Guisachan House near Tomich and Glen Affric

Written by Chris Thornton | 20th of December 2022
Guisachan House

Guisachan House (pronounced "Yoush-agan"), located in the Scottish Highlands, is a historic mansion with a rich and storied past. Built in the 19th century, this grand estate was once the home to Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks (who would later become known as Lord Tweedmouth), who developed the estate and built a fine mansion within its grounds.

However, it is perhaps most famous for being the birthplace of the golden retriever breed of dog. The house and its surrounding gardens are a popular tourist attraction for those interested in its historical canine connections. Whether you're a history buff or a dog lover, a visit to Guisachan House is a fascinating place to visit in a stunning area of the Scottish Highlands not far from Glen Affric.

My wife and I learned about Guisachan House after staying nearby at the Tomich Hotel. The kind lady at reception told us about the house ruin and of Plodda Falls waterfall and walk. A statue was also a short distance from the hotel dedicated to the golden retriever dog breed. We did not originally intend on walking to the house but considered keeping an eye open for it on the way to the waterfall.

View of the ruined house. Lady Tweedmouth.
Guisachan House.

A short history of Guisachan House

Here is a very short overview of the history of Guisachan House.

1854 - The future site of Guisachan Estate was stalking lands used for hunting red deer stags and fishing. Dudley Coutts Marjoriebanks purchases 20,000 acres of land to create his new estate at an eye-watering cost of £60,000. At this time, he decided to create a large home on the Guisachan Estate, along with many buildings associated with the estate and village of Tomich.

1868 - At this time, he created the now world-famous golden retriever dog breed.

1881 - Dudley Marjoribanks is made Baron Tweedmouth of Edington on the 12th of October.

1894 - Lord Tweedmouth dies, and the estate falls to his son Edward, who became the 2nd Lord Tweedmouth. Due to financial difficulties, Lord Tweedmouth sold the property to Lord Portsmouth, who would use the property for recreational purposes for a further 27 years. The property began to fall into disrepair.

1935 - Mr Hunter purchased the property and sold large swathes of the estate to the Forestry Commission. The house remains uninhabited and unsold due to a lack of interest.

1938 - The house became part of a Keep Fit Summer School, which did not sit well with Lady Islington, who decided to purchase the home for £1500 and then strip the interior and remove the roof. Now open to the elements, this once grand country house was left to rack and ruin.

The 2010s - Regular meetings are held by the Friends of Guisachan for golden retriever owners, with visitors from all over the world descending upon the estate grounds.

The ruins of Guisachan House

After a wonderful walk to Plodda Falls, my wife and I took a short walk to Guisachan House from the main waterfall trail. The estate is magnificent, even though it is probably a shadow of its former glory. I could imagine groups of golden retrievers happily playing on this expansive estate around the country house.

Guisachan Estate grounds. Inverness shire, UK.
The idyllic estate grounds near Guisachan House.

The house itself wasn't immediately visible from the start of the walk, but it eventually revealed itself. Although the house is now just a roofless ruin with only the shell remaining, it's an impressive-looking house and must have been something quite special when it was a functioning home.

Path from Plodda Falls to Guisachan House ruin.
Following the path to Guisachan House.
 
Distant view of Guischan House. Once a fine country house.
Our first sighting of the ruined house.

A perimeter barbed wire fence surrounds the house to protect visitors from falling masonry on this dangerous ruin. It's a real shame you can't get a bit closer, as it looks like a fascinating place. I wished I had a drone to do a flyover and get a glimpse of the interior.

This grand country house was described at the 1900s auction as featuring:

  • Dining room

  • Drawing room

  • Breakfast room

  • Smoking room

  • Business room

  • Billiards room

  • Library

  • Boudoir

  • Conservatories

  • 15 bedrooms

  • Four dressing rooms

  • Five bathrooms

  • 16 servants' rooms

There were also domestic offices, cellars and storage accommodations. Ten lavatories and wash closets would have been pure luxury at the time, and you can see evidence of the plumbing within the walls with remnants of pipes.

Ruin of Guisachan, once a wonderful house.
A closer view of this impressive ruin.
 
Guisachan Ruin
Side profile, note the pipe work within the wall.
 
Original fixings.
Original wall fixings still attached to the bare walls.
 
Guisachan House, ideal for a Scottish road trip.
This house must have been an impressive sight in its heyday.
 
Guisachan entrance.
The original entrance.
 
Guisachan fine deails.
Fine details in the masonry hint at the grandeur of this once luxurious house.
 
Guisachan chimneys.
The tall chimneys still stand defiantly.
 
Frontage of Guisachan house with entrance.
Main view of the house.

We followed the path around the house and took a variety of photos. There are also many ruined out buildings everywhere you look, again inaccessible from the path.

Ruined building.
A ruinous building near the main house.
 
Remnants of a building.
There are ruined buildings everywhere.
 
Ruined buildings everywhere.
I wondered the original purpose of these buildings.
 
Road to Plodda Falls.
Heading back to Plodda Falls car park.

After taking many photos from the accessible viewpoints, we retraced our steps back to the Plodda Falls car park. If you visit Plodda Falls, it really is worth the short detour to see Guisachan House too.

Golden Retriever Breed

In the late 19th century, Lord Tweedmouth used Guisachan House to breed a new dog, becoming the golden retriever breed of dog we all love today. They crossbred a yellow Wavy-Coated Retriever with a Tweed Water Spaniel, and the resulting litter of puppies became the foundation of the golden retriever breed.

