Rossdhu House

At one point Rossdhu was open for public viewing. A booklet titled Rossdhu: Home of the Chiefs of the Clan Colquhoun, written by Sir Iain Moncrieffe of that Ilk PhD., was available to visitors. Long since out of print, we have reproduced its text and pictures for Clansmen.

Rossdhu House and lands are currently the home of the Loch Lomond Golf Club. The Rossdhu House and lands are presently leased to the Loch Lomand Golf Club, by the Colquhoun Estates.


Home of the Chiefs of the Clan Colquhoun




Rossdhu near Luss

Gaelic ros dubh for the 'Black Headland', stands the stately Georgian house and romantic ruined mediaeval castle of the Chiefs of the Clan Colquhoun.

On a wooded peninsula guarded on three sides by the bonny banks of Loch Lomond, Rossdhu looks out across the loch, with its beautiful views towards the lochs islands and the hills beyond.

In the Middle Ages on one of the lochs islands, Inchmurrin, the then chief, John Colquhoun 10th of Luss, was savagely murdered by a band of Hebridean marauders led by the Maclean chief with whom he was attempting to negotiate peace. And in these fair-faced but swift-changing waters centuries later, during the reign of Queen Victoria, Sir James Colquhoun 28th of Luss, with four of his gillies, drowned within earshot of Rossdhu while sailing homewards from stalking red deer on the Island of Inchlonaig: their desperate cries for help may have been heard ashore but mistaken for cheerful shouts.

The first Chief is only so reckoned because he is the first of his ancient line to be named in a surviving charter, when he was Dean of the Lennox in 1220 ( the Lennox was the earldom around the river Leven from Loch Lomond to the Clyde, roughly corresponding with modern Dunbartonshire). His was a sacred family, Celtic married priests and hereditary guardians of St. Kessog's pastoral staff: so probably near kin to the mighty Earls of Lennox, who confirmed them in the lands of Luss and who claimed descent from the pre-Christian Irish royal house of Munster, to which the Saint himself had belonged. The holy Kessog dwelt in Glen Luss or on Inchtavannach, the 'monk's isle' in Loch Lomond and both still belong to the Colquhouns. He was martyred in the Dark Ages. Before 1368 the old Celtic sacred family's heiress, the Fair Maid of Luss, brought these beautiful mountains and islands to the armoured knight who won her hand, Sir Robert Colquhoun of that Ilk, chief of a clan that had fought for Robert Bruce and whose stronghold lay some miles away on the river Clyde. After that, the Colquhoun and Luss kindreds and followers merged to form the Clan Colquhoun, whose tartan was to be seen in various parts of the house at Rossdhu, and also at the Colquhoun Arms inn on the main road nearby.

The Colquhoun of Luss coat-of-arms is obviously connected with the Cross saltire of the Earls of Lennox. But the Chiefs' heraldic supporters of two greyhounds, together with their crest of a red stag's head and motto Si Je Puis ( " if I can" ), are linked with an old tale. The story runs that the king asked the Colquhoun chief to recover Dumbarton Castle from his enemies, that Scots and Gaelic-speaking Luss replied in the Norman-French fashionable at Court at that date, "si je puis", and then pursued a stag with his hounds past the castle gates. The garrison opened them to join in the chase, whereupon his clansmen rushed the castle and captured it for the king. This clan legend may well be true. For in 1424, at the height of heraldry, King James I decided to overthrow the too powerful Lennox family, and chose John Colquhoun 10th of Luss to be his Governor of Dumbarton Castle and to wrest it from them. Interested heraldists will find the original armorial mourning "hatchments" of several chiefs in the "laird's loft" or raised family pew in the kirk at Luss: one of the two best sets surviving in all Scotland.

