FOR sale, one stunning castle with a long history, complete with original features, fabulous interior and picturesque exterior, turrets, vaulted crypt and secret staircases.
Of course, there’s only one Edinburgh Castle and it’s definitely not on the market. However, the next best thing could be a castle home a stone’s throw from the heart of the city – a bargain at £2.9 million.
Lottery winners and Royal Mail shareholders seeking a home they can really call their castle may well be drooling over 17th century Castle Gogar, one of the priciest, and most striking, homes on the Lothian property market.
And while £2.9m may sound excessive, it’s an amazing £600,000 cheaper than the £3.5m the renovated six-bedroom castle – complete with paddocks and, what no home can be without, battlements – originally commanded.
Of course, for most of us, the notion of splashing out almost £3m for a roof over our head is the stuff of “castle in the sky” dreams. Instead, we have to make do with this tantalising glimpse at how the other half lives.
And from castles to sprawling mansion houses, the stunning houses at the top end of Edinburgh’s property market are a fascinating snapshot of how life could be for all of us . . . if only we were stinking rich. Should the money gods smile on us and we suddenly find ourselves rolling in cash, the positive news from estate agents working with top-end properties suggests subtle shifts in the market mean some of the area’s most expensive homes are becoming cheaper.
And they report a gentle increase in the amount of interest from home and abroad for top-end properties – an indication of growing confidence among high earners that the economy is finally settling down and bringing good news for homes at the other end of the property market.
Growing interest in top-notch properties seems to be confirmed with news this week that a flat in Ramsay Garden, one of the most instantly recognisable addresses in Edinburgh and slap next to the city’s other castle, has attracted global interest since going on the market for £1.1m.
Property firm Savills Edinburgh agent Ben Fox, who is involved in selling Castle Gogar, reckons the A-list property scene may have turned a crucial corner. “This year we have seen more happening at the top end than over the last two to three years,” he says.
As for who might actually afford a £2.9m castle, he says potential buyers tend to be younger professionals and successful business executives, mostly Scots, who often could buy outright yet are looking to take advantage of low borrowing rates. Interestingly, he points out that potential buyers might no longer be linked to the once booming banking industry and instead work in “some of the other financial institutions”.
There’s no sign of the Russian influx that has hit London, but some of the most desirable – and expensive – high-end homes have also attracted interest from potential buyers in China and, curiously, Sweden.
“Compared to London, these Edinburgh properties are a snatch and good value for money,” says Linda Blake, also of Savills Edinburgh, and which has The Dowery House in Pathhead on its books for £2.2m.
“We are seeing people from all over – there’s a Scot based in New York moving home, people from China, Australia, expats from Singapore.
“One of the big recent sales was a Scot working with a large Swiss company who’s coming back for family reasons. We’ve seen a few Swedish nationals, too, who don’t seem happy with the way their country is going and are relocating to Scotland.”
Robert McCulloch, based at Strutt & Parker’s Edinburgh offices where the properties for sale include £2.25m Invereil House in Dirleton, a sprawling mansion overlooking the links, says top-end movement shows growing economic confidence. “In the last few weeks we’ve noticed just a little boost in activity at the top end while in our standard range of £400,000 to £800,000 properties, there has been a good increase.
“I think it means that the optimism and confidence we have been reading about are actually having an effect on prime property and premium quality property market. When there’s greater confidence at the low end of the market it encourages people to buy at the top end.”
Max Mills, from Rettie, is even more optimistic, having seen sales in the £1m-plus bracket outstrip last year’s. “We have agreed approximately 100 per cent more property transactions at that level this year compared to last year – that’s 24 properties in Edinburgh alone.”
Sky-high prices of a few years ago have cooled, he adds. “Some house prices that started with the number three are now selling for less than £2m. We were recently involved in a property at £3.7m which, within 18 months, resold for £2.9m.”
So is now the time to prise open the kids’ trust fund and splash the cash?
“We have touched the bottom and these properties are not going to get any cheaper,” he adds. “Therefore, if going to react, now is the time.”
• AS castles go, Castle Gogar has the lot:
crow step gable end, spired roofs, corbelled towers, dormer windows with stone inscriptions and battlements.
