Prestige property: Fife tower of strength holds a secret

Pirwindy Keep is an impressive country house looking every inch the centuries-old Scottish fortified tower, but its thick walls hold a secret.

Pirwindy Keep, by Largo, Fife. Image: DTXimages

Surprisingly, the dwelling is a new-build, dating back a mere 25 years. It was constructed using traditional methods by its builder-owner, James Clark in 1998. Spectacular as it is, however, a tower in this style wasn't his original idea.

He says: “We were very lucky to find the beautiful plot. There was an old ruined smithy on the land so we could demonstrate that there had been a building here before.

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“But our house plans were very contemporary, and we ran up against the council, who had rather more conservative ideas.

Pirwindy Keep, by Largo, Fife. Image: DTXimages

“To create the large house that we wanted – that made best use of the site – we realised that the only option was to go to traditional and go up, by building a tower.”

Architect Ian Grant was brought on board, and making the new application, the pair made a persuasive argument. James recalls: “We cited older towers, Lundin Tower [constructed in the 19th Century and B-listed] is only four miles away and there is a ruin of another tower just along the road.”

Fortunately, the planning department conceded their point and the result is a home with a contemporary interior and an age-old aesthetic on the outside. Every part of the build is new, including the adjoining pantiled building.

The tower has three storeys. On the ground floor is a large dining-kitchen, the first floor has a drawing room and the top floor is the master bedroom with two dressing rooms, a freestanding bath, a seating area and an internal balcony which affords great views over the Firth of Forth to Arthur's Seat.

Pirwindy Keep, by Largo, Fife. Image: DTXimages

The two-storey part of the house contains a sitting room and a family room, divided by bi-fold doors so they can be combined into one huge entertaining space. The family room is fitted with a home cinema.

Pirwindy has cutting-edge technology, engineer floors, double-glazing and enhanced insulation in the ceilings, floors and walls, but its fabric is rooted in traditional methods and materials.

James explains: “The stone came from Freuchie – from the old railways station. The stonemasons were specialists, a lot were towards the end of their career, so master craftsmen.

“Even the driveways are old cobbled stones reused from a slaughterhouse in Edinburgh, so there is nothing here that would make you suspect that it is new.

Pirwindy Keep, by Largo, Fife. Image: DTXimages

“I have built a lot of beautiful buildings but, as a house, this is quite an achievement.”

It is indeed. James' colleagues often ask to see the Keep – he has hosted groups of architects keen to look round a traditionally-built modern stately home and study the methods used.

But one of his favourite critiques came from a visitor who came a calling just after Pirwindy was completed.

She was elderly and had been living in Canada, but had roots in the immediate area. James remembers: “She chapped the door and seemed quite distressed. She said: 'I think I must be losing my mind, I thought I was brought up in a cottage along the road but it can' be because this tower wasn't here.'

Pirwindy Keep, by Largo, Fife. Image: DTXimages

“When I explained that it was new she was very relieved.”

James has four children who all grew up in the Keep, and he says: “Living here has made us feel special, it is just one of those places. It isn't just the house by any means but the setting.

“You can hear the water wherever you are, the deer come to the garden every day along with foxes and badgers and the birdsong is unreal.”

The children have grown up and now James, along with his partner Leah Livingstone, is ready to move.

He says he's looking for another project – but perhaps one on a smaller scale.

Pirwindy Keep, by Largo, Fife, is priced at offers over £1.95 million.

Pirwindy Keep, by Largo, Fife. Image: DTXimages

For more information, contact Savills on 0131-247 3738

Pirwindy Keep, by Largo, Fife. Image: DTXimages
Pirwindy Keep, by Largo, Fife. Image: DTXimages