History of the Lodge
The vision of Colonel John Grant
The history of Rothiemurchus Lodge dates back to 1948. Colonel John Grant of Rothiemurchus, who was keenly interested in the unrivalled opportunities for challenging, outdoor recreation offered by the Cairngorms, proposed that the Army should erect a hut on his land so that soldiers could take advantage of these outdoor pursuits, which he considered to be of character building value. The plan was agreed by Colonel George Rusk, then serving as Welfare Officer, HQ Highlands District, and was approved by both General Barbour as District Commander and General Arbuthnott as Chief of Staff, Scottish Command.
The site was chosen on the North-West face of Castle Hill, some two miles from Loch Morlich, and a fairly primitive hut to house 40 soldiers was erected and opened on 15 December 1950. This became known as the Grant Hut and was accessible only by foot. Early the next year, the hut was extended with financial assistance of the Nuffield Trust, with the caveat that the use of the facility be extended to incorporate all three services.
By 1966, the Hut had become so popular it was clear that the 40 beds available were inadequate to meet demand. Thanks to a further grant of £16,000 from the Nuffield Trust, the original hut was completely refurbished and a new accommodation providing a further 24 beds, together with Wardens quarters and drying rooms was built. At the same time, the Royal Engineers built a road up to the Lodge, thus making it more accessible. The new complex was renamed Rothiemurchus Lodge and was officially opened on 7 June 1967 by Mrs Margaret Robinson MBE, who was the secretary of the Nuffield Trust at the time.
However, it was not long before plans were being laid to rebuild the original Grant Hut, which had reached the end of its useful life, as the pictures on the walls of the Lodge show.
A further extension with an estimated cost of about £45,000 was being considered, when the Grant Hut was destroyed by fire on 25 April 1974. The site was cleared and all that remained for many years was the concrete base and the fire bell, now situated at the main entrance to the Lodge.
Notwithstanding the fire, a new two-storey cedar-clad building providing 64 more beds was opened on 16 May 1974 by Commander D E G Wemyss DSO DSR RN, a late Chairman of the Union Jack Association (now the Scottish Union Jack Association) that had provided £30,000 towards the cost. This building, known today as the Scottish Union Jack Lodge, was built at a total cost of £58,000, with the help of an additional £28,000 from Service Central Funds. Also at this time, a grant of £10,000 was made by the Nuffield Trust to enable the Royal Engineers to install a new dam and a water purification system for the first time.
At the time of this opening, the charge for accommodation at the lodge was 50p and increased to £1 later that year.
For some 40 years, the services had been in the enviable position of leasing the land on which the lodge stood from the Rothiemurchus Estate at peppercorn rent of 2/6d per annum. This arrangement was due to end in 1991 and it was clear that, in the current financial climate, it seemed inevitable that a more realistic amount would need to be paid. Consequently, a new lease was negotiated with John Grant the Younger of Rothiemurchus, who kindly agreed to renew the lease for a period of 50 years on a payment of £140,000 and an annual rent of £100. Once again, the Nuffield Trust came to the aid of the Lodge by providing a Special Super Grant of £200,000 to mark the 50th Anniversary of the creation of the Trust by the late Lord Nuffield (£100,000 of this grant was to be towards the cost of the new lease and the other £100,000 for the latest improvements and extension to the Lodge).
Thus in 1989, work started on the third major extension of the Lodge. This work consisted of building a new bungalow for the Manager, converting his old quarters and adding an extension to the end of the Nuffield Lodge to provide additional accommodation. This work brings the total accommodation at the Lodge to 110 bed spaces. In 1990, the Scottish Union Jack Association also approved £36,000 to add an extension to their Lodge to provide additional dining room and lounge space. This work brings the Lodge up to date and makes the whole facility one of the best of its kind in the country.
The latest improvements have included the oldest part of the complex into four en-suite, two four-berth, one two-berth and one five-berth units, which are proving to be very popular.
The Chairman and Members of the Committee express their thanks to Mr John Grant of the Rothiemurchus Estate, the Nuffield Trust and the Scottish Union Jack Association for their continued support to the Lodge, which will benefit all ranks of all services for years to come.