Auchinleck House

Ochiltree, Ayrshire


Once diarist James Boswell’s family seat, this grand 18th-century country house has its own grounds, river, ice-house and grotto. The large dining room and its elaborate plasterwork makes any meal special while the library lends itself to conversation and contemplation, just as it did for James Boswell and Dr Johnson.

Free public open days: 31 August - 1 September 2024

  • Dogs AllowedDogs Allowed
  • Electric Car Charging PointElectric Car Charging Point
  • CotCot
  • Mobile signalMobile signal
  • Fire or StoveFire or Stove
  • Open SpaceOpen Space
  • Logs availableLogs available
  • Parking AvailableParking Available
  • BathBath
  • Bath with ShowerBath with Shower
  • DishwasherDishwasher
  • MicrowaveMicrowave
  • ShowerShower
  • Table Tennis TableTable Tennis Table
  • Washing MachineWashing Machine

Beds 1 Single, 4 Twin, 2 Double

4 nights from
£1024 equivalent to £19.69 per person, per night

Elegant living for time with family or friends

A fine example of an 18th-century Scottish country villa, Auchinleck House is where the renowned biographer James Boswell indulged his penchant for ‘old Laird and family ideas’.  250 years on, you can do the same, reliving a time when you dressed for dinner and retired to the library to watch the sunset. Boswell’s friend and mentor Dr. Samuel Johnson famously argued over politics with Lord Auchinleck in the library here, when they visited at the end of their tour of the Hebrides in 1773. Once inherited by Boswell, the house was host to much ‘social glee’, which he recorded in his Book of Company and Liquors.

Scottish Enlightenment

Built around 1760 by Boswell’s father Lord Auchinleck, the architect of the house is unknown; it seems likely that Lord Auchinleck himself had a hand in the neo-Classical design, perhaps influenced by the Adam brothers. Auchinleck House expresses the rich spirit of the Scottish Enlightenment, combining Classical purity in the main elevation with a baroque exuberance in the pavilions and the elaborately carved pediment. Left derelict, its roof was first repaired by the Scottish Historic Buildings Preservation Trust, who then turned to us. We have restored not only the house with its magnificent library looking across to Arran, but also the pavilions, the obelisks and the great bridge across the Dippol Burn, on whose picturesque banks are an ice-house and grotto.

Floor Plan


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Map & local info

Auchinleck House is set in its own extensive grounds with fields, woodland and riverbanks, just waiting for you to explore them. The goal of most walks here is to find the ice-house and grotto. The nearby village of Ochiltree, with its charming main street of single storey cottages, is one of the oldest in East Ayrshire. 

The surrounding area has places of interest and activities to suit all tastes. View the contemporary art exhibitions at The Baird Institute and The Maclaurin Art Gallery and join in events and workshops held throughout the year.

Explore amazing castles like Dean, Culzean and Dundonald Castles, just some of the many scattered throughout the area. 

Visit Dumfries House with its stunning grounds and impressive collection of Chippendale furniture, and the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, dedicated to the life and works of Scotland's great poet and lyricist.

Take a trip to Ayr Racecourse to watch prestigious races and experience the vibrant atmosphere of Scotland's premier racecourse.

Follow the walking and cycle routes that lead you further afield to discover more of the landscape, towns and villages of Ayrshire. Discover local walks for dogs with our friends at, the dog walks community.

Close by is Dumfries House (3.7 miles), Rozelle House Galleries (13.4 miles), the Dick Institute (13.5 miles) and Dean Castle and Country Park (15.3 miles). For more information on things to do during your stay at Auchinleck House, please see our Pinterest page. 

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.

