Surrounded by coal mining communities stricken by three generations of unemployment after the 1980s mine closures sits Dumfries House, an 18th century estate with 2,000 acres of beautiful countryside in the remote south west of Scotland.
Dumfries House is a Palladian country house in Ayrshire, Scotland. It is located within a large estate, around 2 miles west of Cumnock. Noted for being one of the few such houses with much of its original 18th-century furniture still present, including specially commissioned Thomas Chippendale pieces, the house and estate is now owned in charitable trust by The Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust, which maintains it as a visitor attraction and hospitality and wedding venue. Both the house and the gardens are listed as significant aspects of Scottish heritage.
The estate and an earlier house was originally called Lochnorris, owned by Craufords of Loudoun. The present house was built in the 1750s for William Dalrymple, 5th Earl of Dumfries, by John Adam and Robert Adam. Having been inherited by the 2nd Marquess of Bute in 1814, it remained in his family until 2007 when 7th Marquess sold it to the nation for £45 million due to the cost of upkeep. The estate and all its historic contents were on the verge of being lost to private developers and collectors.
Due to its significance and the risk of the furniture collection being distributed and auctioned, after three years of uncertainty, in 2007 the estate and its entire contents was purchased for £45 million for the country by a consortium headed by Charles, Prince of Wales, including a £20 million loan from the Prince’s charitable trust. The intention was to renovate the estate to become self-sufficient, both to preserve it and regenerate the local economy.
Thanks to Prince Charles’s ambitious ideas, Dumfries House now has large education facilities as well as its woodland walks and beautifully restored outbuildings.
The renovated 18th century Coach House is now a cafe and dining area with derelict farm buildings turned into the luxury guesthouse Dumfries House Lodge. The Sawmill has become a centre for developing traditional skills such as stone masonry, dry stone walling and rural woodcraft, as well as an introduction to plastering, painting, plumbing, electrical and brickwork, while the former laundry has been converted into the Prince’s Drawing School, offering residential placements for local art students.
Photo of Prince Charles speaking at 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris by Arnaud Bouissou via Wikipedia.