Dumfries House Estate


Building owner/client:

The Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust

Architect or lead designer:


Local Authority Area:

East Ayrshire

Nominating Body:

Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland

Project Description

Dumfries House and its Estate represent an ongoing project in large-scale heritage-led regeneration extending across architecture, interiors, collections, landscape, education/training and activities (art studios, building workshops, educational playground, engineering classrooms, outward bound facilities etc.). As such, it has no definable end date, but the completion of walled garden, Morphy Richards engineering centre (2014), and the Manoukian Gym and Sports hall (2015) conclude the main projects. Although a Chinese maze, the Duchess Walk, the John Adam “Temple” and the farm are either in construction or planned for the immediate future, with further projects doubtless to follow, this is probably a good point at which to assess the success of the project so far. The estate is teeming with local and tourist visitors enjoying the landscape free of charge, visitor facilities are fully functioning and profitable in their own right, and the events/weddings arm of the project is generating profit to move the whole project demonstrably towards a sustainable position. This nomination is for the project as a whole. Elements of this have, it is true, been completed over the last four or so years. Other major elements, such as development of visitor facilities on the farm will continue to evolve. We think that this is the point to nominate the total project as a whole.

Supporting Statement

Dumfries House Estate is a fantastic example of successful heritage-led regeneration in Scotland. Possibly it is the only example on this scale. Vast sums have been raised, overwhelmingly from private donations, to restore the infrastructure of the estate and develop visitor and educational services. The conservation of the House has effectively restored the “wow” factor of a project which combines Robert Adam with 10% of Chippendale’s total surviving oeuvre, paying for exacting research and conservation and employing craftsmen and experts. The project as a whole sustains this, but in turn heritage is used as a vehicle in a bold and vigorous campaign to change things for a depressed local community with high levels of unemployment. Dumfries House: It is now the major single employer in the area. Seven years ago 7 people were directly employed. Today there are 130 employees. It attracts a steady stream of 20,000 visitors to tour the house, helping to sustain the local hospitality sector. As early as 2012, tourism in East Ayrshire had already increased by 25% as a result of Dumfries House as a visitor attraction. It provides high quality accommodation (22 bedrooms, events and wedding venue) on the estate which helps to sustain the heritage element and brings further spending to the area. It provides interpretation of the house and its collections to a very high standard, with continuous training for guides, in order to increase understanding and appreciation of why the house and collection are important. It uses historic buildings and well-designed new buildings to provide visitor attractions and educational facilities, including drawing studios, traditional building training workshops, hospitality training, café and restaurant, visitor centre, guest house and self-catering accommodation, outdoor residential centre, gym and sports hall, climbing wall, classrooms and organic garden connected with introducing primary children to food production, employability facilities etc. It works with the other Prince’s charities to carry out interventions or provide assistance to help regenerate nearby communities, including New Cumnock and Cumnock. It has provided a free “country park” setting with two playgrounds for the nearby community. This is now heavily used. It has raised tens of millions for development of the estate. Contractors used are predominantly local West of Scotland. The magnitude and significance of Dumfries House as a model of heritage led regeneration, demands recognition by the Scottish conservation establishment. It should be celebrated as a model aspects of which can serve as inspiration for others and lead the way ahead.