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What you need to know about this building
  • Yes. You are welcome to bring up to two dogs. A charge of £20 per stay is made for each dog. Please contact booking enquiries if you have an assistance dog, for which there is no charge.
  • By an estate track from the main road.
  • Auchinleck – 6 miles.
  • Yes, 4-5 spaces adjacent to the property.
  • There is radiator central heating and two open fires.
  • Logs may be purchased and delivered under a private arrangement. Further details will be provided with your booking confirmation.
  • To check up-to-date mobile network coverage in the area, visit* Due to the location and structure of many of our buildings, signal strength may differ to those indicated.
  • The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc.
    There is also an electric cooker, separate freezer, two dishwashers and a microwave.
  • There are five bathrooms in total.
    Two are shower rooms only , two have a shower over the bath and one just has a bath.
  • No – the staircases are wide.
  • There are open grounds.
  • There is a Type 2 Electric Vehicle charge point, delivering a 7.2kW charge, at the property. You will need to request this facility at the time of booking to ensure the outlet has been enabled for your arrival. There is a small charge to cover the cost of electricity provided.
  • Yes, the Boswell Coach House which neighbours Auchinleck House occasionally holds events or weddings which can continue through the evening until midnight.
  • No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being. Except at Llwyn Celyn Bunk House where a password is available in the property when you arrive.
Booking and Payment
  • If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.
  • We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • The key arrangements will be included in the Further Infomation document which will be sent to you prior to your stay.
  • If your stay starts more than two months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy and The Bunk House at Llwyn Celyn must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • Our housekeeper will leave the key in a suitable place, the details of which will be sent to you prior to your stay.
  • It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!
Staying at a Landmark
  • Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.  Further information on access when visiting Lundy can also be found here.
  • Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control. A charge of £20 per stay is made for each dog. Please contact booking enquiries if a registered assistance dog is supporting one of the guests, for which there is no charge.
  • Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Arrival is from 4pm and departure is by 10am.
  • We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s). If you are visiting one of our European properties we have standard European electricity sockets. If you are visiting from the UK, you will need to bring your own adapter plug (s).
  • Landmark’s electrical systems have not been designed to provide continuous power from one socket over several hours.  If an ordinary socket is used to charge an electric vehicle, there is significant risk of an electrical fire and consequent danger to life.  Therefore, we are unable to allow electric vehicle charging from most of our Landmarks at present.

    We are working to provide Type 2 Electric Vehicle charge points at our properties where there is private parking.  Where this is available, please request this facility when booking the property to ensure the outlet is enabled on your arrival.  There is a small charge to cover the cost of electricity provided.  Please book this facility in advance.
  • No, we do not allow smoking in any Landmark.
  • Sometimes our kitchens and bathrooms have to be imaginatively fitted into the available space in buildings where before there were none, but they are all planned and equipped to a high and modern standard.
  • Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival. Except for the Llwyn Celyn Bunkhouse.
  • Yes, our kitchens are well equipped with cookers and fridges. There are freezers and dishwashers (in larger buildings) and, where space allows, microwaves as well as a wide and standard range of utensils. A full equipment list is available at time of booking.
  • Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • Mobile coverage varies. Some Landmarks have an excellent signal, but others have none at all. If you are concerned, you can check with the housekeeper before your arrival.
  • No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
    Except at Llwyn Celyn Bunk House where a password is available in the property when you arrive.
  • A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide toilet rolls and a bar of soap per basin, but no other toiletries. Hairdryers are provided.

Lord Auchinleck, father of James Boswell

Auchinleck House was built between 1755 and 1760 by Alexander Boswell, 8th Laird of Auchinleck (1707-1782) and the father of James Boswell (1740-1795) the celebrated diarist and biographer of Samuel Johnson. It was the third house to be built on an estate granted to Boswell’s forebears in the 14th century. Like his father before him Alexander was a lawyer. In 1754 he was created Lord Auchinleck, a non-hereditary title in recognition of his appointment as a Judge of the Court of Session, Scotland’s supreme civil court.

