The Crinan Canal runs from Loch Fyne at Ardrishaig to Crinan on the Sound of Jura linking the Firth of Clyde to the Western Isles.
Every year around 2,000 boats pass through the nine miles of canal and 15 locks designed and built in 1801 by Thomas Telford; the engineering marvel is described these days as Britain’s most beautiful shortcut.
There is a path which runs the length of the canal too which attracts walkers and cyclists and some lovely historic properties to see along the way.
Ardmaleish House is one of the prettiest. It dates from the early 19th century and may have been built, as most Scottish lock keeper’s cottages were, to a standard design by Telford.
The house is at Cairnbaan and the four locks here denote the summit of the canal at 68 feet above sea level.
Ardmaleish overlooks lock 13 and is close to both the Cairnbaan Hotel and the Crinan Hotel at the end of the canal.
Lucy Malcolm bought the house nine years ago, more or less on a whim. Her parents had moved to Kintyre from Lancashire and on a visit to them she was considering a relocation, but more inclined to think of Brighton, or even France.
Ardmaleish house changed all that. She says: “I worked from home as a textile designer and so really had a lot of freedom in where I could live and I just fell in love with the house and its location.”
Ardmaleish had been a holiday home and was in good order but Lucy could see that improvements could be made. “It was a little dark inside and there was a lean-to which I suspect might originally have been used to house a cow but was now a toolshed.” By extending, upgrading and insulating this room, which has a separate entrance to the house but is connected to it, she has created a workshop studio.
The main room in the house is the kitchen which now has French doors to the garden. Lucy says: “The doors have made a real difference to the light in here and it is now a very sunny room, particularly in the morning.” An old range which was coal fired and was responsible for heating the property, along with some rather outdated storage heaters were replaced by a new central heating system and a wood burning stove in the sitting room. New floors and fittings were put in before Lucy could finally move in. She spent the time, she says, concentrating on the garden. “My father is a landscape gardener, so he was a great help. We created the gravelled part just outside the kitchen which is a lovely sunny spot.” The cottage garden, which now has an enclosed lawn, stone slabs, borders and shrubs goes all the way round the house, and is approached from a private driveway at the back. There is a pretty little log store at the side. The cycle path is on the other side of the canal giving the house privacy even in the summer months.
The house inside is very pretty, but practical too. The wooden porch leads to the dining area of the kitchen with windows back and front, a window seat and those French doors. The sitting room is also dual aspect; here the wood burning stove is set on a slate hearth and an arched alcove. Behind the kitchen there is a small internal hall leading to a loo and a utility room.
Upstairs are two double bedrooms, both south facing and a new bathroom.
Since creating her “forever home” Lucy’s circumstances have changed. “Quite early on I met my husband Andy at Crinan, just up the path - actually I met his black labrador Fergus first.” Andy Malcolm’s family own Duntrune Castle, four miles away and the couple now live on the estate and run the holiday cottages there. They have also started a family so Ardmaleish should now, Lucy feels, be passed on to someone else. “Living here has been wonderful. Not only is it a beautiful spot but there the sound of the canal is a constant too, the water and the gentle creaking of the lock gate as it opens. There is an abundance of wildlife and even in winter you get the odd walker passing by.”
Ardmaleish would make a great holiday home, particularly for those interested in sailing, but it would also continue to be a wonderful full time house for someone who prefers to work from home - especially in a creative job, like Lucy, who found so much inspiration here.
It could also make a good base for a tourism business - taking advantage of passing traffic, whether that is sailors, walkers or cyclists, but apparently this was ever so. Lucy says: “Doing a bit of research on the internet I have found pictures of the house from all over the world.
“One I found came from Hungary, and showed a puffer boat passing through the canal in the early 1900s with the owners of the house in front selling sandwiches from a table to passers-by.”