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The Bavarian summerhouse in the gardens of Brodick Castle celebrates its 175th anniversary this year. Here Tim Keyworth, gardens and designed landscape manager at National Trust for Scotland (NTS) Ayrshire & Arran, takes a look at the history of this iconic building.
Built in 1845, the Bavarian summerhouse is the only survivor of four similar structures that once graced the woodland at Brodick Castle.
The four summerhouses each had a stunning view of the surrounding landscape, having been built at key scenic points across the garden. The one you can see in the garden today was constructed in a Bavarian style as a wedding present for Princess Marie of Baden and was said to be the grandest in design. It’s likely the building was constructed by specialist craftsman from Bavaria.
Princess Marie is a key figure in the history of Brodick Castle, gardens and estate. Her marriage to William, who later became the 11th Duke of Hamilton, was the catalyst for Brodick’s expansion into the luxurious castle you see today.
Princess Marie’s cousin was Napoleon III and the marriage elevated the Hamiltons to a new social standing. It’s thought Princess Marie was often marooned at Brodick Castle while her husband travelled widely across Europe, leaving her lonely and homesick, although we know she travelled to Paris to host parties for her cousin. The marriage ended tragically, when William fell down a staircase in Paris aged 52.
But back to the summerhouse. Built into a sandstone rock face, it holds a prominent position over Brodick Bay and the wider Clyde estuary. It’s a rare and outstanding example of a rustic structure, fashionable in gardens at the time it was installed.
Princess Marie and her friend, the artist George Hering, developed the gardens, creating romantic walks and drives in the woodland surrounding the castle, and the summerhouse would have provided an ideal resting point.
Inside, the original ceiling is decorated with pine cones and is a real masterpiece of craftsmanship.
Externally, the building is adorned with the stems of the common rhododendron, Rhododendron ponticum, giving the exterior a striking, layered appearance. This invasive rhododendron, which can be seen growing wild across the west coast of Scotland, would have been in plentiful supply.
The interior now needs restoring, which NTS hopes to carry out in the coming years. Once completed, the building can continue to be a feature of the gardens for the next 175 years.
The castle gardens and grounds are currently open to the public, but the castle remains closed.
Princess Marie of Baden. NO_B30bavaria01
The ornate ceiling of the Bavarian summerhouse. NO_B30bavaria02
The Bavarian summerhouse in the grounds of Brodick Castle. NO_B30bavaria03