Kinross House – The most beautiful and regular piece of Architecture in Scotland

This was Daniel Defoe’s description of Kinross House, the home built by the remarkable politician “on the make” Sir William Bruce. So grand was his plans that there were even thoughts it was intended as a royal residence. The architect never saw the building fully completed as he soon fell from the favour of the new Scottish king. The parts of the interior and grounds that were completed to the original designs were grand enough to attract regular admirers of this fine Scottish estate.

Kinross House - The Garden
Kinross House – The Garden. Photo by marydoll1952

Sir William Bruce had designs on building a major role for himself in the brave new world of late seventeenth-century Scottish court life. He started his role in royal circles by remodelling Holyrood House and this leads him to acquire some positions of power in the new Scottish political world. He had helped Charles II to reach the English throne in 1660 which gave him his baronetcy but proved trouble for him in the future. Newfound wealth prompted Bruce to buy large Kinross Estate and start to create a lasting piece of Scottish architecture.

The building was never going to be cheap – extensive drainage works were required to even commence building the house. No one really knows why Bruce fell from favour but his closeness to Charles’ administration would not have proved popular when James II came to power in 1685. There are also questions as to whether his wealth came from sources not entirely legitimate even at a time when abuse of government power was the norm. Initially, however, James appointed Bruce as Privy Councillor so he probably thought the money would keep flowing and he would be safe to commence the build of Kinross House in 1685.

His success only lasted a year before his fall from grace became complete with the removal of his lucrative government posts. The cost of £10,000 to build the house did not seem to dissuade Bruce with the politician desperately trying to regain favour. Was he hoping that his house would tempt the King to look favourably upon him by creating something beautiful and regal? It is of little doubt that Kinross House was fit for a king.

Kinross House - The south gate
Kinross House – The south gate. Photo by B4bees

Bruce had spent all his wealth was by the time of his death in 1710 not least shown by the pitiful letters from his wife concerned that she could not go to Edinburgh as she had nothing to wear. He had managed to complete the ground floor rooms but the estate barely managed to struggle on without the finance to support it for another sixty years when, in 1777, it was sold to the Scottish merchant George Graham. At least this meant there was not the money to mess with the architect’s original plans for the building as was the fad in the eighteenth century. George Graham family further conserved the original design when an ancestor married into the Montgomery family and they held their family seat elsewhere during the Victorian era of rash home improvement.

It was Basil Montgomery, some two hundred years later, who finished the house in the style it deserved. He even bought Bruce’s own portrait and recrafted the gardens. The Montgomery family held the house until 2010 when at last the financial needs of the house were too much of drain on the family and it was again sold.

About the author: Melissa Turner is a 40-year-old female from Edinburgh who is always out to explore something others have been known to fear – the world outside their own comfort zones. Her father, grandfather and great grandfather were all big travellers and as are her siblings. Travel is the best education. She has acquired an amazing amount of travel experience. She not only travels but also talks about it. She has been writing about Scotland holiday homes for long.


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