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Six charming follies

The Dunmore Pineapple building in Dunmore Park, Airth, Scotland. Built 1761 as estate summer house and garden folly.
The Dunmore Pineapple building in Dunmore Park, Airth, Scotland. Built 1761 as estate summer house and garden folly.
 
This article was first published in the Jan/Feb 2024 issue of IQ, the exclusive magazine for Mensa members. Find out more about becoming a Mensa member here.
 

With a name derived from the French folie meaning ‘silliness’ or ‘delight’, follies are just that – extravagant and seemingly pointless buildings designed simply to charm visitors. Here are six of our favourites.

The Pineapple, Stirlingshire

With its self-explanatory name, The Pineapple in Dunmore Park near Falkirk was built in 1761 for the 4th Earl of Dunmore. Originally a summerhouse from where the Earl could appreciate views across his estate, its eccentric shape honours this exotic fruit which at the time was a rare delicacy in the UK.

The building’s glasshouses and walled gardens were once used to grow all sorts of unusual fruits and vegetables. Nowadays, the grounds around The Pineapple are a haven for nature and the perfect setting for a peaceful walk in this folly’s most unusually shaped shadow.

The Needle’s Eye, South Yorkshire

This curious, pyramidical structure in Wentworth, South Yorkshire was designed by architect John Carr. The story goes that in 1746, the second Marquess of Rockingham drunkenly bet that he could drive a carriage through the eye of a needle.

Once he sobered up, the Marquess was determined not to lose the wager. He decided to commission the 45-foot tall structure, with a space in its centre just wide enough for a carriage to drive through. Whether or not he was able to win the bet is lost to the annals of time.

The Jealous Wall, County Westmeath, Ireland

The largest folly of its kind in Ireland, this gothic ‘sham ruin’ was commissioned in 1760 by Robert Rochfort, the 1st Earl of Belvedere, who was consumed by envy of his brother George’s nearby Tudenham House. It is believed that Robert, sparing no expense and hiring the Italian architect Barrodotte for the project, requested the artificial ruined abbey to block his view of Tudenham.

The central wall of the folly, which is 20 metres high, features three pointed high windows while two square wings project out at either end. When the estate was taken over by Westmeath County Council in 1982, works were carried out to restore the infamous wall and secure its structure.

The Temple of Apollo, Wiltshire

Jane Austen fans will likely recognise this delightful structure as the setting of Mr Darcy’s botched first proposal to Elizabeth Bennett in the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice. Perched high up overlooking the lake, the Temple of Apollo enjoys unrivalled views across the Stourhead Estate, a vast area of landscaped gardens dotted with breathtaking follies.

Stourhead was created by English banker Henry Hoare ‘The Magnificent’ who, in the mid-18th century, worked closely with architect Henry Flitcroft to transform his family estate into a work of art inspired by his grand tours of Europe.

Paxton Tower, Carmarthenshire

Standing majestically on a hilltop above the village of Llanarthne in South Wales, Paxton’s Tower enjoys glorious views across the Towy Valley. The 36-foot high neo-Gothic tower was built by William Paxton sometime between 1805 and 1808 and designed by Samuel Pepys Cockerill.

The folly was constructed as a memorial to Admiral Lord Nelson – who was a close friend of Paxton’s – and its prominent position was intended to serve as a visible reminder of Nelson to the people of the valley. Easily accessible from a nearby car park, Paxton Tower is reportedly a beautiful – albeit windy – spot for a picnic.

The Pyramid, Dunbartonshire

Although the majority of follies are historic structures, The Pyramid on the banks of Loch Lomond arguably constitutes a modern-day example. Unveiled in 2022, the triangular pavilion is intended to both adorn the landscape and serve as a viewing platform for the area’s stunning surroundings.

Visitors are encouraged to explore and experiment with the structure, their connection to and experience of the landscape changing as they move around it. The Pyramid was erected as part of a pilot project for Scottish Scenic Routes, an initiative designed to promote Scotland’s destination appeal.

