2016 is the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. It is being celebrated through numerous events across Scotland, including a public vote for the nation's favourite building of the last 100 years. I would like to share with you my favourite buildings in Scotland.
In no particular order:
Wemyss Bay station
I think that Wemyss Bay is the most beautiful station in Scotland. It was built in 1903 and has an enormous circular glass roof. It radiates upwards and outwards from the round ticket office. All this glass lets the light come flooding onto the colourful flower displays that grace the concourse. Wooden decking and wrought-iron archways lead you towards the ferry that departs for the Isle of Bute. The exterior of the building has a sixty-foot clock tower and a Shakespearean quality with gables and half-timber framing.
This bright white building sat all alone within a vast remote and unforgiving landscape sparks the imagination. The first time I saw a picture of this I kept dreaming about visiting it. A tiny white speck within the majesty of Scotland's wilderness. It is located about 15 miles from Ballater. The castle dates from 1550 and was later adapted, with the star-shaped defensive perimeter, as a barracks for government troops. It was used as a base for patrols that searched for local people wearing kilts (which had been made illegal) or apprehending smugglers.
A closed and boarded up hunting lodge in a remote and difficult to reach location. You can reach it using Altnabreac train station, a request stop, 100 miles north of Inverness. From there it is a 3.7 mile cycle to reach the lodge. Places like this are so evocative of the power of Scotland's wilderness. People attempt to tame these places and build hotels, but ultimately the land wins out.
Atholl Palace Hotel
Scotland's classic Victorian-era spa hotel. It opened in 1878 as a hydropathic, a branch of medicine that involves the use of water for therapeutic purposes. Much of the original interior survives, including large public rooms with fire places that blaze in the winter months. Best of all are the turret rooms at the very top of the hotel with their 360 degree windows looking onto mountains and stunning sunsets and sunrises.
Dunrobin Castle train station
This was built in 1902 as the private station for Dunrobin Castle, the seat of the Duke of Sutherland. There is no other station like this in Scotland, built in English Arts and Crafts style. You can still take a train here. In the summer months the regular Scotrail trains stop at Dunrobin Castle on request.
Scotland has many very pretty countryside churches. Kilmodan is blessed with Georgian symmetry and architectural features, like huge arched windows that let the light flood in. I love that the chain for the bell is on the on the outside of the church and you have to resist the temptation to give it a go. Inside there are three separate galleries with their own staircases. Kilmodan is located on the Cowal peninsula 17 miles west of Dunoon.
Whisky distilleries on the island of Islay have a unique look. They are all painted white with the name of the distillery written in huge black capital letters. There are 8 distillieries located on this one tiny island and all of the buildings are pretty, but Lagavulin is my favourite.
The Round Church
Also on the island of Islay, the Round Church has to be the most unique church design in Scotland. The reason for it being round is so that there is no corner for the devil to hide in. It was built in 1767 and sits high up, overlooking the town of Bowmore.
This house is located near Musselburgh, 5 miles from Edinburgh. Designed in 1686 by an architect called James Smith who had 32 children. I love the proportions and symmetry of the building. The interior has been deliberately left untouched, in a state that the last occupant left it in 1997. This gives it a much more lived-in feel than many stately homes. I found it easy to imagine curling up with a good book in an armchair next to the fire in the library.
My favourite church in Scotland. Small, simple and so beautiful. It was built in 1901 and made of corrugated iron. The landscape is stunning and emotional. The Highland Clearances occurred on this land, where families were forcibly evicted to make way for sheep farming. Open the door and take a seat on a pew and spend a few minutes thinking about that time.
The most beautiful toilets I have ever seen are located in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. They are clad in marble, mosaics and decorative tiles. They date from 1899 and incredibly everything works and you can still use them. The one catch is that they are male toilets, so if you are a woman you have to wait until they are empty to take a look inside.
This is Scotland's first free lending library, founded in 1680. It is a small, simple, white washed building with large windows to let the light flood in. The walls are lined with bookcases that contain 5000 volumes, mainly rare, old and fascinating books. The best thing is that these books are not locked away- you can handle them, read their words, look at the illustrations. Innerpeffray is 4 miles south of Crieff.
Mull of Kintyre Lighthouse
I have always loved lighthouses. Located at the extremes of our land they are the ultimate symbol of man against nature. This lighthouse requires travel on an extreme road, the last part of which is too tortuous for driving and even cycling. You must walk. The buildings, dating from 1788, are gleaming white and because they are rented out as self-catering accommodation you are able to have a look around and walk right down to the rusting fog horn from where the coastal views are magnificent.
Cottages of Seatown
Seatown is a part of the town of Cullen, located on the North Sea coast. The collection of hundreds of small fishermen's cottages is a delight to walk around. I am not choosing just one cottage for this list of favourite buildings, but it is the effect of so many, of different designs, sizes and colours that means all of Seatown goes on the list. Although many of the cottages are now holiday homes there is a strong feeling of a connection to the past when you walk around and imagine fishermen and their families back in the day.
Two brothers, owners of rival whisky distilleries, competed to build the finest house in Campbeltown. Craigard House (1882) was the result. It is now a hotel, which gives the opportunity to experience something of the lifestyle of a successful nineteenth century businessman. I fell for the finely detailed cornices, stained glass windows and mosaic floor tiles. It is not an intimidating place, like many grand mansions, but a homely abode where you can feel relaxed. The view of Campbeltown Loch from the dining room can be almost Mediterranean on a sunny day, appropriate to the Italianate architecture of the house.