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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 July 2007, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
Prince in historic mansion visit
Prince Charles
Prince Charles was paying his first visit to Dumfries House
Prince Charles has paid a visit to one of Scotland's most important stately homes.

The prince, known as the Duke of Rothesay in Scotland, helped to save Dumfries House in Ayrshire.

He headed a consortium of charities and government bodies which raised 45m to buy the 250-year-old property.

Aristocrat and former racing driver John Bute put the house, which has a rare collection of Chippendale furniture, up for sale.

Dumfries House has been described as one of the world's finest Georgian properties.

The prince was joined by First Minister Alex Salmond as he was shown round the building by the Marquess of Bute and his wife Serena.

Contributions to the purchase price included 5m from the Scottish Executive, 7m from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and 20m from the Prince's Charities Foundation.

'Emotional time'

The prince showed his appreciation as he was led through some of the 31 rooms, admiring the ornate carved ceilings and the banks of portraits lining the walls.

He also expressed interest in a four-poster Chippendale bed that took pride of place in one of the bedrooms.

Dumfries House's contents had been due to be auctioned off and many pictures and pieces of furniture still have their lot number stickers attached.

The house will formally transfer in November this year to a new trust that has been set up, and will open to the public for the first time next year after being renovated.

The prince also met representatives from the charities and trusts involved in the purchase, as well as members of staff from the Dumfries estate.

Dumfries House interior - Picture Christie's Copyright
The house contains an important collection of British furniture

The Marquess, a 49-year-old father-of-six who was raised under the name of Johnny Dumfries, first announced his intention to sell Dumfries House three years ago.

He said he wanted to restructure his family finances and concentrate on his family home, Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute in the Firth of Clyde.

He told how he was delighted with the outcome of the sale.

"It's an emotional time for me but I'm delighted about what has happened," he said.

"I've got no doubt whatsoever about what this means - it's very, very positive for the house and the local community.

"The end result is a hugely important new heritage project in Scotland."

Also included in the deal are 66 acres of land in nearby Cumnock which it is hoped can be developed for housing.

Other outbuildings on the 2,000-acre estate will also be upgraded and used as workshops and other business opportunities.

Mr Salmond said that, once up and running, Dumfries House would be used to host executive receptions.

Speaking after his tour, the first minister heralded the purchase as the "last-minute save of the century".

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