Altskeith, as it is now known, used to be called “Altskea”. In Gaelic this means “Wing of the Burn”. The original part of the house was built between the years 1740 and 1760 by a wool merchant called John McLaughlin of Greenhall. He used it for his own occupation and had a row of cottages for his weavers. The house is mentioned in the 1959 Parish records, so it must have been built before then. Weavers also appear in the records as being in the parish in 1794.
It is said that Rob Roy hid from the Redcoats in a secret cupboard downstairs! The earliest records go back as far as 711 AD, when there was a ferocious battle between the Picts and Scots on the hill behind the house.
McLaughlin planted the lime trees which border the main road. He also planted a large chestnut and some nut trees. He gave up hand weaving when power looms were introduced in 1787. After his death, in around 1800, the property was sold to the Duke Montrose for the price of the woods on the land.
The Duke then let the house to a Mr Robert Dick, who ran it as a type of pub – but on an “invitation basis” only! He had a pair of swinging mirrors installed in the dining room, behind which he could sit unseen and watch all the passerby’s on the road and if he approved of them, he would ask them in for some refreshment. In no way was this an “Open House”.
Dick died in 1835 and William Joynson, hearing that the place was empty, made arrangements with the Duke’s factor (James Murray) and Mr Dick’s Trustee (Mr Pelie) to take on a lease of the house, for the rent of £60.00 per annum and also the rights to the shooting on Ledard and French for a further £40.00.
The Joynson family remained as tenants to the Duke until 1928, when the Duke of Montrose advertised all of his propter in Aberfoyle and the Port of Monteith for sale, to provide money to pay off death duties. Will and Ralph Joynson negotiated with the Duke’s factor to buy both the Ledard and Drumlean Estates, which they had been tenants on for years. Altskeith was included in the Ledard Estate and was lived in by Ralph Joynson. ralph spent a lot of money improving Altskeith and added a library and he also built a Quoits Court above it. He created a lovely garden and rockery, which is approached by some steps near the waterfall and an orchard above the garden. Ralph who had been a POW in the First World War, died in the Second World War whilst on an army exercise in 1941. Ralph left an only son – Walter, who was a renowned falconer (a painting of Walter hangs still in the house). He lived there after the war and it was he who originally converted the house into a hotel. He then sold Altskeith in the 1960s and died in 1975.
The house since then has been a hotel, bar and self catering house. It was very popular during the summer months with beer festivals and also as a local bar for the neighbours.
Writers, poets and artist have all been fascinated by the incomparable atmosphere of this loch and its area, the tales of Robert Roy MacGregor and the mystery of the Children of the Mist and the clans who lived amidst these wild hills. Nearby Loch Katrine was the inspiration for Sir Walter Scott‘s poem The Lady of the Lake and Altskeith itself, featured as Glenkirk House in the 1959 adaptation, The 39 Steps with Kenneth Moore.