When the Colquhouns went to war, their Chief dipped a charred wooden cross in goat's blood, and sent this Fiery Cross by relays throughout the entire district of Luss: the bearer, usually mounted on a garron pony, shouting out the name of the gathering-place as he passed. The Colquhoun muster-place was usually at Cnoc Elachan, still the clan "slogan", the "armoury hillock" near Rossdhu. Here the armed clansmen assembled, many coming by boat as the quickest transport in those roadless days, others by hill tracks, and were issued with arms if they had none andwith badges of hazel, the lucky plant of their clan, to wear in their bonnets.

One of the greatest of their Chiefs was Sir John Colquhoun 11th of Luss, Great Chamberlain of Scotland and joint Ambassador to England. In 1457 his lands were erected into the free Barony of Luss, giving him local powers of life and death held by his successors until 1747. The Gallowshill across the main road from Rossdhu marks the site of their "dule-tree". Sir John also built the old castle of Rossdhu, whose ruins can be seen behind the present house, and the now roofless private chapel of St. Mary of Rossdhu. Its beautiful mediaeval illuminated MS Book of Hours has recently been re-discovered far away among the public treasures of New Zealand. The tomb effigy of Sir John's brother Robert Colquhoun, Bishop of Argyll, is now in Luss church. In 1478 Sir John himself was killed by a cannon ball while besieging a castle with the king.

Sir John Colquhoun 15th of Luss was knighted by Mary Queen of Scots who twice stayed at Rossdhu, and is mentioned in the mysterious "Casket Letters", her alleged secret correspondence with Bothwell. In 1592, Sir Humphrey Colquhoun 16th of Luss had an affair with the Macfarlane chief's wife. The enraged Macfarlanes surprised him at his dalliance and pursued him past Rossdhu to Bannachra, another of his castles, where they tried to smoke him out. In the ensuing confusion Sir Humphrey was slain by an arrow, apparently treacherously fired within the castle by his brother and heir, afterwards executed for the crime. Sir Humphrey's body was mutilated in a particularlyrevolting though appropriate manner and the trophy served up to poor Lady Macfarlane as a mocking dish, and the Macfarlanes also took the specious opportunity to violate his daughter in revenge.

In 1603 during the chiefship of Alexander Colquhoun 17th of Luss, the wild Clan Gregor made a ferocious raid into Luss, when King James VI's sympathy was aroused by the frantic Colquhoun women bringing him the bloody shirts of their dead and wounded (some say a few extra shirts were added dyed in sheep's blood). The MacGregor chief invaded again in person two months later and massacred the Colquhouns at the Battle of Glenfruin, the "Glen of Sorrow", for which the whole Clan Gregor were outlawed by a special Act of Council. The MacGregor chief was promptly captured by Campbell treachery, and executed with eleven of his principal clansmen, being publicly hanged his own height above the rest. All others who dared call themselves MacGregor were hunted down with bloodhounds and put to death, and it was generations before the Name was finally allowed again. The forgiving Colquhouns came to sympathise with them and sometimes illegally sheltered fugitive MacGregors, for which ironically they were themselves prosecuted and fined.

Sir John Colquhoun 19th of Luss was a necromancer, skilled in Black Magic, and the last known person to openly practise witchcraft. He was made one of the first Baronets of Nova Scotia in 1625, and married a sister of the Great Montrose, who frequently stayed at Rossdhu. But Sir John fell in love with his wife's pretty sister, Lady Katherine Graham, and after eloping with her fled abroad to die in exile in Italy. This sinister laird's successor, Sir John Colquhoun 20th of Luss, was so swarthy and haughty that he was nicknamed the "Black-Cock of the West". His portrait at Rossdhu is of unusual interest, as it shows him in his red baronial robes edged with white fur, and may be unique of this period. In his time Rossdhu Castle was twice occupied by the English Cromwellians for a short while.

