Dumfries House Lodges, Estate, Restaurant and Tour – Firstly, Dumfries House isn’t in Dumfries, it’s in Ayrshire. This country estate offers five star self-catering and B&B accommodation, plus a unique family day out including a Walled Garden, maze and engineering playground, and one of the best Sunday lunches in Scotland. Dumfries House is also a grand stately home fitting for Downton or Bridgerton. *contains affiliate links
The house and estate were saved for the nation by the work of HRH Prince Charles and the Prince’s Foundation. The unique collection of Chippendale furniture was hours away from being split up and sold to the highest bidder before the Prince’s charity stepped in. This really is a precious piece of Scottish history to behold.
Day Out – Dumfries House Lodges
This estate is the kind of place that children love way more than you expect them to, as they can run or scoot about, explore and discover new things. For adults it’s a treasure trove of unexpected sights and sounds. Even better, much of it is free – discover what’s currently open here.
The grounds are vast with unexpected doocots, arbors and elegant shelters pop up, all with their own story, often handcrafted by trainees of the Prince’s Foundation.
We crossed the distinctive Adam bridge, and approached the Engineering Park. This was a real hit with my kids, as they transported water through a process of hand-turned screws, cups and dams, played xylophones and learned as they played. We spent a good 45 minutes there.
Next we ventured to the maze (closed in low season). We also hit up the wooden outdoor playground (obviously v cool in summer, and slippy on rainy days). In the Walled Garden the children saw a real glass-fronted bee hive, so you could open it up and see the bees at work. Small details like this made the garden appealing for children.
Finally we crossed over the intricate Chinese bridge to make our way back to our accommodation. The estate just got curiouser and curiouser, mixing old and new designs and projects in its own inimitable style.
Sunday Lunch & Food – Dumfries House Lodges, Estate, Restaurant and Tour
The Woodlands restaurant is a real treat. Guests dine on fruit and veg grown on the estate, and meat reared on the farm. If you’re looking for local produce with low food miles, this is the place. I’d thoroughly recommend the Sunday lunch, it was fantastic – choose from an option of roasts (also dished up in child friendly portions) and indulge yourself. If your child doesn’t fancy a roast, other menu options are available such as fish goujons.
There’s also an informal café onsite, the Coach House, where the carriages and horses once lived. The building is quite beautiful but the food was pretty straightforward – we ordered a pie and literally got a pie on a plate (nothing else), so the Woodlands was definitely my preference.
Visiting Dumfries House with Kids
Dumfries House is itself a thing of beauty. From the small maze and fountain near the front door, to the Adam brothers building itself, it’s wonderfully grand. And then you step inside…
Available to visit by guided tour only, the house is a priceless treasure trove of Chippendale furniture. I’m not particularly interested in antiques, but think bright pops of yellow in the Family Parlour, rich blues in the Drawing Room and a sumptuous bedroom with its signature four poster bed. It’s jaw-dropping.
The pewter corridor is delicately ornate, and a popular choice for brides to walk down when weddings are hosted within the house. The tapestry room features wall-to-wall artworks. The carpets are treasured Axminster pieces. Even the chandeliers (shipped over from Murano) and candlesticks are works of intricate detail and beauty.
To be honest my youngsters struggled with the intellectual tour and played up, so I wouldn’t recommend the tour for young children, it wasn’t aimed at them. Equally, I wouldn’t miss seeing Dumfries House whilst I’m there. Sometimes our kids simply have to visit adult attractions (and the next minute we’re suffering soft play). Going to the estate without stepping inside the house, would be like visiting the Tower of London and bypassing the Crown Jewels. In my view it was worth trying to contain my children and their bouncy energy in these elegant surroundings for this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Self-Catering and B&B Accommodation
The five star lodges and guest rooms are wonderfully comfortable and beautifully kept. The ‘Garden Cottage’ was built in 1750 and brought into use a few years prior to the completion of Dumfries House itself, before becoming the Factor’s House, which it remained for over 200 years. The building has been refurbished to offer 22 guests rooms or luxury self-catering cottages. The finish within is exemplary – but then again, who’d deliver shoddy work for HRH Prince Charles. Think classic and cosy traditional decor, with paintings of flora and fauna on the walls, antiques on display, rich furnishings, fully kitted out kitchens and deep baths to loll in. So relaxing.
If you opt for B&B (rather than self-catering) it’s a short walk up to the breakfast room where you can tuck into a ‘full Scottish’.
Dumfries House is a destination in its own right, but it’s easy to assume it’s near Dumfries when it’s actually in Ayrshire. One gem, a short drive away, is a fellow Princes’ Trust project, the heated outdoor swimming pool at New Cumnock (p.s. don’t head to Cumnock like we did, it’s in New Cumnock). Beautifully finished changing rooms with pops of bright colour, it’s naturally hugely popular when the sun shines.
What we loved about Dumfries House is the fact that it feels a million miles away from day to day life. You’re in a bubble so it’s a total escape. It mixes outdoor adventure, learning and fun, with an elegant historic property that was saved for the nation at the eleventh hour. Plus, throw in great Sunday lunches and sumptuous accommodation, and it’s utterly transporting.
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