National Trust for Scotland has announced its first major spend of 2020 with more than £700,000 to be invested at House of Dun, near Montrose, a beautiful William Adam mansion set in more than 800 acres of parkland.
The vision is to tell the story of Angus and its people, from the humble and hardy who worked the land to the elite who lived in the exquisite country house overlooking Montrose Basin Nature Reserve.
The trust hopes to tie in the House of Dun more closely with the foreshore of the dramatic tidal estuary where 80,000 pink-footed geese spend the winter, and to make more of the estate grounds surrounding the Grade A listed building.
The NTS investment will also allow the creation of a permanent exhibition to mark the 700th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath with hopes to reposition Angus firmly back on the tourist map.
Simon Skinner, chief executive of National Trust for Scotland, said: “This is a transformational investment that will offer a rich experience for people of all ages.
“The combination, of house, landscape and artefacts allows us to show how Angus, its people and the land shaped modern Scotland, providing fascinating snapshots of life as it was for our forebears.
“Our aim is to not just to make history relevant but to have it come to life for visitors, from the archaeological evidence of pre-history right through to recent times. It combines both a natural setting and a human landscape that will be inspirational.”
The investment will bring back into view the 4,500-piece collection of the old Angus Folk Museum in Glamis, which was closed down in 2014 as damp took hold of the building.
The collection was built by Lady Maitland of Burnside, who worked to safeguard the material culture of a disappearing way of life. She developed close contacts with the farming communities around Forfar and acquired farming tools and furniture.
Through her fieldwork, many people saved, donated and sold pieces to the museum on a large scale.
These pieces will now be brought into the largely disused courtyard and stables at House of Dun, which was designed by William Adam and completed in 1743 for David Erskine, the 13th Laird of Dun, an Edinburgh lawyer appointed Lord of Justiciary in 1710. It stayed in his family for 250 years, with the interior including coded designs that mask the family’s secret Jacobite sympathies.
Latterly, it was home to Scots writer and poet Violet Jacob.
Iain Hawkins, General Manager North East at NTS, said the exhibition celebrating the 700th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath would help elevate Angus as a visitor attraction, with the House of Dun to be well placed on the tourist map.
He said: “The 700th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath is humongous for Angus, and we are just 14 miles away from where it was signed. It is important that we help tell that story.
He said that the opening of the V&A Museum in Dundee was also helping to draw visitors deeper into the Angus area and added: “We are really hoping to put the House of Dun, and Angus, back on the map.”
Angus, with its long sandy beaches at Montrose, Carnoustie and Monifieth, was a popular tourist destination until the mid-1980s but latest figures show it is one of the least visited areas in Scotland by both domestic and international tourists.
Of 15.3 million overnight visits to Scotland in 2018, only around 330,000 were made to Angus – a mere 2.2 per cent of the total.