The Hit List – An Englishman’s home is his castle, but Scotland has these unusual gems
It is often said that an Englishman’s home is his castle. Which seems to imply that other parts of the UK aren’t so lucky and that in proud Scotland we’re all huddled in skimpy canvas tents, eating baked beans cooked from a campfire joy made of twigs, leaves and unread copies of Alex Salmond’s referendum white paper. .
We Scots are sophisticated. One or two of us even have a roof over our heads. A few of these roofs are indeed very impressive, as our country boasts some of the most splendid stately homes in Europe, and many of them are triumphantly individualistic, containing eccentric details that truly set them apart.
Here is our selection of Scotland’s finest stately homes open to the public, all filled with originality, quality and curiosities aplenty.
And don’t be hectic. There’s not a baked bean in sight…
Callendar House, Falkirk
MORE celebrities have spent time in this upscale neighborhood than they have been to Brooklyn Beckham’s big day in Palm Beach, Florida.
Over the years Callendar has hosted such dazzling dignitaries as Mary, Queen of Scots, Oliver Cromwell and Bonnie Prince Charlie.
The House is relatively quiet now, but it has been at the epicenter of wars, rebellions, and the industrial revolution.
The restored kitchen, which dates to 1825, includes costumed interpreters, who create an immersive interactive experience with early 19th-century food samples giving added flavor to the stories of working life in a grand house.
Traquair House, near Peebles
Dating back to 1107, Traquair House is the oldest inhabited house in Scotland, inhabited by the Stuart family since 1491.
It has a beautifully confusing maze and its own brewery. However, don’t attempt the maze directly after tasting the delicacies of the brewery, as you risk getting lost until the end of time, or the Tories win a majority in the Scottish parliament. (It doesn’t matter which comes first.)
Duff House, Aberdeenshire
DESIGNED in 1735 for William Duff, it has since been used as a family home, hotel, sanatorium and POW camp. Although not all at the same time. It would be weird. Re-opened in 1995 as a five-star country house and art gallery, the sprawling grounds include the Gothic Duff family mausoleum. (Sinister!)
Ardkinglas Woodland Gardens, Cairndow
Ardkinglas Park is where you will discover “Europe’s mightiest conifer”. (We have no idea where Europe’s second most powerful conifer resides. Though we bet it doesn’t brag about where it is, the little loser.)
The year-round Woodland Garden is a spectacular setting, against a backdrop of mountains and forests, and not a tower in sight. There is also a Gruffalo trail to enjoy, based on Julia Donaldson’s book. We don’t know if the trail includes a real Gruffalo. But would you like to meet a real Gruffalo? We hear they’re grumpy creatures, only liking kids who come in with a serving of fries.
Ardkinglas House, itself, remains a family home, so it is not regularly open to the public. Although private tours can be booked, public tours are available from April to September.
Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute
COMPLETED in 1719, the house was rebuilt after a fire in 1877, although most of the contents survived. It’s an intriguing mix of Victorian and Georgian design, but what makes it special are the interiors, which will give you pause to think, before concluding that you’ve accidentally stumbled upon a trippy, hippie psychedelic album, circa 1967 .
The inspiration for the decor is astrology, art, and mythology, and there’s even a star map on the ceiling of the Marble Room.
At the top of the spiral staircase you will find what is believed to be the world’s first heated home swimming pool.
Other innovations include an antique telephone system and a Victorian lift. And watch out for the foraging squirrels carved into the dining room woodwork.
Haddo House, near Tarves, Aberdeenshire
EVER wanted to ogle Madonna up close? Now you have the perfect opportunity as she currently resides in a sophisticated goof in Aberdeenshire.
Although we are not talking about the naughty sexagenarian singer from the United States. This Madonna is the lovely painting hanging in Haddo House, believed to be by Raphael. (Not the teenage mutant turtle. The Renaissance guy who sucked at fighting crime and supervillains, though pretty handy with a paintbrush and canvas.)
The rest of Haddo House’s art collection is equally impressive and includes 85 paintings of Aberdeenshire castles by famed Victorian artist James Giles.
Dun’s House, Montrose
BAROQUE architecture could also be described as the “do-it-all” style. It’s as ostensibly theatrical as a two-cheeked greeting kiss from a luvvie pal at Glasgow’s Oran Mor bar.
Dun’s house is most certainly Baroque in style, and this Georgian gem of a stately home is full of decorative details to delight, including dramatic plasterwork in the drawing room and hidden Jacobite symbolism.
The experience is also interactive, with costumed guides leading the visitor through the house’s rich history.
In the formal gardens, you might even spot a red squirrel or two, as they fiercely defend their kingdom against the gnarled, neddish, and gray usurpers who have hoisted the flag of victory in so many other parts of Europe. Scotland.
You could say that before Walter Scott arrived on the scene, Scotland was just a bunch of scruffy people gathered in search of a bottle of Buckfast Tonic Wine.
It was Big Walt, or Sir Walter as he later became, who gave our country a sense of tradition, pride and purpose, thanks to a bunch of lies he told in book form. , otherwise known as the Waverley Novels.
Big Walt was our great nation’s chief myth-maker, and contrary to what you may have heard, he did not reside in a secret apartment beneath Edinburgh’s Scott Monument. (Okay, no one believes it. We’re just trying to create some mythos.) Scott’s country residence, Abbotsford, is a palace with pizzazz; a pile of bricks with added bling.
“Rambling”, “whimsical” and “picturesque” are expressions that the writer used to describe this house that he extended and lavished with love.
With armor in the hallway and a lush landscape outside, the Abbotsford experience is like stumbling upon Scott’s novel, Rob Roy, but without the inconvenience of being stabbed through by Rob’s flickering blade.
Bowhill House, Selkirk
THERE IS a real enigma waiting for you in Bowhill. If you gaze out through one of the windows in the house the lovely gardens, or keep your eyes peeled for the many beautiful paintings that hang in the house, including works by Gainsborough, Reynolds and Canaletto.
Or maybe forget all that beauty and culture and go have fun in the adventure playground instead.
Manderston House, Duns
An elegant example of Edwardian ostentation, Manderston has served as the setting for many films, including The House of Mirth.
The entrance hall has a marble floor and there is a faux panel in the bookcase of the library, cleverly hiding a door to the hall. (Very sneaky.)