Labour of love transforms a Borders farm

Lantoncraigs in the Borders is now a beautiful home with practical outbuildings
Lantoncraigs in the Borders is now a beautiful home with practical outbuildings
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Many house moves involve a little upgrading before you can really settle in. But Alasdair and Mary Drysdale had to tackle a more serious problem at the start of their tenure at Lantoncraigs near Jedburgh in 1993.

Mary says: “The tack room and stable roof would have collapsed during the first winter, and as it is attached to the house, it needed to be secured immediately.”

The house, which was at least watertight, is flanked on either side by farm buildings which were causing the concern.

But while the house was habitable, the Drysdales were under no illusion when they viewed it on a cold February day.

Mary says: “We had fallen in love with the surrounding hills and trees and we felt that it was much more tranquil than our previous home in East Lothian, with less traffic to contend with.

“But we knew how much work it required. Both outbuildings were letting in water and in the house the electrics and heating needed replacing and the windows were fogged up with condensation because the double glazing had failed.”

In short, it wasn’t a project for the faint-hearted and Mary knew that with Alasdair travelling with his job around the world, the majority of the renovation work would fall to her.

What is remarkable is how much of it she achieved herself, rather than hiring in a team of workers. She says: “The stonework needed repointing so, rather than getting someone else to do it, I learnt how to myself.”

Over the years Mary has repointed most of the outbuildings using a lime mortar mix, inside and out, as well as the rear walls of the house. She has constructed steps into the barn and other outbuildings, some from stone and others from concrete, and steps down into the garden.

In 1995, the house was rewired, the floors replaced with concrete and the kitchen put in, along with the first Rayburn, which has just been replaced with a newer version. The kitchen units are of distressed pine designed by Albastyle in Galashiels and making for a beautiful country feel.

There’s wood throughout the house. Not only with the replacement windows but the sitting room is lined in oak and has bespoke bookcases, the sunroom is pine and throughout the house the doors are of reclaimed oak.

In 2005, they installed dormer windows in the two bedrooms and a study that are on the first floor to make the most of the fantastic views; from Linton Hill to the Lammermuirs and Soutra, the Eildons and round to Lindean.

It is a view to impress, not just today but for centuries.

The house is built on the craigs which were the site of an Iron Age fort where the inhabitants would have had a wide vista from the Cheviot hills in the east to Hawick.

The present house and outbuildings have been built to be sheltered from the prevailing wind by the craigs, but Mary felt that the holding was still exposed with the hilly ground surrounding mainly covered in whins or gorse.

She spent months clearing the whins from the craigs and planting native tree species, adding to them over the years.

Most of the trees are now mature, forming a native woodland with pathways meandering through.

The seven-acre paddock is home to Mary’s horse and a companion pony.

With a background in horticulture and having grown up in a farming family, Mary has really relished taming the land.

Closer to the house is the garden, which when she took over was filled with couch grass and had only the shelter of a drystane dyke. Mary put up a substantial post and rail fence adding trellis for climbing plants to provide useful shelter and screening.

The barn is built on a rocky outcrop which couldn’t house plants, so Mary chiselled out hollows and made drainage channels to create a rockery. She says: “Alasdair despaired of me ever finishing it. In the end it took about three years.” The result is a very pretty feature providing colour all year round.

Undoubtedly, the comfort, warmth and beauty of Lantoncraigs is a testament to many years of hard work.

As Mary says: “We’ve loved living here, with a maturing garden and woodland, with a warm cosy house, the horses close by, and the stunning views.”

Guide price £430,000, contact CKD

Galbraith on 01573 224244