‘I ’m a real townie” says Fiona Lee, whose elegant period home in Castle Street, Dumfries is bursting with her passions for art and travel.

“I feel safe in a town, I like being around people. When I first saw this wonderful property, I just fell in love with it.”

Fiona, who had lived in Hong Kong for 25 years, and London for 10 years before that, returned to Dumfries & Galloway seven years ago because her two children were finishing their education in the UK.

Having grown up on a farm at Dundrennan, where her family still farm, she thought the logical thing to do would be to buy a property in the Kirkcudbright area.

Great British Life: Fiona LeeFiona Lee (Image: Graeme Robertson)

However, she threw her net wider and found the centre of Dumfries had a lot to offer.

“I have many happy childhood memories of coming to Dumfries for shopping or to the swimming pool, usually followed by a visit to The Doonhamer.

“There turned out to be so many advantages to living here - the railway station nearby, being able to pop out to the shops, my lovely 45-minute circular walk along the riverside, over all the bridges – everything is on my doorstep.”

Castle Street was built in the early 1800s and was known for doctors’ and other professional practices. The original occupant of Fiona’s house was Dr William Maxwell, physician to Robert Burns, although Burns had died around 20 years before Maxwell lived there.

Great British Life: The stunning staircaseThe stunning staircase (Image: Graeme Robertson)

Described as an “idealist”, the second son of Jacobite James Maxwell of Kirkconnell Estate near New Abbey, had found himself in Paris during the French Revolution, where he befriended the revolutionary leaders and commanded the guard that led King Louis XVI to the guillotine.

Robert Burns formed a close friendship with Maxwell, who attended the poet during his last illness, and Burns’ youngest son, born shortly after his own death, was named Maxwell after the doctor.

“It’s been so interesting to find out about Dr Maxwell,” says Fiona. “It’s amazing to feel all that history here.”

Fiona’s house is full of family history, too: “In my home everything tells a story. I’m surrounded by family pieces – chairs owned by my grandmother, a lamp from my aunt in Malaya, cushions created by my daughter Jessica at Glasgow School of Art, a self-portrait by my aunt from her time at Edinburgh College of Art. And my mother helped so much with the furnishing of the house when I moved in.”

Fiona is grateful for the creative skills of the previous owner who had produced a marbling paint effect on the walls of the sweeping central spiral staircase and some of the floors: “I’m used to marble, it’s everywhere in Hong Kong, so I think that made me feel at home here.”

Great British Life: A beautiful fireplaceA beautiful fireplace (Image: Graeme Robertson)Great British Life: The stylish living areaThe stylish living area (Image: Graeme Robertson)

de me feel at home here.” Fiona has also chosen to retain the previous owner’s choice of grey walls in the main living spaces, which offers the perfect neutral, period background for her to put her stamp on with her paintings and antique and vintage pieces.

“My décor here is very organic. It just seemed to fall into place quite naturally,” says Fiona. “I’ have a bit of an ‘east meets west’ feel and I love art deco.”

As well as furnishings and accessories from her family and from Hong Kong, Fiona also loves the treasures she has picked up just a few doors down Castle Street at No 20, the antiques and interiors shop run by Sheila Cameron, along with gifts and paintings from artists, friends and neighbours.

Arriving at Fiona’s home into the inviting street level entrance hall, visitors are led onto the staircase to the first floor which has the main living spaces - the graceful drawing room with ornate cornicing and large west-facing widows letting afternoon light flood in; the former dentist’s surgery turned dining room with its Far East inspired wallpaper, and the cosy, atmospheric kitchen.

Next door is the main bathroom, where a recently renovated, freestanding claw-foot bath - recently renovated by Grit N Polish of Castle Douglas - takes centre stage”, next to a cast iron fireplace. The second floor has three double bedrooms and a shower room and, bringing light streaming through the centre of the house from above the central staircase, is a rectangular cupula roof window.

Great British Life: The claw-foot bathThe claw-foot bath (Image: Graeme Robertson)

Five years ago, Fiona founded the highly successful Kirkcudbright Art Tours, leading thousands of visitors on walking tours of the Artists’ Town, sharing stories of the colourful characters who lived there as part of the late 19th and 20th century artists’ colony and introducing the town’s present-day creative residents.

Art has always been a huge interest of mine,” she says. “I can’t paint but I’m surrounded by artistic people including my husband, my sister and my daughter, and I’m hugely enthusiastic about it.”

With the result, art is everywhere in Fiona’s home, from contemporary works by Galloway artists including Joshua Miles, Richard Brinley and Stewart Morrison to older paintings by Scottish artists and artwork from the Far East.

Great British Life: The dining roomThe dining room (Image: Graeme Robertson)Great British Life: Some of the wonderful pieces of art in the collectionSome of the wonderful pieces of art in the collection (Image: Graeme Robertson)

Fiona says: “I’ve built up a collection of paintings by artists I love. I took ages moving them around, finding the right spot for them.”

Kirkcudbright Art Tours is having a sabbatical this summer while Fiona explores a new venture closer to home in Dumfries.

While Fiona’s home is full of period features and echoes of bygone glamour, she herself is embracing the current developments bringing new life into what she calls “Cool Dumfries”: “Castle Street is becoming more residential, it’s very friendly, there’s a nice vibe. “Dumfries has a way to go but there’s lots happening here, I think it’s on the turn, there’s definitely a positive change in the air.”

Great British Life: Unique finishing touchesUnique finishing touches (Image: Graeme Robertson)Great British Life: “I have a bit of an ‘east meets west’ feel and I love art deco.”“I have a bit of an ‘east meets west’ feel and I love art deco.” (Image: Graeme Robertson)