Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Raasay, Raasay House

Country House (18th Century)

Site Name Raasay, Raasay House

Classification Country House (18th Century)

Canmore ID 69921

Site Number NG53NW 30

NGR NG 54750 36597

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2024.

Toggle Aerial | View on large map

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Portree
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Skye And Lochalsh
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Recording Your Heritage Online

Raasay House, c.1720 and later Mansion house, extended in phases but originally a rustic laird's house entered, as was then common, on the non-seaward side. It had to be reconstructed soon after 1746, when redcoats plundered the island in search of Malcolm, the elusive 10th chief who, unlike his Skye kinsmen, supported the Jacobite cause and sheltered Bonnie Prince Charlie. In about 1761, his son John remodelled the house with a new southfacing five-bay front, probably with portico and pediment, and lower flanking pavilions (the core of the earlier building, with later stair tower, remains evident to the rear). It was in this 'neat modern fabrick' - not 'magnificently furnished', but with 11 'fire' rooms and silver utensils - that Johnson and Boswell enjoyed such vivacious hospitality in 1773, as guests of John Macleod - surely the highlight of their Hebridean tour. Within a few decades gentrification was complete, with an imposing seven-bay ashlar facade built between 1796 and 1805 for James Macleod. The Adam-style vestibule retains a marble chimneypiece and niches from this period. By now dwarfed, the pavilions were replaced for George Rainy with more appropriate flanking bays, these and other alterations by Charles Wilson, 1848-51. Further additions included a first floor billiard room in the extended east wing, 1865. In 1877, additional service quarters were added to the north east by Alexander Ross for E. H. Wood, and the front probably acquired its pinnacled Jacobean style gables. Full-height canted bays were added to the wings and the ground floor re-fenestrated, c.1885. Inside, decoration of the main rooms is now mostly late 19th century, although happily the stairs and some doors contemporary with the post-1746 restoration survived hotel use from 1937-1960, and a notorious period of decay and vandalism under the elusive Dr Green, owner from 1961. In 1979 the house reverted to public ownership and has since been resuscitated as an outdoor adventure centre.

The Park "... it has more about it of the residence of an English country gentleman of small fortune, than any other I have seen since leaving Aberdeen", wrote James Bailey in 1787, and early 19th century views of Raasay House depict the very embodiment of Regency taste in this unlikely Hebridean setting. Eighteenth century plantations frame the view to east and west, and something of the garden's 19th century appearance is suggested by the grassy terraces that sweep south-west towards the park, with a pair of coppices planted as ornamental roundels. To the south east, part of a Victorian woodland garden survives, its limewalk leading to a ferny dell with a tiered iron fountain. Other incidentals were incorporated into Picturesque walks, and there was much later 19th century planting. On a knoll above the old landing site at Churchton Bay, the Battery, c.1809, an eyecatcher of defensive intent, battlemented and surmounted by one (originally six) cannon (the 12 th chief commanded a battalion of volunteers to combat a possible Napoleonic invasion). Below sit two colossal mermaid busts, the freakish creations of an Italian sculptor who misjudged their size (they were intended for the porch) and subsequently defended himself successfully in a courtcase, which brought the Macleods a step closer to bankruptcy. Old Pier, begun 1854, with a small U-plan dock.

Walled garden, 18th century, 'well stocked with kitchen stuff, gooseberries, raspberries, currants, strawberries, apple-trees' wrote Boswell in 1773, and renowned during the Victorian era for its vineries of ripened fruit, peach and hot houses.

['... The general air of festivity, which predominated in this place, so far remote from all those regions which the mind has been used to contemplate as the mansions of pleasure, struck the imagination with a delightful surprise ... more gentleness of manners, or a more pleasing appearance of domestick society, is not found in the most polished countries ... Such a feat of hospitality, amidst the winds and waters, fills the imagination with a delightful contrariety of images. Without is the rough ocean and the rocky land, the beating billows and the howling storm: within is plenty and elegance, beauty and gaiety, the song and the dance. In Raasay, if I could have found an Ulysses, I had fancied a Phaeacia' (Dr Johnson).]

Taken from "Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Mary Miers, 2008. Published by the Rutland Press

Archaeology Notes

NG53NW 30.00 54750 36597

NG53NW 30.01 548 366 Raasay House, pathway gate

NG53NW 30.02 547 363 Garden Gate

NG53NW 30.03 548 364 Gate

NG53NW 30.04 54774 36671 Gardener's Cottage

NG53NW 30.05 54744 36635 Walled Garden

NG53NW 30.06 54922 36532 Kennels

NG53NW 30.07 54891 36571 Laundry

NG53NW 31.00 54910 36477 Home Farm

See also

NG53NW 16.00 NG 54545 36300

for 'mound encircled with low crenellated wall and spearhead cast-iron railings. Walls flanked by two large stone recumbent mermaid figures.' mentioned in HB num link listing. (GK) LBLP

Architecture Notes

Architect: Charles Wilson, 1848 - addition.

18th century house with 19th century additions.

Architect: Alexander Ross (I.C Nov.30, 1876) - additions and alterations.


Photographic Survey (22 May 2008 - 28 February 2009)

NG 5475 3659 A photographic survey was conducted, 22 May 2008–28 February 2009, to identify and record any features or objects of importance revealed by renovation and repair work. Interesting features, previously hidden behind internal wall linings, became visible during the work. The house suffered a major fire on the night of 17 January 2009, a few days before it was due to be handed over to the community, which destroyed most of the building.

Archive: RCAHMS. Report: HHER and Library Service

Funder: ROK Prime Contracting

John Wood – Highland Archaeology Services Ltd


MyCanmore Image Contributions

Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions