Foyers Hotel by Buddy MacDougall
The Foyers Hotel stands in an elevated position with a beautiful view of’ Loch Ness and the mountain opposite, Meall Fuar-mhonaidh. When we owned it from 1976 until the beginning of 1989, it had 13 bedrooms, 3 of which were in our flat above the kitchen. Since then it has been modernised considerably with showers and toilets in every bedroom, sacrificing two single rooms to do so. It had a public bar and toilets, lounge bar, dining room, sitting room, kitchen and office & storerooms. It was ideal for deliveries of goods, as it was immediately accessible from the road outside.
Before alterations were made by the Hydro Board when they took it over, the toilet was across the road. You can imagine how dangerous that would be now!
There is a carved stone situated on the north side of the building. We never found out its origin. Is it a Marriage Stone? Is that the Fraser crest? The first two initials are plainly HF but only the K remains of the other. Only the latter part of the date (63) remains — the first part has been worn away. Truly a mystery! Could the building have been a dower house for the Frasers of Foyers?
The Fraser clan first settled in Foyers in the 1 5th century and their mansion house was close to the present Elmbank near the Foyers burial ground. It was the home of the Frasers for over 3 centuries.
An Inn at Foyers was first built in the 17th century and was mainly used by cattle drovers taking cattle to and from the markets in the south. It would have had the land surrounding it and the flatter land towards the old cemetery to stock its cattle, hens and geese, to feed the customers.
With the coming of General Wade who built roads and bridges connecting the strategic forts of Inverness and Fort Augustus, Inverfarigaig bridge was built and the General’s Hut; a provision centre for troops on the road and officers’ accommodation. There is some controversy over whether the Generals Hut was the Inn whether it was situated nearer Inverfarigaig.
After the troubled times during which the locals suffered extreme hardship, the country returned to near normality with the opening of the Highlands to tourists. 1773 saw the visit to Foyers of Dr. Johnson and James Boswell who stayed at the General’s Hut and were not dissatisfied with their fare, “We found the house not ill-stocked with provisions”.
The last of the Frasers of Foyers was Simon the 11th. His only daughter, Jane, predeceased him when she was reputed to have died of a broken heart when her fiance, Patrick Grant of Glenmoriston, fell out of an apple tree while visiting her and died of his injuries. Her monument stands near the Foyers Burial Ground.
There is a connection with Boleskine House at this time as the Hon. Archibald Fraser of Lovat, a son of Simon the 13th Lord Lovat, built it at the beginning of the 19th century to continue a quarrel with Simon Fraser. The quarrel was over boundaries and fences in the vicinity of Boleskine House and the Inn.
Simon Fraser died in 1843 but the estate was in debt and in 1859 Mr. Fountaine Walker, an Edinburgh businessman, bought the whole estate. It comprised Trinloist, Tomvoit, South Murnich and land at Lochgarthside, the landing piers at Foyers and Inverfarigaig and Garrogie salmon fishing and shootings. He enlarged and improved Foyers farm and built the farm steading (now unfortunately a ruin) and the Foyers Inn was enlarged to its present state. He built the bridge leading to the mansion and the farm, which unfortunately has been almost demolished, with a footbridge in its stead. In the I870s the estate was bought by John Charles Cunninghame of Criagends, Lanarkshire. A David Elder is listed in the Statistical Account as Foyers Hotel Keeper at that time. The whole estate was used mainly as a sporting one for grouse shooting, deer stalking and fishing with clients no doubt being looked after in the hotel. Also, hotel guests were taken by ponycart down a road to the loch to view the loch and also the Falls of Foyers. Below the hotel for the use of fishing guests there used to be a hotel boathouse which disappeared when access was made to the Power Station. Guests would also be met off the steamer and taken to the hotel.
Then, in about 1899, all these lands were bought over by the British Aluminium Company when they constructed their aluminium factory in Lower Foyers and used hydroelectric power from the Falls of Foyers. Garrogie Estate was sold to a private buyer.
Then comes a list of hotelkeepers — Samuel Tilston and then in 1908 Daniel Macfadyen, followed by Ewen MacLennan, also running Boleskine Farm.
