When city life got too frantic, Lynne and Marc Lino bought Billy Connolly’s former holiday house and transformed it into a family home and luxury rural retreat.
Despite not being used as a full-time family home for 30 years, Candacraig, in the Cairngorms National Park, turned out to be the perfect fit for the Lino family.
Better known as the former holiday home of Billy Connolly and Pamela Stephenson, and before that of Body Shop founder Anita Roddick, Candacraig has a lot to thank its previous owners for.
‘Both families put an immense amount of care into the upkeep of the house,’ says owner Lynne Lino.
It was rewired and replumbed, and its interior given a thorough refresh in the 1980s. More recently, the focus was on the grounds and on restoring some of the original parts of the estate through the purchasing of the walled garden and cottages, alongside landscaping the grounds to their current immaculate shape.
Scottish-born Lynne and her American husband Marc were living in New York when they realised they wanted to dial back the hectic city life. ‘We trialled living in the country, then we moved to Amsterdam to be closer to my family. My mum came to visit and things suddenly fell into place,’ says Lynne.
‘She asked what we wanted to do long term and I said open up a boutique hotel in the country where we could live and raise our daughters. She told me to get my laptop and showed me Candacraig.’
Lynne, who hadn’t lived in Scotland for 20 years, had always had thoughts about purchasing a property in Scotland, and she and Marc were intrigued to find out more.
They researched Candacraig with the hotel concept in mind, possibly with an amazing restaurant as part of it. ‘Then we actually drove here and we realised the implications the location and the weather could have on it.’
They decided to buy it to be the main family home for Lynne, Marc and their two daughters, aged five and ten, but also to open the house up for the exclusive use of private and corporate guests.
‘We decided to focus on private guests and the corporate market as we believe we know from our own experiences what makes a truly excellent retreat.’
While Candacraig was built to entertain, there were a few changes that Lynne wanted to make. ‘Our job has been to continue the upkeep of the property, but also to put our own touch on the house,’ she says.
‘We’ve reupholstered a lot of the furniture and done some significant interior design without losing the flavour of the house. We’re incredibly fortunate that it has been kept in such fantastic shape over the years.’
The couple have installed a new kitchen and, more recently, a biomass heating system.
‘It was unbelievable how much gas the house consumed; the biomass system will make a huge difference. The next project is solar panels for the electricity. This will dramatically reduce our carbon footprint, which will be pretty impressive for a 17th-century property, and fits in with our family’s desire to help look after the environment where we can.’
One of Lynne’s favourite changes has been the transformation of the house’s library into the Whisky Library. ‘The panelling had been bleached by the sun, but we were lucky enough to employ a painter and decorator who worked at Balmoral. He lived with us for six months and as part of the refurbishment did the Whisky Library. He painstakingly handwaxed the wood and brought it back to life.
‘I think it is now actually the colour of whisky – it’s just perfect. We then filled the shelves with our collection of single malts and Scottish gins, and brought in the Gunn tartan, which is my family tartan, to complete the look.’
Another room that is heavily under the influence of tartan is the stunning dining room. ‘The previous owners designed this room and really added drama. When I saw it online, I thought it might be too much, but once you experience it in the flesh and you feel the atmosphere, it’s brilliant. A lot of fun has been had here, and the fabric on the walls and ceiling not only makes it feel really cosy, it has great acoustics too.’
ewhere the rest of the décor is more subtle, but making changes wasn’t easy. ‘Adding new design elements to a historic house is a challenge to the untrained enthusiast like myself,’ Lynne admits. ‘I had a few restless nights worrying it was going horribly wrong. The entire drawing room was emptied in one day for the furniture to be reupholstered; with hindsight, we probably did too much too soon.’
Much of the interiors work was done in collaboration with Osborne Heath in Alloa.
‘They were amazing,’ says Lynne. ‘They did all the upholstery for us, along with a local woman who helped out on the smaller jobs. Lesley at Osborne was excellent at helping to steer me in the right direction. I am enjoying it more now because I’m only doing small updates, one room at a time.’
With 12 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms, it’s an ongoing process, but nothing needs to be done in a hurry. ‘That’s what drew us to Candacraig. We could walk in, unpack our cases and it was perfect. It has such a lovely feel. Guests always comment that they feel at home here and we believe we have found a remarkable setting.’
The family have settled in and business is busy, both of which Lynne credits to the location and community. Candacraig has 18 acres of grounds, including a walled garden and a lochan for fishing, and the family also appreciate being in the Cairngorms National Park.
‘We can hike and ski within a five-minute drive, and our views are remarkable. Our daughters go to local schools and the community has been so welcoming. We now employ 11 local staff, which I’m incredibly pleased about. Another plus is that my parents live in one of the cottages next door, so instead of seeing them once a year, I see them every day. It’s been 20 years since I’ve lived in Scotland and now whenever I leave, I’m just itching to get back home again.’
Candacraig House is available to let. Visit www.candacraighouse.com
(This feature was originally published in 2016)