It is not often that Scotland’s Homes features a ‘commodious’ and ‘splendid’ home, but this seat in Ayrshire fits the bill, writes Ann Wallace
WHAT 10-bedroom country house
WHERE Kirkmichael, Ayrshire
PRICE Offers over £1,950,000
CONTACT Savills 0141 222 5896
IN the Ayrshire Directory of 1838, Kirkmichael House was eloquently described as "an excellent and commodious family residence", with "splendid trees" and "thriving plantations".
It adds: "Contiguous is a natural lake of five acres extent, which shows to great advantage from the house. The extensive and judicious improvements lately made on the grounds will serve to beautify the spot ..."
The beauty of the spot, which comprises 55 acres of parkland and a five-acre loch, is what drew current owners Rosie and Peter McNab to the house.
"It’s really spectacular when you see it for the first time," smiles Rosie.
"It’s hidden from view, really, until you approach up the driveway, so many people don’t know it’s there."
She explains: "Peter knew the area from having worked here in the past, so when we were searching for a new home, we’d pack up the car with coffee and sandwiches and drive around looking for what we really wanted, which was a country house quite close to Glasgow."
The pretty village of Kirkmichael, in the rolling hills of southern Ayrshire, lies around 10 miles south of Ayr. Glasgow is indeed close by, easily accessible via the road network, and Ayr itself is home to a good range of shopping, recreational and professional facilities.
Rosie adds: "What we loved about Kirkmichael House was its seclusion and of course – all old houses have their own stories, and this one had plenty." Historically the home of the Kennedy family, Kirkmichael House is a striking Category B listed country mansion house.
Its origins date back to the 17th century. The core of the house was built around 100 years later, when a baronial style keep and wings were added to each side of the property.
The school house supplements the main house and was constructed around 1920.
In more recent times, it has been a miners’ welfare home and residential school, both of which appealed to former children’s nurse Rosie.
"It feels like it has been a caring place, somewhere that made people better," she explains. "Sometimes old houses can feel austere, or lack warmth, but I have never felt that about Kirkmichael House."
Over the last decade, the property has been lovingly improved and transformed into a fantastic family home, bursting with original charm but thoroughly equipped for the demands of 21st century living.
It comprises more than 14,000 sq ft over four floors, tastefully restored, with an abundance of natural light highlighting the decoration, ornate plaster cornicing and feature fireplaces which provide a centrepiece for many of the reception rooms. The majestic entrance hall with its magnificent Portland stone fireplace, leads to a beautiful formal drawing room with French windows.
The ground floor also includes a restored library, an elegant dining room with a bay window and a fabulous kitchen with handmade cabinetry and granite worktops, plus a charming sun room with oak panelled walls, a sitting room, study and downstairs bedroom.
A galleried staircase leads up to the first floor where there are nine substantial bedrooms, two shower rooms and two bathrooms, while the second floor is home to the triple aspect games room.
The lower ground floor includes the old kitchen, a wine cellar and cold store.
Adjoining the mansion is The School House, which includes three bedrooms and the former assembly hall which is now a marvellous living space with a barrel vaulted ceiling.
Recent additions include a decked balcony accessed from the drawing room, beautifully designed to take full advantage of the views over the loch and woodland beyond.
Landscaped over centuries, the gardens surrounding Kirkmichael House include a wonderful collection of specimen trees, colourful planting and the aforementioned five-acre stocked loch with viewing platform. In recent years, a substantial land management programme has been undertaken, restoring the loch and returning historic paths through the estate to use. The grounds extend down to the River Girvan on which there are exclusive rights to fish for salmon and trout.
Inside, Rosie and Peter have created a beautiful family home.
"I love all the period features, especially the differently coloured fireplaces – bottle green, rich purple, yellow," says Rosie.
"Whoever designed the shape of the house was a genius as it really make the most of natural light – the master bedroom, for example, has windows on two sides.
"I also love the stairs up to the turret, which we have used as a games room – it’s the most atmospheric part of the house.
"And the old school house is perfect for modern families – it can be a granny flat or a space for teenagers, or a home office."
Rosie’s favourite spots are in the library, where she says she feels calm and quiet, and the sitting room, which is much livelier.
"This has been a busy family house for us, and it’s great for that – plenty of places to entertain friends, quiet spots to study, and the downstairs rooms all interlock with each other, so our grandchildren love riding their trikes around in a complete circle," she laughs.
"It’s an unusual house, built in bits, with different time zones coming together, but it is a lovely one. It’s a house that needs to be
full of people."