Graham Coe the SCA Events organiser had previously split the members and friends on the tour into two parties. One group were to visit Liberton house while the other group were to visit Liberton Tower, situated a few hundred yards along Edinburgh's Liberton Drive.
Arriving at LIBERTON HOUSE the tour group enjoyed the early morning sunshine as we walked up the drive, past the large Docot, and on to the house. We were met there by the owners who have rescued this impressive house, from years of decay. Our visit started with a tour of the extensive gardens, which are also being restored. This external view of the building allowed us to see the various stages of development, modification and subsequent restoration. The house began as a simple rectangular building and, although much altered and extended, its original form is clearly evident. The entrance area is within a three sided courtyard, created by a number of old outbuildings. From these outbuildings our hosts run a well known and successful architect's practice. The entrance is well defended by shot holes, and is situated beside a round stairtower, which is corbelled out to form a square caphouse at roof level.
The ancient main door is furnished with equally ancient locks and furniture, This leads directly to a large unvaulted ground floor hall, which has some of its original high level windows remaining. On the main wall opposite the entrance doorway the windows have been enlarged, allowing the room to be flooded with light. The other two floors of the main building are fully restored and incorporate several styles of dormer window.
Liberton Tower - and as it was before restoration
LIBERTON TOWER sits on a high ridge high above Edinburgh city, allowing spectacular views over the castle rock, Salisbury Crags, to the Firth of Forth. The approach to the tower is through a small community of private buildings. Liberton tower is now fully restored and is used as rentable holiday accommodation. Externally the tower is relatively small, square and severely plain, with the wall-walk parapet rising flush with the walls. The walls are harled and limewashed in a bright fresh cream colour. The main entrance is at first floor level and is approached externally by means of a massive wooden stair. This entrance leads directly to the main hall on the first floor where a large open fireplace heats the room. A stair leads downwards to the vaulted basement, which has had an extra floor added to provide kitchen and utility facilities above the original basement floor. An additional doorway has been cut through the external wall at this ground floor level. The stair also leads upwards to bedroom accommodation and from that floor a fixed step-ladder allows access to the wall-walk from where there are even more spectacular views over Edinburgh.
PEFFERMILL HOUSE had for a long period fallen from grace, and had become surrounded by industrial and residential developments that had made this once prominent house less than desirable. The place was bought, renovated and completely rescued by our previous hosts at Liberton House. Their successful restoration and the improved status of Peffermill eventually allowed its sale to the current owners.
The "new" owners met the group and welcomed us all upstairs to the original Hall. Our hosts provided us with teas, coffees, and biscuits, and although inundated by visitors, coped admirably.
We were given a potted history of the house, and then invited to explore at will. The house has developed from a simple plan, through a series of developments resulting in today's extended "L" shape. The entrance to the ground and upper floors is via a round stair tower which is capped with a conical roof. The ground floor of the wing that is the shorter leg of the "L" shape has originally been vaulted. This vaulted area retains a much altered kitchen and walk-in fireplace area. A slop drain is also to be seen on the outside wall of this section. The remainder of the house shows dormer windows of differing styles and dates, the external walls have sundial and string-course adornments. The place of Peffermill is now an oasis of calm and serenity in the midst of urban Edinburgh.
Following lunch the tour group found its various and convoluted ways to the now sad site of a rather more recent structure, the square, turreted and recently grand MELVILLE CASTLE. The building now completely gutted had until recent years been an hotel with restaurant, and had been known to some of the tour group. We were met by the new owner who has embarked on the huge task of rescuing the shell, reconstructing the floors and staircases, installing lift shafts all with the vision of reopening Melville as a hotel once again. We found no trace of the ancient defensive structure but were completely overwhelmed by the enormity of the project being undertaken here.
Fa'side Castle aka Fallside Castle
Fa' Side Castle
In contrast we were delighted at the sight of the now completely restored FA'SIDE CASTLE. This magnificent fortified house was in recent years a deserted and vandalised ruin, in danger of demolition by the local authority. On arrival we walked around the outside of the building and were able to see the original tower with flush parapet and cap-house. The building then transitions into a tall later structure which has conically roofed bartizans on the corners opposite the old tower. We were taken by the owner / restorer, up into the first floor great hall of the original massive tower. Here the family explained the history of the tower and the later structure and their restoration. Following the introduction we were invited to take the several possible routes through the building and to visit any part that was open. We much appreciated the work that has been done and the opportunity to see the results of such a project. The work is now complete and provides a magnificent home for the whole family, and once more stands as a prominent sentinel for all who pass here.
CARBERRY TOWER stands in magnificent planned gardens and parkland just a short distance from Fa'side. It shows all the signs of continuous occupation, and development. Multiple extensions and additions surround the strong old tower on two sides and almost submerge it. The added front porch, ecclesiastical arched window at ground floor and the turreted cap house attempt to alter the original plain building. The internal alterations have also attempted to disguise the historical use of this place.
What remains on view on the outside is an excellent example of a strong old defensive towerhouse, and a testament to the areas heritage.
Today the estate is owned by the Church and is used as an out of town refuge and meeting place and as a counter to the troubles and problems encountered by the whole community. We were conducted through the old and new buildings which contain impressive libraries and artworks, and discovered that, the weekend's residents were experiencing a "Singles Weekend", although we suspected that this was not likely to be the generally accepted use of the word "Singles".
ARNISTON HOUSE was a short drive from Carberry and is most certainly the grandest place we have ever visited on a castles tour. The house is built on the site of a fortified house or tower from around 1600. We were met by the Lady owner who welcomed us to the hereditary home of her family. When we had assembled our group in the grand entrance hall, our hostess began to describe the history of the family. She told how the family had gone to Holland to escape the political unrest in Scotland during the 1670 – 1680 period. We heard how when they returned from exile in 1698 they decided to emulate the advances in domestic accommodation that they had seen abroad. The old fortified house was finally replaced around 1725 to make way for a new house. This was designed in the Grand style by William Adam, although work on the new house stopped in 1730 due to lack of finances. Work eventually recommenced and was completed, after the death of William, in the 1750's with modifications created by his eldest son John, brother of the more famous Robert Adam.
Much reconstruction, repair and restoration has been necessary at Arniston due to outbreaks of dry rot and weather damage. Our hostess guided us around the house and were able to see the fabulous new rooms and the remaining older upper rooms. Most of these old and new rooms retain their original works of art, paintings, books, furnishings and other mementoes.
This is a major project and is to be commended. The whole programme and its financing have been single-mindedly managed to this stunning status, and is a useful reminder to us all, as to what can be done.
Our final destination was DALHOUSIE CASTLE, which was to be the venue next day, for a Scottish Castles Association conference and workshop, on a range of topics.
Many of those on the tour were staying overnight at Dalhousie, and an evening meal had been prepared. On arrival at Dalhousie a guided tour had been organised and was much enjoyed by all.
THANKS TO OUR HOSTS