South Scotland

Dumfries and Galloway farmhouse displays green credentials

Three Glens
Image caption The five-bedroom farmhouse in southern Scotland aims to use as much reclaimed material as possible

I failed to find the Three Glens farmhouse at my first attempt.

Maybe that's a downside of a building designed to blend in with its surroundings as much as possible.

More likely, however, is that it was an indication of my inability to follow directions properly.

Nonetheless, when I did finally overcome my own ineptitude, I discovered a house which looks very much at home in the rolling south of Scotland hills.

A sharp turn out of the village of Moniaive in Dumfries and Galloway - the one I missed first time round - sets you on the right track.

Then you spot its wooded front, large glass sections and sloping turf roof.

It already looks like part of the landscape and, you get the feeling, that impression will only increase over the years.

But that kind of building does not come without a fair bit of time, effort and expense.

Farmer Neil Gourlay and his wife Mary set out on a project he described as a "lifelong dream" about five years ago.

I spoke to him in 2009 about his goals for the property.

He said he was keen to create a house which was "something different" but which would also be environmentally-friendly.

This week, with the building complete, I went to visit to ask him if it had ultimately met expectations.

Showing me around the property, it is clear the Gourlays have a great deal of pride and sense of achievement about how the farmhouse has turned out.

"We had an idea to build a house on this farm because it had no house on it," he explained.

"I had got right scunnered by putting money into shares and thought maybe a better thing to do was invest in property on our own land.

"I got rid of the shares and that is what financed a fair bit of this."

Image caption The original artist's impression shows how the house was designed to blend into the local landscape

It was via a cousin of Mrs Gourlay that they were put in touch with architect Mark Waghorn.

His brief was to produce a house which suited the area and was also as self-sufficient as possible.

Construction work got under way in August 2011 and took about 20 months to complete.

Storm-damaged trees and railway sleepers helped to provide the timber, dry stone walls from outdoors are continued inside the building and the wool from about half of the Gourlays' flock of 3,000 sheep helped to provide the insulation.

Then, near the end, the turf which was removed to make way for the building was stuck back on the roof at a slope similar to that of the local landscape.

The house gets its electricity from a nearby wind turbine, its water comes from a bore hole deep underground and is heated by solar panels.

The only real foreign invader is an Austrian Kachelofen - a large clay wood-burning stove - which helps to provide warmth along with ground source heating.

It means that, overall, the house can more than meet its own energy needs.

That is something which, Mr Gourlay admitted, appealed to his "miserable" side.

Image caption The farmhouse enjoys impressive views from its position near the top of the hill

"This house will never have a utility bill in its life," he said.

"Most of what is being used in this house has been crafted out of something somebody else has thrown away."

His architect is also pleased with how his vision has become a reality.

"I am delighted with the end result," said Mr Waghorn.

"The most important thing to me is that it is a house that is visibly connected to the landscape.

"That is very important because I have gone on to become more interested in living and working in rural areas."

And his client, who project-managed and had a very hands-on approach to most of the building work, is also happy with the outcome.

"Yes, I am delighted because, if I am not, it is all my own fault," said Mr Gourlay.

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