Living in a pineapple

The Pineapple, Dunmore Park, Scotland

The Pineapple, Dunmore Park, Scotland

Some time ago, I stayed with some mates for a week in the Dunmore Pineapple, near Stirling, one of the most appealing of the many delightful holiday experiences provided by the Landmark Trust [].

I don’t like the pseudo-architectural term “folly”, because the builders of strange buildings usually had (indeed, have) their own reasons for spending their money as they wish, but the Pineapple is most certainly one of the oddest architectural statements in the whole of the British Isles.

The Pineapple marks the entrance to the south-facing 6½-acre kitchen garden of Dunmore Park.  The sixteen-foot-high brick retaining wall on the north side incorporated furnaces to heat glasshouses to grow expensive, exotic and highly prized fruit which marked the wealth and status of an aristocratic host.

The lower part of the structure, incorporating a scrupulously correct Palladian archway entrance, was built in 1761 for John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore (1732-1809).

He became the last, contentious royal governor of Virginia between 1771 and 1776, and ultimately returned to Scotland, having lost control of the colony.

Because the two halves of the structure, the garden entrance and the pineapple, are built from exactly the same stone and there is a 1761 date-stone, some historians have assumed that is the date of the whole structure.  Atop the cool classicism of the entrance, the octagonal gazebo segues into the pointy doors and windows of eighteenth-century Gothick, and then simply sprouts into a forty-five-foot-high pineapple.

It’s likely that, in conformity with the sailors’ custom of placing a pineapple on the gatepost on returning home from the tropics, Lord Dunmore had the elaborate and skilfully constructed pineapple gazebo built above the entrance to his kitchen garden sometime after his return in 1777.

The pineapple itself is a superb piece of craftsmanship, with each of its leaves individually drained to prevent frost-damage.  Folly it certainly isn’t.

It’s a diverting place to stay, even though you have to step outside to get from bed to breakfast, and the foxes tend to grab their breakfast from the dustbin.  The interior of the octagonal gazebo is entirely circular in plan, which my guitar-playing mate proved has resonant acoustics.  You could probably hear his eighteenth-century amplification a mile down the road in Airth.

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