Old Place of Monreith

Portwilliam, Dumfries and Galloway

The Old Place, also known as Dowies, is a house that was left behind by the family that built it when they prospered and went to live in a castle they bought nearby in 1683. It then became a farmhouse on their estate.

Before that, however, it was the home of the Maxwells, forebears of both Sir Herbert, historian and gardener; and the author Gavin Maxwell. Built in about 1600, it is a typical, plain, lowland lairdís house, still nominally fortified, at the end of a long uneven track.

 

When the Landmark Trust bought it, it had been empty for 20 years. The roof and floors had fallen in, but two good fireplaces survived inside. The Trust opened up the turnpike stair, which had been bricked up, and unblocked the main door with its stone panel for a coat of arms above.

 

The sea is only two miles away ó the same coastline on which Gavin Maxwell grew up, at Elrig, seven miles away. Whithorn, across the peninsula, was a centre of the early Christian culture around the Irish Sea, which produced such saints as Ninian, Patrick and Columba. A cross once stood near the Old Place but was moved in the last century and is now in Whithorn museum. There remains behind a strong sense of a continuous civilised life, lived here over nearly two millennia, in a place that, even for a Landmark, is exceptionally quiet and remote.

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