Our History


Historical background to Scatwell and The Vale of Strahconon

The name Scatwell has Norse origins and is thought to mean a place to pay tribute or tax: “skat” meaning tax and “vollr”, a field, but another theory is that it derives from the word “skati” meaning wood or large logs. It is believed that Ross-shire, to which Scatwell belongs, was a place of arrival of Norse peoples from the more northerly counties of Sutherland and Caithness for the purpose of exploiting timber resources, so many of the place names in the Ross-shire area seem to be connected with trees and timber, because of the influence of these peoples.

Scatwell is first mentioned, along with Strathconon, in a royal charter of lands made to the Mackenzies in 1528. Kenneth Mackenzie, second son of Sir Roderick Mackenzie of Coigeach, tutor of Kintail, was the progenitor of the Scatwell branch of the Mackenzies. All the clan branches of the Mackenzies were the most territorially dominant clan in Scotland.

The Strathconon valley was from time immemorial a route for cattle from the west coast to markets further inland. In fact for many years the nearby town of Dingwall was the capital of the Highlands, as a centre for the gathering of cattle heading south. It later passed the title to the capital to Inverness.

Old Scottish House

Kenneth Mackenzie, first of the Mackenzie clan, received the feudal estate of Little Scatwell in 1619. He died at Lochluichart in 1662 and was succeeded by three sons. The 3rd son, also Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, 4th of Scatwell (d1729) was given the title 1st Baronet of Nova Scotia (and Scatwell) in 1703, acquired land on the Black Isle peninsula, at Avoch and at Findon. He built his house at Findon and moved there from Lochluichart in 1696. The Mackenzies of Scatwell would never again reside in the Strathconon valley. In the 1790s they built a new mansion at Avoch, the original Rosehaugh House. James Wemyss, 5th Baronet of Scatwell (1770-1843) achieved the title in 1811 and became MP for Ross in 1824 and Lord Lieutenant of Ross in 1826.

The first half of the 19th century was a difficult time for the old order of landowners and from 1831 to 1832, the lands of Scatwell and Lochluichart began to disintegrate. Meikle Scatwell, on the south side of the river, was sold in 1832 and eventually passed to Mrs Stewart Mackenzie of Seaforth c.1844. Little Scatwell and Lochluichart, on the north side of the river, were still owned by Sir James John Randoll Mackenzie (1814-1884), 6th Baronet of Scatwell and Rosehaugh, son of Sir James Wemyss, but he had an extravagant lifestyle and the many improvements to both Scatwell and Rosehaugh Estate incurred considerable debts. He sold Little Scatwell in 1849. Kinlochluichart and Glenmarksie followed in 1853 and he was declared bankrupt in 1864.

As mentioned in 1849, Captain John Douglas bought the property, and in 1850 built Scatwell House, adapting it, it is believed, to the old DroversInn built earlier. He died in 1852 and his widow, Jemima, continuing at Scatwell House, extended the estate by purchasing the lands of Auchonachie, Cabaan in Glen Orrin and Little Scatwell in 1853. For a time, the two estates were again joined. Mrs. Douglas established a school and was generous to the people of the surrounding area. In addition, she was responsible for the salary and provided a home for the Valley schoolmaster. But in 1857 the two estates were divided again when John Murray of Touchadam and Polmaise bought Little Scatwell.

Later William James Bell took possession of Scatwell House in 1864, until 1892, and introduced one of the first hydro-electric power systems in the Highlands, which in 1889 supplied Scatwell House with electricity. He also established a rural telephone system, over the hill to Cabaan Lodge in Glen Orin.

More recently, Scatwell has had a variety of owners starting with Sir James Buchanan, Lord Woolavington, from 1892 to 1920, when the many varieties of the present garden were planted, which today has 52 varieties of trees, many of them brought from five continents.

Later, Sir William Cross (Coates Cross family of Paisley), was the owner in 1930, again the Woolavington family had a relationship with Scatwell, as Sir William Cross’s daughter Catherine married Sir Reginald Macdonald Buchanans (1905-1985), who in 1950 bought the Scatwell house, and they were engaged in the whisky distilling business, and were suppliers to Parliament itself. One of their brands was the well-known “Black and White” whisky with the terrier dogs on the label.

His son James Macdonald Buchanan settled in the valley from England and built the house at Strathconon in about 1985, where he moved to live, and shortly afterwards, in 1986, he sold the house at Scatwell to Robin and Diana Fremantle, who lived there for seven years and eventually retired to live in England, although his family came from Newtonmore.

In 1994, the property was acquired by Scottish-born Dennis MacLeod (Nov 1939 – April 2019) from Hemsdale, northern Scotland, who was involved in mining in both Canada and South Africa. He was one of the main founders of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP). His South African-born wife Glyniss was responsible for the new decoration in the house, and it was at this time that the current heating system and other installations were installed.

After eleven years living in the house, they decided to move to the island of Vancouver in Canada and sold the property including the land surrounding it to Andrew Redmayne, who in little more than a year, separated the group of houses surrounding Scatwell, which in its day were the houses of those who worked here, stables, dance hall, etc. and the two houses at the two entrances, to leave what today constitutes Scatwell and the ten hectares that surround it, with its garden and orchard.

In 2006, Philip and Maria Lawson from Perth purchased the property and enjoyed it for just over three years.

The current owners were able to purchase the property at the end of 2009, having been impressed by the brightness of this Victorian era house, steeped in history, as well as its gardens, and its setting in this beautiful tranquil valley of Strathconon in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. As well as its gardens, and its setting in this beautiful and tranquil valley of Strathconon in the heart of the Scottish Highlands.