The vast Colquhoun estates were inherited in 1718 by a new Fair Maid of Luss, Anne Colquhoun, whose husband also inherited the baronetcy in 1718 by a special arrangement but later became Chief of the Clan Grant in his own right. Their elder son carried on the line of the Grant chiefs, taking the old baronetcy with him, but the younger son became Colquhoun of Luss and was created a Baronet anew in 1786. This was Sir James Colquhoun 25th of Luss, a highly civilised Chief though a warrior in his youth. He had been one of the earliest officers of the famous Black Watch and fought under King George II in person at the battle of Dettingen, the last battle in which a British Sovereign commanded in the field. He founded the flourishing modern town of Helensburgh, which he named after his wife Lady Helen Colquhoun, sister of the 17th Earl of Sutherland.

In 1772 the future Sir James had begun to build the present house of Rossdhu, which was originally what is now the central block, and completed it in the following year. Later that year the celebrated Dr. Johnson and Mr. Boswell were entertained at Rossdhu on their renowned tour of the Hebrides. Lady Helen Colquhoun was very house-proud, and was a very good housewife always seeing that nothing was wasted. Her ghost is reputed to have been seen several times in the staff quarters. We are told about Dr. Johnson that "having got himself drenched with water in some boating expedition on Loch Lomond, he came into the drawing-room with water splashing out of his boots. Lady Helen could no longer restrain her displeasure, muttering 'What a bear!' 'Yes', replied one of the company, 'He is no doubt a bear, but he is Ursus Major'." This referred, of course, to the Latin name for the celestial group of stars known as the Great Bear, but no Johnsonian fan would disagree.

His son, Sir James Colquhoun 26th of Luss, a friend and correspondent of Horace Walpole, to whom he gave a goat's horn snuff-mull, was a connoisseur and collector of paintings, landscapes in particular, engravings, ancient coins and rare old china. The next chief, Sir James Colquhoun 27th of Luss, lived with discernment during the good taste of the Regency. He enlarged the house, adding the two wings and the portico, unfortunately using the stone from the old castle. He made the long south drive along the lochside, and built its two superb entrance lodges joined by a beautiful archway surmounted by the Colquhoun heraldic emblems, that form together an architectural gem on the side of the main road. Draining the marshy "moss" that had guarded the landward side of the castle in the Middle Ages but was no longer needed to protect the house, he turned it into a deer park and enclosed the policies within a park wall. He was generous to his blood-feud foes, the Clan Gregor, whom he invited to Rossdhu before a ceremonial handshake between Sir James and MacGregor of MacGregor on the overgrown site of the battlefield of Glenfruin. Such a scene could perhaps only have occurred in the romantic Scotland enlightened by their friend and contemporary Sir Walter Scott, who wrote in his poem The Lady of the Lake:

" Proudly our pibroch has thrill'd in Glenfruin,

And Bannachra's groans to our slogan replied;

Glen Luss and Rossdhu they are smoking in ruin,

And the best. of Loch Lomond lie dead on her side."

The 28th Chief, so unfortunately drowned in Loch Lomond in 1873, was Lord Lieutenant of Dunbartonshire. So too was his son, Sir James who was visited at Rossdhu by Queen Victoria in 1875. His second wife inherited and sold many of Rossdhu's ancestral treasures when he died in 1907 and was succeeded by his cousin Sir Alan Colquhoun 30th of Luss, K.C.B. Sir Alan's father had been the John Colquhoun who wrote that classic of nineteenth century Scottish sport, "The Moor and the Loch" and other sporting books.

But new and characteristically Highland relics were preserved at Rossdhu, and they were truly remarkable. The late chief, Sir Iain Colquhoun 31st of Luss, Knight of the Thistle and Grand Master Mason of Scotland, was elected by the students their Lord Rector of Glasgow University, and was twice appointed by King George VI to represent the Sovereign as His Grace the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland: the highest position in the realm, taking precedence even before the Heir to the Throne and the Royal Family. He was the lightweight Boxing Champion of the whole British Army, and became a Lt.-Colonel in the Scots Guards. His feats in the First World War are legendary. He was wounded in the thigh by a German bullet striking the hilt of his drawn sword at the First Battle of Ypres, his men saving him from gangrene by putting green cowpats on the wound: primitive penicillin ahead of its time. He was condemned to death by a court martial but pardoned by King George V for fraternising on Christmas Day with the Germans in No Man's Land in 1915. Sir Iain who won the D.S.O. and Bar kept a fairly tame pet lion in the forward trenches. He killed five Bavarians with an improvised club, and shot a Prussian officer at the very moment the Prussian's bullet hit his revolver's chamber and jammed it in his stunned hand ( he thought it had been shot off, until he discovered his hand still there at the end of the battle). Sir Iain's sword with its damaged guard, his club with five little death-nicks in its handle, and his revolver with one round fired and the rest jammed splayed with the lead of the German bullet, are all almost unbelievably still to be seen (at one time) at Rossdhu.

