Tuesday, 2 September 2014


Eminent Scottish architect Robert Lorimer had the commission of a lifetime when Sir Andrew Noble who had made a fortune from his armaments empire commissioned him to build  a house on the shore of Loch Fyne in Argyll with the brief, 'nothing but the best and hang the expense.' No wonder Lorimer regarded Ardkinglas as his favourite commission, the house is widely recognised as his masterpiece.

Ardkinglas is a house that takes its place harmoniously in the dramatic Highland landscape; Lorimer's romantic conception references late 17th century Scottish vernacular architecture. Above all the house was intended to be practical, designed for comfort, with every modern convenience and luxury afforded by the Edwardian age. It had central heating, electricity and the telephone. But Ardkinglas was never intended to be a permanent residence, merely a holiday home for use as a shooting lodge during the season. 

Loch Fyne and Glen Kinglas 

The only caveat, as conveyed by Sir Andrew's unmarried daughter Lily, had been to proceed as quickly as possible as her father was already in his mid seventies  when work began in 1906. It is astonishing to think that the house was then completed in less than 18 months. Lorimer had a jetty built on Loch Fyne as all the building materials, save the local stone, had to be brought in by sea. Until the 1960's the only road into Argyll, the single track over the Rest and be Thankful Pass was of such steepness that lorries could only ascend in reverse gear. So any alternative was preferable.

Ardkinglas is built around a small open courtyard. The entrance hall is low and inviting,  heated by a large open hearth in the corner of the room. The hall is furnished with a ravishing extending table designed by Lorimer himself. The ground floor was the men's preserve; the Gun Room, Sir Andrew's oval Study, and the Smoking-cum-Billiard Room. In accordance with Lily's wishes there was not to be "an inch of painted paper from one end of the great house to the other." The walls were either panelled or plastered. The decoration of the house is restrained in its ornamentation, its aesthetic quality coming from the highest quality materials and the space.

The origin of the two monkey finials in the Billiard Room at Ardkinglas are unknown. What seems likely is that  they appeared courtesy of the craftsmen employed by Robert Lorimer who had previously worked for him at Formakin  in Renfrewshire; the estate adorned by carved cavorting monkeys.

Also on the ground floor are the kitchens and the servants quarters. The kitchen, scullery and service corridor are tiled and ever practical Lorimer used no right angles, for ease of cleaning.

The Scullery.

A stone staircase leads up to the Morning Room (above the study) and the house's principal interior, the Drawing Room, which has magnificent views over lock Fyne.

This wonderful room, 45' by 22' is dominated by a massive Arts and Crafts  fireplace, which has a lintel carved from a single piece of granite weighing more than five tons.

The ceiling is adorned with one of Lorimer's favoured 17th century style exercises in plasterwork. The central panel, which was one of the few features of the house disapproved of by the family, contains a painting of Apollo in his chariot by Bloomsbury artist Roger Fry, founder of the Omega Workshop.

The drawing room is furnished with not one but two grand pianos and this most musical of families regularly host recitals in this beautiful room.

The principal bedrooms were situated on the first floor. The corridor on the first floor leads to the upper hall, the loggia and the dining room.

Sir Robert Lorimer, like many Arts and Crafts architects designed furniture in a variety of styles. Much of his furniture was made by the Edinburgh firm of Whytock and Reid,  although he liked to think of himself of encouraging other craftsmen, notably the village joiner William Wheeler. 'The only real way to approach design was through a knowledge and appreciation of the material in which your design was to be carried out'; this, he told the Edinburgh Architectural Association was to him the essence of William Morris's teaching. The settle was designed by Lorimer and made by Whytock and Reid fro R.W.R.McKenzie of Earshall in 1893.

The Upper Hall on the first floor is dominated by a massive coat-of-arms above the fireplace. This room is  used for taking tea in the afternoons and for ceilidhs, with dancers flying in between the columns.

The Dining Room has not one but two Georgian tables.

The view of the garden from the north window of the dining room.

Most of the bedrooms on the second floor have pretty plastered and painted ceilings.

The days of Edwardian sporting parties at Ardkinglas came to an end with the death of Sir Andrew Noble in 1915. Subsequently the house ceased to be merely a summer retreat and during the tenure of the late Johnny Noble, Sir Andrew's great-grandson, Ardkinglas became the centre of a flourishing estate based on the company Loch Fyne Oysters that he set up with marine biologist Andrew lane in 1978. He also opened an Oyster Bar across the Loch from Ardkinglas which serves the delicious seafood, fresh oysters, langoustines, smoked salmon , kippers and other delicacies that are known all over the world.