JOHN Murray, the fourth Earl of Dunmore, didn’t even want the job. “Damn Virginia,” he raged when he was appointed Governor in 1771. “Did I ever seek it? Why is it forced on me?”

He didn’t care for the colony’s climate or the social life and he soon didn’t care much for the colonists either.

After confronting the local Shawnee tribe in 1774 (a clash that became known as Lord Dunmore’s War), he increasingly came into conflict with the settlers.

He sealed his fate when, in 1775, he promised to free any slave who volunteered to fight for the Crown in the wake of the defeat of British troops at Lexington and Concord at the beginning of the American revolutionary war.

This did not go down well with even the more moderate settlers and in June 1776 the Earl fled at night, first to New York, and then to London and the House of Lords.

Legend has it that a year later he added the grand, implausible folly that was the Dunmore Pineapple to an existing summerhouse in his Elphinstone estate near Airth on the Carse of Stirling.

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In truth, the exact construction date of the cupola is uncertain. But it is one of the most outre expressions of the 18th-century idea that the fruit was a symbol of hospitality.

In Virginia, sailors were said to place a pineapple on their gatepost to announce their return. The first pineapples were grown in Scotland in the 1730s and it’s possible that they were grown at Dunmore too.

"Discovered" by Christopher Columbus who thought it looked like a pinecone (hence the name), the pineapple had increasingly become a popular architectural emblem, but as Clive Aslet notes in his book Landmarks of Britain (Hodder & Stoughton, 2005), Dunmore is “the apotheosis of pineapple architecture”.

The architect is uncertain, although Sir William Chalmers, a founder member of the Royal Academy, is regarded as the likely candidate. It is also said that the masons who built it were Italian.

What is certain is that the Pineapple, rearing 45ft above the walled garden that it sits within, was built with real artistry and skill. Each individual pineapple leaf has its own drainage.

The result is both amusing and impressive. Sited near the Forth, close by the Kincardine and Clackmannanshire Bridge, it remains a giddy, gleeful shock of a building when you first see it.

The Countess of Perth gifted the Pineapple to the National Trust for Scotland in 1974, and the Landmark Trust helped restore the former to its bizarre best.

You can even book a stay there. It can provide self-catering accommodation for up to four people. Meanwhile, the walled garden is open to visitors.

Much of the rest of the estate has fallen into a state of disrepair but the Pineapple remains as fresh and leafy as the day it was built.

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