TAKE YOUR SEAT:
See how the one-time Clan Lamont stately home, Knockdow House, has been restored to its former glory
IT IS hard to believe that Knockdow House was virtually uninhabitable when Fatima and Stewart Cameron bought it seven years ago. Thanks to their loving and painstaking renovations, this magnificent 12-bedroom mansion and its 250-acre estate have undergone a staggering transformation – and it is now on the market. “When we first saw it, there had been no one living in it for 40 years,” explains Fatima. “The water tanks in the roof had burst, it was dark and cold – but as soon as I walked in, I loved it. I wanted it to be my family home.” Just as work was about to begin, Fatima discovered she was expecting her first child. “It was a busy time,” she laughs. “But we are the kind of people who, when we embark upon something, want to do it properly. “Also, Knockdow House is a fascinating property, rich in history and we felt we had to respect that. We wanted to upgrade things like the kitchen and the bathrooms, of course, because first and foremost this was our home. “But we also paid great attention to the original features – the cornicing, the coving, the woodwork – because we have a duty of care to preserving the heritage here, and passing it on to the next generation.”
Knockdow House is set within glorious gardens and parkland near Dunoon on the Cowal Peninsula overlooking Loch Striven and the Kyles of Bute.
The estate was owned by Clan Lamont, one of the oldest of the Scottish clans, for around 600 years. Knockdow House was built in 1760 and was further altered and extended in 1920 by the laird at the time, Sir Norman Lamont, one time Permanent Private Secretary to Sir Winston Churchill.
The Lamonts owned significant estates in Trinidad and Tobago which were decorated with mahagony, sandalwood and other exotic woods. Knockdow House bears testament to this Caribbean legacy. For example, the main stairwell is lined with timber
We felt details should be maintained as those artisans who created them put so much effort into them
panelling from Palmiste in Trinidad. “The craftsmanship is incredible,” adds Fatima. “We felt very strongly when we started the renovations that these details should be maintained, as those artisans who created them put so much effort into the work.”
The centrepiece of the property is the spectacular domed cupola over the Great Hall, which is galleried at first floor level and supported by Ionic columns.
“This is my favourite spot in the whole house,” says Fatima. “It has lovely acoustics, so is perfect for listening to music, but you can just sit and relax, read a book – it’s very peaceful.”
The ambitious renovation project has included the replacement and renewal of the electrical, heating and plumbing systems, the renewal of sash and case windows, the addition of a number of en-suite bedrooms and the creation of four self-contained suites within the house.
A bedroom in the School House suite, which used to be a school room, still features a frieze depicting the Monarchs of Scotland.
“The house flows beautifully and as well as being a wonderful family home, it has business potential too for any new owners,” says Fatima. “We made it available for specific functions such as weddings, for example, but that side could be expanded further.”
The estate includes eight acres of immaculate gardens and grounds with two ornamental lakes and a mill pond.There are a further 117 acres of amenity woodland and 125 acres of parkland, pasture and rough grazing.
Knockdow is located around 11 miles from Dunoon near the villages of Innellan and Toward. Within easy reach, there are marinas and golf courses, mountains to climb and lochs to fish, and the surrounding scenery is fantastic. There are ferry links from Dunoon across the Clyde estuary to Gourock and Glasgow International Airport is around an hour away – something that appealed to Fatima and Stewart when they first considered buying Knockdow.
“For us it ticked all the boxes,” says Fatima. “I have a big family, scattered all over the world, and it’s nice to have somewhere we can all meet up together without feeling like we are all falling over each other. It is a large house, but not too large; and it is easy to reach from the airport and the city and yet you feel like you are a million miles from anywhere.”
She adds: “We have many London-based friends, and of course, like everyone else, we are leading crazy, busy lives.
“But when people arrive here, they switch off. They start to connect to the outdoors and nature, they feel more relaxed.
“Above all, I think Knockdow has been a great comfort to us.”
Now Fatima and Stewart and their daughter Catriona, who is five, are moving to America for work reasons, they admit they will miss Knockdow. “It was hard work, renovating Knockdow, at a busy time of our lives, but I put my heart and soul into this house and I will be sad to leave,” says Fatima.
“I hope the new owners will have happy adventures here too.”
ESCAPE: Owner Fatima Cameron reports that visitors from all over the world forget their cares when they stay at Knockdow House.
THEATRICAL: The centrepiece of the property is the spectacular domed cupola over the Great Hall, galleried at first floor level and supported by Ionic columns.