Credits: Shutterstock

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Six charming follies

The Dunmore Pineapple building in Dunmore Park, Airth, Scotland. Built 1761 as estate summer house and garden folly.
 
This article was first published in the Jan/Feb 2024 issue of IQ, the exclusive magazine for Mensa members. Find out more about becoming a Mensa member here.
 

With a name derived from the French folie meaning ‘silliness’ or ‘delight’, follies are just that – extravagant and seemingly pointless buildings designed simply to charm visitors. Here are six of our favourites.

The Pineapple, Stirlingshire

With its self-explanatory name, The Pineapple in Dunmore Park near Falkirk was built in 1761 for the 4th Earl of Dunmore. Originally a summerhouse from where the Earl could appreciate views across his estate, its eccentric shape honours this exotic fruit which at the time was a rare delicacy in the UK.

The building’s glasshouses and walled gardens were once used to grow all sorts of unusual fruits and vegetables. Nowadays, the grounds around The Pineapple are a haven for nature and the perfect setting for a peaceful walk in this folly’s most unusually shaped shadow.

The Needle’s Eye, South Yorkshire

This curious, pyramidical structure in Wentworth, South Yorkshire was designed by architect John Carr. The story goes that in 1746, the second Marquess of Rockingham drunkenly bet that he could drive a carriage through the eye of a needle.

Once he sobered up, the Marquess was determined not to lose the wager. He decided to commission the 45-foot tall structure, with a space in its centre just wide enough for a carriage to drive through. Whether or not he was able to win the bet is lost to the annals of time.

The Jealous Wall, County Westmeath, Ireland

The largest folly of its kind in Ireland, this gothic ‘sham ruin’ was commissioned in 1760 by Robert Rochfort, the 1st Earl of Belvedere, who was consumed by envy of his brother George’s nearby Tudenham House. It is believed that Robert, sparing no expense and hiring the Italian architect Barrodotte for the project, requested the artificial ruined abbey to block his view of Tudenham.

The central wall of the folly, which is 20 metres high, features three pointed high windows while two square wings project out at either end. When the estate was taken over by Westmeath County Council in 1982, works were carried out to restore the infamous wall and secure its structure.

The Temple of Apollo, Wiltshire

Jane Austen fans will likely recognise this delightful structure as the setting of Mr Darcy’s botched first proposal to Elizabeth Bennett in the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice. Perched high up overlooking the lake, the Temple of Apollo enjoys unrivalled views across the Stourhead Estate, a vast area of landscaped gardens dotted with breathtaking follies.

Stourhead was created by English banker Henry Hoare ‘The Magnificent’ who, in the mid-18th century, worked closely with architect Henry Flitcroft to transform his family estate into a work of art inspired by his grand tours of Europe.

Paxton Tower, Carmarthenshire

Standing majestically on a hilltop above the village of Llanarthne in South Wales, Paxton’s Tower enjoys glorious views across the Towy Valley. The 36-foot high neo-Gothic tower was built by William Paxton sometime between 1805 and 1808 and designed by Samuel Pepys Cockerill.

The folly was constructed as a memorial to Admiral Lord Nelson – who was a close friend of Paxton’s – and its prominent position was intended to serve as a visible reminder of Nelson to the people of the valley. Easily accessible from a nearby car park, Paxton Tower is reportedly a beautiful – albeit windy – spot for a picnic.

The Pyramid, Dunbartonshire

Although the majority of follies are historic structures, The Pyramid on the banks of Loch Lomond arguably constitutes a modern-day example. Unveiled in 2022, the triangular pavilion is intended to both adorn the landscape and serve as a viewing platform for the area’s stunning surroundings.

Visitors are encouraged to explore and experiment with the structure, their connection to and experience of the landscape changing as they move around it. The Pyramid was erected as part of a pilot project for Scottish Scenic Routes, an initiative designed to promote Scotland’s destination appeal.

Credits: Shutterstock

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