Commissioned by a princess, with a private beach, breathtaking views and four acres of parkland garden, Ferry Inn is an architectural gem in a spectacular location, writes Ann Wallace.
It is one of only two houses in Scotland designed by the esteemed architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (the other is Greywalls in East Lothian) and it has a fascinating history.
Current owner Dr Joseph Brown explains: "My wife Diane and I knew some of the history of the house when we moved in 11 years ago, but it was only as we began to redecorate that we became more involved with Sir Edwin and his genius.
"Lutyen’s placement of the house upon the site and his changing elevations to take advantage of the extraordinary views give considerable insight into just how much planning went into the creation of Ferry Inn."
Ferry Inn, on the shores of Gare Loch on the Rosneath Peninsula to the north of the Firth of Clyde, was no ordinary commission.
The instruction to create a beautiful residence out of a former inn came from none other than Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria.
The original inn had been built in 1800 to service ferry passengers who would assemble at the jetty to travel from Rosneath to Rhu.
The building was extended three times during the 19th century and in 1896 Princess Louise and her husband the Marquis of Lorne, later the 9th Duke of Argyll, commissioned the young Lutyens, who was just 27 at the time, to create a residence on the site of the inn.
Sadly the princess and her husband never moved into the finished house due to the ill health of the duke, but the two-storey, raised basement house designed in the Arts and Crafts style (so beloved of the time) is regarded as one of the architect’s finest works; and the detailed drawings complete with watercolour illustration (something Lutyens added for only a handful of special projects) which have been preserved at the RIBA headquarters, are testament to his superb talent.
The house was requisitioned for wounded soldiers during the Boer War and remained a military facility until 1959 when it was bought by local boatyard owner, Peter Boyle, who used his apprentice ship fitters to refurbish the house with wood panelling throughout.
The current owners have pared back the nautical feel to something more akin to the original, by keeping the wood panelling to dado level, reinstating the grand formal salon and restoring other period features such as the deep sandstone window sills.
From the outside, the house is striking thanks to the triple chimney stack, arched doorways and amazing variety of window styles.
Inside, it is no less spectacular – a large central hall gives access to the dining room, kitchen, breakfast room, morning room and re-instated salon and has staircases leading to the first floor and lower ground floor.
There is a long landing on the first floor leading to four bedrooms. The master bedroom has its own stylish bathroom and there are two further bathrooms, including a luxuriously appointed Art Deco style bath / shower room. The basement has been recently developed to offer further accommodation including a hallway, sitting room and a further bedroom.
The one-bedroom, open plan Ferry Cottage, which is adjacent to the main house, is included in the sale and has also been beautifully refurbished, with an expertly designed and hand-built kitchen and bathroom.
The four acres of grounds include a secluded beech bordered garden with a terrace, but the highpoint is the private beach and sea loch frontage – the perfect place from which to spy seals and other wildlife or to cast off for a day’s sailing.
Dr Brown says he still feels the same rush of affection for Ferry Inn every time he drives through the gates.
"I remember telling Diane if she would let me buy Ferry Inn I would never ask for anything else again," he jokes.
"It is an enchanting house. The views over the Clyde are breathtaking – we love to watch the submarines entering and leave Faslane, to see the sailors in their dress uniform lining the deck as they leave and return from war patrol."
Dr Brown admits he will miss the house, adding: "As we enter our 70s, Diane and I don’t feel we can give Ferry Inn the time necessary to keep the gardens the way they were meant to be.
"But anywhere we move to now will have to be special.
"Sunrise tea in the conservatory, evenings on the balcony looking over the Clyde and leisurely dinners with friends in the dining room with a fire in the inglenook fireplace are things we shall always cherish from our years here."
He adds: "We don’t really feel like we have been the owners of Ferry Inn – we were simply the caretakers of an extraordinary treasure."