St. Andrew's Day

Devling into the history behind our Scottish Landmarks

St. Andrew’s Day is celebrated annually on November 30th. Born in Galilee where he worked as a fisherman, Saint Andrew was one of the 12 Disciples of Christ. Although closely identified with Scotland, Saint Andrew is also the patron saint of Cyprus, Romania, Greece and Russia. Representations of Saint Andrew’s crucifixion can be found on many heraldic symbols, including the Barbadian Coat of Arms and the white diagonal cross on the Scottish flag.


Legend states that Andrew’s relics were brought from Constantinople to modern day St. Andrews in Scotland. In celebration of all things Scottish, we delve into the history behind some of our most striking Scottish Landmarks.

Rosslyn Castle, near Edinburgh

“A morning of leisure can scarcely be anywhere more delightfully spent than in the woods of Rosslyn” – Sir Walter Scott.

Rosslyn Castle is situated on a truly dramatic site, perched on a spine of rock rising from the River Esk. There has probably been some form of fortification on the site of Rosslyn Castle since the beginning of the 14th century (possibly earlier). The earliest standing part of the present Castle is the remains of the tower by the bridge, likely built shortly after the battle of Rosslyn in 1302.

The rounded keep on the south-west corner was added in about 1400 by Henry St Clair, the second Prince of Orkney. His son Sir William enlarged and strengthened the castle, drawing inspiration from French structures such as the Chateau of Gaillard on the Seine. Sir William was also responsible for the nearby Rosslyn Chapel, described as a “Bible in stone.” No sooner had the works been completed on the Castle than a fire destroyed part of them in 1447, caused by a lady in waiting looking for a dog under a bed and setting bedclothes alight with her candle.

The damage was repaired and remained intact for nearly a century until in 1544 when it was set alight again, this time by the English under the Earl of Hertford, instructed by Henry VIII to 'put all to fire and sword' in Scotland. Edinburgh, Leith and Craigmillar Castles all suffered the same fate as Rosslyn.

 

Inside Rosslyn Castle. Image taken by Lucy Harriet

For much of the 20th century the Castle was occupied by a tenant. When she died in 1980, it fell victim to vandals who used the panelling for firewood. When the current 7th Earl of Rosslyn inherited it on his father’s death in 1977, a rescue package was drawn up. We completed our restoration of the Castle in 1984.

The only access to the Castle was then, as it is now, along an arched bridge across a deep gully. From here you are ideally based to explore the remarkable Rosslyn Chapel – we provide a daily entry ticket to the chapel as part of your visit. Edinburgh lies just 7 miles away.

Rosslyn Castle sleeps 7. Book your stay here.

Auchinleck House, Ochiltree

 

Auchinleck House was built between 1755 and 1762, expressing the spirit of the Scottish Enlightenment by combining Classical purity with baroque exuberance.  It was built as a villa for Alexander, Lord Auchinleck, a place he could come to retreat when the Edinburgh courts were out of session. However, the house is best known for its association with his son, James Boswell, the celebrated diarist and biographer of Samuel Johnson.

Boswell inherited his father’s estate at the age of 41 in 1782. He kept a Book of Company and Liquors and we are lucky enough to have a copy (you can find it in Boswell’s Study in the house). In it, Boswell recorded his guests and the alcohol they all consumed while staying at Auchinleck. He may have kept it to keep an eye on his own alcohol consumption. Over two days in October 1783, the equivalent of twenty bottles was drunk. This was not just wine: the totals include six bottles of port, three of Madeira and four of rum. For someone like Boswell with an in-built propensity to over-indulge, temptation was impossible to avoid in the daily social round. Alcohol almost certainly contributed to his death at the relatively early age of fifty-four.

After his death, the estate descended through the family until it passed by marriage to the Talbot family, who moved to Malahide in Ireland in 1905. After the war the house began a long period of decline, standing uninhabited from the early 1960s. In 1986 it was acquired with 35 acres of land by the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust (SHBT). The Trust made the house watertight but then struggled to find a role for it in the face of development proposals for the rest of the site. In 1999 the SHBT turned to us, where it became one of our largest restoration projects to date.

