Couple determined to restore 120-year-old derelict mansion they bought by mistake, no matter how long it takes

When Cal Hunter and Claire Segeren met while skiing in the French Alps, little did they think their blossoming relationship would lead to them restoring a derelict Victorian villa on the west coast of Scotland.

Jameswood Villa had been left derelict. Pic:
Jameswood Villa had been left derelict. Pic:

Or that they would only come to own the property by complete accident!

After a couple of years backpacking across Europe and North America, Cal, 28, from Hull, and 26-year-old Canadian Claire wanted a new project after she declined her offer to medical school, and decided to look for a property to ‘flip’ in Glasgow.

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After identifying a likely candidate, Cal went to the auction to try and purchase the flat, however, unbeknown to him, the previous property for sale was actually in three lots and unaware, he accidentally bought the wrong house.

Cal and Claire outside the Victorian villa they bought by accident. Pic:

What he had purchased was an apartment in Jameswood Villa, a stone building built in 1900, located in the small loch-side village of Sandbank, Dunoon, about an hour and a half west of Glasgow, and adjacent to the Trossachs National Park.

And which had lain derelict and empty for over 20 years.

The couple decided to make the best of the situation but they were not prepared for what met them when they first visited the house.

Writing in her blog ‘What Have We Dunoon?’, which she created to chart the progress of the restoration project, Claire described the ‘colossal task’ that faced them.

Cal Hunter has his first look inside the house. Pic:

"The roof had gaping holes that left the timbers exposed and rotten after years of rain, one of the walls was on the verge of collapse, and drainage issues left the land waterlogged, leading to serious structural problems caused by subsidence,” she said. “In fact, it was so bad that all the experts and local people advised us to knock it down and start over.”

Fortunately, Cal is a skilled carpenter with experience restoring period properties, and the couple determined that with positive attitudes, and a lot of time and hard work, they could rescue the house from its pitiful state, once they had managed to acquire the other two parts of it, which in due course they did.

The couple moved into a little caravan in the property's garden and started work on it, carrying out repairs a bit at a time and when they could afford it. They also received a lot of help from friends and the local community, many of whom were more than happy to see something finally being done about the well-known eyesore.

It is now well over two years since Cal and Claire first started work on Jameswood Villa and while they have still to move in, the progress that has been made since they first set eyes on the property is remarkable, it has been reframed, a new roof added and is now structurally sound.

The couple faced a huge task to restore the house. Pic:

The project has attracted a substantial following from around the world on social media, with regular reports showing the progress, and the setbacks, of the restoration, and while there is no estimated date for completion, Claire said the prospect of them finally moving into their new home was much more of a reality now.

Get the full story on the restoration of Jameswood Villa at

The new roof is completed. Pic: