A SCOTTISH castle overlooking Loch Lomond and rumoured to contain a keystone from the ruins of Robert the Bruce’s ancient keep has gone up for sale… on the other side of the Atlantic.
Rossdhu Gate is the only surviving building of a remarkable Scottish estate constructed in rural Maryland in the 1920s by a Scotland-obsessed Washington lawyer and his socialite wife.
The castle gatehouse, which in its time has hosted four United States presidents as well as the Duke of Windsor, features gargoyles, a tower and its own “Wee Loch Lomond”, as well as nearby land known as the “Braemar forest”.
The sprawling estate, in Chevy Chase, Montgomery County, was modelled on Rossdhu House, on the banks of the real Loch Lomond, ancestral seat of the clan Colquhoun.
The Scottish version is currently the home of the Loch Lomond Golf Club. Rossdhu Gate meanwhile was built by Clarence Calhoun, a campaigning lawyer, and his wife Daisy. They purchased 100 acres of land in Maryland in 1926 to make their extravagant Scottish vision a reality after a bid fell through to buy the land on which stands the current British embassy in Washington DC.
A spokesman for McEarney Realtors, which is selling the property with an asking price of $1.5 million (£920,000), said: “Rossdhu Gate is a one-of-a-kind Scottish Tudor castle.
“It has a crenellated roof, a four-storey tower with a circular staircase, gargoyles, and a terrace with views of wee Loch Lomond. It’s unique, like entering another world.”
Daisy Breaux Calhoun was one of Washington’s premiere socialites when she and her husband decided to build a Scottish castle in the Maryland rural countryside.
Daisy founded two organisations for women – the Women’s National Foundation and the Women’s Universal Alliance – and while her husband had Scottish roots through the Colquhoun family, she claimed to be a descendant of the house of Mar on her mother’s side. She was once presented with a Claymore believed to have belonged to Bonnie Prince Charlie by Lord Garioch, son of the 33rd Earl of Mar, and named the surrounding woodland of Rossdhu, Braemar Forest, to honour her family name.
The castle’s grand opening celebration was held on Hogmanay 1927. The castle, which stretched to 30 rooms in all, sat on a hill. There they entertained presidents such as Teddy Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson, as well as the Duke of Windsor.
The gatehouse, bordering a large pond named Wee Loch Lomond, was used for entertaining in the winter when ice-skating was in season, and guests would skate over the frozen “loch”. Daisy Calhoun referred to it as Braemar Lodge. It is said that a stone from the original 11th-century castle ruins of Robert the Bruce’s keep is set somewhere in the Gatehouse – although, since there is some dispute as to where Robert the Bruce resided in Scotland, this is perhaps unlikely.
However, the Calhouns were not able to enjoy their Scottish idyll for long. They lost most of their fortune in the great stock-market crash of 1929, and in an effort to keep the castle running, converted it into a nightclub. But it was too far from an urban area to become a draw for revellers, impoverished during the Depression of the 1930s, and by the time Clarence Calhoun died in 1938, Daisy was penniless. She moved into the gatehouse and lived there until her death in 1949. In 1957, the main castle was torn down, although the gatehouse was left standing.
It was bought by the Broulik family in 1979 and restored to its original glory. It was inherited by Jan Broulik from his parents in 2001 and he has lived there with his partner, Joe Phillips, ever since.
Put on the market earlier this month, it has many Scottish baronial touches inside including crests, fireplaces, as well as stained-glass, a courtyard and several fountains.
The original Rossdhu House is a stately Georgian building that stands on the ruins of the medieval castle of the chiefs of the clan Colquhoun, near the Loch Lomondside town of Luss, famed as the place where the STV soap opera Take The High Road was filmed. It was home to members of the Colquhoun family until the late 1970s, but it now hosts an 18-hole golf course, while the mansion itself is the clubhouse. There is also a spa in the gardens.