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The Hermitage, Ossian's Hall

Date 1999 - 2000

Event ID 1001564

Category Recording

Type Field Visit


The building known as Ossian’s Hall has been studied in depth a number of times, and has considerable amounts of records relating to it, both in NTS archives and elsewhere. Ossian’s Hall has experienced an eventful life, being prone to vandalism and damage resulting from moisture. In summary, it has been through two major phases, originally being built in 1757, and substantially altered, possibly even completely renewed in 1787, by the 4th Duke of Atholl (Dingwall 1995, 17).

The original building appears to be very different from the 1782 design, although the latter was probably an extension and remodelling of the first, reusing elements such as the windows overlooking the falls. It is known to have originally contained a fireplace and chimney, and have been decorated with shells, roots and other natural ornamentation, however, none of this survives. The current building comprises of a circular vestibule of ashlar stonework with a covered skylight, and a partition separating the two rooms that originally held a sliding door, operated by a hidden mechanism. The second room is plaster panelled, with a curved ceiling and open balcony overlooking the Falls of Braan. It is painted in light blue and white, to match early plaster found during recent renovations (B. Notley, pers. comm.).

The Hall also has a small room on the southern side of the building, presumably intended originally as a store cupboard for furniture and equipment for entertaining guests. Interestingly, it contains graffiti dating back to the 19th century. The condition of this is deteriorating, as much was inscribed in pencil. The door into this space is padlocked. This may be the ‘cellar’ referred to by Forbes in 1762 (Dingwall 1995, 18).

It remained more or less unchanged for over 80 years, as a letter of 1863 demonstrates (ibid. 69), until following a dispute over tolls, the building was blown up by unknown individuals (presumably disgruntled local residents), who placed a gunpowder keg at the entrance. It was restored some years later by the Duchess of Atholl, who reinstated the mirrors and had the furniture within the hall restored. Occasional bouts of during the early 20th century led to the furniture being removed to Blair Castle for safe-keeping. In 1930 though, the non-movable interior was deliberately destroyed by intruders, who smashed or removed the mirrors and windows, and slashed the paintings. The building was partially restored in 1951 by the National Trust for Scotland, when the windows were replaced by the existing railings; the tiled floor being replaced in 1979 with yorkstone slabs.

(HER99 01)

Information from NTS (SCS) June 2015

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