The first time I saw a photo of Gin Head I was completely blown away and so it seems was Scottish photographer Albert Watson. His first spotted it 20 years ago, when he was photographing at Tantallon Castle. He was intrigued by the way the then active research centre sat on its own promontory. It’s hard not only drawn to the 1943 buildings, significant survivors of the Admiralty base but also to the dramatic landscape that surrounds it.
Gin Head was a 1940’s radar station, a culturally significant landmark which sits in the wild and wonderful landscape of a cliff edged promontory. It is situated 30 miles from Edinburgh in North Berwick and has rare heritage, history and sweeping views over the Firth of Fourth. It provides a sea front view of East Lothian’s most stirring landscapes. Gin Head’s nearest neighbour is the magnificent Tantallon Castle, perched on the cliff top to the east just 300 meters away. Directly in front of Gin Head is the Bass Rock, an enormous barnacled knuckle of rock that thrusts a hundred meters up from the sea, it’s a world nature reserve and home to the largest colony of gannets in the world.
Through recent marketing of Gin Head, we have connected with four serious buyers, all of whom have marveled at the awe-inspiring landscape of natural forces. They each have their own take on the best way to use and adapt the approved plans and are busy completing their pre-purchase investigations.
Among the potential purchasers – a Scot who has known and coveted Gin Head for many years – is one of the world’s pre-eminent fine art, fashion and commercial photographers. His photographs have always inspired me. Albert Watson’s images of Alfred Hitchcock, Clint Eastwood and Steve Jobs are defining images from a four-decade career containing a wealth of distinctive work. Watson spotted the potential of Gin Head more than 20 years ago and has visionary ideas for establishing a photographic foundation incorporating gallery, workshop, archive and residential components. The creative brilliance of a globally renowned photographer combined with the elemental natural forces of the East Lothian surroundings is a delectable prospect. Whoever succeeds in acquiring Gin Head and applying their vision to such a wild and wonderful environment, will take their place in Scotland’s rich architectural heritage.
How did I come to own part of Scottish heritage?
About 10 years ago I was at a friend’s dinner party in Scotland where I was introduced to a hearty Scot named Robin. He and his wife arrived late to the dinner dressed head to toe in insect costumes. I can’t remember now exactly why they were dressed this way but I do remember enjoying the madness of it all. At the time I had no idea that our meeting would lead me to Gin Head.
Not long after the dinner party and meeting, Robin contacted me, he was eager to hear more about my new apartment, a large project I had recently completed in London. I love building projects and designing beautiful, light living spaces. My new home was constructed on the rooftop of an old printing factory in Clerkenwell, in London’s East End. I had bought the air space and created one large lateral living space. Robin was impressed by my London home and asked me if I would be interested in doing something similar in Scotland.
About a year after our initial conversation Robin contacted me to say a property he had been interested in for years had become available and wanted to run it by me. That property was Gin Head and when I saw the photos I immediately understood his enthusiasm for it. This visually compelling and breathtaking site hooked me too and I joined forces with Robin and his partner Peter to acquired it. I was now, part owner of 5 acres of great natural beauty and a custodian of Scottish history.
We chose architects Lazzarini Pickering from Rome for their international reputation as cutting-edge world class practitioners and their ethos of sensitivity towards the landscape. Carl and Claudio are also dear friends so I knew they would appreciate the site and love the brief. The brief was ‘Tracy Island meets James Bond’
With Lazzarini Pickering superb scheme we now have full planning permission for the conversion of the existing buildings to a spectacular modern fortress. Carl and Claudio’s extraordinary vision, has created a building of grand spaces, expansive staircases, magnificent reception rooms, massive skylights, great sheets of glass that look out on internal courtyards offering wrap-around transparency. This is idealized 3rd millennium living, with reference to Inigo Jones, Palladio. The approved plans are spectacular – 26,000 sq. ft. of beautiful, flexible real estate set in five acres of rugged coastal landscape. Simply breathtaking.
Since my first meeting with Robin much time has passed and our lives have changed. I sold my London penthouse to Dame Zaha Hadid, who lived in it until her recent death. I now live between Sydney, London and the Greek island of Lesvos. Robin too has moved on discarding his insect costume and thrown himself into something Scots are very keen on, golf. He was Captain at Muirfield from 2013 until 2015 and in his own words ‘now in glorious retirement.’
Gin Head and The Bass Rock
Gin Head and Tantallon Castle