Craigendarroch is located on land that was originally the territory of Clan Gordon. It was a part of the Morven and Gairnside half of the large Aboyne estates owned by a long succession of Clan Chieftains. It was Charles Gordon, the 11th Marquis of Huntly who in the 1880’s decided to sell off some of his land, after he was rumored to have fallen on harder times.
It is said that Queen Victoria had shown interest in purchasing the available land as it was in line with the Queen’s Abergeldie shooting ground, and contained some of the finest grouse moors in Aberdeenshire. However, because of this potential, the land came at a higher price than it was actually worth. In the Banner of May in 1886 the Marquis was reported to want £50,000 for 10,000 acres which worked out at £5 per acre. Although it was suggested he was …‘contented with a good deal less’.
In 1886, the land was eventually sold to Mr. John Mitchell Keiller of Dundee, a descendant of Janet Keiller. Janet Keiller and her husband John created their own version of orange marmalade known widely as ‘chip’ marmalade which included finely sliced shreds of orange skin. Successful marketing led to the first commercial brand of marmalade. The Keillers’ set up a factory and founded James Keiller & Sons in 1797, after their son James, with unprecedented success and booming international trade.
When visiting the area the illustrious Keillers would stay at Morven Lodge, or the ‘Shooting Box’ on the estate. Failing to meet their spacious needs, and a far distance from the railway station at Ballater, in 1891 the Keillers decided to build a house on the ‘Hill of the Oaks’, known in Gaelic as Craigendarroch.
The house was built as a grand residence and construction materials were of the finest quality. Instead of using the local granite, Keiller hired architects from Dundee who brought in red sandstone, transported by rail from the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh to Ballater station, and the stone had to be hauled up the hillside on carts. There are old newspaper articles that seem to suggest that the Keillers were well liked lairds who brought with them new business and employment to Ballater and its residents. Stories continued of lavish annual Christmas parties for staff and tenants, sharing briefly in the spectacular lifestyle of the wealthy.
In 1899, John Keillers health failed at a young age, and he died leaving his 9 year old son Alexander Keiller as heir to the family fortune. Alexander took after his father, enjoying a life of luxury when visiting his home in Royal Deeside. He owned many motor cars that were housed in what are today the Time Ownership Information offices.
By the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 the house became a home for child evacuees from Glasgow, and army officers were posted there during training exercises in the surrounding hills. The interior of the house suffered during this time, and by the end of the war in 1945 the Keiller family decided to sell.
Much of the land was sold to Dinnet Estates, but the house, grounds and fishing rights were sold to a Mrs. Montgomery from St Andrews. The house changed hands once again when Mrs. Montgomery sold to an Aberdeen timber merchant called Cordiner, who stripped the land of much of its timber before putting it back up for sale in 1952.
It was bought by the McLean family, who had a successful bakery business. They turned the house into a hotel run by their son, Dick McLean, while his brother Walter McLean ran the Fife Arms Hotel in Braemar.
In 1960 the hotel was purchased by the Schofield family. Lodge 93 ‘Schofield Lodge’ was built as a private home for the Schofield’s. Mrs. Schofield was a keen collector of antiques, and the hotel became famous for them. She was the last owner of the hotel before it became Craigendarroch as we know it today, covering 35 acres of land and including 99 lodges.
Foundations of a church built in 1843 were found on site.