Renovation nearly completed
Rannoch Lodge before the fire
I am conscious of the need to ensure that our heritage is being cared for and that future generations can appreciate the wonderful fabric of life here in Perthshire - the “ big county “ ! Heritage of course comes in a variety of different forms be it in the material fabric of a building , a place or indeed a spoken word . For some considerable time , I have been involved in advising and assisting in the restoration of one of Perthshire’s oldest houses – Rannoch Lodge , located at the west end of Loch Rannoch . This is a part of Scotland that is often missed by the tourist due to its comparative isolation . Loch Rannoch is some nine miles in length with roads on both sides . Referred to by Alasdair Alpin MacGregor as the Loch of the Vanquished Clans in his book “ Wild Drumalbain ” it is better known perhaps as the Road to the Isles :
Sure by Tummel and Loch Rannoch and Lochaber I will go
By heather tracks wi' heaven in their wiles.
If it's thinkin' in your inner heart the braggart's in my step
You've never smelled the tangle o' the Isles.
Oh the far Coolins are puttin' love on me
As step I wi' my cromack to the Isles.
To quote MacGregor : “ At Camghouran, near the Black Wood , is a grave yard chock full of Camerons . On the opposite shore of the Loch , in the churchyard of Killichonan , the mortal remains of MacGregors and Camerons rest side by side . The Robertsons of Struan have their mausoleum at Dun Alasdair; and the dust of the Stewarts of Innerhadden has faded beneath the weeds and grasses that conceal many a sore . And there are Stewarts “ gu leoir” lying in Lassintullich , hard by Kinloch Rannoch ”
It was the Menzies ( pronounced Ming –us ) Clan who eventually dominated the area of Rannoch and obtained lawful possession by Royal Charter as a thank you for subduing the fiery Clan MacGregor . Rannoch Lodge was built by the Menzies family as a two storey house in the mid-18th century and was altered into a shooting lodge by Sir Robert Menzies between 1798 and 1803 .During the last war it was temporarily occupied as boarding school when Wellesley School relocated there from distant Broadstairs in Kent !
It returned to private ownership after the war and continued a remarkable record of being a bolt hole for the famous . Elizabeth Taylor was a regular visitor dropping in by helicopter when wishing to escape from the curious press. Much earlier than this we have records of more than a few internationally famous persons retreating to Rannoch Lodge . In 1901 Cecil Rhodes , in poor health , spent some three months in the Lodge having been introduced by Leander Starr Jameson , a Scotsman whose name is associated with a flawed operation by the British against the Boers in 1895 . Rhodes was working on his will and endowments including the setting up of Rhodes Scholarships at Oxford University . Interestingly enough some prints of African scenes were discovered in an old trunk by the present owners some years ago and in all probability were a gift from Rhodes to the owners of that time . During this period a young Winston Churchill was house guest . Another visitor to Rannoch Lodge was Andrew Carnegie and this account describes his sojourn at Rannoch :
Carnegie spent the night in Aberdeen at the Haddo House Hotel where he received a telegraph from Pittsburgh notifying him of the battle at Homestead . Undeterred by the news , he proceeded with his vacation plans and left on the 6th of July 1892 for Rannoch Lodge a retreat in the central highlands , so isolated that it could only be reached by private carriage . Loch Rannoch and the nearby streams provided Carnegie with an idyllic setting to pursue a favourite past time , fishing .Whilst vacationing at the Lodge , he received a number of urgent telegrams from America and he also received a welcome letter and a few trout flies from a certain William Isherwood whom he had met at Haddo House . “ They are fastened in such a way that they seldom come to pieces , both ends of the feathers are tied along the shaft of the wire , a way that is never adopted by tackle makers ……I should be pleased to hear if you find them successful. They are most adapted f or stream fishing . ”
In 1985 Rannoch Lodge was gutted by fire which sadly resulted in the death of its two owners . The building and grounds were put up for auction and bought by Crieff couple Iain and Shirley Somerville . The mammoth task of renovation is still progressing but this is nearing a successful goal . The various outbuildings and cottages have been modernised and form part of a successful holiday letting complex (http://www.rannoch-lodge.co.uk/) . The Lodge like a phoenix has risen from the ashes and is a great tribute to the purposefulness of the owners coupled with the skills of the many tradesmen who have added their own thing .