A FORMER train station, a “time warp” 1990s conversion and a refurbished double-upper Victorian flat are among the contenders as the search for Scotland’s Home of the Year begins this week.

The popular BBC Scotland show returns for a fifth series on Monday and will give viewers a peek through the keyhole at a range of delightful properties, from bijou city abodes to rural havens and island gems – as well as everything in between.

Over the next seven weeks, the programme will criss-cross Scotland, visiting locations as far afield as Portree, Oldmeldrum, Kirkcaldy, Greenock, Auchterarder, Thornhill, Fort William, Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Mary’s in Orkney.

Interior designer Anna Campbell-Jones, architect and lecturer Michael Angus and guest judge Banjo Beale – a winner of the BBC’s Interior Design Masters – will rank their favourites, with the highest-scoring home from six regional categories going through to the final at the end of June.

The debut series in 2019 saw The White House, a sweeping, cylindrical structure hugging Kirkcudbright Bay, become Scotland’s Home of the Year, while Park Terrace, a plush Victorian conversion in the west end of Glasgow took the top spot in 2020.

The Moss, a showstopping Georgian mansion in rural Killearn, claimed the title in 2021, with renovated croft house New Tolsta in Stornoway on Lewis beating off stiff competition to finish as last year’s victor.

So, who will triumph in 2023? Among those seeking to impress the judges is Gary Gourlay, owner of Alexandra Apartment in Kirkcaldy, Fife. The Victorian pad – split over two levels – features an open plan living kitchen and dining area, as well as a master bedroom with sea views.

Gourlay, 34, a commercial designer and lecturer in built environment at Fife College, was on holiday in Cyprus when he spotted an online estate agent’s listing for his perfect fixer-upper project. There was no floor plan, but undaunted he arranged to view the flat upon his return.

“I knew it was a good space and the rooms were big – that is what drew me to it,” he says. “I realised there was something odd with the living room because it had been split into two to make a bathroom. When I walked in, I thought, ‘OK, it is a huge project …’”

The property, he says, “ticked all the boxes”, but equally he was realistic that it would “need a lot of work”. After a neighbour kindly let him see the layout of her flat, Gourlay realised his now-home could be transformed with a good eye and painstaking refurbishment.

He began drawing up plans. “Once I actually got in, I realised how much had to be done. But also, how much was hidden, like the wood panelling on the stairs.”

It wasn’t an undertaking for the faint-hearted. All the existing electrics, central heating and windows needed replaced, alongside tweaking the floor plan and updating the decor.

Gourlay, a graduate of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee, rolled up his sleeves and got stuck in, recruiting assistance when needed. “Plumbing and electrics are not my thing,” he says. “We had a joiner in too. But the rest I did myself, with some help from family and friends.”

Most of his DIY renovations took place during lockdown in 2020. That brought its own set of challenges. With the old kitchen ripped out and the arrival of a replacement delayed, Gourlay and his flatmate “lived with a George Foreman grill and a microwave” for five months.

“That was an experience,” he laughs. “When we went into lockdown, there were still holes in the floor from the plumbing work and new central heating. We had holes in the walls too.

“It was a full-on construction site with a tarpaulin across the living room opening to try and stop dust. It looked a bit like something out of a horror film.”

The process yielded some pleasant surprises, however. “When I first moved in, you could see glimmers of the original woodwork,” says Gourlay. “I thought, ‘That looks odd. Why are there lines in this wallpaper? Is that a panel?’

“So, I took a hammer to it and uncovered all the original tongue and groove panelling going up the stairs. It had been covered over and hidden but was all still there. I couldn’t believe it. To find it in near-perfect condition was amazing.”

One aspect that wowed the judges is Gourlay’s collection of art and objects. “It is an eclectic mix; there is a bit of everything,” he says.

“I have contemporary, Victorian and mid-century stuff. I have art from all different kinds of styles, periods and genres.”

Gourlay created a “curiosity cabinet” bringing together family heirlooms alongside auction, charity shop and eBay finds, mementos from travelling and quirky gifts from friends (one pal, he says, went through a phase of sending him animal skulls and taxidermy specimens).

This simple-yet-visually stunning idea inspired judge Banjo Beale to devise his own “curiosity cabinet” at his Tobermory base on Mull. “I immediately thought, ‘That is a great idea – I am stealing that,’” reveals Beale. “I went home and did it straight away.

“It was this seemingly normal little cabinet that he might have got at a charity shop. He put lights in the back and had some lovely bits of ephemera. It was perfectly curated.

“My partner and I are terrible for collecting everything when we are on our travels,” adds Beale. “We had far too many things sitting around everywhere and they needed to come together in more of a tight collection. The curiosity cabinet was a tonic.”

Scotland’s Home of the Year begins on BBC One Scotland, Monday, 8.30pm.