MY GIRLS are massive Enid Blyton fans, and Five Go to Smuggler’s Top is their all-time favourite read. The plot concerns the five getting tangled up in adventures involving smugglers and tunnels beneath a hilltop house
So we couldn’t resist the opportunity to poke around another sinister residence; Gunsgreen House in Eyemouth. Built in the 1750s by famed architect John Adam, the house was used by notorious local merchant John Nisbet. He operated a profitable illegal sideline, importing goods, such as tea, brandy and tobacco, avoiding paying expensive excise tax. In other words, smuggling.
Our tour began by informing us about John Nisbet’s modest beginnings. The girls had also been given two tiny bags of fake contraband – smuggle it to the top of the house without being caught and win a prize. We also discovered a secret passageway. In the next room we learn a bit about modern-day smuggling and in one corner there’s a wardrobe full of 18th-century-style clothes to try on. Hope and Eve both looked the part as a couple of ne’er do wells.
We crept up the staircase to the upper levels of the house with a recording giving us our secret instructions. A short film about the history of the house informed us about who lived here and the efforts made to restore it to the condition it’s in today.
We went up another floor to drop off our loot in our secret smuggling chute. We enjoyed a guided tour of the top floors, which you can hire as self-catering accommodation. Here we were shown the original metal-lined tea chute and a secret chamber hidden beneath the floorboards.
The views over the harbour and town are astounding and if that wasn’t enough there are John Bellany paintings hanging on the walls. He stayed in the house as a lad and officially reopened it after its restoration in 2010.
Once we had explored every nook and cranny, we scooted back downstairs to claim our prize, keeping a sharp lookout for the hand of an excise man on our collar. Luckily we got away with it, this time, and claimed our smuggling certificates.
Gunsgreen House is open until 31 October; Thursday-Monday 11am-5pm. Tickets cost £6 for adults, £3.50 for children and under-5s go free. www.gunsgreenhouse.org
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
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