Grand Designs bothy, Kinross

Gardeners’ bothy extension in Scotland

Could a historical bothy in Kinross become the perfect family home?

By Amy Frearson | 15 September 2021

A bothy, by definition, is pretty basic, but that didn’t stop Iain and Jenny Shillady from dreaming big when it came to their Grand Designs Scottish bothy, featured in the new TV series.

Typically found in remote mountain areas of Scotland to provide shelter for estate workers, not many would look at one of these simple buildings and decide it would make the perfect family home. But this is Grand Designs. Unusual thinking is what we’ve come to expect.

Iain, 38, of Staran Architects, had always imagined designing his own contemporary house. But his wife Jenny, 36, a marketing manager, found herself more attracted to older buildings, like the farmhouse of her youth.

Inside the kitchen of the Grand Designs Scottish bothy with a view out to the formal garden

The century-old gardeners’ bothy offered Jenny the character she craved. Photo: David Barbour

Ticks all the boxes

Buying this century-old gardeners’ bolt in Rumbling Bridge, near Kinross, presented the couple with the opportunity to combine the two by upgrading and extending the property. ‘It ticked all the boxes,’ said Iain. ‘The bothy had a lot of character, but it gave us an opportunity to put our own mark on it.’

It also came with a walled garden, complete with a formal layout and established topiary. Iain and Jenny knew the outdoor space would need treating with as much respect as the historic architecture.

Despite the challenge it presented, this garden was a huge draw. The dream of outdoor space had been in their minds long before this property came along. Iain’s childhood home just outside Glasgow had featured a big garden, while Jenny grew up on a farm. They both have fond memories of playing outdoors and building treehouses, and wanted to offer the same kind of experiences to their own children, Archie, six, and Emily, four.

The Grand Designs SCottish bothy extension with view out to the formal gardens

The project also allowed Iain to build the contemporary home he dreamed of. Photo: David Barbour

Beatrix Potter bothy

The bothy itself was in surprisingly good condition. Built in the late 19th century, it is described by the children as being like something out of a Beatrix Potter story.

‘Everything was wonky, but it was so well made for something that was essentially a shed,’ said Jenny. However this small stone building had never been used as a residence, or even just for overnight stays. Until recently it had been within the grounds of the Georgian country house next door, used by the estate’s gardeners as a place to stop for a cup of tea or store tools.

A bit of imagination was required to see how this old shed and its elaborate garden could be transformed into a family home. But like all good conversions, the solution seems simple now that it’s built. The trickiest part was navigating the relationship between the original building and the extension.

Heritage meets contemporary architecture in the Grand Designs Scottish bothy project

The project offers the best of both worlds – heritage and contemporary architecture. Photo: David Barbour

So how did they do it? Tune in to the brand new series at 9pm, Wednesday 15 September 2021 on Channel 4 to find out how Iain and Jenny fared with their Grand Designs Scottish bothy renovation.