Late 18th century with later additions and alterations. Gothick style 2 storey with cellar and attic, circular-plan former hunting lodge with 8 bays of openings and single storey, T-plan wing to SE (linked to central block by later single storey lean-to corridor); separate single storey, near T-plan wing to NW with single storey and attic cottage forming right wing (The Retreat Cottage); screen wall linking rectangular-plan, vaulted block to NE. Predominantly painted harl; polished cream sandstone dressings. Part harl-pointed rubble whinstone to NW wing; painted margins; painted harl to cottage; sandstone dressings. Sandstone margins to pointed-arched openings (some square-headed openings to wings); projecting cills. Walled garden to SE with associated single storey outbuilding to S.
HOUSE, FROM NE (ENTRANCE): part-glazed timber panelled opening (former door?) at ground off-set to right of centre; pointed arched, Y-traceried fanlight; smaller window aligned at 1st floor. Regularly disposed single windows in remaining bays at ground; smaller single windows aligned at 1st floor; small box dormers regularly disposed above. Projecting porch centred in single storey screen wall recessed to left; 2-leaf timber panelled door; replacement opaque fanlight; Tudor-arched surround with architraved hoodmould. FROM SW (GARDEN): steps to 2-leaf glazed French doors centred at ground; Y-traceried fanlight; smaller window aligned at 1st floor. Regularly disposed single windows in remaining bays to left and right; smaller single windows aligned at 1st floor; small box dormers regularly disposed above. Single window off-set to left of centre in single storey corridor recessed to right; timber door in bay to outer right.
SE WING, NE (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: single timber door centred in single storey wing advanced to outer left; square-headed single windows in 2 bays to left; square-headed bipartite window in bay to right; square-headed single window in bay to outer right. SW (GARDEN) ELEVATION: T-plan. Pointed-arched single window in projecting central bay; pointed-arched single window in bay recessed to outer left; larger pointed-arched single openings in 2 bays recessed to outer right.
NW WING, SW (GARDEN) ELEVATION: T-plan. Pointed-arched single window in projecting central bay; timber door in bay recessed to outer left (boarded, pointed-arched fanlight); cottage recessed to outer right with 2-leaf boarded timber door centred at ground; plate glass fanlight; square-headed single window at ground in bay to outer right; square-headed bipartite windows at both floors in bay to outer left (attic light breaking eaves).
INTERIOR: circular block with central corridor running SE-NW forming semicircular sections either side. Rectangular-plan drawing room with apsidal ends; plain cornice; replacement fireplace; replacement dado panelling; large, semicircular cabinet built into S apse. Square-plan reception room to NE with irregularly-planned kitchen set in remaining portion of semicircle. Bowed, half-turn stair to 1st floor and attic; separate stone stair to cellar (set beneath SW semicircle). Deep, panelled reveals to timber panelled doors. Some interesting fireplaces. Unusual undulating ceilings throughout (most prominent on upper floors; not in ground floor reception rooms). SE wing converted to separate holiday residence; boarded timber panelling in drawing room (former byre); plain plaster cornice. NW wing with stalls in former stable block; boarded timber doors; open timber ceilings; vaulted kennel block (former granary?) to NE. Cottage not seen 1997.
Predominantly Y-tracery upper, 6- and 12-pane lower glazing (some blinded with painted imitations) in timber windows (some single panes within); 4-pane upper, 2-pane lower glazing in timber sash and case windows to NW wing cottage; some vented lower, Y-tracery uppers to stables; 18-pane timber sash and case windows to NE elevation SE wing; some modern windows at rear; skylights lining linking corridor. Graded grey slate conical roof to main block; grey slate roofs to flanking wings; corrugated-iron roof to rubble range in NW wing. Corniced, circular-plan sandstone stack centred above house; corniced sandstone ridge stack to NW wing; brick built ridge stack to cottage; corniced sandstone ridge stacks to SE wing; coped wallhead stack to NE; circular cans throughout. Some cast-iron rainwater goods.
WALLED GARDEN AND OUTBUILDING: irregular, near triangular-plan walled garden to SE. Random rubble walls enclosing site (lower wall (W) missing following flood mid 20th century); bowed end. OUTBUILDING: harl-pointed whinstone rubble; square plan. E (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: door opening in bay to right; small single window off-set to left of centre. Grey slate pyramidal roof. INTERIOR: not seen 1997.
SUNDIAL: square-plan sandstone sundial dated 1800 (originally from Dumfriesshire) set to SW of house; embossed carving to upper facets; square-plan table; metal gnomon in place.
Statement of Special Interest
A most unusual, circular-plan house which has retained much of its original detailing. Built for the Earl of Wemyss (Francis Charteris), The Retreat is generally thought to have been his country seat - a hunting lodge with separate flanking wings providing stabling, kennels and staff quarters. Writing in the 1790s, Rev. John Sked noted that the house "...was built by his Lordship about 12 years ago, upon his estate at Blackerstone..." With the "...elegant simplicity of the architecture, the neatness and convenience of the different apartments, and the manner in which the grounds around it are laid out...", Sked concluded that the house was a "...truly delightful and romantic retreat." This it remains today, despite the loss of some original windows, the alteration of the NW wing to create a taller cottage (known as The Retreat Cottage) and the formation of a separate holiday residence in the SE wing. With its Gothick glazing, regularly disposed openings, corniced central stack and innovative plan, the house itself is particularly noteworthy. According to Lindsay, "...the plan of this block is most ingenious, for it achieves two rooms of reasonable shape on each floor, the drawing room, without doubt, being rather charming with its semicircular ends." Inside, the detailing is modest but much of it remains - the most unusual feature being the undulating ceilings, described by Lindsay as ?...curious, for, instead of being flat, they rise and fall like waves around each joist.? Although altered and no longer symmetrical, the flanking wings remain an inherent part of the design, creating an overall frontage of nearly 300ft. The Retreat is one of the most significant buildings in Abbey St Bathans parish, and indeed, within Scotland as a whole.