The story of Farr House – Inverness
“It doesn’t matter if your taste is modern or traditional, classic or retro. If a house has a good feel to it, it will always be a home” – Cameron Kimber, interior designer, Vogue Living 2012.
Farr House, near Inverness in Scotland, certainly has a good feel to it! It is a home that has grown and changed significantly over the 120 years it has been standing, yet has always been a combination of a family home and holiday home making it a very special place to stay today. We know many of you enjoy our transformation posts so we asked the owners to come and share the story of how it became to be the beautiful modern holiday home it is today. Get yourself a cuppa, settle down and enjoy!
The first Farr house was a well-proportioned Georgian manor house owned by the Mackintosh family, whose family graveyard can still be found near the house hidden among the trees down a woodland path. Later the house was bought by a descendant of our family ancestor William Mackenzie, a Victorian engineer who made his fortune building railways in France. William carried out a series of ‘improvements’ on Farr, adding a number of news wings as well as crenellations and turrets to the house, the picture below shows Farr before and after this update.
The Victorian Farr house was designed by the popular Scottish architect William Burn, who was also responsible for designing ‘Inverness Castle’ and ‘Dunfermline Abbey’. This style of architecture was in keeping with the current trend in Scotland for more impressive homes that looked like castles, thanks largely to Queen Victoria’s love of Scotland and Balmoral. Over this period and right up until the 1980’s Farr was always a holiday home. The Mackenzie Family lived in Henley-on-Thames so they would only go to Scotland over the summer. Over time the house was rented out regularly to guests including The Duke of Gloucester and his extended family who rented it annually over the 1950’s.
The Mackenzie family continued to use it as a holiday home (whilst living in Norfolk) until in 1970’s when the house was found to have extensive dry-rot and became irreparable. After having one last ‘party’ (my fathers 21st) the main house was taken down. Parts of the original building can be seen where the garage is now situated it (this was the kitchen as it is all tiled inside with big ovens). The rest was levelled and is now the tennis court.
The new Farr House, as it stands today is, in fact, a combination of a chapel, servants hall and kennel! The first renovation was carried out by my grandparents who retired to Farr and lived in it from the 1980’s until 2002. They built the 6 bedrooms over two floors they also converted the Chapel and hall into a library and dining room (now the sitting room) and added a large kitchen. Later in the 1990’s. They added a large ‘sun room’ which is now the dining room. After their departure, the house was again rented to various tenants on long lets before it underwent its next transformation.
The latest version of Farr was carried out by the family in 2016. With five girls in the family, and eleven grandchildren there was a desire to see the house continue to be enjoyed by the family, but to work for itself. Having been rented out for so long the house needed a number of improvements; it turned out to be a bigger project than anticipated! Our aim was to bring the house into the 21st century, with all the ‘mod cons’ that people expect now days when renting a house, this includes underfloor heating, bathrooms for every bedroom and superfast broadband that worked throughout the house with no ‘black zones’.
The first part of the house that needed attention was the kennel end of the house that was falling down, this is now ‘Loch Nest’, a self-contained 1 bedroom apartment which can also be linked to the main part of the house.
We then went on to build 2 more incredible bedrooms and en-suite bathrooms with the aim to make the rooms feel like the same level of luxury you would find in a first-class hotel.
A big change was re-positioning the front entrance of the house (previously you would enter through the kitchen); firstly we rerouted the drive, a huge task, involving a lot of earth shifting and a employing the skills of a local dry-stone waller to build the beautiful wall and end-posts down the drive. Guests now arrive in a sweep to park at the front of the house and enter into an an impressive entrance hall, as befits a Highland lodge.
We found the arch in a shop in Edinburgh, originally it was from Rajasthan in India, we feel it adds in impressive and unique feel to the combined with the traditional Victorian panelling in the main hall taken from the sitting room, thus a combination of mixing old with new to give it a new lease of life. Something else we always feel is important in Scotland (having grown up here) is a good boot room to dry off clothes and boots after a wet day out, we hope to have achieved this with underfloor heating and numerous pegs and racks for clothes and plenty of ventilation.
The older part of the house, the library and sitting room, we felt should retain its original feel and look. The stain glass window is from 1897 and is the Mackenzie Family crest, as you can guess, this was the ‘chapel’ part of the house and this can also be seen in the high arched ceiling, it is a room that has changed little since my grandparents day.
The sitting room was originally the dining room and quite a lot of renovation was needed. During the process we found a shuttlecock wedged into the wall (a wee mousie must have liked the look of it!) and looking at the floor after the carpet had come up we saw white lines painted on the wood. One of the builders then remembered that his father had been up to the house and used to play badminton there! You can see from the photos below just how much work was done to get the sitting room to the beautiful standard it is today!
The finished result, we feel, is a light airy property which retains its original feel of a traditional home, with warm open fires, and old family portraits, but with an up-to-date style in the bedrooms, kitchen and breakfast room (we enjoyed adding touches such as boiling water taps and 3 dishwashers!).
The family have tested it out on various occasions and have added their own feedback, we hope now that guests will find a house they will feel at home in. We also hope they will explore the grounds, to see where the old house sat, to find the hidden graveyard, follow the burn down below the tennis court and back round up the drive to the house and twist along the paths to stumble across glacial boulders hidden in the woods around the house and come out near Farr Loch.
This is an absolutely charming holiday home and we invite you to come and find out more about it on our website. The house sleeps 16 people and the rent starts at £3,950/week. Dogs are welcome (4 max), the house has WiFi and it also accepts short breaks. Being close to Inverness this location gives you the best of both worlds so you can enjoy a mixture of rural wilderness and a bustling city!