News. Dumfries House: an idyllic venue
9th of April, 2018
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea,” wrote Henry James in The Portrait of a Lady. Sitting in Dumfries House amid gargantuan scones dotted with glacé cherries, buttery shortbread and piles of Empire cakes (the Scottish biscuit to accompany afternoon refreshments), one couldn’t agree more. Ever since the pastime was invented by Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, in the 1840s, it has been presented as the ultimate in civilised traditions. Although a thoroughly English convention, it seems the Scottish Estate is elevating teatime to glorious new heights.
The offerings today are certainly seductive, but playing the perfect host by delighting its guests with fabulous events has long been part of the House’s history. In fact, the first wedding to take place at the stately home can be traced back to 1792, when Viscount Mount Stuart and Lady Elizabeth Penelope Crichton tied the knot in front of a finely dressed crowd. Today, the champagne continues to flow freely. In addition to weddings, Dumfries House also throws intimate candlelit dinners, private concerts, elaborate parties and even the odd masquerade ball. And let’s not forget the impressive afternoon teas.
“We’re really fortunate that the House lends itself to special occasions,” says Events Manager Sheila Gregory, adding: “It’s a wonderful space.” Gregory, together with Head of Hospitality Louis MacCallum and a talented team of 10, plan and execute all of the picture-perfect soirées, though she’s quick to insist that the annual Christmas celebrations prove especially popular. “It takes us two weeks just to dress the house with decorations and flowers for the festive period,” she notes. “You can imagine how magical it looks when guests arrive for a candlelit tour, glass in hand. We take it as a good sign when they come back year after year.”
Another highlight in the House’s events calendar is the fireworks supper, now in its third year. “Guests enjoy a delicious two-course dinner, then watch a large fireworks display in the grounds with a cup of hot chocolate,” says Gregory. “Last year we catered to 600 people, which was great fun.”
Logistics aside, it goes without saying that the House’s outstanding, culturally-rich décor is what sets it apart from its contemporaries. The Great Steward’s Dining Room, with its glossy Eglinton table and scarlet walls showcasing some of the country’s most famous portraiture, is an unparalleled setting for a special meal or corporate function. While The Tapestry Room, which boasts charming French tapestries, carved cedar pillars and traditional fireplace, is a favourite for marriage ceremonies. “Our mission at Dumfries House is to keep on upping the ante,” says Gregory. “Every event has to be even better than the last.” Cheers to that.
Words: Natalie Rigg
Photography: Jake Curtis
Styling: Marie-Louise Von Haselberg