An elegant B-listed Baronial mansion surrounded by world renowned Achamore Gardens
The Isle of Gigha has an interesting and romantic history with links to the Vikings from Scandinavia. In 1493 Gigha was in possession of the MacNeill family who fought many bitter disputes with the Macdonald Clan to hold onto the island until they finally sold it in 1790 to another branch of the MacNeill Clan. The island was bought in 1865 by James Williams Scarlett, whose son built the present day mansion house. In 1944 the island was bought by Sir James Horlick, who developed the world renowned Achamore Gardens around the house.
The population of Gigha is approximately 160 and has earned world wide fame since the community acquired the island in March 2002. The Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust now owns the island. The takeover of the island was named by the islanders Latha Ghiogha, a New Dawn.
Achamore House is an elegant Category B listed mansion, remodelled and extended around the original early 17th century house in 1884, to a design by the Glasgow architect John Honeyman, one of the leading architects of his day. Whilst its exterior could be described as Scots Baronial, the interior is a fine example of the Arts and Crafts movement. Following a fire in 1896, when almost everything except the billiard room was lost, it was rebuilt by around 1900.
The world famous Charles Rennie Mackintosh had joined Honeyman's practice in 1884, progressing from working as a draughtsman to becoming a senior assistant in 1901. There is strong evidence that Mackintosh himself worked on Achamore House. He and a colleague in the firm, James McNair, are known to have travelled to Gigha to supervise work on Achamore House. There is a ground floor plan of Achamore House by Mackintosh, dated 1903, in the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow. Several features in the house support Mackintosh's involvement and a number of experts visiting the house in recent years are in consensus with this theory. Most notably, Mackintosh's signature design of the Scottish thistle with the whiplash neck appears in the drawing room.
Both HRH The Queen and the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, have visited Achamore House; in the case of HRH The Queen, as recently as the summer of 2007, when she visited the island as part of her 80th birthday celebrations cruise.
The house has been extensively refurbished to a very high standard, whilst retaining many original features including parquet floors, beautiful fireplaces, ornate cornices and ceiling work.
Since purchasing Achamore House from the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust in 2004, the owners have established a bed and breakfast business, offering 12 letting bedrooms.
The sweeping driveway terminates at a gravel parking area from where steps ascend to the entrance with a date stone of 1884. From there a vestibule with a barrel vaulted ceiling and flagstone floor leads to the reception hall. A large cloakroom with two washbasins and separate WC compartment opens off the vestibule.
The magnificent reception hall has a 16th century English Gothic stone fireplace, a herringbone parquet floor, oak panelling and an ornate ceiling. A richly coloured oak staircase with carved balustrade and newel post ascends to the upper level. The principal reception rooms are arranged along the front of the house, with a lovely outlook over the lawns.
Opening directly off the reception hall are the study and the drawing room. The study is an attractive room with an open fireplace in a wooden surround, an ornate ceiling and oak strip flooring. There is an archway to a bay window and a door to a small conservatory. The impressive drawing room has a southwesterly facing bay window and a further large window. It has a substantial open fireplace with an intricately carved surround, oak strip flooring and an ornate ceiling.
A connecting door from the reception hall leads to a rear hall with a door to the courtyard. This hall gives access to the magnificent billiard room which was redecorated in period style in 2012. It boasts an intricately carved open fireplace, oak strip flooring and a vaulted, wood panelled ceiling. Double doors lead out to the garden. There are two WCs off the rear hall.
The sitting room and dining room open off an inner hall which also leads to the kitchen and service areas. The wood panelled sitting room has a bay window overlooking the gardens, and an open fireplace with a stone surround. The dining room also has beautiful wood panelling, a ornate plasterwork ceiling and a box bay window, and can comfortably seat 26 people, or more. Both rooms have oak strip flooring.
The kitchen has fitted wall and base units and a fitted dresser with display cupboards above. It has a four oven Aga and is plumbed for a dishwasher. On the 1903 plan it is shown as a housekeeper's room and pantry. Beyond the kitchen is the former service area, which now comprises a television room, a ground floor bedroom with adjacent wc with shower, a pantry, a back pantry and two large store rooms. The original stone spiral staircase of the pre-1884 house connects to the first floor and from there to a staff flat on the second floor. There is also a secondary staircase at the rear of the house.
A wide, sweeping staircase lit by large windows ascends to the upper floor. On this level is a beautiful library with an open fireplace, ash panelling and extensive fitted bookcases. As presently used, there are 12 bedrooms or dressing rooms in all on the first floor. The three principal bedrooms all look out over the front lawns and have en suite bathrooms. The remaining rooms are served by 5 bathrooms. There is also a linen store and a number of useful storage cupboards.
On the second floor is a comfortable staff flat comprising sitting room, kitchen/living area, bedroom and bathroom.
Garden and grounds
Achamore House is situated amidst the world famous Achamore Gardens which were the creation of the late Colonel Sir James Horlick, who bought the island in 1944. Rhododendrons were his particular passion and the woodland gardens around Achamore House are still home to a renowned collection of rhododendrons and azaleas, which are sheltered by a mixture of sycamore, beech, ash and pine trees. Whilst the majority of the gardens are not included in the sale, the Gigha Trust is committed to their ongoing maintenance and preservation.
The grounds with Achamore House extend to two acres, forming a natural boundary around the house and ensuring the privacy of the house is retained. The house thus enjoys the seclusion of its own private gardens whilst benefiting from the beauty of the wider Achamore Gardens.
The lawns to the front of the house slope gently towards the road. The gardens to the north of the house include an area of mature woodland which offers both shelter and seclusion.
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The sale of Achamore House offers a wonderful opportunity to join an island community, without extreme isolation. Gigha, nearest and fairest of the Hebrides, is easily accessed by a regular ro-ro ferry service from TayinloanCaroleanne Gallagher