At the door of 18th century Lundie Castle House near Dundee sit two stone gargoyles, one grinning, the other grimacing.
These effigies and the name of the house give some clues to its history; it was built on the site of a much older castle with much of the stone being reused.
An illustration on a late 16th century map shows the house’s predecessor; a five-storey edifice with three dutch bays at the top.
The likelihood is that the two gargoyles and another found under the ivy round the corner, would have graced each of the bays on the top floor of the castle.
Lundie Castle House’s current owner, Julia Drinkhall, says that the joke now is whether the gargoyles at the door are grinning at guests’ arrivals and grimacing when they leave, or the other way round.
“Whoever put them at the front door certainly had a sense of humour,” she says.
Perhaps it was Admiral Lord Duncan, a previous owner who is credited with lifting the threat of Napoleonic invasion when he defeated the Dutch fleet at Camperdown in 1797.
He was made Baron Duncan of Lundie, after his family home, and he is buried in the churchyard at Lundie.
Julia and her husband Brian bought Lundie Castle House 16 years ago, falling in love with both the house and the location.
Julia says: “It feels like you are in the glorious heart of the country, but actually it is only a few miles to the centre of Dundee.
“I can be sitting in a cinema seat with my popcorn within minutes of leaving the house or you can pop out to the shops if I’ve forgetten to get horseradish for a dinner party and be back in five minutes.”
The house is set beautifully within its own grounds in an elevated position with views to the Sidlaw Hills.
It was also a perfect size for the Drinkhalls.
Julia says: “Most of the houses we looked at were either far too big for just the two of us, or too small for when children and family were visiting.
“But this feels like a pretty house rather than a grand one and is just the right size.”
“We don’t rattle around in it when we are on our own, but there is plenty of room for a house party.”
The couple have spent a great deal of effort and money on the house in their time there.
Julia says: “It needed work. The first task was to redig all the drains as they were in a dreadful state but once we had tackled the big things, the rest of our time here has been a gradual, conscientious renewing, repairing and restoring.”
Julia, who runs Julia Drinkhall Antiques, in Rait, says that houses of this age almost tell you what needs doing.
“The more you live in it, the more you can see which changes would make sense, so putting in French doors in the kitchen and creating a terrace outside was the logical thing to do to make the most of the morning sunshine.
“It is such a suntrap that I have my coffee out there throughout the winter.”
The kitchen has been replaced twice since they took over here.
Julia says: “It was done once because it was needed, and we put in what we could afford at the time, and then again when we wanted to upgrade.”
The granite worktops in particular are useful for her pastry making.
The master bedroom suite is on the second floor, with coombed ceilings and a large bay window. Next door is the bathroom with its own bay window with the bathtub set in it for making the most of the best views in the house.
The gardens outside have been relandscaped with a second driveway created and the couple asked a blacksmith to make iron arches, gates and railings to divide the outdoor space into separate areas.
Julia says: “It is lovely to have secret bits within it and we have a very productive kitchen garden with raised beds where we grow all sorts of exotic veg.”
The latest project has been to improve the house’s energy efficiency, installing solar PV panels, a solar power diverter, a power converter and secondary glazing.
After 16 years of upgrading, it is time to move on, but there is no ambiguity about whether they’ll be grinning or grimacing when they leave according to Julia. “We will be very, very sad to go.”
Lundie Castle House is priced at offers over
£600,000, contact Strutt & Parker on
0131 226 2500.