Who: Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox.
What: Gordon Castle was built in 1479 originally intended as a fortress, from which Clan Gordon became one of the most powerful families of the Scottish Reformation period. At the time the estate stretched from the Moray Firth to Ben Nevis. Then, in the 18th century Alexander, the 4th Duke of Gordon, transformed Gordon Castle into a grand baronial mansion.
Where: Set amongst ancient woodland on the banks of the River Spey in the Highlands.
The castle was built in the 1470s by the Second Earl of Huntly, the great, great grandson of Sir Adam Gordon, who had fought with Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Inverury in 1308. It underwent a huge transformation by the 4th Duke of Gordon making the castle more palatial, measuring 568 feet from one end to the other.
In the First World War, the castle was used as a hospital to treat injured soldiers, like the house in the Downton Abbey TV series. Unfortunately, the castle was sold in the 1930’s and fell into a state of disrepair as did many country houses at that time. Thankfully Angus’ grandfather bought it back after the Second World War and started to rebuild the castle to its former glory, smaller in size but equally as beautiful. When his grandparents died it was rented out which meant it required a lot of TLC when we took it on.
The castle hadn’t been decorated since the 1950s and we had to rewire the whole place and redo the plumbing too. There were not nearly enough bathrooms and with it being Grade A listed this was a huge hurdle but eventually we were granted permission to add bathrooms to eight of the bedrooms. We also had to redecorate every single room.
After our huge redecoration project the whole ground floor flooded due to excess rain. It had never been flooded in the almost 600 years it’s stood, so the whole downstairs had to be redone!
Although we live in the house, and the castle itself isn’t open to the public, we do offer it to be rented out exclusively. So it was therefore important, not only for us, to make it comfortable with a lovely atmosphere for folk to stay. It’s extremely light and bright, which is unknown for a Scottish castle.
With seven children between us it was important to have the space for our children to be able to bring friends to stay. We have chosen designs to suit the castle, I would describe the style as classic with a modern twist. There is the chintz and grand swags, but that’s in keeping with the castle.
Auction houses have been a great place to source furniture. We bought really high beds and used wallpaper with huge repeat patterns that work well for the room proportions. The ceilings are so high, in fact some curtains have a 3-4m drop, so we really have taken into account the proportions of rooms.
My favourite room is the octagonal hall upstairs as it’s perfect for entertaining and so light with the glass ceiling. My husband Angus agrees but also loves the ‘man den’ – the billiard room with a full size snooker table!
I also love the big fireplaces, my favourite is the one in the drawing room. The fireplaces are designed by Robert Adams, the 18th century Scottish architect, and are such a focal point of the room. My husband’s favourite piece in the house is the salmon sculpture that was designed and made by a local cabinet maker. It was most definitely our splurge, but it was a gift to ourselves as a reward for completing the house and it’s very much in keeping with the fishing we offer on the River Spey.
We bought some great pieces from the auction house at amazing prices, but our best budget buy is most definitely our IKEA cushions in the drawing room, they look great! We don’t have many design regrets whatsoever, the only thing we would change is that when we re-wired the house we didn’t put in enough switches in the places we now realise we would like them and I think some little corners could do with a lamp.
I couldn’t live without the fresh flowers from our walled garden which is the biggest walled garden in the UK. It’s actually open to the public – it’s just beautiful. We also make our own gin and I don’t think I could live without that either! My favourite season is autumn, watching the changing of the leaves is just spectacular.
Funnily enough we never did see ourselves living in such a castle. We had a business elsewhere so it was a hard choice to make, our children are down south so leaving family was hard. We are both country people, but very cosmopolitan – we are happy to pound the streets of cities as well as enjoy the sporting and weeding of our garden. We are adaptable and comfortable in all surroundings.
Photos by Eve Conroy, words by Robyn Lang-Shankland, twitter @rlsinteriors.