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31 May 2019

A day at Dumfries House





Last week my mum and I visited Dumfries House, which is somewhere I have wanted to visit for years.  I first heard of this place when I worked in London, when it first opened to the public in around 2007 the Royal Collection, where I was working at the time, was organising the tickets.  I left London in 2009 and did not get chance to visit, but vowed as I moved a lot closer that I would visit eventually, I finally made it ten years later!


Dumfries House is near New Cumnock in Ayrshire, so quite a bit away from the town of Dumfries and just under two hours drive from Carlisle. It's also in the middle of nowhere, not really on any convenient public transport routes and I don't drive.  So not an easy place to get to. But then I spotted it on the listings of a local coach day trip company and thought why the hell not!

The house was built in 1754 by the Earl of Dumfries. The Earl had no heir and his wife died shortly before the house was competed. So he filled it with all the most luxurious and fashionable furnishings to attract a new young bride. The house today still retains many of the original features and furnishings which includes the biggest and most valuable collection of Chippendale furniture in the world.  Read the full history here.


In 2007 Prince Charles saved the house for the nation forming a charitable trust from kind donors and sponsors. His vision was to restore the house, save the contents, open it up to the public but also provide opportunities for the local communities and he seems to be doing amazingly well.


We arrived on our coach just after midday and we had a little bit of time to take some snaps outside. I managed to get these perfect pics of the house without any other people in my shot, the dream! I was so excited to see this facade, what a splendid looking building!




Access to the house is by guided tour only. The numbers of visitors are strictly limited due to the size of the rooms and the fact that the vision for the house was to have no ropes. You can walk everywhere in most rooms but you are repeatedly told how priceless all the furnishings are, I was rather scared to breath.

The tour starts with a cup of tea and a handmade short bread. You then get a little video introduction with Prince Charles! The tour is led by a knowledgeable experienced guide and you get to see the downstairs principal rooms, it was all very interesting and the house is beautiful.


After our tour we got chance to explore the grounds, and they are just as impressive as the house. Beautiful manicured lawns, stunning ornamental flower beds and the most amazing trees. I love trees and there was some particularly fantastic examples in the Dumfries House collections.


You can see that large areas of the estate are being continually developed and this arboretum is full of young trees. Further off into the distance is the walled garden but we didn't venture that far, save it for another visit.


There are ornamental bridges on the estate too, this one is the Adam Bridge, there is also a Chinese bridge which is a new addition but based on original plans for the the gardens found in the archives.


Just look at this tree! It was humongous in real life. I always think it is fascinating thinking of who in history has seen this tree, if only they could speak huh.


Another view of the Adam Bridge.


I loved our day out together at Dumfries House, it was well worth the decade long wait to visit. Have you been? And most importantly, where should we visit next?

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