The great poet chieftain, Alexander Robertson of Struan, a staunch Jacobite, lived in a house called the Hermitage which is thought to have been on the site of or near to the present Dunalastair House. This was destroyed by fire after the 1745 uprising. A double tower house was built on the site in around 1800 which was known as Mount Alexander.
In 1853 the Estate was sold by George Duncan Robertson, 18th Chief of Clan Donnachaidh, to General Sir John Macdonald of Dalchosnie. He demolished the house and built the present house (now a ruin) which was completed in 1859. General Sir John Macdonald commanded the land forces in Scotland. He also built, in around 1861, much of the village of Kinloch Rannoch including the Episcopal Church in the square and the MacDonald Arms Hotel (now called the Dunalastair Hotel Suites and no longer belonging to the estate).
Around 1881 the estate was sold by Alastair Macdonald, son of Sir John, to Hugh Tennent who only owned it for nine years and died aged 27 in 1890 and, in 1891, the Estate was bought by James Clark Bunten who was Chairman of the Caledonian Railway Company and had a foundry and engineering works in Glasgow, Anderston Foundry. He was the present owner's great-grandfather.
James Clark Bunten's only child, a daughter, Jeannie, married Frank de Sales La Terrière, (whose ancestor had left France for Quebec in the 1760s and one of whose sons came to Britain early in the 19th century). The present owner, Ian Cameron de Sales La Terrière lives with his wife, Rose, on the estate.
Dunalastair House was designed by Andrew Heiton, a Perth-based architect, who also designed the Atholl Palace Hotel and Dunkeld railway station. It was really only used as it was built to be used up until the First World War because after that the staff needed to run such a big house were no longer available.
During the Second World War it was requisitioned and used first as a Polish boys’ and then girls’ school and during this period it was considerably damaged, which included the loss of a Millais painting which was destroyed in a fire in the drawing room.
The house’s contents were sold in the mid fifties after the current owner’s grandmother’s death and the house was badly vandalised in the sixties when the lead was stolen from the roof. In those days it was not viable to repair it and no grants were available and it deteriorated very quickly from then on with most removable parts being stolen.
Various ideas have been put forward for restoring it, but the cost would be very great indeed, and nothing has so far come of any of them.
In former times this was the territory of the Robertson clan whose chief in the 18th Century was Alexander Robertson of Struan the great Jacobite highland chieftain and poet. Five clan chiefs are buried on the estate in a beautiful, peaceful, walled graveyard set on a knoll looking west towards the hills of Glencoe 30 miles away. For information about Clan Donnachaidh which includes the names Robertson, Duncan, Reid and others click on Clan Donnachaidh.
Several clans were associated with this area. Particularly such names as Menzies, Macdonald, Cameron, Duncan and Robertson are local to the area and the many graveyards are a source of interesting research, as well as booklets by local historians about the clans in the area. These are available in local shops. There is a Clan Trail around Loch Rannoch and you can pick up leaflets about this in the shops.
The holiday cottages originally housed staff when the estate was in full swing before the First World War and for a time after; Maragdubh was a tenanted farm, the Old Post Office was just that, a post office, until about 1977, the Schoolhouse, where the Castles now live, was a staff cottage and then a holiday cottage after it ceased to be the estate school. Tuim was originally called Old East Lodge and was the gate lodge of the old mansion before New East Lodge, the turreted building was built in the 1890s. Rose Cottage was inhabited by farm staff and also West Drumchastle.
Bridge Cottage housed the hydro-electric turbine which ran the electricity in old Dunalastair House. This was located in the (now) sitting room! When electricity came to the glen in the 50s, this gradually became redundant although Ian La Terriere remembers staying in Dunalastair House in the 40s when the turbine was switched off at 10.30 every night and the lights gradually dimmed and went out in a very spooky way.
Balmore Cottage was a pair of cottages for estate staff and Old Laundry was where all the linen for the old mansion was looked after. We still have a few old linen sheets and pillowcases from the late 19th century, still in use at Lochgarry. They don't make them like that anymore! One blanket has a label saying 'Second sewing maid's bedroom'. Times have changed…
For the last forty plus years, since 1971, we have been letting cottages for holidays. In the beginning, they were very basically furnished and holiday tenants would have to clean them for the next tenants before they left, with no housekeeping available! Over the years we have renovated and refurbished and, in several cases, gutted and totally rebuilt the interiors of estate cottages, bringing back virtual ruins to useful life. They are now fully equipped with everything you would need for your comfort and enjoyment.
We also let a number of cottages to local residents.
Sadly we do not have records of all those who lived in the cottages in the 19th and early 20th century, as many people researching ancestors ask us about them and we are usually unable to help.
There are books by Alec Cunningham for sale in the village shop which give an interesting history of the area for those who want to know more about Rannoch.