So Colquhoun history is as startling in the twentieth century as it was when the old castle was first erected by the Chief who was killed in the Middle Ages, and Rossdhu has seen strangely differing scenes of Black Magic and deathly-dangerous love and the clash of arms and polished literary conversation. From this historic centre Colquhouns have spread out, carrying their traditions throughout the world. The 1st Bn. 3rd Royal Gurkhas from Nepal in the high Himalayas are allowed to have Colquhoun tartan bagpipes. This dates from 1800 when their first Colonel was Sir Robert Colquhoun. In the United States the name is often spelt Calhoun, and a stone around which Scotch thistles grow marks the spot where Lieutenant Jimmy Calhoun of the 7th U.S. Cavalry fell fighting the Sioux in Custer's famous last stand at the Little Bighorn, having ridden out for the last time to their favourite tune of "Garryowen", now so celebrated in Hollywood "Western" movies. Another Calhoun was Vice-President of the United States.

Rossdhu is in a sense therefore more than a stately country house hard by an historic castle's ruins in one of the best-known and most beautiful settings in the world. It is above all the official home of the head of a world-wide family group: the whole of the Clan Colquhoun.


Main Gates (can be seen from A82)

The House

Since the building of the house was completed in 1773, it has been the family home of the Chiefs of the Clan Colquhoun. When Sir James Colquhoun was thinking of building a new house to replace the 15th century Castle of Rossdhu, he no doubt considered and perhaps consulted a number of prominent architects of the day including Robert Adam. It is perhaps natural therefore that the design of the house has been attributed to the famous Georgian. There is evidence that Sir James consulted Sir James Clerk of Penicuik, whose influence on county house architecture was considerable, and it is probable that John Baxter, who worked for Sir James at Penicuik House, may have been the architect selected. John Baxter and his father both worked with the Adam family but by 1772, when the building of Rossdhu started, the son was well established as a designer in his own right, and some of those who have studied his work have seen his hallmark at Rossdhu especially at the back of the house.



THE MAIN HALL. This is the first room seen by the visitors, and their attention will be caught by the beautiful cantilever staircase with its wrought iron banisters. This leads to the first and second floors, a glimpse of which can be seen below the cupola. The portrait above the fireplace is a copy of a famous Raeburn picture of Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster in the unusual uniform, of his own design, of the Rothesay and Caithness Fencibles. Sir John is still remembered for his pioneer work in agriculture and his younger daughter married Sir James Colquhoun, grandson of the builder of Rossdhu. Nearby hangs the "head" of a reindeer found by Scouts in Port O'Rossdhu burn in 1935. This has been identified as of the second ice age and is some 10,000 years old.

THE CHINESE DRAWING ROOM. The hand-painted silk wall covering was specially designed and made for the room in Hong Kong by Chinese craftsmen. The measurement and fitting was carried out by the estate joiner whose family have served the Colquhouns for many years. The curtains and window seat covers were made in Hong Kong at the same time. On the walls can be seen a pair of gilt Adam mirrors surmounted by fine floral carving and a stag's head, the family crest. Over one of the doors is a cafving of the same design. This has recently returned to Rossdhu after Sir Ivar had seen it catalogued in a sale of antiques and had recognised it as part of set originally designed and made for Rossdhu. The suite of two settees and seven shield back chairs in pink and gold floral silk were probably made to a design by George Hepplewhite, and the impressive mahogany breakfront bookcase is of the Chippendale period. To the left of the fireplace is an interesting and unusual Spanish chest with numerous richly carved and inlaid drawers.




