Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Doune of Rothiemurchus;The Highland Lady Safari

Grey Granite, T and MA, were recently privileged to experience a 'Highland Lady Safari' on the Rothiemurchus estate. Led by a knowledgeable estate Ranger this included visits the Loch an Eilean and the Doune of Rothiemurchus, so vividly described by Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus (1797-1885), author of the celebrated Memoirs of  Highland Lady.

Loch an Eilein Castle, a favourite haunt of  Elizabeth Grant, in her day the nesting place of 'fish eagles'.
'And the face of nature so beautiful - rivers, lakes, burnies, fields, banks, braes, moors, woods, mountains, heather, the dark forest, wild animals, wild flowers, wild fruits.'
Heavy rain had caused the Spey to burst its banks and the day before our visit the fields between the Doune Farm road and the Spey were completely under water. Elizabeth Grant records that this flooding has long been been a problem.

The Doune takes its name from the boat shaped mound next to the house. There was a hill fort, or dun,  on the hill which was the home of the Shaws who were lairds of Rothiemurchus until the 16th century when the estate passed to the Grants who have retained lairdship for over four centuries.
The oldest wing of the Doune, the remains of the Doune Hill are on the right. In her journals from around  1808 onwards Elizabeth Grant mourned the loss of much of the hill and landscaping of the gardens and policies as successive modifications were made to the house.
The Highland Lady complained bitterly about the landscaping of the parkland and the removal of the kitchen garden from close to the house to an inconvenient distance away. 'Among the series of pretty hollows in the birch wood between The Drum and the Miltown moor, a fashion of the day to remove the fruit and the vegetables an inconvenient distance from the cook'.
Oldest part of the present Doune, the wing on the right in the picture above, was built by the Shaws in the early 16th  century and has now been sympathetically restored. The Georgian frontage contained a library and  dining room with cellars below and bedrooms above.

Marriage stone, on the old part of the house,  dated 1598 erected by Patrick Grant on his marriage to Jean Gordon

The inviting entrance to the restored wing of the Doune  now home of Johnny and Philippa Grant 

The attractive formal gardens by the present main entrance to the old part of the house.
Following requisition by the Army during WW2 the Doune, like so many similar properties, gradually became semi derelict. Renovation, which is still on going, was begun by Johnnie Grant of Rothiemurchus in 1978.
An  intricate  cornice above the bow window to the right of the front door of the Georgian wing, a dauntingly huge amount of work remains to be done to fully restore the Doune to its former glory.

Elizabeth Grant records that work on the new library was complete by the family's arrival back at the Doune in 1814.The walls were painted in French grey with black panelling.The room, a favourite retreat of Elizabeth, held a library of between three and four thousand book, carefully catalogued and arranged in bookcases made from fir from the Rothiemurchus forest. Elizabeth writes the 'it was from these silent teachers that we very much received an education'.

The present ruinous church in the Doune policies was rebuilt around 1830 by John Peter Grant of Rothiemurchus, on the site of a much earlier church of which only the windowless side facing the Doune was incorporated in to the replacement. Writing in 1812 Elizabeth Grant remarks on the dilapidated state of the church and neglected graveyard. This was the parish church for Rothiemurchus and two poorly attended services,one in English, the other in Gaelic were held each Sunday.

The original church was dedicated to St Tuchaldus and is first mentioned in the Register of the Bishops of Moray in 1229. Tuchaldus was an itinerant Culdee missionary who built a grain mill, powered by water from the Allt na Cardoch burn, in what is now the North East corner of the kirkyard.

The grave of Shaw Mor, also known as Farquhar Shaw who died in 1405. According to local tradition death or at least ill fortune will befall anyone who removes the large cheese shaped stones from his grave. The 'mortsafe' is a comparatively recent addition to prevent the removal of the stones which has become something of a 'dare'.  A large accumulation of coins has been thrown through the grill onto the stones. There is a genuine mortsafe, now partially buried lying in the in grass within the ruins of the church.

A Sexton Beetle, (Nicrophorus investigator) on the remains of a dead bird, appropriately in the kirkyard. These beetles are said to be able to scent carrion over huge distances and are named for their habit of burying decaying matter.

1 comment:

  1. My family lived at The Doune before the Grants moved in from the north. I am a descendant of Seumas Mackintosh Shaw of Tullochgrue and Kinveachie. ~ Wm Shaw of Easter Lair