Kinross House

Kinross House, Kinross
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Kinross House, Kinross

Located on the east side of Kinross, on the shores of Loch Leven, opposite Loch Leven Castle, Kinross House represents a classically elegant Palladian mansion by Sir William Bruce (1630 - 1710), the master of that style. Set in 21.8 ha (54 acres) of designed landscape, this represents one of the earliest of Scotland's country houses, a radical departure from the fortified castles which preceded it. The house also boasts a magnificent formal garden and was described in 1724 by Robinson Crusoe author Daniel Defoe as "the most beautiful and regular piece of architecture in Scotland, perhaps in all Britain".

Bruce had been appointed Surveyor and Master of Works to King Charles II (1630 - 85), with particular responsibility for the Palace of Holyroodhouse and had acquired the Kinross estates in 1675 from James Douglas (c.1632 - 1686), the 9th Earl of Morton, who was financially embarrassed. Possibly intended as a residence for the unpopular King James VII (1633 - 1701), then the Duke of York, with the expectation that he would be prevented from succeeding to the throne, in the event Bruce built Kinross as his own home.

Bruce began work on the gardens by 1679 and the house was built between 1685 and 1691. Subsequently finding himself out of favour and effectively unemployed, he was unable to complete his original plan for the house. In 1777 the building was sold to George Graham who had made his money trading with India. The house passed to the Montgomery family through marriage to Graham's daughter, Helen, who is remembered in a fine portrait by Sir Henry Raeburn (1756 - 1823) in the house. Largely because the Montgomerys preferred their other home at Stobo Castle, in the Scottish Borders, Kinross escaped any remodelling. Thus, when Sir Basil Montgomery inherited the estate in 1902, he found he had a house hardly changed since it was built and set about a sensitive restoration of both house and gardens.

Kinross House appeared in the BBC television series How We Built Britain (2007) and featured with its architect Sir William Bruce in another BBC series The Country House Revealed in 2011.

Owing to the great financial burden of maintaining the house and gardens, the Montgomerys sold the property in 2011, for a reported £4.25 million. It was bought by a Teesside businessman, Donald Fothergill, who has undertaken a painstaking restoration of the house, while finishing the incomplete interior to the designs originally envisaged by Bruce. As well as a restoration involving the highest level of craftsmanship, modern features have been subtely introduced ensuring, for example, that lighting, music and even the water features in the garden can be controlled remotely by smartphone. The garden has been reinstated according to its original 17th-C layout, using modern plants and recreating a reflecting pool to the front. The symmetry is remarkable, with sight-lines extending from the grand entrance gates, through the centre of the house and garden, to Loch Leven Castle in the distance.

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