The 5th Earl of Dumore bought Harris for the sum of £60,000 from the then bankrupt proprietor Alexander Norman Macleod. In 1836, he died and was succeeded by his son Alexander, 6th Earl of Dunmore, and his wife, Catherine Herbert. It was Lady Catherine who, in 1849, set up an embroidery school and also encouraged the then fledgling Harris Tweed industry. She was also responsible for the main restoration work in Rodel church.
In 1845, Alexander died at the early age of 41 and the heir to the title was his 4 year old son, Charles, who then became the 7th Earl of Dunmore.
The countess Lady Catherine, with her Factor, continued to run the North Harris Estate until Charles became of age. In 1863, Ardvourlie Castle, on the shores of Loch Seaforth, was built as a hunting lodge for the North Harris Estate. It appears that they did not live in this castle, but let it on a tenancy basis to their sporting friends.
It was obvious to Charles, 7th Earl, that Ardvourlie Castle was too far removed from his sporting activities and, in 1867, he built a further castle at Amhuinnsuidhe, which he called Fincastle. Fincastle was the courtesy title (Viscount Fincastle) of the first sons of the Earls of Dunmore. The castle name was later to be changed to Amhuinnsuidhe Castle. When it was nearly finished, he sent for his wife, Gertrude, to view the property and she was far from impressed. Rumour has it that she said that 'it wasn't as big as a hen house or a stable at her father's house. This stung Charles into building a further wing onto the castle.
It is rumoured that they took over the castle and the North Harris Estate in lieu of debts owed to them by Lord Dunmore. It is sad to think that no Dunmore ever lived in the castle.
The proprietorship of Sir Edward and Lady Emily Scott, and of the Scott successors at the castle, was to be a very flourishing and benevolent one. All house-guests were non-paying and whatever fish or game was not used, was given away locally. They had a very large workforce of about 30 permanent and 10 seasonal staff. There is an interesting extract, from the 1869 Post Office records in Stornoway, saying that whenever Lord de Grey, who was a member of the Cabinet at that time, was staying at Fincastle, a messenger would be sent on horseback from Stornoway twice a week to deliver official government mail down to the castle. For this, the postman was paid ten shillings a week and, if he stayed overnight, he was entitled to a further one shilling and sixpence.
Sir Edward Scott was succeeded by his son, Sir Samuel Scott, and his wife, Lady Sophie. It was during their time at the castle that Lord Leverhulme purchased South Harris in May 1919 and one month later he purchased the North Harris Estate, including the castle, for the sum of £20,000. Sir Samuel retained a 15-year lease of the castle at a nominal rent of £l a year. With the final purchase of North Harris, Lord Leverhulme became the biggest private landowner in the kingdom.
On the death of Lord Leverhulme in 1925, his lands and property were auctioned, The Castle at Amhuimsuidhe, together with Ardvouilie Castle, the Harris Hotel and 6000 acres of land, fetched only £2000. Sir Samuel Scott was then able to purchase back the castle and the North Harris Estate for around £1,500. During the Scotts' time at Amhuinnsuidhe, the ship 'Dunara Castle' came in each May to bring supplies for the season and the coal puffer 'Maggie Love' from Scalpay brought in coal from Troon. The castle also had two launches which left daily for transporting supplies and guests to and from Tarbert.
These launches were called 'Rover' and 'Mabel' and both had Scalpay shippers. Sir Samuel also had a very grand yacht called 'Golden Eagle' which was crewed by Harris men. The skipper was Captain Paterson front Berneray. Sir Samuel owned the castle until he died in 1944 at the age of 64 years. Lady Sophie had died previously in 1937 at the age of 57 years. Sir Samuel and Lady Sophie were buried in a cairn on a hill behind the castle. This cairn was built in 1938 by Alex Morrison of Tarbert and Alexander Mackay of Amhuinnsuidhe. It was built with four burial chambers, but only two of these were used.
In 1944 the estate was purchased by Sir Tommy Sopwith and his wife, Lady Phyllis, for the sum of around £40,000. Sir Tommy was an aeronautical tycoon. He kept a workforce similar to that of the Scotts, but as there was now a reasonable road past the castle, most supplies were brought in by road rather than by boat. Sir Tommy also had a small yacht named 'Philante' He sold the estate in 1961, but was to pay his final respects to the castle and island when he visited them again at the ripe old age of one hundred years. He was to die a year later.
In 1961, Major Potter Miller-Mundy and Captain Lowndry purchased the North Harris Estate for the sum of £80,000. They were the first proprietors to commercialise the property by having paying guests staying at the castle to hunt and fish. The ghillies also helped with the gardening and assisted in looking after the horses.
In 1968, the estate was purchased by Sir Hereward and Ladwake for the sum of £120,000. They also ran it as a commercial enterprise, letting out the castle, fishing and shooting. During their time, they made an attempt to have the main road re-routed behind the castle. They were prepared to share the cost with the Inverness-shire County Council, but a vigorous campaign, headed mainly by the West Highland Free Press forced the scheme to be abandoned.
In 1976, Gerald Panchaud, a businessman from Switzerland, and his wife, purchased the estate. They ran it on a similar line to the previous two owners, by letting the fishing and shooting. After his death, Panchaud's wife continued to run the estate for about a further two years. When she sold the estate, she retained an area of land, together with the mineral rights, on the shores of Loch Seaforth.
In 1994, the North Harris Estate was purchased by Jonathon Bulmer and his wife, Lady Marcia. Jonathon Bulmer was a member of the Bulmer family and Lady Marcia is a daughter of the Countess and late Earl Granville from North Uist. The castle was still rented to sporting parties but they also made one wing of the castle into a family home for themselves and their children, who attended the local school. Both Jonathon and Lady Marcia were very keen sportsmen and they were also keen supporters of the arts.
During their stay at the castle, they would hold musical evenings, with musicians being brought in from many parts of the country. They would invite people from the local community to enjoy these musical evenings with them. The castle cook, Rosemary Shrager, ran cooking courses for the paying guests and later she went on to host a popular television series called 'Castle Cook'. The castle at this time also hosted art classes for paying guests.
The sale of the North Harris Estate by the Bulmers in the spring of 2003 heralded a completely new era of estate proprietorship. The 55,000 acre North Harris Estate was purchased for the sum of £4.5 million in a joint bid by the residents of North Harris and a businessman, Ian Scarr-Hall. As well as the land, the residents bought the mineral and shooting rights.
The shooting rights were then leased back to Mr Scarr-Hall. He paid an estimated £2 million for the castle and the attendant fishing rights. Mr Scarr-Hall not only works within the community, but also runs the castle as a residential sporting and corporate business estate.
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