THE LARGE DRAWING ROOM. The large drawing room was added to the original house early in the 19th century, and now forms a family portrait gallery. The pictures were gathered together by Sir Iain Colquhoun and carefully identified and labelled. Some of them unfortunately still show signs of the damage they suffered in the fire which swept through the room early in this century. Sir Iain was serving in Egypt with his regiment at the time and received a cable from the estate factor telling him of the fire. His one word reply "rebuild" was acted upon promptly and the work, carried out by Italian craftsmen, was completed before his return from overseas. Portraits are by famous artists Lely, Reynolds, Raeburn and Alan Ramsay and by others no doubt fashionable in their day but now long forgotten. The family is represented from the early 17th century, by Sir John, one of King Charles I's Novia Scotia Baronets, in an almost unbroken line down to the builder of this room. Later family portraits will be seen in the dining room which forms the companion wing added to the house. The only pictures in the room outside the family connection are two charming little portraits by Mierevelt of the Winter King and his wife Elizabeth of Bohemia, sister to King Charles I. These hang on either side of the fireplace. Down the centre of the room are display cabinets showing a variety of interesting items collected from all over the house. Probably the most interesting, and the most battered by age and use, is the workbox once the property of Mary Queen of Scots. Maybe she left it behind as a token on one of her two visits to Rossdhu Castle.

THE LIBRARY. Here is the finest ceiling of any room in the house and it is possible that this was the drawing room of the original 18th century house. Two walls are now fitted with very imposing mahogany bookcases, no doubt made for the room when itbecame the library. An impressive-looking collection of calf-bound books fills the shelves. Many of the books carry the book-plate of Sir James Colquhoun, the builder of the house who gathered together much of the library although some of the books show signs of having been in Colquhoun possession for much longer. Amongst the pictures are two pairs of religious paintings by Marc Antonio Francischini and a delightful impression of the Last Supper by an unknown artist. The company appear to have been eating something other than the customary bread! In front of the bookcases are a set of nine mahogany camel back chairs with upholstered seats worked by Lady Colquhoun from designs in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

THE BOXING ROOM. A small room off the drawing room has been set aside to display Sir Iain Colquhoun's collection of china and pictures of famous prizefighters. He was Lightweight Boxing Champion of the British Army. Sir Iain was the founder Chairman of the National Trust for Scotland, and in this room can be seen examples of the literature of the Trust and enrolment forms for those who may wish to join.





" THE MOOR AND THE LOCH" ROOM. In this room was the interesting collection of stuffed birds and mammals gathered together during the middle of the 19th century by John Colquhoun, great grandfather of the present Chief. As author of "The Moor and the Loch", a classic on Scottish Highland Sport of the Victorian era, John Colquhoun's name is still remembered today.

Brought up at Rossdhu, John showed from his earliest days a great love of his natural surroundings and a keen interest in its wildlife. By profession he was first a soldier and then a lawyer, but throughout his life his great passion was for shooting and fishing in the Highlands. Bound up with this has been the observance of and delight in the animals and birds of the lochs and the hills. The 'Museum' was originally intended, so John tells us ' to admit only speciments killed by myself'. Later, to encourage in his sons, 'a life-interest in the study of natural history', they were also allowed to add to the collection what they shot. To John, the collection was an intensely personal treasure and some of the specimens held for him, memories of special occasions amongst the hills and perhaps of hours patiently waiting, while he observed all that went on around him. Their prime importance to him was not to have just quantity of species, but to have them as interesting and unusual as possible. We find that 'for the sake of contrast, I have put up the most common of our owls in one case', and again of three house sparrows cased together, one is normal and the others mutants. The albino corn-bunting, shot by his eldest son in 1857, sits beside the ordinary one. Three pipits are carefully arranged in one case&emdash;the tree pipit perched on a twig, the meadow on grass and the rock variety on a stone. A bird that was unusual in colouring was just as keenly added as one that was not yet represented.

