The couple live in the North of England, but bought it as a holiday home, both for their own family’s use and to let. April says: “We previously holidayed in Braemar and loved the area, so it made sense to look at what was available locally.
“At the time, our three children were aged between eight and 13 – now we have six grandchildren and all of them have loved the house.”
Despite its traditional look, the Mill of Old Mains is only 30 years old, but it was built from the stones of a ruined watermill which was located a short distance away from where the house stands. It retains the original wheel, but it’s now set back from the stream, so no longer operational.
Reusing the stone means the house has plenty of vernacular character on the outside and nice quirks, such as sloping ceilings, upstairs on the inside, but has the advantages of being modern. It has an open-plan dining kitchen, a sunlit dining room and sitting room, and a separate family room.
The verandah at the back of the house is a highlight, and is used for sitting out on summer evenings – and is sheltered even if it is raining.
The Weirs are an outdoorsy family, and their holidays are spent climbing and walking in the Cairngorms. With such a large garden – four acres, including a paddock and stabling – the children were always happy playing outside.
From their base in Bolton, Lancashire, where Christopher works as a solicitor, the relatively short drive to Aberdeenshire allowed them to come for long weekends as well as weeks at a time.
The letting part of the arrangement has always been successful too. April explains: “It has five bedrooms, but we lock the single room to keep our own belongings, so it sleeps eight comfortably in the remaining four double bedrooms.
“It has been really popular with families, and we allow two dogs, because we feel that anyone wanting to come on holiday to the area is likely to want to bring them.
“When we first started offering it on the holiday market, we had the figure of ten weeks as a goal, but that first year it was busy for 40 weeks, which didn’t leave much time for us, so we scaled it back. ”
The Mill of Old Mains stables have only been used for storage, but are in good condition and would suit an equestrian family as there is plenty of pasture for grazing.
The garden is low maintenance, with space for swings and trampolines for the children. There are borders, currently filled with spring flowers, but the grass tends to be eaten by wild rabbits so there isn’t a lot of work to do when the family are in residence.
The babbling mill stream and its stone bridge are very pretty and have provided the Weir children and grandchildren with an endless source of play. “It is very safe, and they have all spend time paddling in it or pretending to fish,” April says.
The topography of the immediate area offers another – rather more unusual – pastime. A study in 2015 around Towie identified numerous streams as containing gold. So encouraging younger family members to try gold panning in the mill stream might even net rich rewards beyond the peace and quiet such an activity affords for the rest of the household.
The Weir’s circumstances are changing so it is now time to sell, but three generations of the family are going to miss the Mill of Old Mains.
April concludes: “I think the house deserves to be used more than we are able to at the moment. For such a nice house I’d love to see it used full-time to its full potential.”
Mill of Old Mains, Towie, Aberdeenshire or/or £600,000.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.