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Letterfourie Estate is a delightful combination of an historic Adam house, gardens and woodland, together with agricultural land.
During the occupancy of the current owners most of the original features of Letterfourie have remained unchanged thus protecting it from over-modernisation, providing a peaceful haven for the occupants and for the wildlife. The West Wing Chapel has acoustics particularly suitable for music. The East Wing Studio has been used for small craft exhibitions and training courses.
The Wings with their separate entrances and facilities can be closed off from the central block to give four separate units of accommodation. The house is versatile in its ability to be used as a large family home and/or with businesses associated with accommodation, exhibitions, functions, hospitality and training. The chapel has acoustics particularly suitable for music.
The drive leads up through the wooded policies to a gravelled sweep at the north front of the house. Four wide stone steps lead to the portico with its flanking Corinthian columns oversailing a lower ground passageway (known colloquially as "The Moat") protected by continuous spear headed railings in stone foundations and thence to the double front doors with external light above.
The accommodation comprises 4 principal reception rooms, 5 further reception rooms, 11 bedrooms, chapel.
SEE FLOOR PLANS FOR MORE DETAILED LAYOUT AND FOR REVISED PLAN AND AREA SCHEDULE.
Attached to the West Wing is a garage (3.89 m x 5.52 m) under which is a vaulted stone chamber with rear door leading to the Moat which leads round to stone steps immediately west of the East Wing. East of the East Wing are seven undercrofts being subterranean vaulted stone chambers, some interconnecting, one with door leading to the arched coal cellar, and all covered by the east lawn.
Around the house six small lawns are backed by numerous varieties of flowering shrubs and bushes. Larger grassed areas beyond contain fruit trees including several varieties of dessert and cooking apples, pears and plums. Soft fruits include gooseberry, redcurrant, blackcurrant and raspberry. Masses of snowdrops and many varieties of daffodils and bluebells appear in spring.
North of the house are gardens with banks of rhododendrons and some fine trees including Cedar of Lebanon, Douglas Fir, elm, holly, yew and Scots Pine, screening the house from the agricultural fields and sheltering snowdrops, daffodils, primroses, wild flowers, chanterelles and other fungi.
Central to the house within the south garden are the Letterfourie fountains which date from the early to mid 19th century.
Southeast of the house is a former tennis court and a propane gas tank. The trees in the parkland to the south include horse chestnut, aspen, elm, plain and copper beech together with Western Hemlock, larch, sweet chestnut, Norway Spruce and beech along the drive.
Letterfourie Estate has policy woods and commercial plantings. Providing amenity, shelter and privacy these facilitate shooting currently let on an annual basis. Many of the woods were planted in the 1960s and include Sitka and Norway Spruce, Douglas Fir and areas of aspen.
Within the woods is the Craigiehead Well, which might supply the nearby house site, (detailed below) a mineral well and a former ice house.
The organic fields at Letterfourie are classified as Class 3(2) by the Macaulay Institute for Soil Research and have regularly produced good cereal yields, also having provided grazing for a flock of up to 700 rare breed Soay sheep (presently some 500 and available for separate purchase). Cropping is let on a seasonal basis to an organic farmer. For the 2010 growing season field 1 is let for carrots until 31/4/11 whilst field 13 is let for potatoes to 31/10/10.
The land rises in height from 90 m to 195 m (295'-620') above sea level. This part of Scotland is renowned for its productive farmland due to the mild coastal climate.
Residential and agricultural estate centred on an important "Adam" mansion house
Letterfourie is situated some 3 miles south of the Moray Firth coastline. The area is renowned for its attractive scenery and for its mild coastal climate and low rainfall.
There are primary and secondary schools in Buckie, together with a good range of local shopping. Private schooling is available at Gordonstoun and also at Rose Abbey School in Elgin (for 2-8 year olds). There are railway stations at Huntly and Keith.