A few specimens have perished with time, such as the woodpeckers which he mentions as additions in 1857, the snakes and the lizards. But the then visitor could see the 'old black Scotch rat', the waxwings he shot in his garden and the dog badger trapped by his two younger sons.

Although John Colquhoun enjoyed shooting as a sport, and also shot for his collection, as was considered quite acceptable to the Victorians, he was no wanton killer of wild life and to his dying day was bitterly ashamed that as a thoughtless youth, he had shot a female osprey nesting on the top of a ruin on Inchgalbraith, thus bringing to an end the nesting of ospreys on Loch Lomondside.

Many of the specimens were we know shot on the Luss estate, both in the surrounding hills and on the loch. Others came from further afield; the rare little water shrew from Sutherland, some of the waders from Mull. The much-prized dotterel from the southern coast of East Lothian, after a day-long search, was shot only three-quarters of an hour before his train left for home!

From reading his books, we learn much about the wildlife distribution of the mid-19th century, particularly with reference to Dunbartonshire. In the collection are the last pair of pine-marten to be trapped in the county, and three wild cats, still to be found amongst the hills. As a young lad he shot the first rabbit ever heard of on the Luss estate. We learn too, that in 1822, the now very rare kite was still around on Loch Lomondside, as it nested 'in an oak-tree on Rossdhu lawn'. (We are indebted to Major the Hon. Henry Douglas-Home, the well-known ornithologist, for the following notes on some of the birds in the collection. )

RED CRESTED POCHARD. Main breeding area from the Caucasus through Russia into Chinese Turkestan. Also breeds sparsely in Germany, Holland and further south

into Spain and South Italy. Has been bred in British aviculture since 1874. "Wild" breeding in Lincoln 1937 and Essex 1958 could involve "escapes". A rare vagrant. GREAT NORTHERN DIVER. Breeds Alaska, Greenland and Iceland. Winters at sea. May have bred in Shetland 1843, and is rumoured to have bred there 1973. Fairly regular winter visitor,mainly to North, seldom on inland water.

LONG-TAILED DUCK. A tundra breeder. Only British breeding record Orkney 1911. Regular winter visitor usually on coastal waters.

OSPREY. Well publicised recently. Became extinct as a breeding species about 1910 until recolonisation in Inverness-shire 1954. Some ten pairs nested 1973. Regular passage migrant to and from winter quarters in Africa.

RED-TAILED KITE. About 20 pairs breed in Central Wales. Previously in 19th century in almost every county in England and Scotland (never Ireland).Autumn visitor to lowland Scotland&emdash;very rare.

GOLDEN EAGLE. Still fairly common in West and North of Scotland and Hebrides. Seems to be spreading further south. Approx. 200-300 pairs.

WHITE-TAILED EAGLE. Formerly bred in most counties of Scotland. Last bred in Shetland 1908. Rare vagrant from Northern Europe.

DOTTEREL. About 80 breeding pairs in Cairngorms and Monadliaths. Regular spring passage migrant on way to Lapland, Scandinavia, Urals etc.

BAR-TAILED GODWIT. Breeds Lapland, Russian Arctic, East Yukon. Regular passage migrant and winter visitor, occasionally stays for the summer.

WHIMBREL. British breeding pairs approx. 150&emdash;chiefly Shetland - a few outer Hebrides. Regular passage migrant&emdash;more common in spring.

TURTLE DOVE. Summer visitor from Middle East. Common in Southern England. First recorded breeding in Scotland (Berwickshire 1946). Been seen on St. Kilda!!

STOCK DOVE. By end of 19th century had spread throughout England and Scotland, now breeds in all counties except Wester Ross and West Inverness-shire.

WRYNECK. Breeds in North Africa and Europe. British breeding pairs only about 30 in 1965. Decreasing rapidly. Never bred in Scotland. Now chiefly confined to Kent except for rare migratory visits to East Coast (from Europe) on way to winter quarters in tropical Africa.

