Updated: Aug 19, 2021
Skellater House sits at the base of Lonach Hill and overlooks the River Don four miles from Strathson, Aberdeenshire. Built in the eighteenth century, the modest mansion house has been renovated and updated with modern conveniences, or “modcons.”
In 1604, George Forbes received a charter of the lands of Skellater from Alexander, Master of Elphinstone, with the consent of Alexander, Lord Elphinstone. Forbes was the second son of William Forbes, 2nd Laird of Barnes of the house of Towie, of the Brux branch of the House of Forbes. The charter was later confirmed in 1626 by John Erskine, Earl of Mar (1585–1654.)
His son William Forbes, 2nd laird of Skellater, (1615 – c. 1695), was a “strong gentlemean” who supported King Charles I in the English Civil War from 1642 to 1651. As captain general of Scotland, James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose (1612 –1650), gave Forbes command of the 200 MacDonald clansmen at the 1645 Battle of Alford: “at his command past in to MaDonald with 200 soldiouris.” (Spalding, John; The History of the Troubles and Memorable Transactions in Scotland and England from 1624 to 1645, first published 1792, reprinted 1828.) For his coat of arms, Forbes adopted the motto “Salus inter Plurimos” (Latin for “Alone amongst many”) since he was the only member of the House of Forbes who did not support the anti-Royalist Covenanters and Whigs (a nickname for the radical Presbyterian faction of the Scottish Covenanters, after the 1648 Whiggamore Raid.)
His son George, the 3rd Laird of Skellater, married first a daughter of Farquharson of Allargue, by whom he had George (later 4th Laird of Skellater) and six other children. After his first wife died, he married Isobel, daughter of William Forbes of Newe, by whom he had nine children, including Nathaniel Forbes of Rippachie (born in 1676) and Lachlan Forbes of Edinglassie (born in 1677.) Both the younger George and his half-brother Nathaniel were very active Jacobites during the Uprising of 1715. George raised money and troops for James Edward Francis Stuart, son of the deposed James II and VII, and Nathanial served as a lieutenant-colonel under Brigadier William Mackintosh of Borlum (1658–1743.) Nathanial fought at the Battle of Preston in Lancashire and was later taken prisoner but escaped into France.
Skellater House was built in 1727 for Lachlan Forbes of Edinglassie, the brother of Nathanial and half-brother of George, 4th Laird of Skellater. The two-story T-plan house was built with rubble walls comprising large field boulders with small pinnings with harling over Granite dressings and chamfered arrises. The house was built with stone dormerheads flanking advanced gabled wings with glazed arrowslits in gableheads, roll-moulded doorpiece with oval transom light.
In 1770, Lachlan renovated Skellater House and installed a pink sandstone armorial panel within a molded granite frame dated MDCCLXX (1770) and proudly bearing the Skellater motto “Solus inter Plurimos.” The house was eventually inherited by Benjamin Forbes, 8th Laird of Skellater and Balbithan, who was a Lieutenant-General of the 80th Regiment. When he died in 1803, the estate of Skellater was bought by Sir Charles, 1st Baronet of Newe, for £24,000. Dormer window pediments were added in about 1845 and the house was extended in 1857. In the latter half 19th century, the house was only occasionally occupied during the shooting season and for 70 years the building was used to store hay.
In 1975, Skellater House was sold and gained new life. The interior was gutted and then restored by builder Alastair Harper. The house was again updated between 2004 and 2005 with embellishments such as cornices, architraves and fireplaces.
With plans drawn by local architect Michael Rasmussen of Rasmussen Associates, Aboyne contractor Mike Forbes built a double-height vaulted kitchen that connected the front of the house with a utility room, office, bathroom and garage. For his work, Forbes was presented with the Federation of Master Builders Craftsmanship Award. In 2005, Scottish native William Gallacher bought the house in order to fulfill his passion for fly fishing in the nearby Rivers of the Don, Spey, Deveron and Dee. Gallacher refurbished the detached and added a new driveway. Skellater Cottage includes one bedroom, sitting room, kitchen and its own garden.
In 2017, Gallacher sold Skellater House, Skellater Cottage, and the 6.2 acre estate to Alan & Elizabeth Thompson, formerly of Washington, D.C.
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