Boleskine House – South Loch Ness
Probably the most notable (or notorious) building along the south side of Loch Ness lies, half hidden behind the trees, approximately midway between Foyers and Inverfarigaig above the B852 loch side road. This is Boleskine House.
Originally named Boleskine Lodge, it was built as a hunting lodge in the late 18th century by the Honorable Archibald Fraser who was related to Lieutenant General Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat. The house was built on land acquired from the Church on a site reputedly chosen to annoy Lord Lovat whose estate surrounded the property. During the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, Lord Lovat had unpopularly supported the English. Legend has it that the house may have been built on the site of a church that caught fire trapping the entire congregation who perished, but this is unconfirmed.
The Frasers retained the house until the late 19th century and its notoriety stems from one of it’s a later owners, Aleister Crowley, the Beast of Boleskine, also dubbed the most evil man in the world. Crowley bought the house in 1899. He was born in 1875 and was an educated man, attending Trinity College Cambridge, and was an accomplished Alpine Mountain climber as well as poet, novelist and painter. But it is for the practices in the occult for which he is remembered. He was a self proclaimed magician and the press of the day reported accounts of black magic, devil worship and human sacrifice.
Unexplained (and unconfirmed) stories of the time include those of a local butcher cutting off his own hand with a cleaver after reading a note from Crowley written on a piece of paper with a spell on the reverse. There are rumours of a tunnel from the cellars of the house to the burial ground which lies below the house by the loch side. Little wonder that local people would make long detours to avoid passing the house.
What is certainly true is that Crowley left the house for Sicily in the late 1920’s where he established a commune. He died in poverty in 1947 having over indulged in drugs and alcohol but his reputation survived him and the area still attracts a cult following in the 21st century.
Crowley is featured on the cover of the Beatles album, Sergeant Pepper, but the pop music connection with Boleskine House does not end there. In 1971 the house was bought by Jimmy Page of the band Led Zeppelin. Page was obsessed with Crowley and the house once again became home to reputed black masses and rituals.
In the 1990’s the house was purchased by the MacGillivrays who remained there until shortly after Ronald MacGillivray’s death in 2002. The house is currently in private ownership and their privacy should be respected.
Below the house, and just over the B852 road, lies the Boleskine burial ground, the burial place of the Fraser Clan. There once stood a medieval church here, now long since disappeared, the only building remaining being a small mort-house. A mort-house was a mortuary where the coffined body would lay under guard until such time as it was of no use to body snatchers!
Two particular gravestones are perhaps worthy of mention.
The tombstone of Donald Fraser of Erchit dated 1730 clearly shows three holes made by musket balls. It is said that, just after the Battle of Culloden, a military wagon carrying supplies to Fort Augustus and guarded by soldiers, passed along the road above the burial ground as a funeral was taking place. One of the mourners is said to have grabbed a loaf of bread from the wagon and thrown it to some dogs. The soldiers fired their muskets to frighten the mourners before arresting the culprit and taking him to Fort Augustus. Those musket holes are still visible today. The story has a happy ending in that the minister of the time, one Thomas Fraser, followed on to the fort and persuaded the Duke of Cumberland to release his prisoner.
Another grave, that of The Honorable Jane Fraser, mentions her husband, The Honorable Archibald Campbell Fraser, 38th Chief of the Frasers, son of Simon 12th Lord Fraser of Lovat beheaded at Tower Hill in 1747. This may neatly complete the circle as it could well be this Honorable Archibald Fraser (born 16.08.1736, died 08.12.1815) who built Boleskine House. In 1772, his brother, General Simon Fraser (born 19.10.1726, died 08.02.1782) had petitioned the British Government for a restoration of the Lovat estates and the Lovat title which had been forfeited to the Crown when his father, Simon Lord Lovat, was executed for supporting the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. A special Act of Parliament was passed in 1774 enabling the King to grant to General Simon Fraser, in recognition of his military service to the Crown and subject to a payment of £20,983, the lands forfeited by his father. However, the Lovat title was never conferred on his younger half-brother Archibald.
Many thanks to Frank Ellam for contributing this article