lost fortune, lost land, lost graves

To lose ones fortune is bitter, it happened to many.

The more you have, the more you have to lose and to lose your land as well as your fortune has consequences for generations to come. Among the many things landed gentry could lose in Scotland apart from stately homes, forests, arable fields and rich rivers is one thing very special: their private burial site.

Cnocan Burra is one of these lost burial sites and it is rather difficult to find. Even locals living a few hunderd yards away from it, seem to be oblivious as to what treasure hides on top of a little hill in the muddy cattlefield behind Drumnadrochit Primary School: Cnocan Burra burial ground.

“This name applies to a small private Burying ground belonging to the Grants of Corriemony and Redcastle the first person interred in it was named John Burra and was a relative of the Grants it was first used about the year 1680 It is situated mid way between Drumnadrochit and Balmacaan House Meaning Burras Hill.” (1)

The estate the graves are on belonged to the Grants of Genmoriston and Urquhart.

“In 1509 King James IV granted the lands of Glen Urquhart, which included Balmacaan, to the Earl of Grant. The laird’s seat was established in the SE corner of the wood, and successive generations made additions and improvements to the mansion. The last large-scale changes were made in 1854, and the house was finally demolished in the 1970’s.” (2)

Balmacaan House is one of those properties, that were lost. It fell into disrepair after World War I, of the house itself there are no traces left. A few walls, a wash house, ice house and the burial site.  The family lost some of the fortune due to

the unexpected emancipation of the slaves in Santa Cruz in 1848-9, without compensation impoverished his (Sir Alexander Grant’s) family and he became a tutor…” (3)

Highland Council has granted planning permission in February 2017 for the dilapidated burial site of the Grants to be restored. The white marble monument remembers these Grants:

“(6th) James of Shewglie and Redcastle, son of James, appointed Resident at Hyderabad by Warren Hastings,  died in 1808, unmarried, succeeded by his cousin (7th) Colonel Alexander Grant (m. Jane Hannay), son of Patrick Grant of Lochletter (m. Katherine Baillie), son of Alexander Grant, 4th of Shewglie. Colonel Grant died in 1816, and was succeeded by his son (8th) Patrick of Redcastle (m. Catherine Sophia, daughter of Charles Grant, the E.I. Coy. Director). Patrick died in 1855, and was succeeded by his son (9th) the Rev. Alexander Ronald Grant, Canon of Ely, and Rector of Hitcham, Suffolk (m. Jane Sophia Dundas, daughter of his uncle, William Grant of Hazel Brae), who died in 1903. Canon Grant’s son, Colonel Francis Charles
Grant of Sherborne, Dorset, now represents the family.” (4)

The older stones are indecipherable.

Access is difficult and very muddy but Cnocan Burra can be seen clearly from Drumnadrochit’s favourite beauty spot Craig Mony, a short and enjoyable walk from the car park in Drumnadrochit.

sources and further reading:


(1)  scotlandsplaces.gov.uk

(2) Woodlands Trust management plan

(3) Alumni Cantabrigienses: A Biographical List of All Known Students …, Vol. 2, John Venn, Cambridge University Press, 2011, p. 313

(4) Olden Times in a Highland Parish

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