South of Stirling, where the M9 and M80 meet, if you peer through the leafless winter trees you can just make out a 17th Century mansion house. A tempting view, and even more rewarding to visit.

The local community, in the form of the Bannockburn House Trust, were successful with Community Right to Buy registration, and thereafter purchased the neglected House and 10 ha of landscaped gardens form a private owner. At the time, in 2017, it was the largest urban community buy out.

Small start

Like many community projects, first steps were small. A Community Council subgroup, concerned by the poor state of the asset, inspired by its history and interested in its future organised a free open event, to which 2,000 came, and from which £3,500 of donations raised. Community support proven.

Whilst the technical work of raising funds for, and developing a masterplan and conservation report for the site has been progressed behind the scenes, the group have prioritised keeping the local community involved via regular a volunteering programme, and events. One of the volunteers that we met on our visit had worked in the gardens as a young man in the 1950s, and his memories are as much a bonus to the project as the pleasure of working in that landscape again is a bonus to him. The Trust have valued in-kind volunteer input at over £500,000 in 2018 and over £1million in 2019.

Heritage revealed

The house is rich with Jacobite and tartan weaving history and will be a glorious addition to the Stirling story. After years of neglect, the grounds have been cleared to reveal a formal garden, walled garden, fountain garden, ancient woodland and orchard (archaeological dig has uncovered metal fruit variety labels). All in need of repair. 

Next steps

Now that the masterplan and conservation report are completed, the project in its entirety has been subdivided into various other projects, such as the walled garden, the car park, the chauffeur cottages, the external toilet blocks. Funding for specific projects will be sought, step by step and this approach will be followed until the entire property is fully preserved, conserved and restored.

Bannockburn House and Gardens will become a fully self-sustaining community enterprise project. It will offer various services, such as tours, events, volunteering, glamping accommodation, cafe and community projects that will all generate income, making the venture self-sufficient after a large capital investment.