Perhaps it was to celebrate this elevation that he decided to build a country villa, to which he could retreat when the Edinburgh courts were out of session. For a long time the design was thought to be by the Adam brothers and it can be compared with nearby Dumfries House, which is known to be their work. This house was built in the same period as Auchinleck House and Lord Auchinleck records a visit to the Earl of Dumfries at Leifnorris in a letter in 1753 ‘where politicks [sic] and House building made the subject of conversation at a plentiful dinner.’ In fact, Auchinleck is more likely to be an artisan house, designed by Lord Auchinleck himself in consultation with his master craftsmen.

To help our restoration of Auchinleck House, Landmark investigated the Boswell Papers at the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library at Yale. Although many of the records relating to the construction of the house have been lost, those papers and receipts which do remain provide tantalising glimpses of the building process. A discharge of wages slip dated 1st November 1760 shows us that Edinburgh squarewright John Johnston worked on the house and his seems the mind most likely to lie behind its design.

We can follow the expenditure on materials such as tar, rozen, tallow, hemp, linseed oil, butter, black soap and cord as well as more predictable items like nails, lime, steel, red and white lead and so on. Expenditure on the estate peaked between 1758 and 1760. Window tax was first paid on the house in 1760 for thirty one windows. At the end of May 1762 Lord Auchinleck finally paid James Bowie Slater in Air for 18,000 Easdale slates at £1-9/- per thousand.

The estate journals confirm that the four wings that flank the house were not added until 1773-4, topped with the pavilions whose baroque design evokes Vanbrugh. Lord Auchinleck had tried to interest his son in their design as early as 1765 when he wrote to James (then on the Grand Tour). There is however no evidence that James Boswell had a hand in their eventual design. He refers to them in his journal in August 1775 as ‘new whitened,’ which would certainly have toned down the now rather startling contrast between their ruddy sandstone and the gentler hues of the main house.

Lord Auchinleck lived to the ripe old age of 75, increasingly cantankerous and garrulous. James Boswell was 41 when he inherited Auchinleck Estate in 1782. He made no changes to the house, although he continued his father’s tree planting schemes. After his death in 1795, the estate descended through the family until it passed by marriage to the Talbot family, who moved to Malahide in Ireland in 1905. They dispersed the contents of the house and took Boswell’s papers (which the family had suppressed) with them. Auchinleck was sold to another distant branch of the family, the Boswells of Garallan. After the war the house began a long period of decline. It was uninhabited from the early 1960s. For twelve years in the 1970s and 1980s there was no lead in the parapet gutters and water poured down behind the linings of the outside walls, accumulating in the basement and its vault. Rot set in and the building deteriorated rapidly. 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 the Landmark Trust. 

For a short history of Auchinleck House please click here.

To read the full history album for Auchinleck House please click here.

To download the children's Explorer pack for Auchinleck House please click here.



One of our largest restoration projects

At the outset Landmark appointed Simpson & Brown of Edinburgh as architects. James Simpson had been involved with the house since its acquisition by the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust and is an acknowledged expert on 18th-century Scottish architecture. Generous donations from the Royal Oak Foundation in America were augmented by grants from Historic Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund. It has been one of Landmark’s largest restorations to date.

The Landmark Trust’s approach to the restoration of historic buildings is conservative, treating all surviving fabric with respect and retaining it wherever feasible. Although the use of new materials and techniques is not ruled out under appropriate circumstances, unavoidable repairs or replacement are mostly done on a like-for-like basis using traditional methods and practices. For example, lime mortar and plaster bound by animal hair has been an essential material at Auchinleck, mixed and left to cure in huge wooden troughs in the middle of rooms - just as it would have been in the 1750s. It was clear from the outset that the quality of the original workmanship was outstanding – masonry and carving, joinery and plasterwork.

The original accommodation was on four floors. The service quarters – kitchen, wine cellar, housekeeper’s room, laundry etc. – were all at basement level. The elevated ground floor contained the formal reception rooms (dining room and parlour), the master bedroom and a study or morning room. On the first floor were the library and best bedrooms, used by family members unless guests were staying when they moved up to the attic floor, which housed humbler bedrooms usually used by servants. The house is fairly compact for its size, the single staircase for use by family and servants alike reflecting the more relaxed conventions of a bucolic life. The Landmark accommodation is now on the ground and first floors. There is a laundry in the basement, but otherwise the basement and attic areas have been carefully mothballed to keep size within practical limits for the house’s new use.

