History of Dumfries House

From The Earl of Dumfries to The Duke of Rothesay, discover the history of this stunning 18th century stately home.

Dumfries House, Cumnock, Ayrshire, ScotlandDumfries House Estate


Dumfries House was built for the 5th Earl of Dumfries, William Crichton Dalrymple, by John, Robert and James Adam. The Adam brothers submitted their completed drawings for the house's design in 1754; the foundation stone was laid on 18 July of that year; and building work was completed, on time and in budget, in 1759. This was the brothers' first independent commission for a complete house since the death of their father, William Adam, in 1748. 

The Pink Dining RoomDumfries House Estate

The Earl's wife, Lady Anne Gordon, died a year into Dumfries House's construction, in 1755.

While deeply mourning the loss of his wife, the Earl continued with the building project and went on to single-handedly furnish the house drawing largely on the rococo style, both English and Scottish.

Thanks to him, Dumfries House has one of the most treasured interiors of the Scottish Enlightenment.

The Earl's StudyDumfries House Estate

The Earl was highly discerning and design conscious, with an elaborate vision for his elegant new house.

He spent a considerable amount of money creating modern, colourful and stylish interiors, like his study which you can see here.

The Earl hand-picked the finest furniture from Thomas Chippendale’s fashionable London workshop, as well as commissioning noted Scottish furniture makers Alexander Peter, Francis Brodie, and William Mathie.

Entrance Hall, Dumfries HouseDumfries House Estate

In the Entrance Hall, visitors are greeted by this impressive display of The Earl's credentials and status.

It features his crest in the middle, topped by the Earl's coronet; a rampant lion on either side to indicate that he was a military man; the Wyvern on the left, which was the Crichton family symbol; and the Star of the Knight of the Order of the Thistle on the right, to symbolise his military standing.

The Pink Dining RoomDumfries House Estate

Likewise, this pier glass in the pink dining room, made by William Mathie, is topped with his Earl's coronet.

The Wyvern - the Crichton family symbol - is encircled with a garter strap, emblematic of the Order of the Thistle, and from it hangs St Andrew's Cross.

The Blue Drawing RoomDumfries House Estate

In the Blue Drawing Room is part of a Chinese exported tea and coffee service (c1795), painted with the arms of Crichton and Dalrymple.

The Family ParlourDumfries House Estate


Following the Earl's death in 1768, Dumfries House was inherited by his nephew, Patrick McDouall-Crichton, who became the 6th Earl of Dumfries. He married Margaret Crawford, and the couple lived at Dumfries House for the next 35 years, until his death in 1803. Their daughter, Lady Elisabeth Penelope (pictured here) was born in 1772. She was married in 1792 to Lord Mount Stuart - sealing the link between two of Scotland’s leading families – the Crichtons and the Stuarts. After Lord Mount Stuart was tragically killed two years later, Elisabeth and her two children continued to live with her parents at Dumfries House.

The School RoomDumfries House Estate

Lady Elisabeth Penelope and Lord Mount Stuart's eldest son John (pictured here as a child, with his baby brother) succeeded his maternal grandfather as the 7th Earl of Dumfries in 1803, and his paternal grandfather as 2nd Marquess of Bute in 1814.

As the 2nd Marquess of Bute, John made the Bute fortune through the mining of coal in his inherited lands in South Wales.

The Bute family went on living in Dumfries House until 2007.

The Duke of Rothesay outside Dumfries House (June 2017) by John PaulDumfries House Estate

The last resident of the house was the 7th Marquess of Bute, a racing driver and Peer known as John Bute.

After a couple of failed attempts to sell the house to the National Trust for Scotland, John Bute put Dumfries House and its contents for sale on the open market in 2007.

Just weeks before the treasured collection of furniture was due to go on sale at auction, HRH The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay (as he is known in Scotland) intervened to save the estate from dispersal.

The Duke of Rothesay outside Dumfries House (June 2017) by John PaulDumfries House Estate

At the very last minute, with items from the Dumfries House collection already packed up ready for auction, The Duke of Rothesay helped secure a £20million loan.

He personally brokered a £45million deal to secure the house and its collection, to help regenerate the local economy in East Ayrshire.

Dumfries House: Preserving Scotland's HeritageDumfries House Estate

Since then, the House has been painstakingly restored and, in 2008, Dumfries House opened to the public for the first time in 250 years.

Guided tours now offer visitors the opportunity to dive into the fascinating history of this Palladian country house.

Dumfries House Lodge, Cumnock, Ayrshire, ScotlandDumfries House Estate

Work has also taken place across the Dumfries House Estate, to create education and training centres, as well as providing accommodation and hospitality for visitors.

In 2011, the stables were renovated to create the Coach House Cafe, which is open seven days a week.

The Lodge, which is located only a few hundred metres from Dumfries House itself, was completed and officially opened by The Duke of Rothesay in 2012.

The Lodge is an exclusive five-star country guest house, which offers 22 luxury guest rooms and two self-catering cottages. Today it welcomes 15,000 guests per year.

StonemasonryThe Prince's Foundation

Also in 2012, the workshop area was completed, to provide training in traditional skills such as stonemasonry, thatching and pargetting.

