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16 bedroom detached house for sale

Blairquhan Estate, Ayrshire, Scotland, KA19 7LY

Offers in Excess of £4,850,000

Property Description

Key features

  • Blairquhan Castle (16 beds)
  • 12 estate cottages
  • Holiday cottage business
  • Celebrated wedding venue
  • Purdey award-winning shoot

Full description

Tenure: Freehold


Situation

Blairquhan Estate lies in the Girvan Valley, a quiet and unspoilt part of Ayrshire, only a short distance from the coast and 18 miles from Prestwick Airport. Ayr, 14 miles to the north, provides a wide range of shops, supermarkets and professional services. The city of Glasgow can be accessed easily by both rail and road, and is now widely regarded as one of Europe's most fashion conscious cities, with one of the UK's best shopping districts. Edinburgh, Scotland's famous capital city, lies just over 95 miles to the northeast. Straiton village has a primary school, and Wellington School in Ayr is an independent day school for girls and boys between the ages of 3 and 18 years; in 2008 Wellington had the best Higher exam results in Scotland.

The Ayrshire coast is famous worldwide for golf, with championship courses at Royal
Troon, Prestwick and Turnberry, all of which have hosted the Open Championship. There are
also golf courses at Ayr, Dailly and Girvan, with a nine hole course at Maybole (7 miles). Ayr Racecourse has regular race meetings and hosts the Scottish Grand National in April and
the Ayr Gold Cup in September. There is excellent sailing on the Firth of Clyde, with yachting marinas at Troon and further up the coast at Largs and Inverkip. Prestwick Airport has services to London Stansted and many European destinations. Glasgow Airport (50 miles) and Edinburgh
Airport provide a wide range of domestic, European and international flights. Ayr has a
mainline railway station with direct services to Glasgow and connecting services to London. There is also a station at Maybole (7 miles).


Description

History records Blairquhan as having been in the ownership of only four families since the
14th century - the McWhirters (or McWhurters), the Kennedys, the Whitefoords and the Hunter Blairs. The old castle of Blairquhan was built around a tower house erected in 1346 for the McWhirters. The Kennedys acquired the estate by marriage in the 15th century. John Kennedy, who, with his wife Anne Keith, is recorded on a date stone of 1573 as Laird of Blairquhan, added a new front in 1576.
In the 1620s, in a legal wrangle, John Kennedy's heirs lost possession of Blairquhan to the Whitefoords of Ballochmyle. However, the Kennedys managed to remain in residence until well into the middle of the 17th century, but eventually conceded defeat. Having finally gained vacant possession of Blairquhan, Sir John Whitefoord rented it to the McAdams of Lagwyne parents of the famous road improver. John Loudon McAdam, inventor of tarmacadam, was brought up at Blairquhan and went to school in nearby Maybole.

In June 1782, Sir John Whitefoord of Ballochmyle and Blairquhan fell victim to the spectacular series of bank failures that included the Ayr bank of Douglas, Heron & Co, memorably described as 'one of the most precarious companies ever floated'. Sir John, who had invested substantially in the bank, incurred significant losses but managed to retain both his Ayrshire estates until 1798, when he was forced to sell Blairquhan. It came into the ownership of the Hunter Blair family in 1798, when it was
purchased for David Hunter Blair, then aged 20, by his trustees. James Hunter, father of David Hunter Blair, was a member of a landed family in Ayrshire. He was a successful Edinburgh based banker, who started his career with Coutts & Co,subsequently Sir William Forbes, James Hunter
& Co, one of the few banks to survive the crash of 1782. In 1770 he married Jean Blair, the daughter and heiress of John Blair of Dunskey in Wigtownshire. When she inherited Dunskey in 1777, Blair was added to the family name. James Hunter was elected MP for Edinburgh in 1783, became Lord Provost of the city in 1784, and was created a Baronet in 1786. Only a year later, aged 45, he was dead, leaving 12 surviving children.

Blairquhan Castle lies at the heart of the estate, overlooking the Water of Girvan which flows for over 3½ miles along the northern boundary of the estate. It is rare to find an estate which affords such privacy. About 670 acres in all, the estate also has 12 further estate properties, a walled garden with glasshouse, ice house, outstanding woodlands, farmland, a Purdey Award winning low ground shoot, roe stalking, trout fishing, and salmon and sea trout fishing. Lord Cockburn, writing as he worked his way around the South Circuit of the Scottish Bench in September 1844, wrote about his stay at Blairquhan: "I rose early - and surveyed the beauties of Blairquhan. It deserves its usual praises. A most gentleman-like place rich in all sorts of attractions - of wood, lawn, river,
gardens, hill, agriculture and pasture."

