We depart this morning from our local pick-up points, arriving in Glasgow in the early afternoon. We will then depart on a guided tour of the city featuring exterior views of some of the most architecturally notable buildings, including the Glasgow School of Art, Scotland St Public School, the former Glasgow Herald building in Mitchell Street (designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh); St Vincent Street Church and the Egyptian Halls, Union Street (Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson); the Custom House (Glasgow’s only Georgian neo-classical building), the Grand Central Hotel (Robert Rowand Anderson) and the Royal Exchange, Queen St (David Hamilton).
We continue to our accommodation at the Gleddoch House Hotel, which was originally built for the shipping magnate Sir William Lithgow and designed by Alexander Nisbet Paterson. With fine views over the Firth of Clyde, the hotel has full leisure facilities including an indoor swimming pool, and an exclusive spa facility complete with an assortment of sauna, steam and massage treatments.
Dinner is served in the evening.
After breakfast this morning we travel the short distance to Gourock and take the ferry over to Dunoon. A scenic drive through the Argyll Forest Park takes us to Ardkinglas House at the head of Loch Fyne. Recognised as Sir Robert Lorimer’s masterpiece, Ardkinglas was built in 1907, though it has the appearance of a much older Scots baronial-style house, thanks to the use of traditional materials which were skilfully and creatively mastered by expert craftsmen but with a wealth of new technology incorporated into the design. The house remains practically unaltered and is a very popular location for TV dramas and film production. Following our private tour of the house we will have some free time to enjoy the fine woodland garden, full of mature specimen trees. Highlights include five of Britain’s tallest or largest conifers, an extensive sorbus glade and (in May) some stunning Rhododendron ‘Loderi’.
In the afternoon we drive over the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ and along the shores of Loch Long and the Gare Loch to Hill House, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s finest domestic creation which sits high above the Firth of Clyde commanding fine views of the estuary. Commissioned in 1902 by the Glasgow publisher Walter Blackie, the house still makes a striking statement today. Blackie wanted an individual feel to his home and he asked Mackintosh to design not only the house and gardens, but much of the furniture and interiors too. Mackintosh’s wife, Margaret Macdonald, contributed fabric designs and a unique panel over the fireplace in the drawing room. The result is a daring design with an air of restrained elegance, which still appeals to modern-day tastes.
Our circular tour is completed as we drive over the Erskine Bridge and return to our hotel.
Dinner is served in the evening.
Following breakfast we travel down the Ayrshire coast to Culzean Castle and Country Park, an extensive and significant historic designed landscape of around 285 hectares. The castle was converted from the original L-plan castle by the architect Robert Adam between 1777 and 1792. It incorporates a large drum tower with a circular saloon inside, which overlooks the sea, a grand oval staircase and a suite of well-appointed apartments. When the Kennedy family gave the castle and its grounds to the National Trust for Scotland in 1945 it was stipulated that the apartment at the top of the castle be given to General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower in recognition of his role as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during the Second World War. The General stayed there four times, including once while President of the United States. Following our tour of the house there will be an opportunity to explore the walled gardens.
In the afternoon we continue with a visit to Dumfries House, which was designed and built between 1754 and 1759 by John and Robert Adam, who had taken over the architecture business of their father William Adam on his death in 1748, and as such was their first major commission. The house is a finely proportioned Palladian design, with a three-storey central block connected to smaller pavilions by linking wings. Its stunning interiors are home to a world-class collection of furniture by Thomas Chippendale and many late 18th Century cabinet makers, as featured on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.
We return to our hotel, where dinner is served in the evening.
After breakfast we check out of the hotel and return to Glasgow, where we visit Holmwood House, the finest and most elaborate residential villa designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. It is also rare in retaining much of its original interior decor. Holmwood is considered to be immensely influential by several architectural historians, because the design was published in Villa and Cottage Architecture: select examples of country and suburban residence recently erected in 1868 may have influenced Frank Lloyd Wright and other proto-modernist architects. Holmwood was constructed for James Couper, a paper manufacturer in 1857-1858. Couper owned the Millholm paper mill in the valley of the White Water of Cart immediately below the villa. The polychromatic decoration was designed by Thomson and executed by Campbell Tait Bowie. The most notable survival is in the dining room which has a frieze of panels enlarged from John Flaxman's illustrations of Homer's Iliad. The sculpture on the hall chimneypiece was by George Mossman.
We conclude with a visit to Pollok House, home of the Maxwell family since the mid-13th century. Pollok House was completed in 1752, based on plans said to have been drawn up by William Adam in 1737, though the style of what started to emerge when the funds were available a decade later suggests the house is unlikely to have been built entirely to his plans. Sir John Stirling Maxwell, a founder member of the National Trust for Scotland, commissioned celebrated Edinburgh architect Robert Rowand Anderson to design and build extra wings in 1890. The current house is an impressive mansion filled with wonderful collections of Spanish art, antiques, furniture, silverware and ceramics. The beautiful gardens contain a collection of over 1000 species of rhododendrons.
Following our visit we will return to our original departure points.