We walked from the road down a long, tree-lined boulevard to the Tarvit House in search of the keys to Scotstarvit Tower, which are held by the tour guides for Historic Scotland.
Hill of Tarvit House is a museum piece that contains that collection of Mr. Frederick Bower Sharp. It is an Edwardian country house and was built for Mr. Sharp in 1904. His wife and daughter lived in the house until very recently, when it was handed over to the National Trust as a museum with most of the original furniture and artwork in place.
Mr. Sharp was an art collector and the house was designed to display his collection of ivories and paintings, chinese porcelains and bronzes. The kitchens are still in working order, and the house is decorated with period furniture and other pieces. Unlike some of the other “restored” houses, this was very obviously a real home. Some of the art pieces, including an entire room full of ivory carvings, are phenomenal. There were only a few red velvet ropes keeping people from wandering the rooms, and although we were admonished not to touch anything, it was an enjoyable visit.
The gardens, including a small walled knot garden and a larger expanse of trees and even some topiary, were not accessible to us when we visited. I don’t know if they are open to the public normally, but the gates were closed and locked, although we could peer over the wall and admire the gardens from inside the house. Things were not in full bloom yet, but it promised to be a spectacular knot garden
The house was staffed in each room to tell you something about the history of the house or the art that is contained in nearly every room. I particularly liked the ladies bedroom, which has a ceiling that is a perfect half-sphere that creates the strangest acoustic echos when you stand in the center of the room.
There was an exhibit of turn-of-the-century clothing in one of the bedrooms, and a display of common kitchen items in the kitchen and butler’s pantry. The calling system for servants was still in place in the house, with unobtrusive buttons in each room that rang to a lighted board in the pantry to summon a maid to the correct room.