The vestibule door in Brechin Castle is glazed from waist height and a little furry face keeps intermittently appearing behind the glass.
It’s the Earl and Countess of Dalhousie’s Jack Russell Paddy leaping up to see who the visitor is. The 17th Earl of Dalhousie – James Ramsay – answers the door and shoos the excitable dog away, before inviting me in for a look around.
There has been a fort on the site of Brechin Castle since the 12th century and the estate has been in the hands of the Earl’s family since 1634.
The fourth Earl of Panmure commissioned architect Alexander Edward to build the castle as it is now, and it was completed in 1711. “In 1715 the first Jacobite uprising happened and the Earl fled into exile, so he didn’t get to enjoy it very long,” James chuckles.
Edward was sponsored by the Earl to travel Britain and Europe in search of inspiration, and Brechin Castle draws from the chateaus of the Loire Valley.
Ordinarily I poke around every nook and cranny of the properties featured in House & Home but, with eight reception rooms, 16 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms in the castle; five estate cottages and 70 acres, there really isn’t time, so a flavour of the place will have to do.
The castle itself has all the grandeur and beauty you would expect from such a historic home – and an astonishing setting on the River South Esk.
Marilyn leads me onto a sunny stone terrace above a bend in the river and I spent several tranquil minutes watching the water gently flow past.
James’ father, the 16th Earl of Dalhouse was Governor General of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, but the current Earl spent much of his childhood at Brechin Castle. “We moved here in 1950 when I was two years old,” he explains. “It was a very special place to grow up.”
James worked as a banker in London and New York before moving back to Brechin Castle in the 1990s when his father became unwell.
Marilyn looks after the estate’s magnificent gardens. The jewel in the crown is the walled garden, stretching to 14 acres and considered one of the finest and most important private gardens in Scotland. Marilyn employs two gardeners and mucks in herself to keep it in pristine condition.
Brechin Castle is open to the public every May and June. Despite its size and grandeur, it has plenty of cosy rooms. Sitting having a coffee with the Earl and Countess, with the sun streaming in and the river flowing by outside, it’s a very homely place indeed.
James, 71, and Marilyn, 69, have reluctantly decided to put the castle and estate on the market after nearly four centuries of family ownership. They’re down-sizing to a farmhouse nearby. “It is a terrible wrench to leave after all these years,” James says. “But these kinds of homes are far too big for families these days. I thought I’d be the baddie who sells the place rather than let that duty fall to our children.”
Brechin Castle is on sale with Savills for o/o £3 million.