At the side of the 16th century castle, a terraced garden framed with a castellated wall encloses a graded yew wall topped with a tightly packed group of yew columns. At the far end of the garden is The Parade, a raised walk created by Sir Patrick and Eupheme to give visitors open views of the garden and the River Tay. Several larger than life stone statues, made from granite covered with cement, inspired from scenes in Burns’s work, punctuate the walk. The Three Jolly Beggars sit at one end of the Parade opposite a bare legged Pitt the Younger. Other statues in the same style are dotted around the front of the castle, introducing a humorous note.
Fingask is now firmly in the ownership of the Threipland family but is has had an intriguing history. Remarkably, the family bought the castle four times. Originally built by the Bruce family, it later passed by mortgage and marriage into the Threipland family. During the Jacobite causes supported both the Old Pretender and then the Young Pretender. ‘In 1715 the castle was badly damaged when sequestered by the Hanoverians. But Sir Stuart Threipland bought the place back from the government at a rigged auction in the 1780’s.’
The estate was sold by Andrew’s grandfather in 1912 but his brother Mark bought it back in 1965; Andrew, who grew up in Wales, bought it from his brother 11 years ago. ‘It has been an advantage not having grown up here; it makes it easier to make changes. I come to the house and garden with respect but no ghosts.’
His changes are mostly in the wooded valley known as the Dell, which sits below the house and was created by Sir Stuart Threipland by building a dam across the burn at the head of the valley. Here, Andrew built a pleasure dome, overlooking the Dell, with wooden supports painted vermilion, covered with a domed copper roof, which conceals a secret room, reached by a rope ladder. ‘When the children become too importunate Helen and I hide up here,’ Andrew jokes. In addition to Peter the couple have two other children: Beatrice, 5, and Sasha, 3 1/2.
[Images – from top to bottom: Plans are afoot to transform the bamboo into a maize; A tall avenue of trees marks the boundary of the formal garden known as The Parade; The Three Jolly Beggars make a focal point at the far end of the Parade; A group of early snowdrops; The Pleasure Dome overlooking the Dell.]