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Credit: Am Baile/ The Highland Council
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Boath House

By Melissa Davies

This story belongs to a ten-part series of stories gifted by Nairn Museum. Many thanks to Melissa Davies, the director of Nairn Museum, for kindly gifting these stories to the Spirit: Stories archive.

Boath House is a Georgian mansion situated a few miles from Nairn at Auldearn. It stands in large grounds of about 20 acres with a lake and a lovely walled garden. It was built in 1827 by Aberdeen architect, Archibald Simpson, for Captain James Dunbar (1770-1836) on the site of, and to replace, the 'great stane-house' that had been in the Dunbar family since the mid 16th century.

The Dunbars of Boath were descendants of David Dunbar of Moray. He died in 1556 and was buried in the kirk yard at Auldearn. The family's lands were situated to the east of Nairn and included at one time, Merryton, Broadhill, Boathpark, Achnacloich, Camperdown and Balmakeith. The Town House of the Dunbars once stood at the corner of Bridge Street.

A black and white photograph showing a large brick house with four ornate columns at its entrance. Boath House, Nairn
Image provided by Am Baile/ The Highland Council

Boath House, Auldearn, in August 1980

Sir James Dunbar's name appears in the Complete Navy List for the Napoleonic Wars. He was knighted in 1810 and created a Baronet in 1814. He married Helen Coull in the same year. He was made a Lieut. R.N. in 1790, and Post-Captain in 1802. His children were, Jane, Helen Patricia, Sir Frederick William Dunbar, 2nd Baronet of Boath (1819-1851), Sir James Alexander Dunbar, 3rd Baronet (1821-1883), and George Dunbar (1822-1850). Captain James Dunbar's Grandson, Sir Alexander Dunbar, 4th Baronet (1870-1900) donated land to help create the Nairn Dunbar Golf Course, opened in 1899. Sir Alexander tragically drowned in the River Nairn a year later, and the estate and title passed to his brother, Frederick. Frederick was the 5th Baronet (1875-1937) and after his death, the Baronetcy became extinct.

The house fell into a state of disrepair in the early 1990s, at which time, the current owners, Don and Wendy Matheson, bought and restored it and it is now a hotel and award winning restaurant with a Garden Café, the Kale Yard, located in the walled garden. The original 17th century dovecot which was built as part of the Boath Estate, now stands on the edge of Auldearn village and is maintained by the National Trust for Scotland.

The beautiful, ornate velvet jacket that belonged to Captain James Dunbar, specially made for him for formal occasions, is on display in the Museum.

A large black men's jacket with gold buttons and gold lining sits atop a white backdrop. An information panel sits at the bottom of the jacket. The panel reads "The Dunbars of Booth. Captain James Dunbar R.N. was knighted in 1809 and became the first Baronet Dunbar of Booth in September 1814. He built the mansion at Booth and added greatly to the lands belonging to the Barony, including Balmakeith, Merryton and Broadhill. The jacket was specifically made for him for formal occassions." Image provided by Nairn Museum/ Melissa Davies

An ornate, formal, jacket which belonged to Captain James Dunbar now on display at Nairn Museum

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