Ardgowan was built between 1797 and 1801 for Sir John Shaw Stewart, the 4th baronet. Set in a tranquil 400-acre park at the mouth of the River Clyde, today Ardgowan is home to Lady Shaw Stewart and her son, Sir Ludovic, the 12th baronet. In the house is a collection of Napoleonic memorabilia including the emperor’s hat, a bottle of his brandy and his full-length portrait, all acquired by Sir Michael Shaw Stewart, the 6th baronet. The drawing-room has a good collection of Old Masters and family portraits which were rehung a few years ago by Alec Cobbe in an authentic recreation of an eighteenth-century "hang". The dining-room has an important group of Raeburn portraits of members of the family. Accommodation at Ardgowan is in sumptuously appointed bedrooms, many of which retain their original mahogany and satinwood furniture by Gillows of Lancaster.


Anatomy of a Country House, May 3rd–5th

A two-night residential programme giving you a chance to get "under the skin" of an 18th-century Scottish country house and explore its historical as well as architectural context.

Sunday: Participants arrive early afternoon. Cindy Shaw Stewart lectures on the history of the Ardgowan estate, followed by a look at the ruin of the original tower house. After tea and a chance to change, there is a tour of the house. Then follows a recreation of a late 18th-century dinner using silver purchased by Sir Michael, the 6th baronet, from leading Regency silversmiths in London and Edinburgh.

Monday: Caroline Knight places Ardgowan in the context of late 18th-century architecture, and also looks at the contribution of the 19th-century architects William Burn and Sir Robert Lorimer, both of whom worked on the house. After coffee, Duncan Thomson lectures on Sir Henry Raeburn and leads a tour of the important collection of family portraits by the artist. After lunch, Christopher Hartop lectures on the silver purchased by Sir Michael Shaw Stewart. After a short ferry ride, there is a scenic drive along Loch Lomond to Strachur, an 18th-century house overlooking Loch Fyne. After a tour of the house, there is a festive dinner hosted by Sir Charles MacLean, Chieftain of Dunconnel, and Lady MacLean.

Tuesday: A study session by Cindy Shaw Stewart on the Gillows furniture in the house, using bills and inventories from the Ardgowan archives, is followed by a presentation on the Grand Tour pictures. After coffee, there is a panel discussion on conservation and heritage issues and Ardgowan’s role in the 21st century. After lunch, the participants depart.

£900 (single supplement £100)

Dumfries House and the Scottish Enlightenment, June 9th–11th

A two-night stay in Ardgowan’s sumptuous accommodations provides the perfect base to study Dumfries House and get "behind the ropes" with leading experts. Recently saved from dispersal by the intervention of the Prince of Wales, who set up a trust to administer it, Dumfries House and its contents embody the Scottish Enlightenment. Built in the 1750s in the Palladian style to a design by the Adam brothers, the house contains its original furniture by Thomas Chippendale as well as by the Edinburgh cabinetmakers Brodie, Peter and Mathie.

Tuesday: Participants arrive in the early afternoon in time for a lecture on the history of the Earls of Dumfries and the building of the house. After tea, Christopher Hartop lectures on the silver collection of the 5th Earl of Dumfries. Before dinner, Cindy Shaw Stewart leads a tour of Ardgowan.

Wednesday: Departure by coach to Dumfries House for a tour of the house and grounds. After lunch there is a study session on the furniture with David Jones. After tea, there is a visit to nearby Auchinleck House, the Palladian house of the Boswell family. After returning to Ardgowan and a chance to change, there is a recreation of an 18th-century Scottish dinner using period silver and porcelain.

Thursday: A study session on Gillows furniture with David Jones and a lecture on the architecture of Dumfries House by Caroline Knight are followed by Cindy Shaw Stewart on the recent restoration programme of the house and contents. After lunch the participants depart.

£1,300 (single supplement £100)

The Art of Dining at Ardgowan: Georgian Food and Drink, October 4rd–6th

A two-night residential course focuses on eating and drinking in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Sunday: Participants arrive early afternoon in time for a lecture by Christopher Hartop on Georgian dining and drinking, followed by Nichola Fletcher on historic feasting. After tea, Ivan Day demonstrates techniques of 18th-century pastry making. Dinner that evening is a recreation of a baroque banquet.

Monday: An excursion includes a visit to Hopetoun House to study dining in the baroque palace and a lunch in the Regency dining-room at Dalmeny House hosted by Lady Rosebery followed by a study session with the Rosebery silver. Dinner that evening is a recreation of a late Georgian feast.

Tuesday: Caroline Knight lectures on the development of the dining-room, followed by Cindy Shaw Stewart on 18th-century dining-room furniture. After coffee, Nichola Fletcher leads a demonstration on venison – its history, preparation and cooking. After lunch, Christopher Hartop lectures on Georgian table decoration, followed by Ivan Day giving a demonstration on 18th-century meat cookery. After tea, the participants depart.

£1,300 (single supplement £100)

Speakers for 2009

Ivan Day has an international reputation for his research on British and European culinary history. He is also a gifted professional cook and confectioner, noted particularly for his recreations of meals and table settings which have been exhibited in many museums. He has written a number of books and is currently working on Cookery in Europe 1650–1850.

Nichola Fletcher, author of the recent bestseller Charlemagne’s Tablecloth: A Piquant History of Feasting, is currently working on a book about caviar. She is a noted expert on venison and its history and preparation, having pioneered Europe’s first deer farm in Scotland.

Christopher Hartop FSA is a well-known author and lecturer on art, architecture and the history of dining. His books include The Huguenot Legacy: English Silver 1680–1760 (1996), Royal Goldsmiths (2005), and A Noble Feast (2006). He was Executive Vice President of Christie’s New York until 1999. He is Chairman of the Silver Society.

David Jones is Honorary Keeper of Furniture at Dumfries House, where he has worked on the collection since the early 1990s. He has taught Furniture History at the University of St Andrews for twenty-six years and is a leading academic authority on the subject. He edits the academic journal Regional Furniture and sits on various curatorial panels including the National Trust for Scotland, Hopetoun House and Paxton House.

Caroline Knight FSA is an independent lecturer in British architectural history, specializing in the 16th–18th centuries. She leads a course at the V&A, "The Visual Arts in Europe: High Renaissance to Baroque, 1500–1720". She has written a two-volume history of Kensington Palace and a book, London’s Country Houses, published in 2009, on the architectural and social history of 16th–18th-century villas round London as well as numerous articles and has contributed to two books on architectural and social history.

Cindy Shaw Stewart has lectured widely on the history of country houses and their interiors and furniture. When her marriage to the late Sir Houston Shaw Stewart brought her to Ardgowan, she joined the Executive of the National Trust for Scotland. She is a Sir William Burrell Trustee (Burrell Collection), and is also currently a trustee of the Chatsworth House Trust, the Royal Collection and NADFAS, and serves on the regional committee for Dumfries House.

Dr Duncan Thomson was Keeper of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery from 1982 to 1997, where he curated the major Raeburn exhibition which was shown in Edinburgh and London. He has published a number of books and exhibition catalogues over the years on both historical and contemporary art and is currently writing a history of the Portrait Gallery, to be published in 2011. From 2003 he has been an Honorary Fellow of the School of Arts, Culture and Environment in the University of Edinburgh.