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Issue 73 - The House of Skies and Seas

Scotland Magazine Issue 73
February 2014

 

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The House of Skies and Seas

Charles Douglas visits this home overlooking the Mull of Kintyre

Simply one of the most breathtakingly lovely destinations on the Scottish mainland, the Argyll peninsula known as the Mull of Kintyre was immortalised in that haunting best seller song of the late 1970s, witten by Sir Paul McCartney and Denny Laine for the group Wings.

With big skies and open sea views to the east, west and south, it is no wonder that the ex-Beatle was enchanted by this special place where he and his family retain a home to this day.

And in 1904, it must have been similar sentiments that influenced James Boyd and his wife Kate when they decided to re-build Carskiey House as a holiday retreat from their principal home in Paisley.

The name is taken from an off-shore rock and translates from the Gaelic as “The rock of wings,” possibly deriving from its shape, but equally from the number of cormorants and shags occupying its summit. The estate comprises 7,362 acres and occupies the south western section of the Kintyre peninsula, rising to an elevation of 14,00 feet above sea level.

Situated in a spectacular position overlooking Carskiey Bay, there are breathtaking views across to the isle of Sanda, Rathlin Island, a distant Aisla Craig, and Ireland. The estate with its mix of farmland, moorland, rocky cliffs and sandy beaches, is located five miles from Southend, a small community with an 18-hole golf course, eleven miles from the more substantial Campbeltown, renowned for its whiskies, and the hamlet of Machrihanish with its airport, sailing club, and links and dunes golf courses.

An original house west of the present driveway was from the early sixteenth century occupied by the MacNeills of Carskey, a Kintyre family originally from the island of Gigha. That property is long gone, but in those days the building materials and provisions for the Mull Lighthouse, which remains on the estate, were delivered from the sea and unloaded onto the jetty before being transported on an iron trackway to the Green Walk, known locally as the “Lighthouse Road.”

The Boyds employed the Paisley-based architect J. A. Rennison to design their elegant Edwardian home, and engaged the local Campbeltown builder Neil MacArthur. The work was completed in 1910, and with Kate Boyd being a daughter of the wealthy textile manufacturing Coats family (her father was Thomas Coats of “Viyella” fame), no expense was spared.

The house is built of stone with a dry dash, rough cast finish beneath a principally slated roof. The window surrounds and lintels and cills are of polished sandstone ashla stones as are the crow stepped gables. Despite its remote location, Carskiey House was built to impress. Slates were secured with copper nails, sash and case windows constructed from teak, flooring throughout is of oak and top quality pine, while the bathrooms, with their luxurious fittings, can only be described as magnificent. The basement area which in addition to several store rooms, accomodates a state-of-theart heating system.

The well-known Edinburgh furnishing company Whytock & Reid provided the furniture such as book cases and beds, of which several examples remain in
situ.

At the front entrance, double doors open onto a staircase rising beyond a gun room and cloakroom to the ground floor hall which leads into a splendid reception hall with a sweeping stone staircase of substantial proprtions. The reception hall has two doors leading into the comfortable drawing room, large and stylish dining room and spacious library, with a door onto the terrace and stone steps down into the garden.

All of the principal six bedrooms face south to take advantage of the views. In total there are four bathrooms, a dressing room and various staff rooms on the first floor. On the second floor there is a large billiards room, recently re-wallpapered to resemble the interior of the Duke of Wellington's campaign tent at Waterloo, and a hydropathic bathroom with a “ship's deck” floor and a shower with hoses for fresh and salt water. Also on this floor are three additional bedrooms, a playroom, a bathroom, a dark room, and a box room.

At the north east end of the house is the twostorey servants' quarters, comprising kitchen, scullery, drying room, servants' hall and butler's pantry. On the first floor there are five bedrooms and a box room.

Sadly James Boyd, a successful industrialist and breeder of heavy horses, died within five years of his Argyll home being completed. Thereafter, his widow and their relatives made full use of Carskiey until Kate's death in 1928 when the estate was bequethed to various members of her family. It was eventually sold with all of the fixtures and fittings in 1948 to the Remmie family, who put it back on the market in 2010.

When Tom Helme, an award winning former design consultant with the National Trust, saw Carskiey for the first time, it was the beginning of a love affair. Having in 2006 sold the iconic paint company Farrow & Ball, which he and his business partner Martin Ephson had bought and relaunched in 1992, Tom had wanted time to himself and his four children before embarking on his next venture. When the Carskiey estate became available three years ago, Tom made his bid.

Not only that, but considering themselves far too young to retire, he and Martin Ephson have since moved on to launch yet another successful interiors utility company, Fermoisie (pronounced “Fermoy” after its namesake town in Ireland), which specialises in printed fabrics from a factory based at Marlborough in Wiltshire.

This company's hand-drawn and roller printed collection, with traditional echoes, is completely original, as is evidenced in the sumptuous chair and curtain fabrics seen throughout Carskiey House.

Today the Green Walk, now an elegant allyway of beech and hawthorn, connects the house directly to the sandy beach. Over the centuries, the surrounding landscape has changed little, a safe haven for flora, fauna and a remarkable biodiversity of wildlife.

And such is Tom's commitment to Carskiey that he has brought in the Devon-based landscape designer Kirsty Knight Bruce to restore and upgrade the beautiful gardens. Born on the island of Mull at the top of the Kintyre peninsula, Kirsty also grew up in close proximity to the Atlantic Gulf Stream and throughout the Spring, Summer and Autumn, the flower beds of Carskiey are ablaze with colour.

With its nine principal bedrooms the house sleeps sixteen with ease. Whether your interests are the more active ones of woodcock shooting, deer stalking, sea-fishing, golf, tennis, or the more leisurely activities of billiards, croquet, or simply reading in the upstairs library, nowhere is better placed for seekers of privacy and relaxation.

At the same time, Carskiey House provides an ideal backdrop for exclusive events such as small business conferences, wedding, or private house parties. The renovated Shore Cottage is also available to let and accommodates four guests in two large, ensuite bedrooms.

Info
Carskiey Estate Partnership
Carskiey, Southend, Kintyre PA28 6RU
Tel: +44 (0)1586 830 241
Web: www.carskiey.com
E-mail: info@carskiey.com