Wednesday 12 August 2020

Fornethy House

Fornethy House frontage

It is rare nowadays that I get the chance to explore old, interesting and abandoned buildings, but when friend of Balintore Duncan invited me to view just such a building only 7 miles away from the castle, how could I refuse? As incredible as it may seem, I was totally unaware of the existence of Fornethy House, yet it is an intriguing architectural conundrum built as a summer residence for the Coats' family in 1915. Between the 1950's and 1993, it was used as a residential girls' school. You can see how close Fornethy is to Balintore from the map below:

At the entrance to Fornethy, where the drive turns off the road, there is a wonderful square-on view of Balintore Castle on the horizon. Anyhow, the most astonishing thing about Fortnethy is that it is built in 16th century Scottish style over-laid with a veneer of 1915 Arts and Crafts. Academically it is a very clever building and will appeal to architecture nuts like myself. Aesthetically, it is rather blocky and far from conventionally beautiful, but the balance and refinement of the detailing is superb.

It is too severe for a country house, and one wonders how comfortable the Coats felt staying here. Often such buildings can be relieved by rich interiors or landscaped settings, but Fornethy is currently surrounded by woods with no outlook and googling for images suggests the interior was rather plain. 

Although I like Fornethy, I would hesitate to say it is a success as a building though I refuse to make a final judgement until the ground surrounding it is cleared, and one is able to view it in a landscape. Much of the surrounding forest is for timber production, and presumably it would originally have sat more comfortably in its surroundings.

On returning to my car, I saw for the first time in my life what I thought where Chanterelles growing on the side of the Fornethy drive. I have been looking for these for decades! Thanks to the Seek app for confirming the identification, and thanks to Duncan for saying that my Chanterelle dish that evening was delish! It is a subtle flavour in my humble opinion but a good one, and the golden orange colour, enhanced by frying, makes for a beautiful presentation.

To donate to the Balintore restoration project click here.

abandoned greenhouse with vine

active bee hives

abandoned greenhouse

abandoned cars

carriage door on side of Fornethy

mural of Disney's animated "Robin Hood" (1973)

door on rear

rear of Fornethy

elevated rear entrance (stair now missing)

feature on left is later (lift?)

feature on right is later (lift?)

front entrance with lantern


Golden Chanterelles on Fornethy drive

Golden Chanterelles back in the Balintore kitchen


  1. Knew this well as in the 80’s the farm cottages next to it were leased by the Edinburgh merchant company schools as an outdoor centre. I used to walk up and have a look around the house many times. It would originally have had lovely south facing views and there is a walled garden on the other side of the farm drive.

    1. Thanks for confirming this was once in a better landscape. I would have loved to have seen the building in better times.

  2. I stayed hear almost 50 plus years ago. It was beautiful. wish I could own it now.

  3. This place holds nothing but nightmare memories for me. October 1977. Glasgow City Council

    1. You have my sympathy. It was only after I wrote this blog article that I found out the full horror of the building's past. Of course, the horror is not due to the building but to evil individuals, but it does make one wonder what the future holds for the house.

    2. I am a survivor of Fornethy House. It should be demolished to the ground! No sane person would want to live their after the horrors we were put through.

  4. I went there twoce i dodnt experience any abuse but my sisyer was pulled out into the hall many times and mrs fletcher and another teacher would hit her she was not one for taking any sort of abuse stood up to the teachers we got sent home aftsuch a shame that it has went to reck and ruin through evil people er 2 weeks instead of 6 weeks its terrible that this abuse went on for years and so many people suffered

    1. Well done to your sister for standing up for herself. I don't know how they explained sending you home after two weeks. As ever, buildings are not evil, but there are certainly evil people out there.

  5. I remember going here 3 times with the our school. We had the best time, I absolutely loved it and probably opened my eyes to the big outdoors. Shame that it holds such bad memories for some people.

    1. That is interesting, I was wondering if I would hear from anyone who did have a good time, and I am pleased that you did. It's human nature, that bad news travels better.

      Everyone that worked there could not have been a perpetrator of abuse - there are always good and bad people - and not every child who stayed could have been a victim - as victims are selected.

      The grey area is how much the non-participating adults knew and whether they reported. We all now know, courtesy of Jimmy Saville, the mechanisms that allow abuse to continue unchecked in a civilised society.