Little is known of the early history of The Burn except that the lands were part of the Thanage of Newdosk and later of the barony of Arnhall. Lord Adam Gordon, a son of the 2nd Duke of Gordon, acquired the estate in 1780, when he was Commander-in- Chief of the Army in Scotland, at which time it was in 'the wildest state of barrenness'.
He cultivated 475 acres and planted a further 526 as well as laying out six miles of walking paths, often by blasting through solid rock, many of which still exist today.
The house was built between 1791 and 1796 with the intention that His Lordship would retire there. When he did eventually reach retirement in 1798, he was able to enjoy his achievements at The Burn for only three years before his death in 1801.
The estate was then passed hands between Mr. Brodie of Arnhall, then in 1814 to a Mr. Shand, to Major William McInroy in 1836 and then finally to Mr G.H. Russell in 1921.
Mr. Russell modernised and altered much of the house between 1933 and 1935 and during World War II it was used as a hospital. After their son, James Russell, was tragically killed in action during WWII, the Russells never returned to The Burn. Subsequently, the mansion house, policies and parts of the woodland (190 acres in all) were gifted to the Dominion Students' Hall Trust (now Goodenough College) together with an endowment in 1946/47. Since then, The Burn has been managed as a holiday and study centre for students and graduates from around the world.