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Hill House

Overview

This property is undergoing major renovation works and is currently "drying out" under a large box like structure. Please be aware of this before you go as it has a major visual impact and external pictures aren't practical at the present. It is still worth a visit as the interiors are time capsules displaying the brilliance of Mackintosh's  visionary designs. On the upside, the protective box has walkways that allow you elevated external vantage points of the house. 

The Hill House in Helensburgh is arguably Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s finest piece of building design. The style is so clean and modern that it is amazing to learn that Mackintosh was originally commissioned to design it in 1902. The owner of the house, Glasgow publisher Walter Blackie, wanted Mackintosh to design, not just the house, but most of the furniture and décor as well. The result is a beautifully coherent blend of form and colour. 

Credit for the Hill House doesn’t all go to Charles though, as his wife Margaret also contributed fabric design and a unique panel over the fireplace in the Drawing Room. . 

The Helensburgh Hill House is a must for any Mackintosh enthusiast. There are several rooms open to the public, but the main ones of interest are the Drawing Room, Master Bedroom and the Hallway.

The Hallway is very beautiful in the fine detail of its design and the stencils on the walls. In contrast to the Dark wood of the entrance/hallway you then enter the bright and very modern feeling Drawing Room. Visitors are welcome to play the piano in this room, but the few items of original Mackintosh furniture are too valuable to be sat on.

Approximately half the rooms on the first floor are now empty of furniture and this is a little disappointing after you have seen how stunning the original rooms are. However, we understand that there are plans to dress these rooms in contemporary furniture so that they appear more the way they would have looked when the house was occupied by the Blackie family.

The presentation of the house is cleverly done with little anecdotes from the Blackie family that help to give you some sense of how the house was used by them and how the family's needs were thoughtfully incorporated into the design by Mackintosh. We particularly like that you are allowed to wander freely around the house and there aren't any rope barriers cordoning areas off. It all helps to give you the feeling that you are experiencing the house in the same way that you would if a guest of the Blackie family.

Sadly, the house now needs major restoration work as Charles Rennie Mackintosh chose to clad the building in concrete which was a novel choice in 1902. Unfortunately, it wasn't appreciated in 1902 that concrete prevents a building from "breathing" and any moisture that penetrates a crack in the concrete will tend to get trapped there. As a result, the whole house is now sheltered under a massive steel structure that is intended to allow the building to slowly dry out whilst a longer-term solution can be devised to protect its structure from the Scottish climate. 

Our pictures of the Hill House come from visits in 2006 and 2020 so they show you the house with and without "the box". 

When entering Helensburgh on the A818 from the A82, the road to the Hill House (Kennedy Drive) is the first on the right after the "Welcome to Helensburgh" sign.

Address:

Upper Colquhoun Street, Helensburgh G84 9AJ

Operated by:

National Trust for Scotland

Opening Hours:

3rd January to 22 December, Daily 10am to 5pm (last entry 4pm)

Admission:

Adult £ 12.50, Child £ 5.50, Family £ 28

Parking:

Yes

Languages:

Explanatory text: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish

Accessibility:

Limited access to the house and the gardens

Toilets:

Yes

Shop:

Yes

Cafe/Restaurant:

Yes, 1:30 to 4:30pm

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