Candacraig, the historic former holiday home of Billy Connolly and Pamela Stephenson, turned out to be the perfect fit for the Lino family
DESPITE not being used as a full-time family home for more than 30 years, Candacraig in the Cairngorms National Park has turned out to be the perfect fit for Lynne and Marc Lino and their two daughters.
Better known as the former holiday home of Billy Connolly and Pamela Stephenson, and before that Anita Roddick and her family, Candacraig was well looked after by its previous owners.
“Both families put an immense amount of care and upkeep into the house,” says Lynne. “The rewiring, plumbing, furniture choice and design was carried out some 30 years ago. In latter years the focus was on the grounds and restoring some of the original parts of the estate by purchasing the walled garden and the cottages, alongside landscaping the grounds to their current immaculate shape.”
While Lynne is Scottish, her husband Marc is American and, until last year, Lynne hadn’t lived in Scotland for more than 20 years. “We were living in an apartment in New York City and we both realised that we wanted to dial back the hectic city life. We tried living in the country for a while, then we moved to Amsterdam to be closer to my family which is where my mum came to visit and everything fell into place.
“My mum asked what we wanted to do long-term and I said open up a boutique hotel in the country where we could live and raise the children. She told me to get my laptop and showed me Candacraig. We had always thought about purchasing a property in Scotland and so we were intrigued to find out more.”
Initially the couple viewed Candacraig still with the boutique hotel concept in mind and with the idea of adding a restaurant. “Then we actually drove here and we realised what implications the location and the weather could have on it.”
They decided first and foremost it would be the main family home for Lynne, Marc and their daughters aged nine and four, but also to open up the house for exclusive use for private and corporate guests. “We decided to focus on private guests and the corporate market as we believe we can offer a great experience by knowing from our own research what makes a truly excellent retreat.”
Candacraig is built to entertain, but there were still a few changes that Lynne wanted to make. “I feel our job has been to continue the upkeep of the property, but also to put our own touch on the house. We’ve re-upholstered a lot of furniture and we did some re-decoration, just bringing it up to date again without losing the taste of the house. We’re incredibly fortunate the house was kept in such fantastic shape over the years.”
The couple have done a few major improvements such as installing a new kitchen and a biomass heating system. “It was unbelievable how much gas this house consumed and the biomass system will make a massive difference. The next project is solar panels for the electricity. That will dramatically reduce our carbon footprint for this house which will be pretty impressive for a 17th century property, and fits in with our family’s desire to help look after the environment where we can.”
One of Lynne’s favourite changes is of the transformation of the library into the Whisky Library. “The panelling had been bleached by the sun but we were lucky enough to employ the painter and decorator who had worked at Balmoral. He lived with us for six months and as part of the refurbishment did the Whisky Library and the Games Room Monastery Corridor. He painstakingly hand-waxed the wood and brought it to life, and it is now the colour of whisky – it’s just perfect. We then filled the shelves with our collection of single malts and Scottish gins and brought in the Gunn tartan, which is my family’s tartan, to complete the look.”
Another room heavily under the influence of tartan is the stunning dining room. “The previous owners designed this room and really added drama. When I saw it online I thought it might be too much, but once you experience it in the flesh and you feel the atmosphere, it’s brilliant. A lot of fun has been had in here and the fabric on walls and ceiling not only makes it feel really cosy, but it’s great for the acoustics as well.”
Elsewhere in the house the decor is more subtle, but making changes to the style of the interior wasn’t an easy task. “Adding new design elements to a historical house is a challenge to the untrained enthusiast like myself and I had a few restless nights in case it went horribly wrong,” Lynne says. “The entire drawing room furniture was emptied in one day to be re-upholstered – which with hindsight was too much too soon.”
However, she was happy with the end result. Lynne says: “I worked with Osborne Heath in Alloa and they were amazing. They did all the upholstery for us along with a local lady who helped out on the smaller jobs. Lesley at Osborne was excellent at helping to steer me in the right direction. Now I enjoy it more because I’m only doing small updates, one room at a time.”
With 12 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms, it’s an ongoing process, but nothing needs to be done in a hurry. “That’s what drew us to Candacraig,” says Lynne. “We could walk in, unpack our cases and it was perfect. It just has such a lovely feel. Guests always comment that they feel very at home here and we believe we have found a remarkable setting.”
The family have settled in well to their new home and business is busy, but Lynne puts that down to the location and the community. Candacraig takes full advantage of being in the Cairngorms National Park. “We can hike, ski and climb all within a five-minute drive and we live in an environmentally protected area so our views are remarkable. My daughters both go to local schools and the community has been so welcoming. Plus my parents now live in one of the cottages next door so now instead of seeing them once a year, I see them every day. It’s been 20 years since I’ve lived in Scotland and now whenever I leave, I’m just itching to come back home.”
• To rent Candacraig, visit www.candacraighouse.com or call Susan Reid on 0131-556 4020. Candacraig can also be followed on Twitter and Pinterest