A great deal has changed at the Old Schoolhouse at Causewayend, Kirknewton, since it began life as a coaching inn in 1823.
When Professor Brian Edwards bought the house in 1972 it was laid out as a country school and work was required to convert it into a residential property.
“It was a little neglected as many rural properties around Edinburgh were at that time,” says Brian, who was initially attracted to the Old Schoolhouse because of its architectural connections.
“All the stonework was immaculate but the roof needed some TLC.
“I decided to go beyond TLC and make quite a drastic conversion of the building.”
It was built to a design by James Gillespie Graham who helped shape Edinburgh’s grand New Town streets and Brian, now Emeritus professor of architecture at Edinburgh College of Art, saw the house as an opportunity to create his own early example of green architecture.
“It took around eight years and what I tried to do was eco retrofit the house,” he says.
“I took advantage of passive solar gain and used the fabric of the building to heat the space.
“I used the sun to do that, put photovoltaic panels on the roof and added what was one of the first passive solar conservatories built in Scotland.”
The house has served various purposes, first as Cairns Castle Inn where the horses pulling the stagecoach from Edinburgh to Lanark would change over, then as a rural school and, for the last 44 years, as a much-loved home.
Brian was keen to continue the tradition of recycling and reused stone from the outside toilet block which served the school to build a folly in the garden.
He says: “It was an exercise in making do and recycling which is the fashion now but in the 1970s when the bulk of the work was done it was quite avant garde.”
In the house, many of the original features such as stone arches and shutters remain and are complemented by the wonderful natural light that comes from the conservatory which Brian and his wife used as an artists’ studio during the winter months.
“My wife and I would come up and we would draw,” he says. “I’m quite a keen walker so I would come up and walk in the Pentland Hills.”
With four bedrooms and a garden with a walled terrace, the Old Schoolhouse was the perfect place to raise Brian’s now grown-up children. “Other children from nearby houses and farm children would run round the fields and we had rope swings in the garden,” he says. “It’s a pretty idyllic place to have children.”
The Old Schoolhouse offers an opportunity to live “the good life” but is still within commuting distance of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
In the middle of the garden is a suntrap terrace with stunning views over Harperrig reservoir.
The vegetable garden and fruit trees which grow apples, plums and soft fruits lend themselves to a self-sufficient lifestyle and there’s space to keep chickens.
At the west end of the garden, Brian has planted trees to add to the existing woodland area, creating a tranquil nature area shaded by birch and ash.
His design for the garden was inspired by George Boyd Anderson’s Suntrap garden on the back road from Ratho to Gogarbank on the western side of Edinburgh.
On the ground floor of the house, there is a bright and welcoming hall and triple-aspect public room. Once used as a classroom it now serves as an open-plan kitchen, dining and sitting room which Brian refers to as “the school room”.
Also downstairs are two dual-aspect double bedrooms, a bathroom, store room and the large conservatory which leads on to the south-facing terrace. Upstairs are two further double bedrooms, a family bathroom and attic room.
It is the superb views which make the Old Schoolhouse a true countryside gem.
The rural location means it’s no longer practical for Brian, but he has enjoyed his time there. “It’s going to be very hard to leave it,” he says.
“From the south side of the house you look out over the water.
“It’s really nice to have the water in view and you can wake up and admire it.
“At night time there are no streetlights so you have wonderful moonscapes, stars and shooting stars in the winter.”
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