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
There are no known designers of the landscape at Methven and unfortunately no records of the gardens in their prime. The layout of the parks gives Methven a little value as a Work of Art.
Despite the many changes of ownership at Methven, historical accounts go back to the 14th century and its association with several historic personalities including Wallace, Queen Margaret and Lord Methven gives it outstanding Historical value.
Horticultural, Arboricultural, Silvicultural
Although many of the trees in the pinetum have been lost, Methven is reputed to have been one of the first pinetums in Scotland and therefore has outstanding Horticultural value.
The designed landscape provides the setting for an A listed building and has outstanding Architectural value.
The setting of the castle on a height above the surrounding approach roads and the extensive woodlands give Methven outstanding Scenic value.
Methven Wood is a Site of Special Scientific Interest of outstanding importance for Nature Conservation.
Location and Setting
Methven Estate lies approximately 6.5 miles (10.5km) west of Perth and just over 1 mile (2km) east of Methven village. It is bounded to the south by the main A85 to Perth, and to the north and east by the steep valley of the River Almond. The Castle is perched on a ridge at about 300' (90m) facing south across a broad strath in which a tributary of the River Almond, the Pow Water, flows to join it at Lochty. The Castle has extensive views southwards to the Ochil Hills, eastward to the Fife Lomond Hills and westwards to Ben Vorlich. The Castle forms an impressive feature in the landscape especially when approached from the south, and the policy woodlands are also important to the views from the main A85.
The Castle is set on a high defensive position and the designed landscape was laid out around it in the early 19th century. The designed landscape extends from the main A85 northwards to Methven Wood and from Methven Loch in the east to Methven village in the west. A long east drive from the village at Almondbank passed through the old wood on its way up to the castle and many rides were laid out through the woods. The extent of the designed landscape
has remained similar to that shown on the 1st edition OS map of 1860. There are 1,015 acres (411ha) in the designed landscape today, including a five acre walled garden.
Prior to 1323 the lands of Methven belonged to the Mowbrays until they were confiscated by Robert I in that year. From then until the 16th century, they became part of the dowry lands of the queen dowager of Scotland. Methven Wood has its place in history as the site of encampment and refuge before many battles. The Methven lands were settled on Margaret Tudor, widow of James IV, but they reverted to the Crown after her successor's death, and were granted to the Dukes of Lennox in 1584.
In 1664 Patrick Smythe of Braco purchased Methven and built the present Castle to the designs of John Mylne. His successors continued at Methven until this century and were responsible for much of the designed landscape which remains today. Most of the plantations were laid out by David Smythe who adopted the title Lord Methven when appointed to the bench in 1793. The walled garden was built in 1796 and Loudon notes that the first pinetum in Scotland was planted at Methven in 1830 in the area immediately around the Castle. Lord Methven's son, William, succeeded in 1847 and continued planting the pinetum and enlarging 'the grounds to four times what they were when he came into possession'. William also built an extensive range of glasshouses in the walled garden; in 1885 he held over 5,000 acres in Perthshire. His daughter Margaret married James Drummond, 10th Viscount Strathallan and 15th Earl of Perth. The last Smythe at Methven, David, was obliged to sell it early this century and the Castle and the estate have since changed ownership several times. Many improvements have been made to the parks and woodlands in recent years and the Castle is currently being completely refurbished.
The square four-storeyed tower with its distinctive circular end turrets was built in 1664 by John Mylne and is listed A. Additions were made on its west side and, in the early 19th century, Gillespie Graham added a two-storey extension on the east side. The house was originally harled but the harling was removed in the 19th century, exposing the stonework to some damage. The wings have had to be demolished in recent years and the Castle is currently being restored and reharled. The 1820 Gothic-style Lodge is probably by Gillespie Graham and is listed B. There is a large walled garden formerly divided into several compartments. There is an Ice House to the west of the Castle, and the Home Farm lies to the east.
