Dunkeld House

Dunkeld House (1900), now a hotel
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Dunkeld House (1900), now a hotel

A hotel occupying the former winter residence of the Dukes of Atholl, Dunkeld House is set in 280 acres (113 ha) of secluded parkland on the left bank of the River Tay, a mile (1.5 km) west of Dunkeld. The property comprises a long two-storey white-harled villa with bay windows and verandahs. It was built 1898-1900 by local architect J. Macintyre Henry (1852 - 1929) for John Stewart-Murray, the 7th Duke of Atholl (1840 - 1917). This is the fourth Dunkeld House; its predecessors were situated much closer to Dunkeld, adjacent to the Cathedral. The first was blown up by Oliver Cromwell's troops in 1654 and the second was begun in 1676 to replace it. The Prince of Hesse stayed here in 1746, while in command of a mercenary force supporting the Government troops during the Jacobite Rebellion. By 1828 the house was said to be in a dangerous condition and John Murray, the 4th Duke of Atholl (1755 - 1830), was persuaded to replace it and engaged the English architect Thomas Hopper. The Duke had a wager with John Campbell, 1st Marquis of Breadalbane (1762 - 1834) and Lord Murthly, whereby each tried to outdo the others by building grand palaces. Only Breadalbane succeeded (with Taymouth Castle) and by Atholl's death, despite immense cost, Dunkeld House was only half-finished. Thus the third house was never completed and was demolished in the late 1890s to provide stone for the current house.

Sir Archibald Lyle, whose family made a fortune out of shipping and sugar refining, bought the house in the early 1930s but it was soon on the market once again, becoming a hotel before World War II. During the war it became home to an evacuated girl's school. The hotel was extended in the later 20th century and is now C-listed and operated by the Hilton group.

The gardens of Dunkeld House were initially fairly restrained, but in the 1730s James Murray, 2nd Duke of Atholl (1690 - 1764), significantly extended the landscaping around the house and introduced a series of new features including terraces and a Chinese temple. He also planted large numbers of trees, an enterprise continued by his successors. Several specimen trees of national importance remain.

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