The parkland that surrounds the house has been carefully managed by generations of our family, and generations of the Magkill and the Schevez families before us. We restored the lochans (ponds) fed from our natural spring water, which are planted with water lilies and irises. The spring rises at the top of the Kemback Wood and splits into two waterfalls, which you can visit by taking the Woodland Walk.
The streams then run from the woods, one through the Orchard (yet to be restored) and one down the Kirk Path. They then join at the Doocot and go underground into a 'cundy' (the Scots word for a water channel) which we have opened up so you can see the workmanship and listen to the gentle sound of water as you walk the West Park. Cundies were often made by French prisoners of the Napoleonic war.
We have replaced many of the great trees that have come down over the years, in particular the Lindsay Holly trees and the Lindsay Lime trees. Many of the trees mentioned in the White Book of Kemback, a historical record written by the Makgill family, are centuries old. Often they were marriage trees, and there are many traditions connecting the inhabitants of Kemback to specific trees.
The White Book tells us the story of the Staff tree, which sadly blew down in a massive storm in April 2011. This tree was planted by Arthur Makgill in 1674 while returning on horseback from Brackmont to woo his wife to be. He placed his linden (lime tree) crop in the ground as he came to the gate near the house. He forgot his crop and it grew into a huge tree towering above the gate 120ft high, beneath which generations toasted family brides and bridegrooms and celebrated the harvest every year. The book says that catching a falling leaf is good luck, but if the tree loses a branch then death is foretold in the household. So of course when the whole tree came down we hired a crane and hauled it back up again, held up by concrete bunkers and steel hawsers. Its front roots are fine and it still stands as a watchman at the gate as it has for 350 years.
We have planted many more trees in the last few years. Following the tradition of keeping rare specimens, we have planted unusual botanicals from southern American climes, including from Chile, Peru and Argentina, and trees which were once thought lost, such as the Dawn Redwood and Wollemi pine. We are planting a nut grove (walnut, hazel, pine nut etc.), a Fossil grove (composed of ‘living fossil’ trees), and a Pinetum which we hope may one day be like the park outside the Royal Palace in Tokyo with its dancing black pines, but we will use Corsican Austrian and Scots pine for its russet bark. We have also planted Cryptomeria japonica, the Sugi tree, which is the same tree depicted in the Japanese screens in the Upper Hall.
Landscape designer Michael Innes led the redesign of the grounds, including the water features, ponds and waterfalls scattered throughout the parks