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3 Jul 2021

Doors open on re-Dun attraction in North East

A man sits on the stone steps leading up to a grand Georgian mansion house. Behind him stand three people, dressed in Victorian costumes: a cook on the left, a well-to-do young woman in the centre and an estate worker on the right. Stone urns with pretty bedding plants line the staircase.
Iain Hawkins (General Manager) and our costumed guides outside House of Dun | Photography: Stewart Attwood
We’re ready to take visitors on a trip back in time, with the opening of the House of Dun near Montrose. This project, one of the biggest in the Trust’s 90th anniversary year, tells the story of Angus, its people and landscape in a fresh and innovative way.

We have ‘re-imagined’ the property, which encompasses an elegant Georgian mansion, beautiful Victorian gardens, a 320-hectare estate and the new permanent home of the Angus Folk Collection. Visitors will want to return again and again, discovering new aspects of this remarkable place each time.

Iain Hawkins, General Manager for the North East said: ‘I grew up in Montrose and have always been fascinated by House of Dun. It’s very much a property that is tied to the landscape, and it’s that multi-layered story that we’re telling in this new experience.

‘We’re making House of Dun a true destination property for the east of the country, with something different to love on each visit. As we enjoy the easing of restrictions following such a difficult year, we need places like House of Dun even more – places where we can connect with history and nature, and experience our love of Scotland’s rich heritage.’

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“To be doing this in the National Trust for Scotland’s 90th year is something special, too. We’ve been around since 1931 and have come this far by evolving and looking at new ways to bring history to life, celebrate these incredible places and connect with people.”
Iain Hawkins
General Manager, National Trust for Scotland

Designed by renowned Scottish architect William Adam for wealthy lawyer David Erskine (the 13th Laird of Dun) to replace the medieval tower house that had been home to the Erskine family since 1375, House of Dun was completed in 1743. It was bequeathed to the National Trust for Scotland in 1980 and was opened to the public in 1989.

As well as the Baroque extravagance of the mansion, complete with many fine paintings and exquisite plasterwork that contains secret Jacobite symbolism, the estate encompasses policies and farmland, along with the old Dun kirk (visited by John Knox), the Erskine family mausoleum, the Montrose Basin Nature Reserve and a 2-mile stretch of the River South Esk. The house is surrounded by picturesque gardens laid out by Lady Augusta Fitzclarence, the wife of the Hon. John Kennedy-Erskine and daughter of William IV.

The new presentation of House of Dun uses multi-sensory techniques throughout to cover topics such as life ‘above’ and ‘below’ stairs, the food and drink of Angus, the Declaration of Arbroath, toys through the ages and the important role of horses in peacetime and war. Major work has been undertaken to transform the house’s courtyard area, which is now the permanent home of the Angus Folk Collection. We are displaying around 400 items from the vast array of objects amassed by Lady Maitland of Burnside in the first half of the 20th century.

The new display of this diverse collection, ranging from ploughs and shears to the very rare horse-drawn Glenisla hearse, gives a unique insight into the lives of past generations of local people. Lady Maitland’s own fascinating history is part of the story told – we have included displays of her dried flowers, which she would sell to raise money for the Trust.

Inside the main house, visitors can take tours led by costumed guides playing the roles of three former residents: aristocrat Violet Jacob (née Kennedy-Erskine), house cook Isabella Peddie and estate manager William Young. Award-winning theatre director Al Seed has created the immersive tours, which feature garments by costume designer Zephyr Liddell. The Trust has also commissioned sound artist Guy Veale to develop audio installations throughout the property, including Doric readings by writer and presenter Alistair Heather.

Elsewhere in the property, new cafés and shops have been created, including pop-up spaces for local artisan producers. New maps and signage will point people to the beautiful walks around the estate, and the children’s play park.

The house, shop and cafés are open Thursday–Monday, and the gardens and estate are open daily.

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The £714,000 House of Dun project was made possible thanks to the legacy of Dr Sheila Bain, members of the National Trust for Scotland’s Patrons’ Club, Northwood Charitable Trust, Angus Members’ Centre, and other generous donors who prefer to remain anonymous.

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