I do love a good nosy around other peoples’ homes. You can tell a lot about someone from the décor they choose, the artwork on the walls and the knickknacks scattered about.
So when I heard that The Hill House, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, had reopened, I had to pay a visit.
When we arrive on a rainy Sunday afternoon, we can just about make out the shape of the distinctive white house, now encased in a giant chainmail “box”.
The building is literally dissolving like an aspirin due to decades of damp. The new metal layer not only protects against the elements, it also acts as an external walkway where visitors can view the house from the ground up, and across the rooftop.
Now, I don’t have a great head for heights but I cannot pass up the opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of this architectural gem.
There’s great fun to be had peering through all the windows as you follow the walkway around the house, but my legs start to wobble as we climb the steel staircase to roof level.
What a thrill, though, walking among the chimney pots! It’s like that scene from Mary Poppins, only without the dancing. I can barely bring myself to leg go of the handrail, never mind do a jig.
Back on terra firma, we head inside the new visitor centre which, as well as a rather chic gift shop, also has a bustling café.
Everything from the dark, wooden interior to the black-and-white crockery has been inspired by Mackintosh’s minimalist aesthetics.
The menu isn’t run-of-the-mill, either, with a selection of sandwiches and main dishes. I opt for “Anna Blackie’s Italian salad”, constructed with the saltiness of ham hock and capers, melding beautifully with the buttery cannellini beans and the fresh pop of the garden peas. Delicious. My companion is equally impressed with the squash and cauliflower curry.
Although a very generous portion, I’m more than ready to tackle one of the handsome fruit scones piled on the cake trolley nearby.
Sourced from Helensburgh’s Ginger Bread bakery, it’s just as a scone should be – crunchy on the outside, with a soft, moist interior, and filled with plump, juicy raisins. It comes with clotted cream, butter and a posh pot of strawberry jam – it’s the little details that matter…
In the interests of research, we also share one of the Empire biscuits, topped with Mackintosh’s rose design in pink and black icing. Very moreish.
Suitably stuffed, we headed inside The Hill House to finish off our tour.
Publisher Walter Blackie, who commissioned the house in the early 1900s, wrote in his diary that “every detail, inside as well as outside”, received Mackintosh’s “careful, loving attention”.
I’m pleased to say The Hill House attraction has managed to stay true to this sentiment. I feel sure that Mr Mackintosh would very much approve.
Mackintosh would be proud. Great service. 8/10
With the chance to see an architectural gem up close, it’s hard to beat. 8/10
Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, sourced locally. What’s not to love? 9/10