Page last updated at 23:54 GMT, Thursday, 5 June 2008 00:54 UK

'Unique' mansion opens to public

Ceiling of Dumfries house
The house is opening after restoration work which took five months

Prince Charles has officially opened the Scottish stately home he helped save for the nation.

The prince helped arrange a successful 45m deal to save Dumfries House, near Cumnock in Ayrshire, and its unique collection of Chippendale furniture.

It had been put up for sale by the 7th Marquess of Bute, who became a Formula One racing driver in 1986 under the name Johnny Dumfries.

The house was designed 250 years ago and sits in nearly 2,000 acres.

It was put on the market for about 25m but was saved at the last minute by a consortium of charities and the Scottish Government in a purchase last summer.

Exterior of Dumfries house
The house is famous for its collection of Chippendale furniture

Restoration work on the A-listed property began in January and has been carried out at "breakneck speed" to ensure it is ready to open.

The house was the former home of the Marquises of Bute and was last occupied in 1993. Major work needed to be done to make it suitable for visitors after more than two centuries in private hands.

Mike Schafer, chief executive of the Great Steward of Scotland's Dumfries House Trust, which administers the house and estate, said: "The building was in good condition and the collections are in relatively good condition.

"But taking the property from a private residence to a visitor attraction is a 180 degree turn and it is a massive task."

The renovation tasks included cleaning up furniture, building a new access road and ensuring the house met health and safety regulations.

The mansion is famous for its collection of furniture by Thomas Chippendale, which was specially made for the house.

Social regeneration

Much of the furniture from the house was already at auction rooms in London when a deal was sealed, saving the house contents from being scattered around the globe.

The Prince's Charities Foundation contributed 20m towards the purchase of the house.

Trustees now hope the house will put Ayrshire on the tourist map and help regenerate the local economy.

Mr Schafer said: "We already have Culzean Castle and the Burns attractions in Alloway and this will be another destination nearby.

"I am looking forward to developing the estate and contributing to the social regeneration of the area."

He added: "This is a fine Georgian mansion that has never been seen. It's unique."

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