The area has excellent communications. Aberdeen and Inverness are reached by the A96. Both cities have airports and an excellent range of shopping and leisure facilities. Elgin has extensive shopping and business facilities. The area is famed for its sporting activities. Salmon and sea trout fishing is available on the Rivers Spey and Deveron with sea fishing at Buckie and boat trips to see the Moray Firth dolphins. Golf courses are at Cullen, Banff , Spey Bay, Buckie (Buckpool and Strathlene), Garmouth and Macduff. The coast offers scenic walks, sailing and pleasant sandy beaches. Attractions include Duff House (architect William Adam) at Banff, part of the National Galleries of Scotland, the Whisky Trail, Speyside Way and Buckie District Fishing Heritage Centre. Annual festivals include Speyfest, Portsoy Boat Festival, and North East Open Studios Event.
HISTORICAL AND ARCHITECTURAL NOTE
Letterfourie (Gaelic for the slope of the hill where the springs are) was originally part of the Earldom of Enzie, which passed by marriage in 1476 from the Hays, Earls of Errol, to the Earls of Huntly, when George Gordon, second Earl of Huntly, married Elizabeth Hay, daughter of the first Earl of Errol.
George Gordon gave Letterfourie to his youngest son, James Gordon, Admiral of Scotland in 1513. His descendants were no strangers to controversy during the troubled 17th century. In January 1636, the third laird of Letterfourie was imprisoned in Edinburgh, accused of conspiring with fellow Gordons, including the Marquis of Huntly, against Crichton of Frendraught. In 1647 the Royalist fourth laird of Letterfourie, James Gordon, was also imprisoned in Edinburgh, having been taken prisoner by General David Leslie, and the house of Letterfourie was burnt by the Covenanters. His eldest son, John Gordon, the fifth laird, was a supporter of James VII.
John's fourth son, Alexander, a staunch Jacobite, fled Scotland after fighting with Prince Charles Edward Stuart's Life Guards at Culloden. He joined his elder brother James, who had developed a wine business in Madeira. Both later returned to Letterfourie.
On his return to Scotland, James Gordon, sixth laird, commissioned the Scottish architect Robert Adam to design a new mansion house for his estate of Letterfourie. John Connachan-Holmes observes in "Country Houses of Scotland" (House of Lochar, 2002) "Robert Adam's first house in Scotland after his return from the Grand Tour was built in 1772. This house was called Letterfourie, and was a small three bay fronted mansion of a restrained and dignified air".
Adam's drawings for Letterfourie are held in Sir John Soane's Museum. The house has a dated keystone of 1773 at the centre of the top floor of the south front and a builder's mark beneath the portico on the north front.
The house has a tall cubic central block built of pinkish granite on three principal storeys, with two mirrored two-storey wings set at right angles to form with 3-bay centrally pedimented links a shallow U-plan court and a raised basement, centrally oversailed by a portico supported by two Corinthian columns and fully displayed as a lower ground floor on the south front.
Features of the interior include the yellow and white marble chimneypiece in the drawing room, with a steel basket grate made by local craftsman, James Fraser of Banff, who also made that in the parlour. Four other principal rooms have Adam fireplace surrounds and most rooms have original operable panelled window shutters. Doors into the principal rooms are made of Spanish mahogany, sent home by the Gordon brothers from Madeira.
James Gordon died unmarried in 1790. Letterfourie passed to his brother Alexander who added the wings and then to Alexander's son James. Since 1806 the house has remained virtually unchanged externally. The West Wing has a chapel, the Gordons being a Roman Catholic family. Services were attended by the local community. The accommodation above was for a resident priest. Letterfourie was known during the legality of the Act of Proscription as a Safe House, identified by a white rose in the garden which, it is believed, also indicated the location of an escape passage.
Letterfourie House and its dumb-bell shaped watergarden pond with fountains to the south of the house are category A listed. Charles McKean in The District of Moray, An Illustrated Architectural Guide (Rutland Press, 1997) describes Letterfourie as an Adam house in a "gorgeous setting". He also refers to the Category A listed Craigmin Bridge (situated to the south west of the house on the original south drive). This is a high picturesque two-tier structure, a double span being supported over the Findlater Gorge by a lower single span (incorporating "Bonnie Prince Charlie's cell", near which the other end of the escape passage is believed to be). The two gate piers with gates at the drive entrance are listed Category C(S).
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