Deer House: The owners

Deer House: The owners' story

Elianne Reed 20 August 2019

“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.

Deer House, near Inverness in Scotland, certainly has a good feel to it! It's a home that has grown and changed significantly over the 120 years it has been standing, and it is this combination of family home and holiday home that makes it a very special place to stay. Located just outside Inverness near a small idyllic Highland village called Farr, this holiday home offers a beautiful place for you and your family to stay.

We asked the owners to come and share the story of how it came to be the beautiful modern holiday home it is today. Read all about it:

The first Deer 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 along 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 new wings as well as crenellations and turrets to the house. 
The Victorian Deer 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 trend at that time in Scotland to build 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 1980s, it 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 in the 1950s.

The Mackenzie family continued to use it as a holiday home - whilst living in Norfolk - until the 1970s when the house was found to have extensive dry-rot and became irreparable. After having one last party, the main house was taken down. Parts of the original building can be seen where the garage is now situated - 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 Deer 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 Deer and lived in it from the 1980s until 2002. They built the six 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 1990s, they added a large sunroom which is now the dining room. After their departure, the house was again rented to various tenants for long lets before it underwent its next transformation.

The latest version of Deer House was carried out by the family in 2016. With five girls in the family and 11 grandchildren, there was a desire to see the house continue to be enjoyed by the family, but it also had 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, however! The aim was to bring the house into the 21st century, with all the mod cons that people expect nowadays when renting a house - this included 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 ‘Deer Annexe’, a self-contained one-bedroom apartment which can also be linked to the main part of the house.

  • Sleeps two, 1 dog welcome
  • Unique stylish touches throughout
  • Charming antique furniture
  • View Deer Annexe and book for a romantic break in the Highlands

Two more incredible bedrooms and en-suite bathrooms were then built, with the aim to make the rooms feel as though they have the same level of luxury that you would find in a first-class hotel.

farr house twin bedroom

A big change was re-positioning the front entrance of the house (previously, you would enter through the kitchen); firstly the drive was rerouted - a huge task involving a lot of earth shifting and 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 impressive entrance hall, as befits a Highland lodge.

We found the arch in a shop in Edinburgh - originally it was from Rajasthan in India. It adds an impressive and unique feel to the traditional Victorian panelling in the main hall. 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 stained 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 grandparent's 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! 

The finished result, we feel, is a light airy property which retains the 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 modern touches such as boiling water taps and three dishwashers).

Our family have tested it out on various occasions and have added their own feedback; we now hope 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 and find the hidden graveyard. They can follow the burn down below the tennis court and back round up the drive to the house, twisting along the paths and stumbling across glacial boulders hidden in the woods around the house, to finally come out near Farr Loch.

This charming Highland lodge sleeps up to 16 people and a maximum of four dogs are welcome. 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! Find out all about the Highlands with our extensive guide to help you plan your trip.
Why not book a stay at Deer House and see for yourself? Bring a whole group and book Deer Hideaway (sleeps 6) and Deer Annexe (sleeps 2) 

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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