Park Cottage & Barn near Gifford in East Lothian was an uninhabited ruin when Ian and Rosamond Robertson bought it as a project in 1998.
There was no water or electricity but the couple, who at the time were living in Morningside in Edinburgh, were undeterred, attracted primarily by the opportunity presented by the grounds, which at nearly two acres would allow the keen gardeners to cultivate a productive orchard and vegetable garden, keep bees and plant a wildflower meadow.
“It had probably last been lived in in the late 1940s,” says Ian of what is now a wonderfully comfortable and environmentally-friendly home. “It had holes in the roof with pigeons flying in and out.”
When Ian retired in 2003, the three-year restoration project really got under way. Park Cottage was designed by acclaimed Edinburgh architect Benjamin Tindall, whose work has included the Queen’s Gallery at the foot of the Royal Mile and the Edinburgh Festival Hub at the top.
Ian says: “He gave us a beautiful place which was sensitive to what we wanted and kept the cottage feel.”
The works included the installation of a private water supply and electricity via two small wind turbines which produce around £3,000 of income a year.
In addition, there was the barn renovation which transformed the former animal shed into a double garage with WC and planning permission to create a two-bed apartment.
“It was like Grand Designs but without the television crew,” says Rosamond. “We did live in a caravan on site for a period – it was lovely to see it going up.”
The result is a warm, spacious home with spectacular views.
On the ground floor there is a large sitting room with larch ceiling beams and a woodburning stove, a garden room, wet room and a study, which could also serve as a fourth bedroom. Upstairs are three bedrooms, a shower room and bathroom.
Rosamond says it is the kitchen, however, which is the hub of the house. “There is such a lot of produce that there’s a great deal of cooking.”
There is a pantry off the kitchen – for storing jars of the couple’s homemade jam and honey – and the worktops have been crafted from a sycamore tree which was brought down in the grounds during a storm.
Reusing natural materials is something of a theme throughout Park Cottage. The roof is thatched, the doors on the ground floor as well as the mantelpiece in the sitting room and flooring in the study were made from oak – also from a tree which fell outside – and the terrace is made from local stone.
In 2005, the Haddington District Amenity Society recognised the design of the house with an award, commending its respect for nature.
Rosamond says: “The underlying thing was that it should be as sustainably and environmentally friendly as possible.
“All the paint is non toxic and the varnish is non toxic. We were the first private household in Scotland to use the new grant for a wind turbine.”
The garden has been a labour of love. Ian says: “There were chest-high stinging nettles and we removed those and cultivated about three-quarters of an acre with an orchard and vegetable garden.”
They also planted a corridor hedge to encourage wildlife, to great success. There are resident red-legged partridges, pheasants, deer, hare and stoats.
With the nearest neighbour 400m away, it is wonderfully peaceful and private.
Rosamond says: “The views were so important to us so the whole of the house is white and quite simple. The views are the decoration.
“Our bedroom has a Juliette balcony which looks out to the Lammermuirs.
“We can see right up to the Highlands on a clear day – it’s unimpeded views.
“We have no light pollution from streetlights so it’s really quite stunning on a good night, especially when there has been a frost.”
Ian and Rosamond are planning a move back to Edinburgh where they intend to downsize and spend more time with their grandchildren, who have enjoyed exploring the grounds of Park Cottage.
It’s surrounded by four fields and Rosamond says: “The only traffic we can hear is the sound of the tractor.”
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