Inverie House lies on the Knoydart peninsula, some 800 m south of the village of Inverie on the north shore of Loch Nevis. The location is genuinely isolated, between Loch Nevis (Heaven) and Loch Hourn (Hell), with access only possible by ferry from Mallaig (45 minutes), or a 20 mile hike across country known as the Rough Bounds. There are some seven miles of tarred road on the peninsula, but these have no connection with the main road system, and are used only by the residents who, unlike visitors, are able to have their vehicles ferried over.
Inverie House was built in the early 19th century for the last of the Highland chiefs, Colonel Alasdair Macdonell of Glengarry (1773 - 1828). It passed to the Baird family in the late 19th century and then to Lord Brocket (Alan Ronald Nall-Cain) (1904 - 1967) in 1934.
In what appears to be a remarkable story of survival, the 28 bedroom house (with 28 chimneys) lay deserted, fully furnished and open, for a number of years until the local community bought it as part of their buyout of the Knoydart Estate in 1999. Two years later, in order to raise funds, the house was sold again. Reportedly paying in excess of the £150,000 asking price (and beneficiary of a trust fund), the purchaser was an American sculptor and furniture designer, Rick Walsh, who had been searching for somewhere to live in Scotland, along with his wife Dorothy (a Scot born in Ayrshire, the two had met while at college in America), and three children. The buyer is said to be the beneficiary of an obscure American trust fund. His aim being to relocate his Vermont based studio in Inverie, and attract his high-profile clients to the area.
As to the survival of the house and contents over the many years it lay unoccupied, the location provides the answer. With only around 100 people in the community, strangers are easily spotted. With no road access, or a 20 mile hike, the only escape route is via the ferry, which is not ideal if carrying luggage comprising the former contents of a house. The same holds true for anyone causing damage.
The house, and the whole area, could have been lost in 1982, when the Ministry of Defence (MoD) expressed an interest in purchasing the entire Knoydart peninsula (then about 55,000 acres), and establishing a training area. Protest campaigns were mounted by conservationists, mountaineers and walkers, which succeeded in dissuading the MoD from proceeding, but the estate was later acquired by a property speculator, who broke it into smaller lots and sold them off.
In 2000, corporate survival courses were held there, one of which featured helicopter helicopter rescue, and used the house's courtyard as a landing area.
Inverie is also home to the Old Forge, mainland Britain's remotest pub as certified by The Guinness Book of Records: Accessible only by boat! Unless you are rich or keen, in which case you can get there by helicopter or bike.
During World War II, Inverie House was requisitioned for training, and used by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) as a Special Training School, designated STS24a. Its specific function is unknown.
Memories of Inverie
I have just found the above on Secret Scotland and would like to record that I stayed there with the then Catholic Parish Priest Fr Colin McPherson, and his housekeeper Bella McDonald in the Chapel House next door to St Agnes Church. Sadly, this is no longer there as it was burnt down shortly after the installation of electricity. My father was a chef in the army, and had been posted there circa 1943. A child of only 11 years, I had had an eye operation and went there with my father to recuperate. He had become very friendly with Fr Colin and Bella. I spent about 5/6 weeks there and remember Inverie House and Glaschoille House and the beautiful place it was - absolutely gorgeous. When this stay was was over we spent quite a few holidays there, staying in the School House. Fr Colin went on to become Bishop of Argyll and the Isles. I wonder what happened to all the lovely people who resided there at that time. Sandy and Joan McPhee, the teacher Miss McLean from Nairn, and many others. O happy Happy Days.
I wonder if there are any other people still around that could have been in this lovely place in the 1940s?
Families in Inverie in the 1940s
My memories of Inverie are not my memories but those of my relatives the McPhails, McPhees etc who lived there at the time. According to my father, still alive, it was an eclectic mix of children in particular - nearly all cousins, from Glasgow and the central belt - staying with their relatives in Knoydart to avoid the war. They all still have great memories. The Quinns, Hardys, McMasters, Steels, Allardices etc all used to come up to Knoydart.
There are very few left alive from that era now - although I am still in touch with Joan McPhee. The children and grandchildren live all over the world.
Stuart Hardy ([email protected])
Alan Ronald Nall-Cain is perhaps better known as the infamous Lord Brocket (1904 - 1967), Member of Parliament and lifetime Nazi sympathiser.
From a wealthy family that had made its millions from brewing, he attended both Eton and Oxford before becoming a barrister in London, and then a Conservative MP. Inheriting two grand houses in England, he went on to purchase the Knoydart estate in the 1930s, and became resented as an absentee landlord after dismissing and evicting the estate's workers, turning the land over to leisure pursuits such as shooting and fishing. In 1948, this resulted in a raid by the Seven Men of Knoydart, who carried out a raid on his land and claimed a small section on which to develop working crofts. A famous court case followed, which the raiders lost (he had many powerful friends), but made the point regarding the unfair distribution of land ownership without responsibility.
His homes were often used for entertaining those who supported Germany at the time, and his Nazi sympathies were well known. He was a member of the Anglo-German Fellowship, friendly with German officials, and used by the British Government as a route for passing messages. In 1939, he accepted an invitation to attend Hitler's fiftieth birthday, attending with with Major-General John Fuller and Arthur Bryant. Even after the war ended, he maintained his connections, and may have been close to being accused of treason.
A memorial to the family overlooks Inverie from a nearby hilltop.
1 ⇑ The Old Forge in Knoydart, Britain's most remote pub | Mail Online Retrieved 28/04/2014.
- Blog visit report, dated 2006
- 100 potential bidders for house
- Scotsman article on sale
- Survival courses
- Hansard on the estate
- The Old Forge
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