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Ascog House

Ascog House
©2017 Gazetteer for Scotland

Ascog House

Ascog House is a typical 17th C. laird's seat surrounded by woodland at Ascog, a quarter-mile (0.4 km) inland from the east coast of the Isle of Bute and 1½ miles (2.3 km) southeast of Rothesay. Now B-listed, the house comprises two storeys and an extensive basement, with a projecting stair turret, dormer windows and crowstepped gables. At the top of the stair turret is the cap house, now containing a little bedroom. The house has a date of 1678 recorded above one of the windows, but is most-likely older possibly built for John Stewart of Kilchattan who bought the Ascog Estate in 1594. The windows were enlarged in the 18th C.

Despite conditions that tried to keep the property in the Stewart family, successive inheritors died childless and the property was eventually sold. The house and estate were bought by engineer Robert Thom (1774 - 1847), but he seems to have built Meikle Ascog for himself. At some point Ascog House was extended; building a large wing to the rear, opening up the basement below and adding a new entrance porch at the front. To achieve this the ground level was lowered, unfortunately undermining the original house, and the new additions were not well-built. Neither would have been the hallmark of an experienced engineer, leading to the suggestion that the work took place after Thom's death, initiated by one of his children.

It was a later owner, probably the Glasgow-based iron-master and politician Thomas Russell (1836 - 1911), who further enlarged the house in the later 19th C., adding a dining room wing at the front and a stair tower to the side. At this time formal gardens were laid out, thought to have been designed by Edward La Trobe Bateman (1816-97). Although these gardens have now deteriorated, they included a woodland garden, with walks arranged in geometrical patterns, and a water garden.

Bought in 1939 by John Crichton-Stuart (1907-56), then Earl of Dumfries but later the 5th Marquess of Bute, the old house was subdivided for use by estate workers. However, the onset of structural problems led to progressive abandonment. To secure its future, the Marquess of Bute sold the property to the Landmark Trust in 1989, a charity which rescues and cares for historic buildings, then lets them as holiday accommodation. The Trust demolished almost all of the Victorian extensions, leaving only the stair tower as a detached folly, which now contains a solitary large bedroom on the first floor, with a bathroom on the ground floor below. Walls were stabilised and traditional lime-mortar applied. Unfortunately, when the work was almost completed in 1991 a fire gutted the house. Work eventually restarted, with the interior completely replaced and now comprising a tasteful mix of modern, with Georgian and some original stone fireplaces with part of a carved chimney-piece in the kitchen. The restoration was eventually completed in 1993.


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