Robert Burns, who had been promoted by Sir James in Edinburgh, was much grieved and wrote
an 'Elegy on the Death of Sir James Hunter Blair'. Although no great lover of the gentry, Burns said
of Sir James: "If ever a child of his be so unfortunate as to be under the necessity of asking anything of so poor a man as I am, it may not be in my power to grant it, but by God I shall try."
Although fatherless, the children were well provided for and had relatives and friends in high
places. Sir James's elder brother, Colonel William Hunter of Brownhill, made David, the second son,
his heir. In August 1798, when young David was on tour in Germany, Hugh Hamilton, one of his
trustees, wrote to him: "You are this day proprietor of the first of three lots of Sir John Whitefoord's Estate, which includes the Mansion House, old trees, etc. This transaction gives me
infinite pleasure, as I know you wished it and I was most anxious to have you fixed in this part of
the country. - Your three lots contain about 4,300 acres lying compact together, an estate in
appearance and extent hardly to be found." The final acreage purchased was over 12,000 acres.
The castle and the trees round about were the principal features of the estate. To begin with, the
new laird concentrated on consolidating his financial position, before embarking on any major
redevelopment. He housed his estate workers in the old castle and put a smaller house in order for
himself. His older brother, John, died in 1800 and at the age of just 22, Sir David Hunter Blair found
himself nominal head of the family.

In 1803 Sir David commissioned what would be the first of three potential schemes for the
improvement of Blairquhan. Thomas White, a landscape architect, proposed a new Classical
house across the river from the old castle and the excavation of a large lake from the River Girvan.
The expensive plans came to nothing. Ten years later, after Sir David's marriage to Dorothea Hay
McKenzie, a niece of the Marquess of Tweeddale, with the need for a grand home becoming more
pressing, he invited James Gillespie Graham to suggest how the old castle might be restored.
Sketches were produced in 1813/14, but a severe storm in 1814 rendered the old building semiderelict, and this project too was abandoned. Four years later, Robert Wallace, who had been
working on nearby Cloncaird, produced designs which envisaged the demolition of the castle and
the erection of a new mansion on the site. Again, nothing happened. The present day castle was built by William Burn in 1820-24; it was one of his early commissions. In May 1820, Lady Hunter Blair died, an event which seems to have spurred Sir David into action. By September of the same year, William Burn had produced satisfactory plans, the contract of works was signed on March 29th
1821, and work finally began on a site beside the old castle, which had first to be demolished - no
small undertaking. Much of the 16th century decorative sculpted stonework was removed for
incorporation into the new Kitchen Court, which was built, floored and roofed by the end of July.
The foundation stone of the new Blairquhan was laid on August 31st by Sir Alexander Boswell of
Auchinleck. Once work had finally begun, it moved on smoothly. Papers on loan to Ayrshire Archives
give a complete picture of the building programme. The building costs are recorded as
£16,371.14s and internal furnishings as £3,866. Furniture was commissioned for the house from
Morison of Ayr.


Accommodation

Approached by way of three drives, the principal route to the Castle, the three mile Long Approach, starts at the Ayr Lodge and runs alongside the Water of Girvan. The castle is first glimpsed
through the trees on the approach. A key characteristic of the castle is the extent to which it has
been preserved as William Burn and Sir David Hunter Blair completed it in 1824. Certain improvements were warranted, since the castle had only one bathroom on the principal floor
when it was originally built, with accommodation for 18 resident indoor servants. An ambitious refurbishment in 1970 won the Saltire Award and was followed by an ingenious conversion by
the architect Michael Laird, which made use of the former servants' rooms to provide a modern Estate Office.

There are now 16 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms and a driver's overnight room. The castle has been extremely well maintained, with work including significant roof repairs, re-leading the main tower, and installation of new central heating boilers.

Laid out over three floors, the accommodation is as shown in the accompanying photographs and on the layout plans. In all, there are over 70 rooms.

Reception rooms include a saloon, two drawing rooms, a library and a dining room. In addition there are three kitchens, a library, a billiard room, picture galleries, a table tennis room, museums, stores and wine cellars.


Directions

Heading south from Ayr on the A77, turn left on to the B7045 immediately after Minishant. Proceed through the village of Kirkmichael towards Straiton, passing the Ayr Lodge and Blairquhan Bridge on your right. Almost immediately on entering the conservation village of Straiton turn right onto the B741 signposted Dailly and Girvan. After 200 yards the road crosses the Water of Girvan, after a further 100 yards Blairquhan Castle is signposted on the right. Follow the road through the gates at Milton Lodge, past the Kennels Cottage on the left, and the Garden Pond, keep left for the castle.


More information from this agent

Listing History

Added on Rightmove:
29 December 2010

Floorplans

Externally hosted floorplan


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