Davina Dalrymple, Countess of Stair
Scottish aristocrat and cousin of the Queen
ment to rural affairs was total. Among other community appointments, Lady Stair acted as Vice Lord Lieutenant.
The grounds of Castle Kennedy and the adjoining Lochinch Castle are famous for rhododendrons, magnolias and azaleas and have been described as one of the showpieces of Galloway. The gardens are situated on an isthmus between two natural lochs, the Black and the White, and provide a superb vista of the surrounding landscape.
The Stair family have been associated with the area since 1677. Lady Stair worked throughout her time as chatelaine to make the gardens horticulturally important, supervising the planting of many rare shrubs and trees. Since coming to Lochinch she has been part of the “gardening team” and remained much involved in the day-to-day running of the estate.
Lady Stair created a private garden which opens by arrangement to visitors in the summer. “I have lived in this lovely place for nearly 55 years,” she once said. “It has been very rewarding reviving several areas of the Castle Kennedy gardens which had become overgrown. I loved the challenge to develop the walled garden.”
Lady Stair created the magnificent walled garden, which had previously been the kitchen garden, with a dedicated zeal. It now complements the entire gardens and greatly enhances the general appearance of the grounds. The long panoramic views, the avenues of ancient trees and colourful terraces all fit naturally into the glorious Wigtownshire countryside. The setting and gardens reflect the more naturalistic landscape style which was made famous by the English landscape architect Capability Brown.
Another significant achievement was the Garden Centre at Castle Kennedy. Lady Stair not only introduced rare plants but ensured all the pot plants were of the highest quality – many from cuttings she herself had propagated.
The work Lady Stair has done over many years was recognised in 1985 when Lochinch was designated Heritage Status in recognition of its outstanding scenic, scientific, historic and architectural values.
She was a keen horsewoman with an interest in hunting. Lady Stair was master of the Wigtownshire Hunt in 1973 and a member of the Masters of Fox Hounds Association until 1991.
Another passion was carriage driving and Lady Stair had been a member of the Wigtownshire Driving Club since 1989.
Sue Munroe, its secretary, said: “She went to the South West Scotland Driving Trials often because she liked to compete at speed and at that time we were a non-competitive group. She also did the long-distance driving.”
Lady Beverley Vaux confirmed Lady Stair was an enthusiastic and first-class carriage rider. She told The Herald: “Davina was a very passionate horse lady.
“We schooled a pony for her called Sparky – she was Sparky by name and sparky by nature – and not at all easy to handle. Davina coped magnificently with her and often drove her at events. She was endlessly patient with Sparky and rarely had an accident.
“I did a lot of driving with Davina and she was always competitive, courageous, tremendous company and thoroughly charming.”
Her husband, the 13th Earl, died in 1996. She is survived by her three sons. The eldest, Jamie, is the 14th Earl of Stair.