The first litter of golden retrievers was born at Guisachan House in 1868. The father, "Nous" (the yellow wavy-coated retriever) and the mother, "Belle" (the tweed water spaniel), sired three pups: Crocus, Cowslip and Primrose.

The breed quickly gained popularity due to its intelligence, loyalty, and good looks and is often in the top three "most popular dogs" in the world lists.

My grandparents were breeders of golden retrievers near my home town of Buckie before I was born. They have many pictures of the cute little pups, and they retained one of the dogs, "Bonnie", who I remember well as a child, the most well-natured docile dog I have ever met. It's amazing to think that Bonnie was a descendant of the dogs from Guisachan House.

The Friends of Guisachan

The Friends of Guisachan is a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the history of the golden retriever breed and the Guisachan Estate in Scotland, where they originated. Since its inception in 2013, the organisation has taken various steps to fulfil its mission.

These include installing a bronze statue of a golden retriever in Tomich, where the Guisachan estate is located, publishing a booklet in honour of the 150th anniversary of the breed's foundation, reviving the Guisachan tweed, and funding the removal of trees from the interior of the mansion ruins as a precursor to stabilizing part of the ruins.

The inscription below the statue reads:

The Golden Retriever
Beloved the world over

First bred on the Guisachan Estate by Lord Tweedmouth in 1868. This tribute statue was erected on 10th of August, 2014 by the Friends of Guisachan.

Overall, the Friends of Guisachan aim to educate the general public and golden retriever owners, in particular, about the rich history of this beloved breed and their birthplace at Guisachan Estate.

The Golden Retriever Statue in Tomich.
The golden retriever statue found in Tomich.

How to get to Guisachan House

I can only describe how we reached the house, which was different from the explanation given by the receptionist at Tomich House. She described a route by car that would take us directly to the house, but we found our way there by taking a short detour from the Plodda Falls circular walk.

The road to Plodda Falls is quite off the beaten track, and it feels like you are driving up a forest track to nowhere. At no point did we see any signage for Guisachan House, but I believe we should have taken the right fork, as seen here. I'm unsure if permission is required to use this road, but it looks like it goes directly to the house.

We opted to take the left fork and head to Guisachan House via the Plodda falls walk.

Guisachan House from Tomich:

  1. Follow the road south out of Tomich.

  2. You will pass the golden retriever's statue on your left.

  3. Stay on this road south; you will see frequent green forestry signs for Plodda Falls.

  4. You will arrive at a fork in the road. The left goes to Plodda Falls, and the right, I believe, goes to Guisachan Estate and the house itself, but using the road may require consent.

  5. If you decide to go to Plodda Falls and then walk to the house, you will eventually arrive at the Plodda Falls car park by taking the left fork.

  6. At Plodda Falls, follow the "Tweedmouth Trail" route (the longer of the two routes)... but if you're not interested in the fantastic waterfall, follow the road directly ahead from the car park, and don't walk left to the waterfall.

  7. At the most easterly section of the walk, you will see a cattle grate and some homes on your left. Follow this path until you find the ruins of Guisachan House.

  8. You can take a more direct path from the Plodda Falls car park, but it really is worth doing the entire walk to view the waterfall, river and some beautiful forest with very tall pines.

Plodda Falls

As mentioned above, Guisachan House is near Plodda Falls, a 46-metre-tall waterfall.

The waterfall is a dramatic sight, cascades plummeting down a rocky cliff face into a deep pool below. Plodda Falls is a popular spot for hikers and nature lovers who come to marvel at the natural beauty of the area and enjoy the peaceful, serene atmosphere. The stand-out feature is a wooden viewing platform that juts over the edge of the waterfall and over the gorge below.

There are two walks available at Plodda Falls:

  • Plodda Falls Trail (1/2 mile, 30 minutes) is the shorter route and takes you to the waterfall.

  • The Tweedmouth Trail (1 1/2 mile, 60 minutes) - The longer walk takes you to the access point for Guisachan House.

Plodda Falls.
Plodda Falls not far from Guisachan House, a sight to behold!

What happened to Guisachan House?

Lady Islington purchased the property to stop behaviour she thought was "hedonistic", i.e. skinny dipping in the local loch by the local fitness school based at the house. She stripped all the furnishings and removed the roof from the property, leaving it dilapidated, as seen today.

Who owns Guisachan House?

The Fraser family own the estate, but the heir of Lady Islington owns the house itself.

How do you pronounce Guisachan?

The word "Guisachan" is derived from Gaelic and refers to a pine forest. It is pronounced, "yoush-agan."

Where is the home of the golden retriever?

The golden retriever dog breed was first bred at Guischan Estate in 1868 by Lord Tweedmouth.

Guisachan Estate grounds.
The now unkempt house gardens, still beautiful.

Is there anything else to see near Guisachan House?

Video clips from Guisachan House

Here are two video clips showing the house and some of the estate grounds.

House frontage and grounds.
 
Video from the other side of the house.

Conclusion

A visit to Guisachan House in fine weather is an absolutely wonderful experience. Plodda Falls and the Guisachan Estate are breathtakingly beautiful. If you are a lover of golden retrievers, then a pilgrimage to this ruin must surely be high on your list - your dog's ancestors originated here!

Guisachan House location map

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