This little pavilion is dramatically perched above a steep wooded gorge, in the remnants of an outstanding 18th-century garden at Hackfall. Open the doors of its richly decorated sitting-room to see miles of Yorkshire countryside roll out before you.
A Georgian folly and a Romanesque ruin
The Ruin is a typically Janus-faced Georgian folly (meaning it has two faces): smoothly Gothic on its public elevation, which leads through to a rugged, Romanesque, triple-domed ‘ruin’ redolent of ancient Rome and Piranesi. It frames a terrace set before one of the finest views in North Yorkshire. The garden, now triumphantly restored by the Hackfall Trust, was conceived and created by the Aislabies, who also made the gardens at nearby Studley Royal. Hackfall was Studley’s antithesis: a ‘natural’ Gothic landscape with follies, waterfalls and built structures. The Ruin is one of these, a tiny banqueting house which we have allowed to keep its 18th-century name, trusting our visitors to share the Aislabies’ sense of irony.
Landmarks often surprise us
However well we get to know our buildings, they can still surprise us. It took us some 15 years to acquire and it had indeed become a ruin when we set our stonemasons to work. Work was well underway when our building archaeologist noticed a striking similarity between The Ruin’s Romanesque elevation and a watercolour, Design for a Roman Ruin, by Robert Adam – a discovery that was entirely consistent with Hackfall’s pedigree. It offers an unusual example of the work of this greatest of 18th-century British architects, better known for his more formally Classical houses and interiors. The three rooms inside never originally communicated with each other, and we have kept them so. Inside, a richly decorated sitting-room is flanked by a bedroom and bathroom. Flitting between the two wings across a moonlit terrace is a truly Gothic experience