While it is common to think about Boleskine House in the context of its ownership, the lands and buildings have a rich history in their own right that extends well beyond any one individual.
Origin of the Name
“Boleskine” is most certainly of Gaelic origin, though the exact etymology may be disputed. It may refer to Both fhleisginn, meaning “house of the willows,” but it may also be Boile-eas-ceann denoting the summit of the cascade. Most commonly, however, it derives from Bail-o’s-cionn, “the township of the ocean” or “great water,” indicative of Loch Ness itself.
Boleskine House is located in the valley of Stratherrick on the eastern side of Loch Ness, lands granted to the Frasers for their support of Robert the Bruce who became king of Scots after a successful war to gain independence from England, culminating in his victory at the Battle of Bannochburn in 1314. Stratherrick itself remained a relatively wild country until the eighteenth-century, little valued for its soil and economic production, but remained a reservoir of fighting men ready to heed the call of their clan leaders.
The sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries were a time of great civil and religious conflict in the Highlands with the forming of the national church and national government. Although very few conflicts in the immediate area of Stratherrick would constitute a “battle,” its proximity to Inverness made it a point of frequent passage of troops through the area. This would prompt General Wade’s construction of the road following the first of the major Jacobite rebellions in 1715.
The land that is now known as Boleskine was originally established as a church parish extending into the valley of Stratherrick. It was for over two-hundred and fifty years joined with the parishes of Abertarff, and in the seventeenth-century was briefly joined with the parish of Dores to the south. At the time Boleskine was established, the surrounding area was encompassed by the ecclesiastical parcels common to the then new feudal systems put in place, and the lands of Foyers and Boleskine were held in feu from the Bishop of Moray well into the seventeenth-century.
It is possible that an early footprint of Boleskine House may have been used as a military outpost, providing a strategic vantage point above the military road that was being constructed by 1732, but the recorded history of Boleskine House as we know it begins with its completion by Archibald Campbell Fraser of Lovat in 1809.