Tuesday, October 20, 2009


As we're on the subject of Compton MacKenzie, let's do The Monarch of the Glen as well.

The 1941 novel centres on a fictional clan chieftain, Donald MacDonald of Ben Nevis, whose seat is Glenbogle Castle. A comedy of manners on Highland aristocracy before the War, the title is a spoof on Sir Edwin Landseer's famous 1851 painting of a stag called "Monarch of the Glen".

Landseer's most famous work is the lions at the foot of Nelson's Column in London.

I haven't read MOTG. I started reading it when the BBC series came out but got bored after a few pages ... unlike Whisky Galore which I've read umpteen times and enjoy more with each successive read. I must try MOTG again. In fact, I will as soon as I've finished "A Summer in Skye" by Alexander Smith in 1865 which I'm currently reading (again - more of that anon).

When the BBC picked up MOTG, about all they kept from the novel was the name Glenbogle. Donald MacDonald became Hector MacDonald (played by Richard Briers - most famous for classic early 70s sitcom "The Good Life"). They also kept neighbouring laird Hugh Cameron, referred to as Kilwhillie after the habit - so accurately observed by Compton MacKenzie - Highland lairds had of referring to themselves by the name of their ancestral estate.

The location for Glenbogle in the BBC series was a house called Ardverikie on the south side of Loch Laggan on the A86 between Newtonmore and Spean Bridge.

Pronounced "Ard-VER-icky", it's not far from where MacKenzie imagined the fictitious Glenbogle, the only clue to the location of which given in the book is that it's two hours walk from (fictitious) Loch na Craosnaich which is five miles from the road from Fort William to Fort Augustus (the A82).

Ardverikie was built in the 1870s by Sir John Ramsden Bt., a rich Yorkshireman whose fortune derived from the fact that he happened to own the land Huddersfield was built on. Ramsden rented the shooting rights over a large portion of the estates of Clan MacPherson of Cluny on the understanding that Cluny would pay compensation for improvements (lodges, gamekeepers' cottages etc.) at the termination of the lease. When the impoverished Cluny couldn't pay, Ramsden accepted the land in lieu (and you have to wonder if that wasn't the plan all along ...)

Ardverikie remains in Ramsden's family to this day although, having passed through some female heiresses along the way, the present owner rejoices under the splendidly upper-crust name of Patrick Gordon-Duff-Pennington. The surrounding estate extends to 38,000 acres (15,000 hectares)

This is how Ardverikie is described in the pompous prose of the Highlands & Islands volume of Pevsner:-

a relentlessly asymmetrical display of canted bays, broad-eaved gables, round and octagonal towers with machicolations under their witch's-cap slate roofs, and even a turret corbelled out from a squinch arch. The effect, despite the corbelling, transomed windows, Tudorish hoodmoulds and occasional crosslet arrowslits, is more cottage orne than Baronial. Or would be, were it not for the tower which rises above it all. This is Baronial with a vengeance ...

Judge for yourself:-

My judgement is that Ardverikie is the most extreme - dare I say exuberant, audacious - example of a rich Victorian Englishman's fantasy in the Scottish Highlands bar none except possibly Balmoral. It's remarkable that the present generation of the family still has the money to keep this pile in good condition - the BBC filming MOTG on location here will have helped. It deserves to be kept, I think.


  1. I am so in love with the place I wiscI could go there and see it for my self

  2. Wow, wish they would film more work by Scottish authors there! Never get tired of the views inside and out.

  3. The Hydroelectric scheme helps with costs too, I was brought up next door.