A Potted History on Riverside
Invergloy estate can be traced back to 1763. Originally known as Glengloy/Letterfinlay it was bought in 1847 by The Right Honourable Henry James Baillie MP.
The original Invergloy must have been very impressive. The estate stretched right over the hill behind us and across all Upper Glengloy and Glen Spean. Anyone standing on the edge of Invergloy land would have looked down onto Roybridge. Originally called Letterfinly (leitir Fhionnlaidh) or Finlay’s Hill, in the Gaelic tradition of place names which described their location “leitr” meaning broad sloping hill, sloping towards the water.
In 1875 Baillie sold 6,500 acres to George Grant MacKay for the sum of £19,500. MacKay then changed the estate name to Invergloy, it was a modern approach for the area but apt as in many towns in Scotland are named this way, Inver meaning the mouth of a river and the estate covered the river Gloy, the same as Inverness meaning the mouth of the river Ness.
MacKay’s first building project was Invergloy House. Two entrances served the house, each with a gatekeeper’s lodge, both of which still stand today, and long drives lined with at the time newly fashionable rhododendron shrubs, and sequoia trees many of which still stand today. When the house became too small for guests, he then built two large shooting lodges to make the most of his expanse of land, Letterfinlay (now known as Whispering Pines) and Corriegour (Corriegour Lodge Hotel). There were also walled gardens, substantial kennels and a schoolroom for the children of the estate workers. In the walled gardens, there were great quantities of topsoil imported from Ireland on the proprietor’s own ships. These ships would use the Caledonian Canal to enter Loch Lochy and then off load their cargo at a private pier especially built for the house. Much of the building materials and lavish furnishings for the house would have arrived via the same route. The boathouse of the original pier is still standing today and be seen from our beach. MacKay sold of the estate in a few pieces and moved to Canada in 1888.
The estate then changed hands a few times in a short period and was sold in 1893 to Major George James Bailey (grandfather of the now famous Sir Richard Branson). Bailey went on to extend and improve the splendour of Invergloy House. In around 1901 the Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway Company approached Major Bailey and asked to cross his land on their way from Spean Bridge, Northeast to Loch Oich. Permission was granted and a private “Halt” was built for Bailey’s use. He sold 21 acres to the railway company for £2,385. The original grandiose plans for the line to continue to Inverness were never developed and the line stopped at Fort Augustus. It closed before the World War II, re-opened briefly for the carriage of munitions during the war and then closed for good in 1946. The rails lifted, and the bridges mostly removed, with brambles and rhododendrons rampant, the route was barely passable for walkers, but Invergloy Halt remains in the form of a private house.
Invergloy was once again sold to a few times in quick succession and established as a hotel. From 1923 to 1948 it was owned by a well-known local spinster named Janie Allen, she was beloved in the area, and is still remembered by locals today. Children would walk from Spean Bridge to Invergloy for Sunday School with Ms Allen or she would send a car to collect them and she would give each a fresh orange and a sixpence, at the time a real treat. In 1948 she sold Invergloy House to James MacLean and settled into East Lodge, the main Gate Lodge of the estate. When she turned 100 she was celebrated by a gun salute from Cameron of Loch Eil across the water.
In 1948 James MacLean, Master baker and proprietor of the Fife Arms, Braemar established Invergloy House as a Luxury Hotel. In 1949 less than twelve hours after Inverness-shire Licensing Court had granted a provisional licence for the carrying out of extensive alterations, Invergloy Hotel was destroyed by fire. When the firemen arrived, the blaze had such a hold that it was found impossible to save. Damage was estimated to be £40,000. The coach house was the only building left standing.
The estate then changed hands a few more times and the coach house conversion was completed in 1952. Now known as Invergloy House it was then owned by Mr. and Mrs. Douglas who decided to split their part of the estate and build a smaller house on their favourite piece and sell off the rest to the Cairn Family who still own Invergloy House today. The Douglas’ favourite piece with their smaller residence became Riverside house, the bungalow in front of your lodges today, set in its own 13-acre piece of the estate. The Douglas family sold Riverside to David Bennet and moved to Canada in 1978. Their sons and grandchildren still reside there with many fond memories of childhood in the Highlands.
David Bennet arrived with grand plans of up to 12 self-catering lodges, although he settled on three, he was followed a short time later by Joan and they were engaged and married at Riverside. They erected the three chalets with a unique style of windows and high ceilings, mostly built by David’s own hands. They built roads and developed the gardens and opened for business in May 1980.
Over the next 20 years they worked extremely hard in the gardens planting nearly 300 rare species of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, acers, other shrubs and rare specimen trees.
Steve and Marilyn Dennis fell in love with Riverside as guests who regularly stayed as a break from the hustle and bustle of city life over the years from 1985. When David and Joan decided to retire in 2001 Steve and Marilyn moved north from Hampshire to run Riverside Lodges. They worked hard to maintain and add to the beautiful gardens and became active in the community, their dog Henry was famous in the area with a reputation as a very friendly host.
The King Family John, Janie, Pauline and Iain with their future daughter in law Deneil fell in love with Riverside by chance when Steve and Marilyn were looking to retire and took over operation in August 2013. Being a family of keen fishermen and gardeners, you will often see them around the property enjoying all that Riverside has to offer. Deneil uses her many years’ experience in the luxury hotel industry to make sure your stay as perfect as you can imagine.
Many families return to Riverside year after year, some since the year David and Joan launched the business. We now have guests returning with memories of staying at Riverside as young children introducing their own families to create a new generation of memories.
Many people have fallen in love with the magic of Riverside over the years and the history only continues to grow.