As the latest housing report from Nationwide suggests, the property market in Scotland may have slowed as a result of the downturn, but it has by no means come to a grinding halt. The mood of cautious optimism is echoed by country-house agents north of the Border, who have seen an encouraging level of interest from potential purchasers since the end of the festive season.
Andrew Smith of Strutt & Parker in Edinburgh highlights factors that give Scotland an edge in the current unpredictable market: ‘Compared with other parts of the UK, Scotland has much to offer: reasonably priced country and sporting estates, wonderful sailing on the west coast, and a capital city that you can drive in and out of. And you can still get a mortgage, although probably one based on the lending criteria of 25 years ago.’
Pricewise, Scottish country houses have always looked cheap compared with their southern counterparts, and further recent reductions make some of them now look very good value indeed. Strutt & Parker (0131–226 2500) invite ‘offers over £595,000’ (reduced from £830,000) for the impeccably refurbished Grange House on the edge of the coastal town of Burntisland, Fife, 20 miles from Edinburgh city centre. A former laird’s house built in about 1680 with Georgian and Victorian additions and listed category B by Historic Scotland, Grange House has three reception rooms, six bedrooms, a one-bedroom guest/staff apartment and 1.2 acres of mature walled gardens and grounds.
There is also planning consent to create a substantial three-storey extension to the 5,591sq ft main house with the addition of a conservatory and swimming pool, and to convert the pretty courtyard buildings into a two-bedroom cottage. Over in Glasgow, Andrew Perratt of Savills (0141–222 5875) is handling the sale of the iconic, six-storey, Craigrownie Castle in the coastal village of Cove, near Helensburgh, 39 miles from Glasgow the only castle ever designed by the Scottish architect Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson, who built a number of grand villas for wealthy clients in the area. Built in 1854 in Scots Baronial style for Glasgow industrialist John McElroy, on land bought from the Duke of Argyll, Craigrownie, listed category B, was sold in 1858 to Alexander Abercrombie, who added a substantial Victorian wing in 1890.
The castle later became a nursing home, but, by the early 1990s, had fallen into disrepair, before being comprehensively restored in the late 1990s. The present owners, who are moving to Switzerland, completed the refurbishment by upgrading the luxurious, three-bedroom Stanley Apartment (named after the owner’s father who helped to finance the project), which has allowed them to let out the main castle for special events throughout the year. Craigrownie has four grand reception rooms, including an 800sq ft panelled drawing room, eight bedrooms, five bathrooms and two acres of gardens and grounds, with spectacular views down the Firth of Clyde towards the Isle of Arran. Savills invite offers over £795,000.
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Kevin Maley of Strutt & Parker in Inverness (01463 719171) has been agreeably surprised at the recent spate of interest shown by prospective purchasers from Scotland, the south and overseas in the classic Victorian Bearnock Lodge at Glen Urquhart, near Drumnadrochit, 10 miles from Loch Ness and 20 miles from Inverness town. Built as a shooting lodge in about 1865 and extended by the current owner in the early 1990s, Bearnock Lodge has three main reception rooms, five double bedrooms and two bathrooms, plus an integral two-bedroom apartment. Offers over £510,000 are sought for this enchanting house, with its 3.36 acres of wooded gardens and grounds, all of which now need some gentle updating. Despite the general slowdown in the market, David Strang Steel of Strutt & Parker’s Banchory office had a welcome pre-Christmas bonus when 12 properties, worth a total of more than £8 million, went under offer in December. They ranged from the 800-acre Aberlour Estate in Morayshire at £2.6m to four farm steadings for conversion in Aberdeenshire for between £75,000 and £140,000.