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Dunalastair is a massive ruined baronial mansion originating from the mid-nineteenth century
that sits on a conspicuous (albeit now overgrown) knoll overlooking Loch Rannoch eastern edge,
where the River Tummel flows into it. The location is essentially a peninsula, with walkways
leading there from the main road, past the Robertson Clan’s burial cemetery. It is not marked
and is gated off for safety concerns because the structure is in a perilous state. The estate has
urged me to emphasize that automobile access from the B846 road is prohibited since the track
is privately owned.
The home was erected in 1852 to a design by Andrew Heiton and son (obviously influenced by
his time working for the well-known Burn and Bryce between 1842 and 1848). It is made up of a
massive baronial mansion with a central round tower that houses the main entry door and wings
that extend to the back, surrounding a central courtyard. It was occupied until 1952, when it was
abandoned; the owner is believed to desire to see the building repaired, but this will be difficult
to do because he also does not want to see areas of the estate subjected to detrimental
development (i.e., it can’t be turned into flats or a hotel) and would likely wish to limit the amount
of land sold with the home. The bulk of the roof has fallen, and the first floor joists are also in
jeopardy – with the remainder of the roof appearing shaky, I’m inclined to believe the structure
will be reduced to a shell in the near future.

General Sir John Macdonald of Dalchosnie bought the land from George Robertson, the
Robertson chief, in 1853 and had Dunalastair House erected for him. He had Mount Alexander,
the prior residence, demolished, as it was on or near the Dunalastair site. His son, Alastair
Macdonald, sold Dunalastair in 1881, and it was sold again in 1891 to the current owner’s great
grandfather. Because there was insufficient staff to operate the house and estate after World
War I, it was requisitioned during World War II and utilized as a school for Polish youngsters. It
was abandoned in the mid-1950s, and the lead from the roof was removed in the 1960s, leaving
the interiors exposed — the cause of the building’s current state of ruin.
Mount Alexander, the prior mansion, was a huge crenellated square tower with a central
projecting bay, a turret accessing the roof, and tiny wings on either side. T H Shepherd’s “Modern
Athens” (which may be obtained from archive.org – only the pdf version has the photo) contains
an image of this. The building’s main public rooms are reported as being around 30 feet by 20
feet apiece, but nothing more is known about it. The “current proprietor of the estate of Strowan
was returned to the estate of his ancestors some thirty years ago, and in the beginning of this
century, the present house, Mount Alexander, was commenced,” according to this book, which
was published in 1829. It had been called for his ancestor, the poet Strowan, who had lived there
for a long time.” This tells us two things. To begin with, the mansion of Mount Alexander is said
to have been erected in 1800 by Alexander Robertson, the nineteenth chief of the Robertsons,
or his father, named Alexander.

Around 1881, Alastair Macdonald, Sir John’s son, sold the estate to Hugh Tennent, who only
owned it for nine years before dying in 1890 at the age of 27. In 1891, the estate was purchased
by James Clark Bunten, Chairman of the Caledonian Railway Company and owner of Anderston
Foundry, a foundry and engineering works in Glasgow. He was the great-grandfather of the
current owner.
Jeannie Bunten, James Clark Bunten’s only child, married Frank de Sales La Terrière (whose
ancestor had left France for Quebec in the 1760s and one of whose sons came to Britain early in
the 19th century). Ian Cameron de Sales La Terrière, the current owner, lives on the estate with
his wife, Rose.


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