GREAT GREY SHRIKE. Breeds in Europe. Never bred in Britain. Fairly regular winter visitor to East Scotland&emdash;more rarely to West.

WAX WING. Breeds from Lapland to Kamchatka. Never bred in Britain. Regular winter visitor and some huge invasions occur in "Waxwing Winters". Largest recorded seems to have been 1946-1947 (approx, 13,000). JAY. Increasing since 1945 after persecution by gamekeepers. Source of "plumage" for hats and trout flies!

FULMAR. Oldest breeding colony&emdash;St. Kilda (more than 1,000 years) approx.40,000 pairs. Since 1903 spread round British coasts&emdash;Eastward from Highland mainland and now ring Britain and Ireland back to St. Kilda. Last check approx. 160,000 pairs. Spends life at sea outside breeding season.

CAPERCAILLIE. Exterminated in Scotland about 1760. Reintroduced from Swedish stock at Taymouth, Perthshire in 1837. Now re-colonised most of the mainland Highlands&emdash;chiefly East, but spreading South owing to increase in forestry. (Fossil remains from pre-Ice-Age). Resident.

KILL DEER PLOVER. Very rare vagrant from North America&emdash; only 16 records of its being seen in Great Britain&emdash; 5 since 1957.



LADY COLQUHOUN'S BEDROOM. This room is dominated by a magnificent Italian four-poster bed upholstered in pink damask. It was chosen as her bedroom by the present Lady Colquhoun. It is thought that this was the room, and this the bed, occupied by the great Dr. Johnson during his visit to Rossdhu soon after its completion.

THE DINING ROOM. This room balances the large drawing room wing and was added to the original house at the same time. Here are collected the later family portraits, and there is one of each laird from Sir James who built this room down to the charming portrait, by Sir Stanley Cursiter of the present Chief, Sir Ivar. Over the fireplace is the portrait of the Chief who was so unfortunately drowned in Loch Lomond and to his right Sir Iain who founded the Scottish National Trust. Opposite, in Highland Dress, is the last Sir James. His young second wife, upon her husband's death, was left the contents of the house which she sold by auction. Sir Alan, to the right of the fireplace, bought back what he could afford, but no doubt many treasures that belonged to Rossdhu were lost to it.

Most of the furniture in this room was of the late Georgian period and probably was bought for the room when it was first built. Over the dining table hangs a very beautiful French ormolu chandelier. The table is set for dinner displaying some of the family silver, glass and china.The large green glass bottles on the mantlepiece have an interesting origin. They were used on H.M. Ships to store castor oil for the maintenance of good health amongst the ship's company.At the bottom of the dining room stairs visitors will find the craft shop which is housed in the pantry and next door the tea-room in the kitchen of the house. In each we have tried to retain as much as possible of their original atmosphere.



The Policies

The Policies of Rossdhu have been cultivated and tended by successive Chiefs of Clan Colquhoun for many centuries. The very Scottish word " Policies" is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as " the enclosed, planted and partly embellished park or demesne land lying around a country seat or gentleman's residence". Visitors could see evidence of both planting and embellishment within the boundary walls and may well catch glimpses of the animals and birds which make it their home. Of special interest are the score of pure white fallow deer which together with roe deer and the more usual fallow deer, spend the summer months in the Park. They are all wild and therefore seldom seen. Most of them spend the winter on the islands in the Loch and swim to the mainland when summer visitors arrive on the islands. It must be admitted that they do so to get away from the island visitors rather than to join the holiday makers on the mainland. Pheasant and Duck and many other birds are to be seen, some of them rare. The grassland of the Park is however making a substantial contribution to the national larder. Beef cattle and sheep will be seen grazing with an occasional Highlander amongst his more common counterparts. Most of the sheep are of the famous Blackface breed, thought by many to produce the best mutton and lamb in the world. A small flock of Jacob sheep has recently been added to the livestock. First mentioned in the Bible, they can claim to be the oldest breed of sheep. They are charming and friendly and their wool is much sought after. It is hoped to have articles made from this wool in the Gift Shop from time to time. With their spotted fleeces and double ration of horns, they provided an unusual sight for visitors, especially children.

