Dunira Estate seeks new owner to revive ‘lost’ garden

Dunira Estate

Dunira Estate

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A HISTORIC Scottish estate is seeking a new owner at a knocked down price but only on the condition that they restor its once magnificent garden.

Dunira Estate in Perthshire was once dubbed the ‘finest garden in Scotland’, but has been lost to the wilderness for over 60 years.

Henry Dundas

Henry Dundas

The selling agents said it needs a new owner to restore it to its former glory and will only be sold to a buyer who promises to restore the grounds.

The property was bought in 1784 by Henry Dundas, the 1st Viscount Melville, as a refuge from his life as a controversial Edinburgh politician.

In the 150 years that followed, the estate was endowed with incredible architectural constructions, huge water features and stunning showpiece lawns.

By the early 20th century the gardens were described by Thomas Mawson - the most respected gardener of the age - as “one of the most beautiful estates it has ever been my pleasure to study”.

But after a fire destroyed the estate mansion in 1947 the garden fell into disrepair - and was given up to the the wild countryside which surrounds it.

Now the ”lost garden” estate is on the market for £750,000 - and the seller is searching for an avid and ambitious gardener with the vision to restore it to its former glory.

The estate is being sold with planning permission to build a new mansion in the grounds - on the condition that the impressive gardens are also restored.

Its current owner - David Hustwayte - has said he originally took on the site as a project eight years ago, but it has since proved too ambitious for him.

He said: “The buyer would need to be somebody who is enthusiastic about gardens and [has] a brave heart.

“It could be wonderfully restored - the basics are all still here”.

The overgrown ruins of the garden date back to 1784 when it was bought by Henry Dundas - a controversial figure in the political scene of 18th century Scotland.

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He was variously described as the “uncrowned king of Scotland” and “the absolute dictator of Scotland” as a result of the power he wielded as the first ever Secretary for State for War.

He immediately set about transforming the lands - between Comrie and St Fillans - into incredible scenic gardens, complete with woodland walks and bridges over serene burns.

As far back as 1799 the travel writer Sarah Murray described it as: “The most singular spot, I believe, in the world; singular to a degree, by nature, and made beautiful by a little assistance from art.”

The estate then passed through the hands of a number of other noble owners - including Dundas’ own son - who rendered the gardens even more stunning.

In 1827 a walled garden was added, before formal terraces were built in 1852 and a “pinetum” - an impressive array of pines - were planted in the 1870s.

In 1920 the estate was given over to Thomas Mawson - then called the “Capability Brown of Empire” - to design as he saw fit, with no expense spared.

He added balustrades, flagged paths to the upper terrace and flowing staircases which led to the rose garden, the central feature of which is a canal which is fed from a wall fountain.

The huge undertaking strengthened the claim of the garden as the most impressive in Scotland.

The gardens survived in their state of splendor for some 27 years - and eventually the estate was used as a convalescent home in WWII.

But disaster struck in 1947 when - as some WWII veterans were still recovering at the estate house - it was destroyed in a fire.

With no house on site the gardens became overgrown and fell into disrepair - and it gradually became forgotten until it was highlighted in a Channel 4 series on Britain’s “lost gardens”.

But now the property is available once more - on the condition that it is bought by someone with the intent to restore it.

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Mr Hustwayte admitted that the buyer would be in for a huge undertaking, but said: “It is very important that whoever buys the plot and builds the house has a key interest in restoring its gardens.

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