The outside

The house is perhaps the more interesting for its deviation from the strict rules of classicism. The severe west (rear) elevation is certainly neo-classical, yet the eclectic collection of urns along the skyline and the elaborate design of the pediment on the east elevation express a less restricted exuberance. The emblems displayed various aspects of the cultivated mind: music, the martial arts, scales for justice, a sceptre for authority and the serpent-entwined staff of Aesculapius the healer are all represented, grouped around the central motif, a hooded falcon, from the Boswell family crest.

These symbols illustrate the motto Lord Auchinleck chose for his villa and had carved above the main entrance. The epigram is from Horace (Epistle xi, 29-30) and reads ‘Quod petis hic est; Est Ulubris, animus si te non deficit aequus’ which translates as ‘What you seek is here in this remote place, if you can only keep a balanced disposition.'

The house was swathed in scaffolding for most of 2000 and early 2001 while the fabric was comprehensively repaired. The decorative urns were repaired wherever possible and only replaced as a last resort. The carved pediment and the foliated Ionic capitals on the pilasters had decayed from air pollution as well as weathering. It was decided they should be gently cleaned and consolidated with minimal restoration, to preserve both the delicacy of the original craftsmanship and the patina of time.

The four baroque pavilions and the obelisks on the rear terrace were re-pointed and repaired. In the south east pavilion at the front, a small display of information about the house is accessible on open days.

The inside

The plan of the entrance floor at Auchinleck is a very late example of the Grand Apartment in which parade planning leads circulation from one room to another, passing from public through to private rooms.  In the 18th century this enfilade enabled a complete circuit of the ground floor. The door from parlour to bedroom has since been blocked probably when the dining room and parlour swapped functions in the 19th century. During restoration, a number of blind doorways were discovered in the formal rooms. These have been retained.

Internally, much of the joinery is original, but the fine plasterwork had suffered badly from the rainwater that had poured down the walls for so long. Large pieces of plaster, which had fallen from the ceilings and cornices, were carefully stored for reinstatement, but extensive sections, especially in the library and stairwell, had to be completely replaced by special hand-made mouldings. Most of these, including each bead around the cornice, were individually fixed by hand.

Passing through the small antechamber immediately to the right of the entrance, you enter the dining room. The elaborate alcove, known as a buffet, is a rare survival of a typical 18th-century feature and there is a simpler version in the antechamber. They were used to display fine china on shelves (later lost but now replaced) and to serve food from the drop-leg table leaf. The plasterwork around the buffet, including the oak wreath, has been completely restored using contemporary references and early photographs. The shield design above the alcove is based on the first quarter of the Arms of the Boswells of Auchinleck ‘Argent on a fess sable three cinquefoils Argent.' The mailed fist holding a sword on the ceiling in front of the buffet, with its enigmatic motto ‘Je pense plus’ comes from an earlier Boswell family crest.

Across the room, the crest used by the 18th-century Boswells (the hooded falcon with the motto ‘Vraye Foy’ – true faith) presides on the ceiling in front of the fireplace. As on the pediment outside, emblems of the civilised mind are scattered across the ceiling. Unfortunately, the original fireplace was lost and the current one is a replacement based on a design from Hawkhill House, a building of similar age and design.

Between the doors leading from the dining room to the former parlour at the rear is one of several small stone basins in the house. There is another in the south west corner of the study, beside the window. These are part of the plumbing arrangements, which are particularly progressive: tile-lined soil drains are hidden in the walls of the house and separate pipes are flushed with rainwater from tanks on the roof. These terminate in the small stone basins cunningly concealed behind panels between rooms. The most obvious use for these basins would seem to be as pissoirs: while this is unproven it is an intriguing image!

