See how the one-time Clan La­mont stately home, Knock­dow House, has been re­stored to its for­mer glory

The Herald - Scotland's Homes - - Front Page - Ann Wal­lace

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.

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