The motto above the main entrance is from Horace and translates to “Whatever you seek is here, in this remote place, if only you can keep a steady disposition.” It derives from a letter from Horace to his friend Bullatius, complaining about the fashion for travelling abroad to escape one’s troubles when one can just as well find happiness at home.

 

Auchinleck House sleeps 13. Book your stay here.

Gargunnock House, near Stirling

 

William Wallace, leader of the Scottish resistance to Edward I’s conquering armies, is said to have taken up position on a hill close to where Gargunnock House now stands. Like many Scottish houses, Gargunnock started life as a tower house in the 16th-century. It was likely built by Sir Alexander Seton, who chose a site on higher ground away from the river.

Through the 17th and 18th centuries, wings were added and the rooms inside were remodelled in line with evolving tastes and patterns of life. The last wing was built in 1794: it was merged with its 17th-century companion behind a tidy Georgian front, conforming to the prevailing fashion at the time for houses to be set in a landscaped park, running smoothly to the front door and planted with scattered trees.

By 1835, the house had come into the possession of Charles Stirling, member of a large and distinguished family and a prosperous merchant from Glasgow. One member of the family, Jane Stirling, often visited Paris where she met the composer and pianist Frederic Chopin. It is clear that she fell in love with him, but the affection was sadly not returned by Chopin.

It could have been with the hope of nudging him towards marriage that she persuaded him to visit England and then Scotland in 1848. There is a strongly held tradition that Chopin came to Gargunnock. By coincidence, the piano in the drawing room is dated 1848 – perhaps bought in a panic by the Stirlings after learning Chopin was coming and the house was without a piano.

Gargunnock is a short distance from Stirling where you can visit historic sites such as Stirling Castle, the National Wallace Museum and the Battle of Bannockburn Experience.

 

Gargunnock House sleeps 16. Book your stay here.

The Mackintosh Building, Comrie


The Mackintosh Building was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, arguably Scotland’s most famous architect and designer. He had developed his strange, sophisticated design style at the Glasgow School of Art, which he would later rebuild.

Comrie’s largest shop once stood on the site of the Mackintosh Building. It burnt down in a fire in 1903, gutting the interior and leaving only the walls standing. Draper Peter MacPherson commissioned Glaswegian architects Honeyman and Keppie to construct new premises on the site. Mackintosh had recently joined the practice as a third partner.

Comrie’s prosperity in the late 19th century had brought much rebuilding and the streets had become peppered with heavy Victorian villas. The building Mackintosh created for MacPherson rejected all of this. A corner building of two storeys with an attic, it drew on the traditional language of Scottish vernacular buildings: harled white walls, slate roofs and a broad corner turret. The sitting room has a handsome decorative fireplace with classic Mackintosh detailing.

The flat needed a complete overhaul when it came to our restoration. The original Mackintosh decoration had disappeared long ago under layers of wallpaper and paint, which all had to be stripped off. However, some of the original dark green stain, used on the woodwork, had survived on the sitting room fireplace and on the back of the sitting room door, so the rest could be restored to match it. The furniture in the flat is almost entirely the work of early 20th-century architects and designers, such as Baillie Scott, Gordon Russell and Heal's, who were all influenced by Mackintosh.

 

The Mackintosh Building sleeps 4. Book your stay here.

The Pineapple, Dunmore

One of our most eccentric buildings, The Pineapple was once a simple 18th-century pavilion in the estate of John Murray, the 4th Earl of Dunmore. Lord Dunmore served as governor of the Royal Colony of New York before being promoted to Virginia (despite his protestations that the climate was unhealthy and the social life was inferior). He dissolved the House of Burgesses in 1773 for proposing a committee of correspondence on colonial grievances and he was soon opposed by the whole colony.


It seems likely that on his return to Scotland Lord Dunmore decided to add the fruity top to his pavilion. No doubt he had developed a taste for pineapples, as well as being determined to outdo anything that he had seen in America, where sailors would put a pineapple on the gatepost to announce their return home.

The architect of The Pineapple remains unknown. Local tradition says it was built by Italian workmen because the standard of craftsmanship is so high. The drainage is ingenious - the stones are graded in such a way that water cannot collect anywhere.

 

The Pineapple sleeps 4. Book your stay here.