BEYOND rugged castles and solid farmsteads, we have country houses of a grandeur we will not see again.

Lennoxlove is a modified peel tower; Winton has architectural echoes of a fortification. But none has the Italianate opulence of Gosford.

Behind two miles of high walls, Grade ‘A’ magnificence is hidden from public view.

The estate the wall encloses was held by many Scots names before, being bought by the Wedderburns of Inveresk. They enclosed fields and laid out avenues of trees, evident on Roy’s map of 1745.

In 1781, it all passed to the seventh Earl of Wemyss, who had already added Amisfield, Morham and Abbey Mill to his extensive Fife estates.

He gave the brilliant Robert Adam his last great commission, replacing an existing house. The surrounding parkland was redesigned by James Ramsey. Not completed until 1800, both earl and successors disliked the result. Not only did they not move in, but the eighth earl even demolished both wings.

In 1883, the 10th earl commissioned replacement wings from William Young to house his collection of Italian and Dutch masters. Finally, in 1890, the family moved in.

The neoclassical result blends with Adam’s original concept and ranks among Scotland’s grandest stately homes. The south wing became the family residence, with the entrance relocated here. A three-storey-high marble entrance hall carries two sweeping staircases up to the spacious gallery on the first floor.

Following the 10th earl’s death in 1914, the house was used as a hotel until being requisitioned by the army in 1939, to be used as an officers’ mess for a large camp in the park.

Unfortunately, the central block burned during a social event and suffered temporary roofing for years until the 12th earl, moved in in 1951, provided a proper re-roofing in 1987. He also refurbished the extensive ponds and permitted the first public tours, still limited to a half-dozen days around Easter and in August.

The 12th earl was very active in civic life, holding many senior appointments in Scotland, including Lord Lieutenant for East Lothian and chairman and then president of the National Trust for Scotland between 1947 and 1991. He lived a long life to age 96, whereupon the titles passed to the present 13th earl. Despite remaining the family seat, the 13th earl’s business interests and those of his second wife means they live in Gloucestershire and the house is again unoccupied – as was the case for over half its existence.