The Geilston Story

The Friends of Geilston (FOG) came into existence because the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) took the decision in 2016 to review its ownership of Geilston House and Gardens.

In 1989, Miss Hendry, the last resident owner, gifted Geilston House, Gardens and Estate together with a fund of £900,000 for its maintenance, to the NTS. The property was gifted as alienable, meaning that it could be sold. Although the original NTS plan had been to sell it, after a visit by the NTS trustees in 1998, when they took full ownership, they were so enchanted by the garden that it was decided to open the it to the public. The endowment was placed in the ‘maintenance of Geilston Garden’ fund and the interest used to run the garden. This would have pleased Miss Hendry as it was always her intention that the NTS would maintain the garden and keep it open so that visitors would continue to enjoy its beauty and tranquility.

The original sum (£900,000) was invested and in 2016, was worth £2.5 million. The decision was then taken to close the “maintenance of Geilston Garden” fund and transfer the money into the “General Income Fund”. This meant the endowment could be spent on any property and the interest could no longer be used specifically to maintain Geilston Gardens. The cost of running the gardens (£85,000 per annum) was declared unacceptable and the NTS began to look for alternative options for the garden, including the possibility of sale to a private owner.

When it became apparent that Geilston Gardens might close, volunteers who had helped to run the garden, set up “The Friends of Geilston,” and launched an appeal to keep the garden open. Numbers grew quickly and FOG soon had over 500 signed up members whose aim was; to promote, protect and preserve Geilston Gardens, House and Estate for future generations.

On realising the strength of feeling, the NTS executive agreed to set up a working group which would include the Friends of Geilston. They would commission and pay for an economic assessment which would advise on the options available to the NTS. They also agreed to keep the garden open and use the interest from Miss Hendry’s endowment until a decision was reached about the garden’s future by the NTS Trustees and executive

Since 2017 we have continued to campaign for the garden to be retained and run by NTS and for something to be done to address the condition of the house so that it might become an asset for the estate. After several meetings and discussions the NTS Board of Trustees decided in June 2021 to accept a proposal from their regional manager to invest substantive funds to restore and refurbish the house with a view to letting as holiday accommodation. This would generate income towards the running of the garden and towards the longer term sustainability of the estate. It is expected that the project will take two years to complete.

The Friends of Geilston remain committed to supporting the garden and increasingly working alongside the NTS to maintain Geilston as a Trust property and open to the public to enjoy. We are now much more optimistic that the Trust is fully committed to the future of the garden and that the Friends can contribute towards this future.

Chris Moore – Chair, Friends of Geilston

March 2023