern side, the park is made up of two large enclosures. one runs along the eastern side of the ravine between the drive and wood and the other lies to the north of the Castle between the Burn and a woodland strip which runs down to the old water works. Generally the pasture in them is in poor condition.
The first recorded woodland, to the north of the Castle, is shown in the 1750 plan. It was probably planted between 1672-1689. The planting, which extends eastwards along the escarpment, was done by Sir Peter Threipland between 1790-1800 with broadleaved trees, some of which remain. Other areas were replanted with conifers around 1900. The woodland shelter belts, especially on the southern side, contain several fine specimens of oak, beech, lime, and sycamore planted mainly around 1800. Since about 1900 the shelter belts have been replanted with conifers including Douglas fir and larch. Laurel, planted as a ground cover probably in the mid-19th century, is now tangled and overgrown.
The gardens run south from the Castle to the escarpment overlooking the Carse. The series of grass terraces sloping eastward, which led down to the original drive, were probably laid out between 1672-89. In 1717, the Commissioners selling the property wrote a description of the gardens which included an avenue made with a double row of trees planted from the public road at Rait. It also describes an 'elegant gateway into the gardens for fruit. A second flight of steps leading down to second terrace ... (on) the left side the bowling green and (on) the right side the flower garden. (A) wall went round between the Castle and gardens and offices'. The topiary garden with its statues was created between 1850 and 1882. Ornate flower beds were laid out amongst over 50 topiary figures of yew, box and holly. Those that still remain are in the shape of corkscrews and tall obelisks and others are tiers of circles. Along the path leading to the Kitchen Garden, there is a long line of clipped yews like sentinels lining a ceremonial route. Some are slightly bowed. On the edge of the bank leading to the Burn, there are several enormous yews dating from the 17th century if not earlier. To the south of the Castle in a courtyard there is a small rose garden and above it is a wooden garden shed surrounded by topiary.
The brick walls are hexagonal on plan and were built around 1790. This shape provided the maximum amount of wall for growing fruit and both black and red currants still grow up the walls today. In 1854 the stove house and conservatory grew 'floral gems from various parts of the world' but these have all gone. Vegetables, flowers and tender shrubs are still grown.
Sale Catalogue 1917
Robert Chambers, The Uplands of Fingask 1880 (Extracts)
G.A. Little, 1981, pp.147-8
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