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Issue 84 - The Point by the Ferry

Scotland Magazine Issue 84
December 2015


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The Point by the Ferry

Charles Douglas visits Ardanaiseig, Kilchrenan, Argyll

From the Argyllshire village of Taynuilt on the A85, a ten mile winding single track road runs along to the western headland of Loch Awe and to a magical house in a sublimely beautiful landscape. To the north is Ben Cruachan; to the east, across Loch Awe, is Ben Lui.

With their earliest headquarters on the island of Innis Chonaill in Loch Awe, this is Clan Campbell country. Offshore is also the Holy Isle of Inishail where stands the Chapel of St Fyndoca, one of the Nine Maidens, daughters of St Donald in the 8th Century. This adjoins the ancient burial ground of past Dukes of Argyll, including the 11th who died in 1973, and the 12th who died in 2001.

As one might expect, therefore, New Inverawe, the name by which Ardanaiseig House was known when built, was originally a Campbell property. Inverawe House, the family home of the Campbells of Inverawe from the 16th Century, is at the mouth of the River Awe and, in 1834, Colonel Archibald Campbell, a younger son of Inverawe, commissioned the Scottish architect William Burn, renowned for his country houses, to build an elegant Scottish baronial mansion in this lovely setting.

New Inverawe was sold by his executors after his death in 1879 to John Ainsworth, an industrialist from Cumberland. Ainsworth was chairman of the Cleator and Workington Junction Railway, a director of the Whitehaven Joint Stock Bank and owner of Harecroft Hall at Gosforth. There was no shortage of money as his family's wealth had been amassed from owning cotton mills and from mining iron ore deposits on their land.

However, it had been written into the original title deeds that if ownership should ever pass from the Campbells, the name of the property must be changed. Ainsworth therefore chose Ardanaiseig, the Gaelic name for the location meaning ‘The Point by the Ferry.’

In 1903, he was elected Liberal member of parliament for Argyll and, following his retirement in 1917, was created a baronet. It was during his tenure of Ardanaiseig that the glorious rhododendrons and azaleas along the avenue and close to the house were planted. On his death in 1923, his son, Sir Thomas Ainsworth, inherited the estate and occupied Ardanaiseig until the end of World War II, when he and his family moved to live in Ireland.

In 1947, the property was sold to Major Duncan McCallum who had been elected Conservative and Unionist member of parliament for Argyll in 1940. At Ardanaiseig, he successfully bred Highland cattle and one of his more eccentric claims to fame was that his father was the music hall singer Charles Coburn who introduced the classic song,
The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo.

In his earlier career, Major McCallum had served in the Cameroons and on the Western Front, where he was awarded the Military Cross. Following this, he was Commandant of the British Legation Guard at Peking, and had taken part in a remarkable expedition with his wife from Peking to London in two Buick cars, a journey of 15,200 miles. During the late 1930s, he served on General Wavell's staff at GHQ Middle East, Cairo, before returning to Scotland to contest the by-election caused by the death of Unionist member of parliament Frederick Macquisten. McCallum received a knighthood in 1955 and died in 1958.

In 1963, Ardanaiseig was sold to the Brown family and, in 1980, converted into an award winning four star hotel, with its grounds open to the public. In 1996, it was bought by Bennie Gray, owner of Gray's Antiques Market.

Ardanaiseig is now a B-listed building but while the exterior remains largely unchanged, parts of the interior were specifically altered by the Ainsworths and, more recently upgraded when the house was transformed into a hotel. In addition to the 16 individually decorated bedrooms, each providing either a view of the loch or the gardens, there is a fine dining room and an elegant drawing room filled with fine antiques and bar with open fire, complimented by a snooker room in the basement.

The ultimate lovers’ retreat can be found in the converted boat shed designed by Adam Dudley, a chic one bedroom on a mezzanine hideaway on the edge of the loch, a wonderful retreat from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Ardanaiseig is the Scottish Hotel Awards Country House Hotel of the Year 2015.

Visitor Information

Ardanaiseig Hotel Kilchrenan, by Taynuilt, Argyll & Bute PA35 1HE
Tel:+44 (0) 1866 833 333