The History of Stronvar House
In the 16th Century, Stronvar was a fortified house owned by Ian Dubh MacGregor. Since then many changes have taken place but, standing back and looking at the north wall toward the rear of the house, it is possible to see the outline of the original.
Ian Dubh MacGregor died at the battle of Glen Fruin in 1603. It appears that the estate passed into the hands of the Stewarts of Glen Buckie. At this time it was renamed Glen Buckie House.
Little is known of the house until 1825 when it was rebuilt and the stables, now Stronvar Farm, were added to the estate in 1828.
David Carnegie bought the house from John Lorn Stewart of Glen Buckie in 1849. David Carnegie is not to be confused with Andrew Carnegie, the poor boy from Dunfermline who went to America and became a steel millionaire, thereafter bestowing many benefits on his native Scotland.
David was a member of the Earl of Southesk's family and made his millions from brewing and sugar refining in Sweden. One of his ancestors had fled there after supporting the Jacobites at Culloden, and had prospered greatly as a merchant.
The estate was quickly added to so that it stretched on the south side of the glen from Invernenty (away up Loch Doine) to Stronslaney on the back road to Strathyre and on the northside from Ledcreich down to the Smiddy at Auchtubh. David Carnegie employed the famous Victorian architect David Bryce to add so much to the house so as to make it almost an entirely new mansion house and he restored the estate to its earlier name of Stronvar.
In 1850, according to the Census Report, sixty five males and three females, all strangers, were resident temporarily in Balquhidder, building Stronvar House, draining the estate and rebuilding and slating all the farm buildings. The old mud and thatch houses now became neat stone and lime and slated dwellings. For a whole year carts brought stones for the building from Balquhidder Station. Beautiful Gardens were laid out, hillsides behind the house were planted with azaleas and rhododendrons and woods on the north side of Loch Voil and Loch Doine. The Glen was given its present little Church up on the hill as well as its school and schoolhouse.
David Carnegie's first wife, the daughter of a Judge of the Supreme Court of Copenhagen, died in childbirth, two years after marriage, the baby about a year later. His second wife was his cousin Susan. Susan enjoyed Stronvar for only nine years. She died at the age of forty and had been 'constant in quiet works of charity and kindness'.
When David died in 1890 at the age of seventy seven, he was succeeded by his only son James. James, educated at Eton and Cambridge, was also in the brewing business and also married his cousin - Mary Bethune Gillespie. They had no children.
At Stronvar in the days of James they had a staff of over forty with their carters, builders, joiners, gardeners, butler, valet, nurse, lady's maid, cook, kitchenmaids, housemaids, laundrymaid and dairymaid.
There were lots of dances in the House. The band, with its blind pianist, came from Stirling and played all night until it was time to catch the first train from Kingshouse Halt at 8am. From 10.30pm until midnight Mr and Mrs Carnegie graced the proceedings, watching with an eagle eye the footwork of the dancers, who strove to meet the high standard expected of them.
There were Christmas parties and summer picnics for the whole estate. In summer, house guests were often taken out on the loch in boats, the ladies wearing long dresses and large picture hats, the staff in black trousers and red jackets.
For the women of the glen there were Work Parties in the house once a week. The women sewed or knitted industriously while Mrs Carnegie read them improving literature.
Outside there were peacocks on the lawn, marble statues, in rose covered arbours, a tennis court, a walled kitchen garden at a discrete distance, an ice house built into the bank down by the loch, where blocks of ice cut from the loch were stored between layers of sawdust. There was a curling pond with a rustic hut nearby, where mouthwatering picnics were provided.
The Carnegies kept a coach and four in the nearby coach house, later to be superseded by a Daimler which was a sore trial to the coachman who had to learn to drive it.
James Carnegie died in 1925 at the age of seventy eight. His widow lived to be ninety two. She had always kept a sharp eye on the doings of her tenants, making sure that the estate was kept immaculate. There is a story that they weren't allowed to have visitors to stay without permission. But Carnegie tenants could be sure that their needs would always be taken care of and it was a busy and happy estate.
When James died his heir was George Fullarton Carnegie, a direct descendant of the George Carnegie who had fought at Culloden. The new Laird was in the Diplomatic Service. His health was not good and he died in 1937 at the age of forty three. His son, another George, was the heir, but it had been stipulated that he should not take over the estate until he was twenty five. Meantime it was run by his mother with the help of a factor.
Finally, in 1952, they sold the estate lock, stock and barrel. Sitting tenants were allowed to buy their houses at bargain prices and those who had worked on the estate were particularly favoured.
Stronvar House eventually became a very popular Youth Hostel, but in the early 1970's, when Fire Regulations came into force, the Scottish Youth Hostels' Association couldn't afford to bring the building up to the required safety standard and it had to be put on the market again.
Major renovations have restored Stronvar to its former elegance and luxury and we hope guests will enjoy the surroundings, both within the house itself and out of doors in our lovely countryside, just as much as the Carnegie guests did all those years ago.
Traditional home cooked food, excellent wines, large comfortable bedrooms (two with four poster beds) and highland hospitality at its best are specialities which continue at Stronvar.