Shot in dark hits the mark
An ambitious four-year project to convert a rural farmhouse into a contemporary family home paid off in stunning style, discovers Heather Macleod
How many house hunters would view a hillside property without electricity at 11pm on a dark winter night and decide to buy it there and then? That’s exactly what Gordon and Sandra Adams did in 1997 when they visited Cairn Hall Farm near the Stirlingshire village of Balfron.
“when I contacted the owner to view the farmhouse, it was a case of come up now, in spite of the late hour,” recalls Gordon. “when we arrived at the end of the old farm road, I knew it was a location like no other. It was dark, the night was cold and clear with stars in the sky and we could see the lights all around the Campsies; 10 minutes later, our minds were made up.”
Gordon and Sandra were able to verify their first impressions when they visited the farmhouse in daylight, discovering the full majesty of the panoramic views which take in the Fintry Hills, Ben Lomond and the Braes of Doon.
But glance at the images of Cairn Hall today, and you quickly realise that the Adams didn’t take up residence in what was Stirlingshire’s highest dairy farm. Instead, they embarked on the ambitious project of building an 6000 sq ft family home on the elevated site.
Starting from scratch, with the help of a design architect, the couple went all out to create a stylish outpost incorporating materials such as red sandstone from the demolished farmhouse into the new house.
The entire project, including the planning process and landscaping the five acre front garden was to take
four years. while the design of Cairn Hall looks back in time, it goes forward too, as Gordon explains: “while the property looks fairly traditional from the outside, its appearance belies the modern design and layout of the interior.
“As I’m not a fan of small hallways with tight transfers from one room to another like railway carriages, the house has generous circulation areas with lots of glass and light.”
The reception hall – with feature twin staircase – combines airiness with character, and leads to the conservatory, dining room and terrace.
Additional living areas on the ground floor include a drawing room, living room, dining room, all with a decorative style that achieves a perfect balance between the furnishings and the space itself, while embracing the views.
Custom made cabinetry and a cream four-oven Aga, creates a cool but country style kitchen, which is augmented by a larder, prep kitchen, and utility and boot rooms.
The principal en-suite bedroom is also on this level, while a suspended walkway in the upper hallway leads to three en-suite bedrooms and a study, while a secondary staircases lead to the upper gallery, which runs the entire length of the house.
In addition to an array of living areas and bedrooms, Cairn Hall has its very own screening room/home cinema with surround sound and the entire space is profoundly liveable and relaxing.
In tandem with a strong specification and high levels of insulation, the palette of materials used throughout the interior adds punch and personality, with all doors crafted from solid oak, and the bathrooms in marble or granite.
As well as the mesmeric views that initially attracted the couple to the location, the house now overlooks cascading ponds in the landscaped gardens, and to the south west over a golf course.
“As the farm came with 250 acres, I decided to split the title with Balfron Golf Society, so the house stands in 147 acres and is bordered by the golf course on three sides.
“we replaced the original farm road that took us so long to negotiate the first time we viewed the farmhouse, and we have a private tree-lined driveway and courtyard at the front the house.”
The walled garden to the south is mainly laid to lawn, while lawns to the west and east roll down to a trio of large ponds, a walkway and summer house. To allow birds, including mallards, to nest safely, the Adams have created islands on the ponds.
“we can see the moon shining on Loch Lomond from here. You feel so close the elements and not just on beautiful days. You can look to the west and south west and see the winter storms coming up.
“when we move, we will miss the gardens and the space but not much else, as we are building a smaller house in the grounds enclosed and protected by a walled garden. why would we move away when we have so much in the way of privacy and views?”