The 1st edition OS map of c.1860 shows parks laid out to the north-west of the Castle as well as to its south front. Shelterbelts enclosed the parklands and many individual trees are shown planted in the parks with a few clumps in the North Park. The Pepperwell Oak is marked in the south-west corner of the park, south of the walled garden. In 1840 it measured 17' at 3'6" above the ground, a 3' increase since 1796. In 1883 it measured 19.5' at 5' from the ground and 82' high; it was recorded then as being over 400 years old. The most recent measurements were made by Alan Mitchell in 1985 when, although only 75' tall, it measured 22'10" at 5' from the ground. The Gardeners' Magazine of c.1842 recorded that 'the Drive from the east may be a mile or more in length and is allowed to be one of the handsomest in Scotland; it passes a beautiful small lake and through part of the old wood'. This old drive is no longer in use and part of the middle of the estate is currently being worked for mineral extraction. New individual parkland trees of mixed deciduous species have been added to both the north and south parks and protected by fences from grazing animals. A large pond with an island was excavated to the south of the Castle by Mr Hayter who owned the Castle after World War II and it now forms a feature in the view from the Castle.
Methven Wood has existed for many hundreds of years and has been managed by coppicing through most of that period. A coppiced beech is known as the Wallace Beech and tradition holds that it is over 600 years old. There is a mix of deciduous trees in the woods with oak predominating and also beech, ash, alder and hazel. The surviving section of the ancient wood with its associated ground flora is designated as an SSSI. Most of the estate plantations were originally laid out from 1772-1800 and planted with beech, larch, oak and Scots fir. The larger woodland blocks have since been planted with conifers and are managed on a commercial basis.
The large unusual-shaped walled gardens are divided into two sections by a wall and subdivided into several further compartments. The north wall was built as a heated wall in 1796 and the glasshouses were not added until after 1847. The eastern section appears to have been used as an orchard and the western section as a vegetable and flower garden. The whole area enclosed is some seven acres and is today used as a commercial nursery.
Methven is recorded as having one of the earliest pinetums in Scotland. Exotic conifers were first planted here by Lord Methven and he was succeeded by his son William Smythe who increased the variety of species planted. In 1868 an avenue of Cedrus deodara was planted from seed brought over to Scotland from India by the Dowager Lady Elgin while Lord Elgin was Viceroy. The Gardeners' Chronicle of 1883 noted a 200 year old holly and a 100 year old Cedar of Lebanon. In 1955 Alan Mitchell recorded 37 interesting trees in this area, most of which were felled before 1960; they included eleven large Sequoias and five large Abies alba. In 1985 Alan Mitchell measured ten trees including the Pepperwell Oak. The shrubbery extends now from the west of the Castle westwards to the walled garden and there are also a few specimen trees to the east of the house including the weeping ash. Old photographs of c.1870 show the shrubbery extending right up to the south front of the Castle. Later photographs of c.1875 show the steep bank of the Castle cleared and laid out with a row of young conifers, possibly the Deodar Avenue. This bank is now cleared and under grass but the path extends to the west lined with yew, holly and Rhododendron. The large stumps of old trees remain and the shrubbery is carpeted with daffodils in season. To the east of the Castle and to the east of the now demolished east wing was a formal garden laid out c.1875 by the Smythes and shown in early photographs as having paved areas with ornamental urns and square flowerbeds laid out amid lawns. This garden did not survive for long and disappeared in the early 20th century.
Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes
We compile, maintain and publish an Inventory (a list) of gardens and designed landscapes of national importance under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. We assess sites for Inventory status against criteria published in the Scottish Historic Environment Policy, Annex 5, pp81-82.
The information provided gives an indication of the significance of the site. The Inventory record is not a definitive account or a complete description of the garden and/or designed landscape. The format of the Inventory record has changed over time. Earlier, un-amended records may not be current.
Enquiries relating to development proposals that may affect an Inventory site should be made to the local authority in the first instance. Local authorities consult us on proposals that they consider might affect an Inventory site or its setting, but they are not bound by our advice and remain responsible for making the final decision about a development proposal.
Find out more about the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes and our other designations at www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/heritage.