Manse, Genteel Home & Hotel

 Autumn sunrise over Eddrachilles Hotel. Showing the service area of the original manse (today's dining room) and to the right the new hotel bedrooms in a separate wing 

Autumn sunrise over Eddrachilles Hotel. Showing the service area of the original manse (today's dining room) and to the right the new hotel bedrooms in a separate wing 

The hotel building has an interesting history, a property of substance - but not grandeur - in a wild Highland landscape.  It was established in late 18th century as Presbyterian Church of Scotland manse, home for the parish minister and his family, the equivalent of a vicarage or parsonage. Serving a large and significant parish (records for Eddrachilles parish go back into the 1630's), the manse was gifted substantial lands and was located close to the simple Presbyterian church at Lower Badcall .  

As well as being a place of spiritual guidance and simple ceremonies such as small weddings and baptisms, a manse was typically the place where official time was recorded, a venue for intellectual discussion and genteel hospitality, and a source of sustenance for those in need. The minister, the schoolmaster, the factor and the doctor were all key figures in Highland communities. The building was therefore designed to be a comfortable,  genteel home, not a grand or luxurious one, and even today that's the approach we take to our hotel.

The parish name "Eddrachilles" comes from the Gaelic language. "Eddra" means "between" and "chilles" refers to "kyles", or inlets of the sea. The original boundaries for the parish were the Kyles of Durness and Kylesku, creating a huge geographic area but with a small population.  

 
 
 Eddrachilles Hotel - former manse is set proudly right above the bay. The small white building close to the loch is the former  church. 

Eddrachilles Hotel - former manse is set proudly right above the bay. The small white building close to the loch is the former  church. 

WHEN WAS THE ORIGINAL HOUSE BUILT?

The exact date is not recorded and local history suggests that there was a simple home for a Christian preacher in the Upper Badcall area long before the manse was built in Lower Badcall. Eddrachilles parish without a church is mentioned in records from the 1630's.  There is a record of an intent to build a church at Badcall in 1713.

It seems likely that the decision to provide a full manse came in the 1760s. After the failure of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745-46, the Hanoverian Government made a grant to the Church of Scotland to establish 100 new parishes and manses in the Highlands as part of their plans to "civilise" these troublesome northern lands. Landowners, such as the Duke of Sutherland, assisted this scheme with generous donations of good land to provide a living for the minister, his family and retainers.  However, given the remote location, it may have taken several decades for the manse to be built and a minister appointed. 


DO ANY OF THE ORIGINAL FEATURES FROM THE MANSE REMAIN?

Some evidence of the original L-shaped building with traditional west coast rooms can be clearly seen in the hotel today. The main lounge ceiling shows the divisions for 3 small public rooms comprising a dining room, parlour and the minister's study. The door between the sun lounge and the main building was the original front door to the manse, facing the south and the bay. Rooms 9 and 10 would have been the "best" bedrooms used by the minister and his family with their own staircase. In the present staff quarters we have one flight of an original "back" stair case for servants and we've discovered closed in windows during our renovations marking where the new building joins the original.

The present dining rooms were the service part of the manse with a kitchen, scullery, larder, milk room and staircase. The walls were hard plastered and the ceiling lath and plaster but this was removed during the renovations in 1977. Today the dining room happily displays the original flagstone floor and stone walls.

 Locally made Highland Stoneware plates sit beautifully with bare walls made from local stones. 

Locally made Highland Stoneware plates sit beautifully with bare walls made from local stones. 


 The "new" A894 road, part of the NC 500 route, can be seen cutting across the moors and hills and past the driveway entrance to the hotel.

The "new" A894 road, part of the NC 500 route, can be seen cutting across the moors and hills and past the driveway entrance to the hotel.

HOW DID A CHURCH MANSE BECOME A HOTEL?

By the 1920's the Church of Scotland no longer needed a manse at Badcall. Scourie, 2 miles to  north over a steep hill, was now the main local centre of population and most people had joined the separate Free Presbyterian Church. The white church building at Badcall was retained for occasional services but gradually fell into disrepair. It was sold by the Church in the 1960's and converted into a holiday home.

The former manse itself was bought in 1929 by Colonel Cuthbert, a First World War hero, and then provided a family home through the Second World War for his heirs. Under a family trust it was then offered as a convalescent home for nurses but proved to be too remote. Some former agricultural buildings had been sold and these operated more successfully in the 1950's as a remote Youth Hostel . Occasionally we have guests at the hotel who fondly remember visiting the very basic hostel as youngsters. 

The former manse and remaining lands were again sold in the 1960s. After the building of the new A894 road the house was extended to create a small hotel in the 1980s. The hotel with about 3 acres of grounds was sold separately from the rest of the policies in 2003.