Saved by the intervention of His Royal Highness, The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay in 2007, Dumfries House combines the neoclassical architecture of Robert Adam with the furniture of Thomas Chippendale and leading 18th century Scottish cabinet makers. Visitors can explore this stunning 2,000 acre estate 365 days a year, with free entry and parking.You wouldn't think to look at it now, with its tranquil grounds and elegant drawing rooms, but the fate of one of Scotland's grandest country houses hung in the balance not so long ago. Designed by venerated 18th century architects the Adam brothers, Dumfries House - once the home of the Marquesses of Bute - faced an uncertain future in 2007, while all of its cultural riches risked being divided up and sold off.
A royal intervention at the eleventh hour brought the drama to an end - but also marked the beginning of an exciting new chapter for one of the UK's true gems.
The house opened to the public in 2008 following painstaking restoration. The crowning glory of the restoration project remains the magnificent collection of some 50 pieces of Chippendale's work, preserved examples of Britain's finest ever craftsmanship saved for the nation and visitors to Scotland to enjoy for centuries to come.
While guided tours of the country house is itself a huge draw, the sprawling 2000 acre estate on which it sits has taken on a lifeforce of its own, becoming the headquarters for the important charitable activity of The Prince's Foundation. Nestled amongst the expansive woodland, the outbuildings provide a home for and outpost of The Royal Drawing School, which offer residencies to talented young artists, as well as education centres in engineering, hospitality, farming and horticulture, all of which have proved a boon to the regeneration of the local area.
A crucial part of the renaissance of the estate has been the success of Dumfries House Lodge, luxury accommodation occupying the factor's former house which dates back to 1750. A charming bolthole within easy reach of Scotland's Central Belt, the 22 bedroom five star accommodation and adjacent pair of self catering cottages have become a sought after rural retreat for couples looking to escape the jolt of city life.
Designed to be a home away from home, thanks in part to its welcoming cottage feel, the impressively large airy rooms have been sensitively decorated with floral patterns and pastel shades as well as specifically selected antique furniture. Most of the en-suite rooms open out onto a courtyard, with the blissful sound of the burn and chorus of birds emanating from the woodland beyond. The two cottages are ideal for families looking for a weekend getaway in the Ayrshire countryside.
Trails and pathways snaking through acres of woodland offer hours of entertainment for people of all ages. While children will make a beeline for the adventure playground and oriental maze, green fingered visitors will be drawn by the siren call of The Queen Elizabeth Walled Garden. Tucked away in a quiet corner of the estate, it was a flagship project of the extensive restoration of the estate that saw a five acre derelict site transformed into a stunning walled garden replete with new terraces and greenhouses.
The produce grown in abundance in the furrows and beds of the garden are not just to look at. As if to emphasise the self-sufficiency of this entrepreneurial powerhouse, the vegetables are harvested and used at the estate's Woodlands Restaurant, one of the estate's crowning glories. Made using exclusively locally-sourced ingredients, the dishes that leave the pass of this fine dining establishment offer a reimagining of Scottish cuisine - and a taste of the fruits of labour that have seen the estate's fortunes change for the better.