The statement “I have been living in a Pineapple” may give cause for surprise but is, in fact, quite true for I have just returned from a brief trip to Scotland. To stay in a building that puts a smile on your face whenever you catch a glimpse of it ought to be on everyone’s ‘to do’ list – if it is, The Pineapple is the place to go.
Originally part of the Dunsmore Estate, it was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland in 1974 and leased to the Landmark Trust who undertook its restoration. Neglected for very many years, the Pineapple proved to be in remarkably good condition for every ‘leaf’ was designed to prevent water collecting within it and damaging the stonework. The remainder of the property was very unstable and derelict.
When the two walled gardens were enclosed at Dunsmore in the mid 1700’s there was no ‘big house’ attached. They were purely used for producing a supply of fruit, vegetables and flowers to be sent to the Earl of Dunmore’s home in Argyll. It was some years later (it is thought) that the Pineapple was added as a folly and summerhouse, probably after the Earl’s return from Virginia and the Bahamas where he was Governor.
Why a pineapple? In the eighteenth century, pineapples were a rare luxury that had become associated with wealth and hospitality. They began to appear on pillars, railings and weather vanes and, indoors on fabrics and wall coverings. The building of The Pineapple was, perhaps, the grandest of all grand gestures.
Although the building is of such high quality in both its materials, cratsmanship and design it was barely recorded in contemporary writing and its designer remains unknown. One possible reason for this is that it may have been just a little too ‘over the top’ even for flamboyant Georgian taste. It is even quite probable that the Pineapple may have been painted. The doorway of the undercroft is a very accurate timber carving of Ionic pillars beyond which stone steps lead to the raised northern lawn. From this lawn there is level access to the summerhouse.
Either side of the Pineapple are two small cottages, formerly gardener’s bothys. These have been fully restored by the Landmark Trust to create holiday accomodation with living room and kitchen in one and bedrooms in the other. The north garden and the Pineapple room are for the private use of guests, the south lawn and gardens are open to the public.
To be able to grow pineapples required specialist knowledge and skills as well as additional warmth. Glasshouses flanked the south wall and were heated by the use of specially constructed hollow walls. At the foot of these, fires were lit and flues within the wall drew the heat upwards, warming the brickwork. The four decorative urns to either side of the Pineapple conceal chimneys and because of there similarity to those at Casino Marino in Dublin (to read about this extraordinary building click here), it has been suggested that the designer could be Sir William Chambers although there is no documented evidence to suggest this. At intervals on the southern side of the walls I found sliding stones which could be removed presumably to allow the heat to escape.
In 1820 William Wilkins, architect of the National Gallery in London, designed a house in the Tudor Gothick style. Dunsmore Park’s glory was, however, short-lived for by 1911 the family had left although it remained occupied until 1964 after which it was abandoned. It is now a ruin visible across the fields from the Pineapple. Another ruin, now very unstable, and also visible from the Pineapple, is the Elphinstone Tower. Of earlier origin, built about 1510, it became the family vault of the Dunmore family in 1836 with a church built alongside a few years later. This was demolished in the 1960’s. Their fascinating stories will be subjects of this blog in due course.
With so much history and beautiful scenery close by – Loch Lomond is only a short drive away – the Pineapple makes a great and intriguing place to use as a base for exploring the area. The grounds are open free to the public all year but the building is at its best during the hours when you are alone to enjoy its eccentricity and splendid isolation.
The Pineapple at night