It’s rare to find a property that inspires passion in an entire family but Hawkswood House at Peat Inn near St Andrews is one such case.
When Jo Anne Ainscough found the site in 2006, the family were living in Dollar but her husband John had gone back to Lancashire (from where the Ainscoughs originate) to finish off a job in the family construction company. The plot consisted of two buildings – Hawkswood House and The Roundel. Both were crying out for restoration having been used latterly as dog kennels and before that, cow sheds.
“We shook hands on the deal in February 2006 but it took nearly 12 months to complete due to planning restrictions that I was not prepared to live with,” John recalls. “We arrived on site in January 2007 and started with The Roundel. This building was particularly challenging due to the poor state of The Roundel room. It had been boarded up, but we put back what we took down roof-wise and beefed it up a bit on the ceiling with timber. We completed it at the end of 2008.”
Starting work on Hawkswood, the first thing John had to do was get rid of the existing tenant. “I had to evict Balaro the Belgian horse whose stable door is now the right arch window in the kitchen. You can still see the string and the steel ring to the right of the window attached to the wall where he ate his last hay before I evicted him. The left arch was his feed store.
“Hawkswood was a total wreck and I took down more walls than I would have liked to, which really depressed me. However, we laboriously put it back together and extended at either end of the property by some ten metres plus and completed it at the end of 2009.”
With two properties good to go, it should have all been plain sailing. However, in 2008 the housing market collapsed, which is when John and Jo Anne’s daughter Mary-Jo stepped in.
“My parents lived in The Roundel after it was built for about a year but I came up every weekend so I had my own room and I knew both properties well,” says Mary-Jo. “When the property market went quiet, we rented them privately and then dad went down south to work and he’s never made it back up.
“As a family, we’d always wanted to offer Hawkswood House as a holiday rental. When I was made redundant [Mary-Jo was a graphic designer], dad said we’re in a good place financially so let’s do it. I moved from Stirling to Fife and started the refurbishment in January 2014 and we opened in June 2014 and now my husband and I have just bought our first house up here.
“The Roundel was still privately rented until last July and when the tenants moved out we renovated that as well.”
It sounds a relatively simple process but a lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into these transformations from private homes to luxury self-catering properties. “I’m a perfectionist, and because I’ve lived here as well, these houses are very personal to me,” says Mary-Jo. “They’re part of my family’s story so I’ve found it hard letting go.”
But let go she has, and while the houses had of course been renovated previously, the family had no qualms about changing everything again to make them as appealing as possible to guests.
“In The Roundel we knocked through the original dining room to create a dressing room/sitting area for the downstairs master bedroom. And the actual Roundel room is now a dining and living area. However, there’s also a second living area up the stairs to give you the best of both worlds and to maximise the views.”
In Hawkswood, the former granny flat has been incorporated into the main house to create another master bedroom suite with dressing room and sitting area. “We thought this would work really well for wedding guests and we know it does because my sister got married in St Andrews last year. We all stayed and got ready here in the morning and it worked brilliantly. We also hired a chef to cook for us on the night before the wedding which was great fun.”
Mary-Jo admits that the furnishings and décor have already crept into other parts of her life: “We had interior designers to help source the furnishings as we needed absolutely everything and all at the same time. The sofas in The Roundel came all the way from Manchester but I saw them and fell in love with them and I have them in my own house as well now.
“I didn’t find the redecoration an enjoyable process and I wasn’t sure whether some of the colour schemes would come together but I’m glad I took expert advice as they really work. Ordering so much at once is incredibly daunting but when it comes together it’s a great feeling.”
Mary-Jo has ensured that no detail in either property has been overlooked and guests will want for nothing. From external coat hooks to hang up your robe beside the outdoor hydro spa, to funky, durable wine glasses and outdoor ware that won’t smash if you drop it at the BBQ, she has made it her personal mission to think of everything. “It has been hard to let them out because I don’t really want to let them go. I physically brought these houses up and it means a lot to me that they’re taken care of.”
• Hawkswood House and The Roundel are marketed by Susan Reid Collection, www.hawkswoodhouse.com