Dumfries House, Cumnock, Ayrshire KA18 2NJ

Why Should We Visit?

Scotland’s great estates are steeped in history but nowhere does this come alive so vividly as at Dumfries House where a programme of continual investment keeps this mansion and the gardens that surround it relevant to today’s visitors.

The house is set in a wooded valley along the Lugar Water near Cumnock and the gardens that surround it have been extensively restored, bringing them back to their original beauty and adding many new features.

The public have free access to the estate, making it a popular spot with locals as well as with visitors from further afield and the high standard of horticulture and landscape maintenance means that it always looks at its very best in every season.

Story of the Garden

Dumfries House and the landscape that surrounds it were laid out in the 18th century but in 2007, when the estate and its contents were threatened with being sold and split up, the Prince’s Foundation stepped in to save the building and the unique collection of Chippendale furniture that it contained.

An intensive period of restoration followed, reviving both the house and its policies and today the huge Queen Elizabeth Walled Garden is the impressive centrepiece of 2000 acres of native woods, specimen trees, parkland and farms.

Education is a major element of what goes on at Dumfries House and stonemason and carpentry skills are amongst the many traditional crafts that are taught on the estate. As a result the gardens are home to an exceptional array of hand-crafted summerhouses and pavilions.


Before it was restored, the four-acre walled garden was a derelict space, filled with scrub and weeds. Now it is a productive organic vegetable garden where pumpkins ripen in the autumn sun and the last of the sweet peas scramble over trellises.

Manure for the flower and vegetable beds comes from the estate’s organic farm and in summer the lower part of the garden contains an impressive display of delphiniums, a favourite flower of Prince Charles who played such an important role in saving the estate for the local community.

Near the entrance to the walled garden water cascades from a huge fountain shaped like a thistle and a range of elegant glasshouses contain scented-leaf pelargoniums and other hot house plants.

At the far end the Kauffman Education Garden offers school children the chance to get hands-on experience of growing food.

Don’t Miss

The Rothesay Garden is filled with sedums and hydrangeas that provide colour into autumn while in front of the house lies a giant parterre filled with roses. The elegant maze offers a puzzle to those who enter it while the adventure playground and water play area are both magnets for children.

Anything Else To Look Out For

The Chinese Bridge over the Lugar Water is a contemporary realisation of an 18th century design. This delicate structure leads to the arboretum where hundreds of young trees, planted over the last decade, offer a chance to compare the different growing habits and leaf forms of dozens of different varieties.

Best Time To Visit

As the seasons change different areas of the garden take centre stage. At Easter 600,000 daffodils line the avenue of lime trees that leads to The Temple, an imposing decorative archway that forms a focal point on the north side of the valley. The daffodils are made up of six different varieties in order to extend the flowering season.

In summer the new rose garden within the walled garden is filled with colour and scent while in the autumn the leaves on the many different varieties of trees that grow in the arboretum turn fiery.

Any Recommendations in the Area

The Barony ‘A’ Frame, which can be seen from the estate, is a monument to the mining industry and the people who worked in it while the neighbouring Auchinleck House and estate was the family home of James Boswell, diarist of the great 18th century literary figure Samuel Johnson.


Dumfries House sits on the A70, one mile west of Cumnock.


Tel: 01290 425959


Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

Burns’ Cottage, built by the poet’s father, sits in the middle of Alloway, the village in South Ayrshire where the Bard was born.

Behind the cottage is an orchard and a pond along with vegetable beds and areas of long grass that attract insects. A few hundred yards away, along the Poet’s Path, with its sculptures inspired by the poetry, lies the Robert Burns’ Birthplace Museum where silver birch trees grow out of an understory of heather and where the children’s play area takes its cue from the poet and his work, with a witches’ cauldron roundabout and a miniature version of Burns’ cottage.

A further path takes visitors to the Burns’ Monument Gardens, near to the ‘Auld Kirk’ and overlooking the ‘Brig O’ Doon’ where Tam O’ Shanter’s grey mare, Meg, lost her tail.

The centrepiece of the gardens is an impressive monument, which has recently been restored and this is surrounded by flowerbeds filled with roses and perennials.

The gardens are south-facing and this, along with the mild climate, means that plants in the garden keep flowering late into the season.

Murdoch's Lone




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