“ Historic ruined house near Loch Assynt in north west Scotland. „
Review of Calda House, Inchnadamph, Sutherland, Scotland.
As anyone who knows me would tell you, I have a bit of a 'thing' for archaeology, history and historic places, especially ruined buildings. I far prefer visiting a ruin than a restored, 'done for the tourist' type of historic building. I like to wander within the remains of the building, soaking up the atmosphere and letting my imagination run riot!
I spent a month in Scotland earlier this year, touring in a motor home with my partner and dog. We had visited the Sutherland area a couple of years ago and had enjoyed a visit to Calda House and the neighbouring Ardvreck Castle. As we were in the area again, we decided to take another wander around the ruins.
**Location and Access**
Calda House is located on the A837, the main Ullapool to Durness road, in the Sutherland area of North-west Scotland. The house stands in a field, adjacent to the road, it is surrounded by grazing land and is fronted by the beautiful Loch Assynt. With it's backdrop of mountains and breathtaking Highland scenery, Calda House must have been a remarkable house when built.
Visitors should park in the car park of nearby Ardvreck Castle and follow the footpath to view the house. Parking is free, as is entry to both Calda and Ardvreck. The footpath winds across the grassy slopes and a rustic footbridge crosses you safely over the small waterway that separates Calda House from Ardvreck castle.
The walk only takes a matter of a few minutes, but, as the path is very bumpy, and quite steep in places, I would say that the terrain is definitely unsuitable for wheelchairs, pushchairs or people with mobility difficulties. Luckily, even from the road, this ruined mansion is impressive and very photogenic, so those who cannot manage the walk can still enjoy the views.
.Visitors should be aware that there are absolutely no facilities at Calda house or Ardvreck Castle, not even a litter bin! There are however public toilets on the Assynt Forest trail a few miles away and in the hamlet of Inchnadamph about a mile away. There are a couple of hotels, a camping hostel, some B&B type guest-houses, public toilets and a small shop in Inchnadamph.
There is a bus service in this area but since I was travelling by road, I have no information regarding buses and so on. As the area is fairly remote, I would advise visitors to travel by private means rather than rely on public transport.
**A Brief History of Calda House**
Calda House has a somewhat chequered history and personally, I find it quite a sad story. It is in a beautiful location and the structure itself is pretty impressive, but the actual history behind Calda is not a particularly happy tale.
Calda House was commissioned in 1726 by Kenneth MacKenzie II of Assynt. He ordered the mansion house to be built for his wife Frances. Frances loathed living in the austere Ardvreck Castle and longed for a more modern home. Calda was built with no expense spared. The design of the house was symmetrical, with M shaped gables. The house had a central chimney, a total of 14 bedrooms and a was constructed of imported dressed sandstone.
Calda House was an expense that Kenneth could not afford due to his heavy debts. Frances was an extravagant woman and within 10 years Calda had to be sold to meet their debts. The house became the subject of a fierce feud between the Earl of Sutherland and MacKenzie of Seaforth, both of whom wished to purchase Calda House.
Calda was bought by the Earl of Sutherland but in 1747, MacKenzie supporters looted and set fire to the house. The house was rendered uninhabitable and was abandoned.
Some years later, some of the stones were removed and used to build a church school In nearby Inchnadamph, but other than this Calda remained a ruin.
**My Thoughts and Conclusion**
As you stand within the shell of this once great house, it is clear what a prime location Kenneth MacKenzie chose for his house. Ardvreck Castle is close at hand, the house overlooks Loch Assynt and the scenery surrounding the house is truly majestic. Gazing over the loch from Calda House, I can understand why the high spending, extravagant Frances MacKenzie would have preferred Calda to Ardvreck Castle!
The house comprises these days of a huge roofless structure. The central chimney is long gone and part of the walls have also fallen. What I did find interesting about Calda House is that although the chimneys are long gone, many of the fireplaces remain. The end M shaped gable walls are very thick and when you are inside, it is the clear what an impressive house this must have been. The house has a good atmosphere, although I felt a little uncomfortable in parts of the ruin, over all the ambience was pleasant.
In my opinion, Calda House is worth visiting, you can wander freely through the ruined house and surrounding land. It is true that there are no facilities as such and no tourist gimmickry, but Calda House and nearby Ardvreck Castle are both very atmospheric and photogenic. When you factor in the superb location, I feel confident in recommending both buildings to others who have an interest in historic buildings.
The whole area has much to offer visitors and I feel it is an ideal place to head for if you are on a touring holiday in the North West of Scotland.
Thank you for reading.
©brittle1906 July 2012
N.B. My reviews may appear on other sites under the same user name.