The parlour has now become the Landmark kitchen. The door completing the 18th-century parade circulation used to be opposite the door from the dining room. To the right of the fireplace are a deep cupboard and then a (restored) blind door, evidence of which was found during restoration.  The elaborate cornice and fireplace plasterwork hint at this room’s original function as the parlour.

Across the stairwell to the left of the entrance hall lies the morning room, used as a study by both James Boswell and his father. The more masculine panelling and restrained plasterwork reflect this use. The deep wall cupboards, now used as display cabinets, were probably used to store estate documents. Today they house items from the Boswell Museum, formerly housed in the Chapel in Auchinleck village. These and various paintings have been generously loaned by the Auchinleck Boswell Society for display in the house.

Leading from the morning room is a dressing room with closet, where a small opening has been made in the wall to show the old soil drain, lined with Delft tiles and flushed by the rainwater cistern on the roof above.  Off the dressing room (and hallway) is the master bedroom. In the inventory taken at Boswell’s death in 1795 this bedroom is described as the ‘Principal Bedroom’ and was almost certainly where he slept.

The first floor is reached by the only staircase. The falcon with outstretched wings above the pendant light is a restoration of a papier-mache original.

The library, as was typical in Scotland in the 18th century, is placed on the first floor, facing west across the policy grounds, and on a clear day you can see Arran. It was in this room that Samuel Johnson and Lord Auchinleck quarrelled over Civil War politics. In Lord Auchinleck’s and James Boswell’s times, the library seems to have been fairly sparsely furnished, though the books it contained were undeniably intellectual in content.

We know from letters that Sir Alexander Boswell, James’s son, carried out an extensive refurbishment of the library in the early 19th century. Landmark has evoked the style of an 18th-century library rather than attempted an exact recreation, as we do not know how it was originally organised. On a more ambitious scale than is usual even for Landmark properties, the shelves have been stocked with appropriate volumes, which include complete runs of Boswell’s diaries, journals and correspondence, generously donated by the Yale Editions of the Boswell Papers. Sale catalogues from the dispersal of the contents of Auchinleck in the early 20th century have been consulted for titles from Victorian authors, more familiar to us than Lord Auchinleck’s original erudite collection of the classics. Sadly, all the original furniture both here and throughout the house has long been dispersed. The furniture we see today has, wherever possible, been carefully chosen by Landmark to evoke 18th-century Auchinleck. It is not generally Landmark’s philosophy to arrange, decorate or furnish their properties as an exact recreation of a particular period – our buildings must be practical, convenient and comfortable for those staying there. However, various inventories for the house survive at Yale and these were consulted as the furnishing and decorative schemes were developed. Wherever possible, reproductions of prints and pictures known to have an association with the house have been hung.

The estate

The estate has several interesting features that are mentioned in Boswell’s correspondence, and from them we can re-trace many of the walks he describes with Dr. Johnson, James Bruce his faithful overseer, and other friends. Even today the surrounding landscape bears the imprint of the tree-planting campaigns of Boswell and his father. On the banks of the Lugar Water, west of the house, lie the ruins of the former family seat, the Old Place, built in 1612 to replace the Old Castle (whose ruins have now all but disappeared). This was a favourite stroll for Boswell, where he and his brother David reaffirmed allegiance to the family and where he took Dr. Johnson during the latter’s famous visit in 1773.  Johnson preferred the ‘sullen dignity’ of this spot to the newly completed Auchinleck House.

Closer to the main house, the bridge across the Dippol Burn has been extensively repaired by Landmark. On the picturesque banks below the bridge is an ovoid ice-house, hewn out of rock. Here ice cut in the winter was stored for summer use, or alternatively salted meat was stored. Further along is a little grotto, again carved out of the living rock, known as Boswell’s Summer House and said to have cost no more to create than a normal room. Landmark also intends to restore these and open up public access if funds can be found.

Availability & booking

Select a changeover day to start your booking...

What's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?Explain MoreQuestion

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.