Last time we talked of horse-mills, but we live in a region of many other instantly recognisable buildings which have had many specific uses.
This time I want to talk about shooting lodges.
They are a reminder of the Victorian passion for hunting and shooting in the braes o’ Angus and our glens but many of these fine buildings still stand silently around the country reminding us of another era.
Many of course still retain their original use and have been upgraded to continue to bring the sportsman to our glens.
However quite a few have changed use over the years.
I am thinking of Glen Doll Lodge which was built for Lord Southesk in 1877.
Lord Southesk was a nobleman not without distinction, for he was a poet and scholar of Shakespeare.
However, he was no ordinary literati, for when he purchased Glen Doll, he had just returned from exploring the Rocky frontier, mapping the barren and un-chartered American Prairies.
Glen Doll, a stunningly beautiful glen, sits at the head of Glen Clova, and leads from Clova by the track now widely known as ‘Jock’s Road’ into Royal Deeside. The next owner of Doll, Duncan MacPherson, perhaps felt inadequate as the new custodian, as he had no such noble family behind him as his beginnings were from a wee croft in remote Lagganside.
So, when MacPherson tried to stop folk coming through ‘his’ glen, it resulted in his epic battle with the Scottish Rights of Way Society, which fortunately won for the wider public and I hope we shall remain eternally grateful. This is an amazing tale in itself, but too lengthy to repeat here.
Later Glen Doll Lodge was to become one of the early Youth Hostels which will still be fondly remembered by some of our older readers who will recall staying in the lodge before or after walking over Jock’s Road.
Another former lodge which became a Youth Hostel was of course Knockshannoch in Glenisla, built in 1888, which is another ‘b’ listed ex-hunting lodge overlooking the River Isla.
This is a wonderful circular building, where in its present form since 2001 you can stay once more as it is now an activity centre, offering accommodation and outdoor activities in Glenisla at the border of the Cairngorms National Park.
Every Angus glen seemed to have at least one lodge. One of the earliest was at Shank in Glen Moy. The wee ruins are still there and the giveaway that it was a shooting lodge and not merely a cottage is the clue given by the iron bars on three of the windows. Many of the lodges have disappeared completely. One such is the former lodge at Bachnagairn at the top of Glen Doll.
Scottish shooting lodges are mostly a product of the 19th century, but we must remember that the origins of our famous castle at Glamis, was a hunting lodge, situated on the flat ground at the confluence of the Glamis Burn and the Dean where the countryside would have been surrounded by waterfowl and game of all sorts.
There is a print of it in Charles II’s reign by Slezer, which shows it to have been much a more extensive building than today, having two courts in front, with a tower in each, and a gateway through below them; and on the northern side was the principal tower, which now constitutes the central portion of the present castle, upwards of 100 feet in height.
It has certainly been there for well over 600 years and although Glamis’ origin is obscure, it clearly followed the legendary instruction to “Build the castle in a bog, where it will neither shak nor shog!” And difficult as it is to imagine the scene today, back in the Middle Ages the landscape around Forfar and Kirrie was seen as the prime location of many other Royal hunting grounds, each with its own sporting lodge.