Over on Scotland?s East Coast, house prices have a more familiar ring for buyers coming up from the south. However, the guide price of ?offers over £975,000? quoted by the Edinburgh office of Strutt & Parker (0131?226 2500) for the beautifully restored Ballencrieff Castle at Aberlady, 17 miles from Edinburgh and two miles from the coast of the Firth of Forth, is unlikely to reflect the true cost of one of the most remarkable renovation projects undertaken in Scotland in recent years.

Following a fire in 1868, the Jacobite stronghold built by James Murray in 1507, destroyed in 1545 and rebuilt by his son John in 1586 had stood roofless, with only the remnants of three walls, when Peter Gillies (an engineer and self-confessed ?castle anorak?) and Lynn Dalgleish bought the ruined building some 15 years ago.

Commenting on the painstaking, eight-year restoration programme supervised by Historic Scotland, completed in 1997, the author and historian Nigel Tranter says: ?The sheer size and intricate arrangement of towers, turrets and turnpike stairs and corridors and the magnificent decorative ceiling [in the Great Hall] which had to be replaced, being enough to put off any less dedicated builder? the fact that much of the restoration has been carried out by Peter personally, enhances admiration of [his] achievements.? Achievements which have been recognised, with Ballencrieff listed among the top 30 of the UK?s 100 best houses in a recent TV documentary.

Rebuilt in stone, with harled, white-painted elevations beneath a pitched, Balachulish Scotch slate roof, Ballencrieff Castle has luxurious, yet authentic accommodation on four main floors, linked by three staircases. This includes
a kitchen and dining room on the ground floor, the Great Hall and the laird?s withdrawing room on the first floor, the master suite, three further bedrooms and two bathrooms on the second floor, and a sitting room and a self-contained three-bedroom flat on the third floor.

The castle stands in 1.5 acres of landscaped grounds, laid out mainly to the south and overlooking rolling countryside. The upper floors have spectacular views over the Firth of Forth, with Fife to the north, and the Garleton Hills and the dramatic Edinburgh skyline to the west.

This article was published in Country Life magazine, January 12, 2005

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