The Rothiemurchus Estate is referred to in the 16th century for its 'great and large firrwoods' in the vicinity of Loch an Eilean (Smout, 1997, p.115). The Doune, the Grant's mansion house, dates from the late 17th century. The door lintel dated 1598, comes reportedly from Muckrath Castle. According to Elizabeth Grant, The Doune takes its name from the hill above, which 'had been fortified in the ruder ages when the dwelling of our ancestors had been upon the top of it... the moat is perfect and two or three steep terraces along the side' (Grant, 1898).
By the mid 18th century, The Doune had an entrance forecourt on its south-east front, leading to a formal tree-lined avenue aligned upon Ord Bàn. Initially, the avenue led mid-way uphill, creating a prominent ride c 80m wide (Henderson, 1762), but by 1789 it seems to have stopped at the foot of Ord Bàn (Tait, 1789). A walled garden was situated north of The Doune. It was subdivided into six compartments, with a 'Cornyard' attached to its north-east side (Henderson, 1762; Tait, 1789).
The Caledonian pinewoods of the estate were a potential source of income, which the Grants attempted to exploit without much success until the early 19th century. Between 1769-71, wood sales reached £370 per annum compared with £175 from farm rentals on the estate. By the turn of the 19th century 'the timber was beginning to be marketable,' (Grant, 1898, p.7) and by 1803 'Mr. Grant annually cut down perhaps £1500 of timber; and yet when riding through his woods, not a tree to the eye is missing.'
From 1797 onwards, Sir John Peter Grant aggrandised the house and extended it eastwards to his own designs. His plans included a west wing to mirror the east with a connecting colonnade (unexecuted) and a variety of estate buildings. Elizabeth Grant noted 'my father had always had a turn for beautifying Rothiemurcus with cottages; it was more that, at first the effect of the picture in the scenery, than the wish to improve the dwellings of his people...' (Grant, 1898, p.321). Grant's Memoirs written between 1845-54 offer an informative and vivid social history of the estate and its development from 1797 through to 1815.
In 1808 the farm steading, which had surrounded The Doune, was demolished and rebuilt to the north of Doune Hill leaving the grounds to be landscaped. The new steading was admired by James Robinson in A General View of the Agriculture of the County of Inverness (1808) as a 'large steading of handsome offices' with Doune Farmhouse and the grieve's house part of the complex.
A new walled garden was built c 1812 in the shelter of the:
'hollows in the birch wood between the Drum and the Miltown moor; a fashion of the day, to remove the fruit and vegetables to an inconvenient distance from the Cook, the kitchen department of the garden being considered the reverse of ornamental. The new situation... and the way it was laid out, was the admiration of every body, and there could not well have been any thing of the sort more striking to the eye, with the nicely managed entrance among the trees, and the gardener's cottage so picturesquely placed... A very enjoyable shrubbery replaced the dear old formal kitchen garden, with belts of flowering trees, and gay beds of flowers, grass plots, dry walks and the Doune hill in the midst of it, all neatly fenced from the lawn' .
According to his daughter, the inconvenient form and arrangement of Sir John's early cottages, like the West Lodge, Boring Mill and The Polchar (c 1805), gave way to improved designs built as a result of his 'Searching through our drawing books for a model for the Croft... he now better understood the wants of a household. He picked out a great many pretty elevations, suggested the necessary changes, and left it to Jane and me to make correct drawings and working plans' (Grant, 1898, p.322).
These cottages were all in the picturesque style, with heather-thatched roofs, tall chimneys and lattice windows. At the West Lodge 'Ayrshire roses' were trained on the walls, honeysuckle clothed the verandah 'and we put all sorts of common flowers in a border between the cottage and the road. It was a very pretty cottage, particularly suited to the scenery...' (Grant 1898, p.322).
The Polchar, a gamekeeper's cottage, was later leased by Dr. James Martineau, (the Unitarian divine) for five months annually between 1877 until his death in 1900. He extended the cottage in the cottage ornée style.
When Sir John was appointed a Judge in Bombay in 1827, Georgiana, 6th Duchess of Bedford, 5th daughter of the 4th Duke and Duchess of Gordon (see Kinrara) leased The Doune. Married (in 1803) to John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford (1766-1839), the great agriculturist, art collector and horticulturist, Georgiana improved the policies. As her mother had revealed views at Kinrara, so she cleared views to the east and to the south, to Doune Hill where the enclosed pleasure grounds were opened up to lawn. Although much of the wood was clear-felled in the 1830s, regeneration was good, as saplings regenerated 'as straight and thick as trees in a nursery' (Smout, 1997, p.116). The church and burial ground, which included the Grant family enclosure, was rebuilt, on an abandoned ancient site, at this time. The 6th Duke of Bedford died at Rothiemurchus in 1839.
In 1848, Sir William Grant succeeded; he became Governor of Bengal from 1859-1862 and Governor of Jamaica 1866-1873. In 1877, the mansion house was again extended, being heightened to three storeys by the architect John Lessels. By 1882, the estate contained 9,895ha (24,457 acres).
In 1900, a monument was erected to Dr James Martineau. The estate continues in private ownership.