Stirlingshire home that grew outwards and upwards

Balwill Cottage near Buchlyvie, Stirlingshire, is on the market for offers over �695,000. Contact Baird Lumsden on 01786 833800.
Balwill Cottage near Buchlyvie, Stirlingshire, is on the market for offers over �695,000. Contact Baird Lumsden on 01786 833800.
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Balwill Cottage has certainly grown in the time that Rona Sutherland and her husband John Penman have owned it.

What they bought in March 1992 was a former signalman’s cottage, measuring just 26ft by 15ft, so very small, but with plenty of potential.

The double-aspect sitting room at Balwill.

The double-aspect sitting room at Balwill.

Rona says: “It has not only grown upwards, but outwards since then.”

The couple moved from Fife to be closer to work; John was in the air force and was based at RAF Leuchars but after leaving, both of their careers took them to the Central Belt.

Balwill is just two miles outside the pretty village of Buchlyvie, so has easy access to Stirling, Glasgow, Perth and Edinburgh.

The location has a very rural feel with Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park on the doorstep.

The cottage has a spacious kitchen.

The cottage has a spacious kitchen.

The first extension to the property was upwards.

The couple created a second storey while also extending the living space downstairs.

The result was two bedrooms and a shower room on the first floor and a lovely big sitting room on the ground floor with windows on three sides, patio doors to the gardens and Velux windows in the roof.

The cottage became a substantial three-bedroom home with a breakfasting kitchen and separate utility room.

The couple started work on the garden, which Rona describes as: “Not much more than an area of boggy ground when we started but we have spent an awful lot of time and energy making it into a nice space.”

They had to do this twice, because in 2004 they embarked on a second extension, this time building a new wing to form a totally self-contained area.

The wing has a large open-plan kitchen, dining and sitting room plus a separate boot and utility room while upstairs there is a master bedroom with bay window and a vast ensuite bathroom.

Rona says: “We made sure in the design that both parts of the house were separate. On the ground floor there is a large entrance hall between them, upstairs they are separated by the new ensuite so you don’t hear anything from the other side of the house.”

Having two self-contained wings has meant the couple could offer holiday lets, with guests having their own entrance, parking and garden but in the design they have made sure that Balwill works well as a single house.

Rona says: “We were very keen to keep it flexible, so all you would really need to do to use it as one house is to take out the units in the older kitchen to make it into a snug or another bedroom, and take down the garden fence”.

Aside from offering holiday lets, the set up of the house is bound to appeal to those multigenerational families who would relish a wing for an older relative, teenagers or guests.

Having completed this second larger extension, Rona and John redesigned and re-landscaped the garden around it but fortunately, although they don’t count themselves as experts, they do enjoy experimenting with plants in the grounds and the areas of lawn, flowers and mature trees make a stunning backdrop for the house.

They made the pond larger too and it is now a haven for wildlife while the flowers attract bees and butterflies.

Rona kept a horse when they first arrived and the stabling and paddock is still set up for an equestrian family, or perhaps hobby farming.

The outbuildings also include purpose-built kennels but for those lucky enough to be able to work from home, like Rona who works in the food and drink industry, the summer house office will be a huge selling point.

It is in an elevated spot giving lovely views to the surrounding hills and features a large decked area ideal for entertaining or just taking a break from work.

It is equipped with a telephone point, broadband and a log burning stove and while John’s commute to Stirling cannot be said to be arduous, Rona’s daily commute to the summer house is enviable.

It is their neighbours that they will miss most, now they have made decision to move closer to family in St Andrews.

Rona says: “Balwill has allowed us to live a private, rural life, but still feel absolutely in the heart of a community.”