Within a mile and a half of Gatehouse the main road passes the policies of Ardwall. The intervening part of the road is shaded by many great old trees especially where it skirts the high knoll crowned by the Castle of Cardoness. At this point one catches a glimpse through the trees around Ardwall of its pale yellow rough cast front, its gleaming windows and steep roof, and with another bend of the road one has reached the Lodge and the beginning of the short avenue.
Perhaps there is no other house in Galloway so delightful as Ardwall: certainly there is none more delightfully situated. It stands among trees on a little plateau from which the ground slopes away on three sides. On the remaining side is a dense tract of woodland screening the house from the road. In his essay on "The Ideal House", Stevenson has postulated that the house must be within hail of either a little river or the sea. Here you have both: for the little river of Fleet and the Skyeburn are near, and from the garden you could throw a stone over the wall into the salt water of Fleet Bay. Another amenity of Ardwall is the unusual proximity of sea and woodland. Immense trees grow right down to the top of the beach and at a high tide their branches will be almost overhanging the waves. Here you will have the pungent odours of the sea contending with the delicate scents of the forest and the cooing of wood-pigeons interrupted by the seabirds' cries.
The house was built of whinstone quarried from the beach: the walls have been roughcast and the windows and corners faced with red freestone. The old part dating from the Georgian period (c.1760) is flanked by modern wings built by Lady Ardwall in 1895, which add dignity and grace to the original structure. Ascending a long flight of whinstone steps leading above the level of the basement one looks into the hall and is confronted by two narrow graceful archways with a stair rising to the upper storeys from that on the left and a second stair leading down to the basement from the other.... A very old clock is enclosed in the column between the archways with its dial between the capital and the cornice of the hall. The white walls are decorated with numerous trophies of the chase, the set up heads of a lion, a roan antelope, two white-eared cobs, a water buck, a tiang, a reed buck, a Scottish red deer, and the skeleton horns of two water buffalo, an oribi, a wart hog, a water buck and two gazelles. The animals, with, of course, the exception of the red deer, were all shot between Khartoum and Renk by Lord Ardwall's eldest son. Besides these should be mentioned another ornament, a large otter which ended its days in a water trap.
On the left is a corridor leading to the drawing room and ante drawing room apartments occupying entirely the first floor of the left wing. The initial impression received on entering the house, that of an air of light and sweetness, is repeated here more delicately. The white woodwork, the white mantelpieces, the cream wallpaper with stripes of pale blu, and the polished floor of the ante drawing room reflects the light that enters so abundantly by windows at both ends and on one side. The effect in the drawing room is that of much light without too much brightness: for the strong rays of the sun striking through the south window are caught by the farthest apartment and merely reflected onwards. The simplicity of the wallpaper sets in relief the designs of the handsome tapestry curtains and the upholstery of the Sheraton couches and chairs, and is an effective background for the occasional tables, secretaires and cabinets of bric-a- brac which complete the furnishing of a singularly pleasant room.
The front window commands a view of a great park where stalwart trees stand at intervals. Through a break in the foliage may be seen at a little distance, the severe outline of the tall ruins of Cardoness Castle softened usually and made mysterious-looking by the haze from the sea. Out of the south window one looks across a green sward to such towering masses of foliage as shut out the landscape in that whole direction. But as Stevenson said, "a great prospect is desirable", and among its many attractions, Ardwall has this. By ascending to the [second] level one is raised above the level of the surrounding tree tops and may look down the bay of Fleet and past the Isles of Fleet and the irregular coast of the parish of Borgue, into the wide dim distances of the shining Solway. The isles, it may be said in passing, can be reached by riding over the sands when the tide is out. Ardwall Island has some excavations, Norse graves originally, it is believed, but used later by smugglers for concealing contraband.
Ardwell House [19K JPEG; Click to View]