Robert and Elizabeth Aldam attribute the purchase of their home, Dunclutha House in the village of Strone in Argyll, to serendipity. The couple, who were relocating from Devon 13 years ago, spotted it while on holiday on the Cowal Peninsula, but the property wasn’t for sale.
Robert says: “We loved the position of the house, right on the shore of Holy Loch, and it was obviously undergoing major refurbishment so we took the number from the builder’s sign at the site and managed to get in touch with the owner.
“He had spent seven or eight years on a massive upgrading project which was nearing its end, but it just so happened that their circumstances had changed and they were thinking of selling.”
After a valuation, a price was agreed and the sale went through in what Robert describes as “a very civilised way to buy a home”.
They took possession in December 2003 when the interiors were still at a stage that the Aldams could put their own mark on the house so the bespoke Burndale kitchen and the sanitaryware in the bathrooms were their choice.
Robert says: “They had done most of the hard work. I believe that a few years previously the house had lain empty and deteriorated to the point that you could see daylight through the roof.
“When we took it on it had been substantially upgraded and was really a blank canvas but we were probably the first people to sleep in it for 18 years.”
While the interior of the house was, by then, immaculate, the same couldn’t be said for the garden. A major project in 1995 saw the seawall at the front rebuilt, which involved importing tons of earth and rock.
The result resembled something of a builder’s yard, but fortunately Elizabeth is a skilled gardener and the couple have spent the intervening years creating the beautiful outside space which now regularly opens to the public as part of the Scotland’s Gardens scheme.
Elizabeth is a guide and committee member at the world-famous Benmore Gardens nearby and also enlisted the help of celebrated landscape designer Lynn Harris, of the Beechgrove Garden.
Robert says: “The work was extensive, we created borders, planted trees, created a wildflower meadow and commissioned dry stone walling. You could say it was a bit of a chequebook exercise but the costs and the hard work were absolutely justified as we feel the garden now makes the most of the fabulous location.”
The panoramic views take in the whole of Holy Loch and across to Wemyss Bay in Ayrshire and Gourock.
At high tide the water touches the wall and the stone steps that lead down to it, at low tide you can access the rocky beach.
It is an ever-changing vista with yachts, kayakers, sealife including dolphins and porpoise, a myriad of seabirds and even the odd submarine passing by just outside.
The house dates from 1875 and would probably have originally been built, like its neighbours, for a wealthy Glasgow merchant and his family to enjoy the fresh sea air.
Despite the feeling of remoteness, it is only a few minutes from Dunoon and the ferry and train which takes you to Glasgow in just over an hour.
Dunclutha has a wealth of period features, but the modernisation project has ensured it is also highly economical. Robert says that they barely use the heating even in winter, such is the standard of insulation.
On top of the main house, there is an adjoining two-bedroomed coach house which the couple lived in while the work in the main house was carried out.
Since then it has been used for overflow guests or it could be used as a holiday let.
As keen yachters, the aspect that the couple have enjoyed most about living at Dunclutha is the direct access to the water and the property – as well as its grounds – is likely to appeal to those with similar tastes.
The Aldams are sad to go, but are relocating once again to the other end of the country to be close to family in Bristol.
While their input into the house may have been largely cosmetic, their influence on the stunning gardens will last for decades to come.
As Robert says: “It is particularly hard to leave at this time of year, just as the garden is waking up.”
Offers over £499,995, contact Robb Resi-
dential on 0141 225 3880.