Huge 1847 baronial house that is now a large country house hotel on the island of Shapinsay


Balfour Castle was the creation of two distinguished men; David Balfour, the 4th Laird of Balfour and Trenaby and David Bryce, the pre-eminent Scottish architect of his generation and leading exponent of the Scottish Baronial style. It is a rare example of a calendar house originally planned with 7 turrets, 12 external doors, 52 rooms and 365 sections of window.

Work commenced in 1847 and was completed some three years later. Much of the stone used was quarried on the island. The Castle designs incorporated the old Balfour house of Cliffdale, described by contemporaries as a "finely proportioned Georgian villa" whose rooms continued to serve as family apartments. While building work was taking place David Balfour and his wife Eleanor undertook the 'grand tour'. They spent much of their time in Italy and en route acquired many works of art with which to decorate their new house. So impressed were they by what they found that a number of Italian craftsmen were hired to work on the Castle interiors.

There were already long established woodlands on the site when the Castle building began but these were extended and remodelled as befitted the enhanced status the new family home now enjoyed. David Bryce designed additional architectural elements, including a fine gatehouse and a new walled kitchen garden; Cragie Halkett (later Inglis of Cramond, near Edinburgh) completed plans for the extended gardens.

The Balfour family continued to own the Castle for over a century but by the time the family line expired in the early 1960s the family fortune was spent and the Castle had lost much of its former glory.

In 1961 Captain Tadeusz Zawadski and his wife Catherine took on the task of maintaining the Castle and once again turned it back into a family home thus fulfilling a prophecy which a gypsy fortune teller had shared with Tadeusz back in his native Poland - that he would one day live in a castle.

The fortune teller did not, however, predict his terrifying path through the second World War; his escape on foot across Europe nor his meeting with Catherine and his posting to Orkney; where they settled after the war. Tadeusz and Catherine became friends with the last of the Balfours and
purchased the associated farm of Balfour Mains from him first before taking on the Castle after his death. The Zawadski family later ran the Castle as a country hotel and over the last 30 years of ownership established one of the foremost wildfowl shoots in the world on the associated estate.

Balfour Castle was sold into new ownership in February 2009. With attention to detail and with the utmost regard and respect for the Balfour heritage the new owners have sensitively refurbished, restored and rejuvenated the Castle and grounds. The greatest of care has been taken to retain its style and its character. Balfour Castle remains first and foremost a family home.

Balfour
Shapinsay
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Tuesday, 07 May 2013 7 Print