This training is delivered by The Prince’s Foundation in collaboration with The Prince’s Trust.

Pictured here is the stonemason's shed, which is adjacent to the old sawmill.

HRH The Prince of Wales visiting Dumfries HouseRoyal Drawing School

The Laundry Building was converted into The Royal Drawing School Dimplex Studios, which now houses four artists’ studios.

HRH The Prince of Wales visiting Dumfries HouseRoyal Drawing School

An artist in residence programme was launched in 2013.

Children learning in the Kauffman Education Garden by Simon BrownDumfries House Estate

The Pierburg Building and Education Centre, which is used to deliver training in horticulture and healthy eating programmes to visiting primary school groups, opened in 2013.

Children learning in the Kauffman Education Garden by Simon BrownDumfries House Estate

Outside The Pierburg Centre, The Kauffman Education Gardens give school pupils the opportunity to plant, cultivate, and harvest vegetables for use in cookery classes.

The Harmony outdoor play park at Dumfries HouseDumfries House Estate

The Morphy Richards Engineering Education Centre opened in 2013.

It is used to deliver in-house STEM workshops for school groups and to connect young people with industry experts who can offer career advice.

The ‘Harmony’ outdoor play park surrounding the engineering workshop presents a unique learning experience that helps reconnect children and visitors to the estate with the natural world and our built heritage.

The Tamar Manoukian Outdoor Centre, Dumfries House estate, Cumnock, Ayrshire, ScotlandDumfries House Estate

The same year saw the Dumfries House Visitor Centre completed, and The Tamar Manoukian Outdoor Residential Centre opened.

It is used by Youth United-affiliated organisations and visiting school groups, and features ‘bunkhouse’ accommodation, an obstacle course, an archery range, and Sports Hall with a full climbing wall.

Chefs Michael Shedden and Tom Scoble (2017) by Iain BrownDumfries House Estate

Woodlands, the restaurant at Dumfries House which is open to the public Thursday-Sunday, also opened in 2013.

It is housed within The Belling Hospitality Training Centre, which delivers the Get Into Hospitality course at Dumfries House in collaboration with The Prince's Trust.

Arboretum and summerhouse, Dumfries House estate, Cumnock, Ayrshire, ScotlandDumfries House Estate

The following year, in 2014, the Arboretum (seen here), and the refurbishment of The Adam Bridge, were completed.

The woodland shelter that sits at the heart of the Arboretum was designed and built by students as part of The Prince's Foundation's Building Craft programme.

Building a Woodland Shelter With Our BCAs - The Live Build 2013The Prince's Foundation

Adam Bridge, Dumfries House estate, Cumnock, Ayrshire, ScotlandDumfries House Estate

The Adam Bridge is a Category A listed feature of the estate, which was initially built to give visitors an early sight of Dumfries House on their approach.

The original design drawing by John Adam still survives, along with his estimates and bills.

The Bridge had already undergone restorations in the early 19th-century, and throughout the 20th-century.

The Queen Elizabeth Walled Garden, Dumfries House estate, Cumnock, Ayrshire, ScotlandDumfries House Estate

The Queen Elizabeth Walled Garden was completed and opened by Her Majesty The Queen in July 2014.

The five-acre walled garden is one of the biggest in Scotland and features a unique 12-metre drop from north to south.

The centrepiece of the garden is a Thistle Fountain designed and constructed by William Pye, which features a thistle at the top.

Belvedere, The Queen Elizabeth Walled Garden, Dumfries House estate, Cumnock, Ayrshire, ScotlandDumfries House Estate

Another stunning feature of the garden is the Belvedere at the north-east corner, which was based on drawings and designs by The Prince.

It was completed in just two weeks, ahead of the opening of the garden.

Prince Charles - The Royal RestorationDumfries House Estate

From 2011, local volunteers had worked tirelessly to clear the walled garden ready for its new look.

The Maze, Dumfries House estate, Cumnock, Ayrshire, ScotlandDumfries House Estate

In 2015 the Coach House Cafe was extended due to increased demand.

The following summer, in 2016, The Maze was completed and opened to the public.

Inspired by The Prince's memories of playing in the elaborate maze at Sandringham as a child, The Maze comprises around 2000 six-foot-high trees.

The Duke of Rothesay visits the Education Farm at Dumfries House (2017) by Clarence HouseDumfries House Estate

In 2017, work was completed on the estate's Temple, and on Valentin's Education Farm.

The farm was completed in the spring, and officially opened by HRH The Prince Charles in June.

It contains ten different rare breeds of animal, and welcomes hundreds of school children each month.

Students on The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community ‘Live Build’ programme were involved in building the farm structures.

Jacqueline Farrell in the LVMH Textile Training Centre (2018) by Iain BrownDumfries House Estate

Most recently, in May 2018, The LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) Textile Training Centre was completed.

Located in a disused sawmill on the estate, the refurbishment was sponsored by luxury goods conglomerate LVMH.

The centre is now used to host intensive courses in sewing, cutting and edging fabrics, for those interested in gaining employment in Scotland’s famed fashion and textiles industry.

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