Surrounding the house itself are several acres of garden and shrubs. The azaleas and rhododendrons are exceptional in their beauty and variety and are at their best in May and June. Later varieties and other flowers and shrubs provide a changing pattern of colour throughout the summer and the autumn tints can be breath-taking. The rose garden, enclosed by walls and wrought iron gates, forms a quiet and secluded corner beside the house. It has always been a source of attraction for the deer and on several occasions, they have subjected the roses to a late and drastic "pruning". Sir Iain Colquhoun's heather garden has suffered from the passage of time, but a programme of replanting is being undertaken to try and restore it to its former state.

Bathing in the Loch is popular with young and old alike and the family's favourite beach was immediately in front of the house. Shallow water gradually deepens and swimmers had ample scope for their enjoyment without incurring the risks of the much deeper water in other parts of the Loch.

The ruins of Rossdhu Castle

The ruins of Rossdhu Castle stand on rising ground behind the house. The Castle was probably the chief residence of the Colquhouns of Luss from early days but the date of its building is uncertain. A charter granted by King James II to Sir John Colquhoun, the Great Chamberlain of Scotland, in 1457 formed the lands of Luss into the Barony of Luss and in the following year, a further Royal charter refers to the lands of the Park of Rossdhu but no actual mention is made of the Castle. It is not until 1541 that a charter refers to the "castle, tower and fortalice of Rosedew".

The Chiefs of Colquhoun continued to live in Rossdhu Castle until 1773 when the building of the present house was completed by Sir James Colquhoun, the first Baronet of Great Britain. All that now remains of their original home is a portion of one of the walls, the rest of the building having been pulled down to provide stone for the new house. This remaining wall dates back to the early 16th century and was once part of a square and simple keep, belonging to the third period of Scottish architecture.


The Chapel of St. Mary of Rossdhu was dedicated in 1469 shortly after King James II's charter. Situated only a few yards to the north of the old Castle of Rossdhu, it was obviously the place of daily worship of the Barons of Luss and their dependents. The roof of the chapel has long disappeared but the walls still stand. Below the stone floor lies the burying vault of former lairds of Luss and their families. On the outside face of the east gable is a dovecot of 24 nest holes. The east end was lit by the two windows in the north and south walls. At the west end in the upper part of the gable is the most interesting architectural feature of the building: a fireplace whose lintel is supported by moulded corbels. North of the fireplace is a small window. Here was once a chaplain's small room set over the nave of the chapel and no doubt reached from below by steps incorporated in the rood screen.

It was to this chapel that the 15th century Book of Hours once belonged. Five centuries later, it has become one of the treasures of the Central Library in Auckland, New Zealand. How this gem of mediaeval craftmanship ever left the little Chapel of St. Mary of Rossdhu, is a mystery that is likely to remain unsolved for all time. It is probable that it disappeared during the Reformation together with a statue of Bishop Robert Colquhoun and a carved stone head of St. Kessog. The latter had been buried for safety and were discovered in a mound at Bandry (between Rossdhu and Luss) during the last century. The statue of Bishop Colquhoun is now in Luss Church, and the head of St. Kessog at Rossdhu.

Below the Chapel and near to the loch is a late 18th century ice house. In winter ice was cut from the loch and stored, layered with straw, in its well and used as a larder for meat and game. In summer the ice was taken to the kitchen for various household uses. There is a story that in earlier days one of the Galbraiths from Elan-na-Gaul, an island about a mile and a half from Rossdhu, used to swim across, raid the larder or according to some versions, the kitchen and return to his Castle, triumphant with his spoil. Many times the Laird of Luss failed to catch his thieving neighbour, until finally he cunningly hid, nets in the water in which the robber was caught and unceremoniously hanged.