It was built in the early 17th century by architect William Ayton for wealthy merchant John Cowper, who met an explosive end when he was caught up in a gunpowder blast at Dunglas Castle.
It was extended in the mid 1700s and later in the 19th century, when Scots Baronial features were added.
For 200 years it remained in the Steel-Maitland family until the death of its last surviving member, Brenda Steel-Maitland in 2002.
Incredibly, she left the entire property and grounds in her will to a biology teacher at George Heriot’s, Gordon Stewart, who had rented a cottage in the grounds.
He sold it soon after for around £700,000. It has since been completely renovated and updated to a six-bedroom, seven-bathroom family home set in 3.6 acres, gardens with paddocks and a separate two-bed wing.
Situated six miles from the city centre near the airport, it also boasts a wine cellar complete with arrow slots, vaulted crypt, oak panelled walls and two friendly lions guarding the front door.
According to agent Ben Fox, the property is a rare gem.
“It’s exceptional, the features are amazing and there’s not really anything else like that in Edinburgh. There’s been a lot of interest from abroad, but the most recent viewers have been local.”
• GOLFERS dream of a home so close to the golf course that you can reach it just by opening the back door.
That’s what you get should you splash out on Invereil House, a ten-bedroom Victorian B-listed mansion house in Dirleton.
Set in 4.7 acres of land, the red North Berwick Law stone property is enclosed by a stone boundary wall that leads directly on to North Berwick Golf Course. It was commissioned by British Amateur Golf champion John E Laidlay in the 1890s, who wanted a home to overlook his favourite course. And if it looks slightly familiar, it could be because it was designed by Peddie and Washington Browne, architects behind the Caledonian Hotel at the West End.
Inside are eight bathrooms, stunning fireplaces, pitch pine staircase and a nursery featuring a hand-painted scenes from the Rudyard Kipling favourite, The Jungle Book.
• AT West Links Road, Gullane, its grand circular tower makes Edgehill look like it might have been some kind of old fortified home, but inside lurks something definitely not medieval – an 11-metre pool.
In fact, the white mansion on the side of Gullane Hill overlooking the town’s links course – and, from the other windows, North Berwick Law and the Lammermuir Hills – is just ten years old.
The five-bedroom home boasts a cinema room, wine cellar and a six-window eyrie study housed at the top of its impressive circular tower, while the view from its huge master bedroom takes in the famous Gullane course. Max Mills of Rettie & Co says: “It’s a golfer’s paradise home.”
• WITH parts said to date from the early 17th century, B-listed Dowery House at Pathhead comes with tennis court, a huge ornamental pond in the garden, woodland, orchard and the impressive look of a traditional castle.
Once the ‘dower’ house linked to Vogrie House – traditionally a home to which a widow would move to make way for her late husband’s heir – it was owned at one point by the Dewar whisky family, who used it as a home for an elderly relative. Down the years it has been added to and renovated, with original features like cornices featuring national flower detail – thistle, rose and shamrock – intact, wood panelling and impressive fireplaces alongside ultra modern kitchen and bathrooms.
It now features six bedrooms and the same number of reception rooms, a fireplace with a latin inscription, a butler’s pantry, a bath that is big enough for two and, of course, turrets.
• PARTIAL to an impressive garden water feature? Then the grand fountain in a sunken patio garden at this sprawling home might have you writing a cheque for just under £2m.
In one of Edinburgh’s most desirable areas, the grand white mansion on Barnton Avenue has seven bedrooms, five bathrooms and enough reception rooms – six of them – for the whole family to never have to actually sit together in the same room ever again.
And should you wish to retreat even further from the family – or perhaps accommodate an au pair to help simply keep on top of the housework – there’s a large annex with self contained flat attached.
Built in 1937, the mansion includes a drawing room featuring an Adam fireplace, a first floor south-west facing balcony and a triple garage block for the family’s collection of motors.
• FANCY a castle but tight for cash? One option could be buying a slice of Bonaly Tower, south of Colinton Village.
Up for grabs is the Library Suite – a three-bedroom, two reception room apartment which takes over what used to be the original library, complete with twin turrets, elaborate beamed ceiling and oak panelling.
It comes with a chunk of history thrown in: it was once a meeting place for the Friday Club, a group of leading Edinburgh figures led by Lord Cockburn.