Prestige viewing: Period features can be found throughout this Midlothian former coaching stop
The Old Sun Inn at Eskbank, near Edinburgh, has a long history but its story in recent times is just as interesting.
It dates from the 1670s, and as its name suggests was a coachinginn – the first stop on the route from Edinburgh to Carlisle. It was known as the Sign of the Sun Inn, taking its name from the symbol on the Marquis of Lothian’s family crest.
And despite being a home since the 1800s rather than an inn, features of its former incarnation remain, giving the house a very quirky character.
The floored attic has fireplaces at both ends – it was originally used for dormitory-style accommodation for travellers.
And just by the front door is a porthole, now covered with glass, but formerly used to pass money and ale back and forth, perhaps for those travellers deemed too unsavoury to gain entry.
Fiona Lochhead’s parents bought the house in 1965, when it was in a state of dilapidation. She says: “I was just a baby, but they renovated it piecemeal over the next decade.
“The accommodation is upside down, with the main living space on the first floor, but that was because when they first moved in, they made it habitable first so they could move in, and they left the earth-floored ground floor until they could get round to it.”
Over the next half-century the house and garden became their life’s work. Fiona’s father was a tree specialist, and as well as the extensive planting, there is evidence of his expertise on the inside too.
She says: “The floors are very special. The sitting room is teak, which you wouldn’t be able to get now.
“In the guest bedroom it is yew flooring – the two trees came from Newbattle Abbey. The wood had to be dried for ten years before it was laid.
“The floors upstairs are of Brazilian parana pine which is critically endangered now, so again, you couldn’t replace it.”
In 1991, a beautiful bespoke conservatory was added at the back. It is known as the Lily House, as Fiona’s parents were members of the Lily Society and grew rare varieties from seed for the garden, which they opened to the public.
A pretty hill at the front of the house was created using the earth excavated from the ground floor, and there are two ponds flowing into each other.
Everywhere you look in the half-acre garden there are specimen trees, mature magnolias and rhododendrons.
Fiona says: “My father came from a family of artists, but my parents’ art was their gardening.”
Inside the house, it was her mother who sourced the highly decorated French porcelain sinks and baths from Paris, and her father – who also ran an antiques business – collected items from around the country that fitted in with the quirky nature of the house.
These were designed to compliment the older features, such as the inglenook fireplace with a voussoired arch and exposed stone. The cellar has an interesting vaulted ceiling, plus a well.
In the grounds is another beautiful building, originally a Victorian dairy, which was used for gardening equipment, but it offers huge potential for development.
Fiona says: “It has a beautiful ceiling. We decked it out and held my wedding in there, with 300 guests, so if nothing else it is a great party space.”
The most striking feature of the house perhaps is the oval window at the front. Fiona says: “I’ve seen photos dated 1929 with a Bugatti parked outside and the window was there then, so we can only assume that it has always been there.”
The house and garden was absolutely a lifetime project for her parents but she says: “It is time for someone else to love it now.”
The Old Sun Inn, Eskbank is priced at offers over £685,000.
For more information, contact Rettie & Co. on 0131-220 4160.