Balcaskie is a 17th-century country house 2 km north of St Monans, and is notable chiefly as the home and early work of architect Sir William Bruce.
The original Balcaskie House was built shortly before 1629, as the home of the Moncrieffs of Balcaskie, and was a traditional L-plan fortified house of three storeys and attic.
In 1665 the estate was bought by William Bruce, who began enlarging the house for his own use, between 1668 and 1674. In 1668 he acquired a baronetcy in Nova Scotia and became Sir William Bruce.
Bruce planned the new house himself and employed John Hamilton as mason, and Andrew Waddell as wright (carpenter). The house was expanded from the L-plan to an almost symmetrical U-plan, with the original building at the west end. The north front was given matching crow-step gables, with a balustraded two-storey central section. In addition, Bruce added tall corner towers to each angle. These had French-inspired details such as rusticated quoins. Bruce may have built the curving wing-walls and pavilions to the north front, however, these have also been attributed to a later building phase.
The estate was sold in 1684 to Sir Thomas Steuart, when Bruce moved to his new home at Kinross House. In 1698 it changed hands again, becoming the property of Sir Robert Anstruther, whose son Philip undertook works in the mid-18th century, including heightening the central block. It was now that the wing walls and pavilions were added, according to John Gifford. Further alterations were made by William Burn in 1830-32, including a porch and new windows, and a stable block. In 1856-58 David Bryce, an Edinburgh architect, worked on Balcaskie, adding several baronial features.
The gardens, to the south of the house, were laid out by William Bruce and are aligned to face the Bass Rock, on the opposite side of the Forth estuary.
The terraces and vista are inspired by French Baroque gardens, such as Vaux-le-Vicomte. The gardens were altered in the 18th century, and restored in 1826-7 by William Burn and William Sawrey Gilpin. Sir Walter Scott visited the gardens in 1827 and described the house as 'much dilapidated' but praised the restoration of the gardens.
Parterres were laid out in the 1840s by W. A. Nesfield.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.