In 1921 Mrs. Dorothy Priestly owned Boleskine House and land and in 1931 the hotel was run by Arthur Edward Priestly (her husband?), then by Davis Edwards.
In 1944-45 the proprietor is listed as Foyers Hotel Ltd. In 1950 Kenneth Grant is listed as owner. Ina Murray was cook there and I’ve heard that she was nicknamed “Pancake Ina”, as her baking was so good.
I did hear that Mr. Rowan was the last person to own the Foyers Hotel before it was bought by the North of Scotland HydroElectric Board. Mr. Rowan had built his retirement house up near a little lochan full of newts but he was compulsorily bought out and had to move away. The tunnel was excavated up there and the rubble emptied into the lochan. Harry and Edna Joyce now own the house and land high up above the road.
The hotel was then run by a manager employed by Tennent Caledonian Brewers. It did a roaring trade in the bar from the workers camp along at Boleskine but it lost a lot of holiday makers as engineering staff were given priority in accommodation. Did the Hydro Board buy the hotel as they knew the shocks that is was going to be subjected to in the blasting of the tunnel? (When we lived in it we could feel the whole place shaking when the turbines were turned on to pump the water back up through the tunnel to Loch Mhor, usually around midnight!!).
Glen Halliday ran the hotel at one point and the Fowlers had it for a year and bred Abyssinian cats in cages in the garden; they would yowl at night. We bought it from them in 1976 and ran it until 1988.
“You’ve got a lovely spot here!” was an often repeated comment during the twelve years we had the hotel. We did a steady trade with summer holiday guests — a few fishing guests and Hydro Board engineers visiting during the winter months. Bar lunches were busy during the summer but the bar trade suffered when policing for drunk drivers increased. Market day farmers dwindled then! However, we made a living and had a happy time there with loyal staff, 3 of whom are still in the area; Elspeth Hall, Janet McDonald and Janette Colville.
Incidents: we had heard that someone, badly injured, had died when he was laid out on the kitchen table and Sadie Hipkinconfirmed this. Her cousin, Jimmy MacGruer, had been riding his motorbike and had been knocked off by a horse. We were twice burgled while we were sleeping upstairs with a houseful of guests in the hotel. The first lot were after mainly booze and cigarettes and the second lot, Hippy travelers, were after sausages, bacon, ham and gammon steaks. We had to scrounge breakfast food from the Whitebridge Hotel for that morning! They also took our brass gong, brass candlesticks and music tapes from the bar. They did not take cigarettes or booze.
Once, with a full house of guests at the beginning of the season, the water completely ran out. The main water pipe had furred up extensively over winter. One Japanese guest had just soaped up her hair with shampoo! Stewart solved the problem temporarily by taking water in a hosepipe from the stream nearby up into the cold water tank in the attic. There was then enough for the guests to wash faces, flush toilets and for the Japanese guest to rinse her hair.
We were constantly being asked about the Loch Ness monster and one afternoon, along with two guests, we did see an upturned cabin cruiser sized object out in the bay which sank and then reappeared then sank for good.
A hoax was in the paper on April Fools Day one year when someone jammed two large teeth, salvaged from an old buffalo trophy, into a piece of driftwood and then reported that it had been found on the lochside and could be viewed in the bar of The Foyers Hotel. People were really taken in and asked to see it for quite a while afterwards.
Ghosts?!! The hotel had a very friendly ambiance but quite often we did see a little white dog disappearing under the kitchen table. Also, after pooh poohing Lorna and Mhairi for reports of eerie goings on in their bedroom, I also had a frightening experience when I rushed upstairs one dark night to get something from their room when they were away from home. On opening the door, I was utterly shocked to feel a presence right in front of me. There was nothing there when I switched on the light.
We enjoyed running the hotel but after 12 years we moved over to the Coach House (the former hotel stable) when we sold to David MacKenzie. Since then it was owned and run by Val Turnbull but unfortunately it is now a self-catering unit. No pub now in the village!
She sold to Michael Williams, a young property developer who continues to live with his wife and 3 small children in Derbyshire and the hotel continues as a self-catering business.
Who knows what its fate will be!
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