• The land forms part of what was The Sauchieburn Estate.
  • It bears evidence of human activity from at least antiquity.
  • Land Ownership can be traced to it once being Royal Property pledged by James ll along with other lands as security in his marriage contract to Queen Marie.
  • Location of two important medieval battles: Bannockburn in the 14th century and Sauchieburn in the 15th century.
  • Old Sauchie Walled Garden is a late 18th – mid 19th century market garden with later auxiliary structures.
  • Howietoun Fishery was established by Sir James Maitland in 1881. In the 1870s, Sir James, on whose Estate Sauchiemill stood, began scientific trials into trout breeding. At nearby Milnholm, fish were bred in the hatchery and reared in the numerous ponds at Howietoun. Through scientific experimentation, Sir James pioneered fish farming techniques and set the standard for modern fish farming. He successfully overcame the difficulties in packing and transporting live ova so that by the 1880s, millions of ova were being produced and exported to as far afield as Australia and New Zealand. By 1886, Howietoun was known as the largest single pisciculture establishment in the world.

The History of Howietoun

Sir James Maitland

Sir James Ramsay-Gibson-Maitland, 4th Baronet (29 March 1848 – 9 November 1897) was also a Scottish agriculturist who dedicated his life to experimenting on the practices of husbandry in fish. He gained recognition for his work by being awarded several diplomas. James Maitland was born on 29 March 1848, his father was Sir Alexander Ramsay-Gibson-Maitland of Clifton Hall, and his mother was Thomasina Maitland (née Hunt), and two brothers William and Keith. Sir Anthony was a descendant of the Earl of Lauderdale; however, it was through his father’s marriage to Susan Ramsay that he inherited the Ramsay title and lands, as all other male descendants were deceased. Sir Anthony became the 3rd Baronet of Barnton, Sauchie, and Bannockburn.

James was educated at St Andrew’s University before leaving to attend the Royal Military College at Sandhurst; however, after joining the army and becoming a Captain in the Highland Borderers, he left after one year. He married Fanny White of Wallingwells in 1869, near Nottingham, and they moved to Craigend in 1873. James and Fanny had two daughters. Howietoun Fishery was established in 1873, Maitland had previously been experimenting in another site; however, the site was prone to flooding which meant that Maitland and a team of men had to try and recapture the escaped Swiss trout. Howietoun was an ideal spot as it had a water supply from Loch Coulter and a steady supply of spring water.

Maitland believed that that animal husbandry could also be successful when applied to a fishery. Maitland’s approach to experimentation was a scientific one; he would only change one variable during an experiment and then would hypothesize how the outcome had happened. This meant that he was able to work out that breeding young stock of fish gave a result of weak offspring; instead, he realized older stock must be used to gain strong offspring. He worked out that the female fish must be stripped of their eggs and male milt collected in October; he then worked on hatching boxes for the live ova. After the fry hatched, then they were transferred to rearing boxes before being transferred to plank ponds. Maitland was meticulous in writing up his experiments; this means that every change that he made in the diet, transport, and selective breeding of the fish was documented. There are even pictures with measurements of the instruments Maitland was inventing to make rearing fish easier. After Maitland died in 1897, the fishery passed on to his daughter Mary Steel-Maitland and her husband, Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland (British politician who served in David Lloyd George and Stanley Baldwins Cabinets).

It was then amalgamated into the Northern Fisheries Company in 1914, with the Maitland family retaining 50% of the shares for the fishery and the other shares belonging to William McNicol and Peter Duncan Malloch. The fishery was sold by the Maitland family in 1967, of which one of the new owners had worked for many years at the fishery. However, Howietoun fell into difficulty due to a change of practice and in 1979, the University of Stirling purchased it as part of its Aquaculture Institute. In February 2019, Sharon Pearson Ltd purchased Howietoun, excluding the Milnholm Hatchery, with the intention of preserving Scotland’s aquaculture heritage and the surrounding natural landscape.