IN 1780 the Harviestoun Estate was put up for sale by John Drysdale.

It was bought by the Edinburgh solicitor John Tait, who later became Writer to the Signet.

The original mansion stood on the old High Road along the Hillfoots and around sixteen years after Tait bought it, an important historic discovery was made.

In 1796, a drain was being dug behind the house and the workmen found a sword made from iron. It was double-edged and ‘perfectly straight,’ measuring 31 inches long including its handle.

It was noted the handle was small and ‘not large enough for an ordinary-sized man’s hand’.

There was no basket on the handle but there was a small narrow piece of iron that had been curved outwards to make a rudimentary guard to separate it from the blade.

It was thought to be Roman, and although it was badly corroded, it resembled the type of swords known to have been used by them.

Six years later, while the west approach to Harviestoun was being made, an ancient urn was also found. It measured about five inches in height and about the same in width.

It was made from clay, baked in the sun or an oven, and was decorated with a wavy pattern on the outside.

It was presumed this had been created by using plaited rushes. Inside the urn were ashes and a piece of flat flint around two inches long, and an inch wide, making it reasonable to assume it was possibly an arrowhead or a spear head as it had a flattened bottom.

The urn was found in a rudimentary stone coffin made from flat stones, but it showed no signs of being fixed together.

Tait died in 1800 and the estate was inherited by his 35-year-old son Craufurd. The small mansion house was remodelled in the revived Scottish Baronial style, the walls constructed of red freestone with angular towers and crenelated battlements.

It was completed in 1804 and renamed Harviestoun Castle. He continued to make improvements including a new Turnpike Road from Stirling to Kinross although he had to demolish the original hamlets dotted along the road to facilitate this.

The road to Harviestoun was designed with curves to follow the River Devon and to give travellers differing views of the valley.

He also had landscaped gardens created around the house using the Garden of Eden as inspiration.

There was also a burn running through a cave descending over a small waterfall to a pool within the gardens.

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser:

CRAUFURD TAIT made agricultural improvements to the Harviestoun estate during the early 19th century, including the introduction of mechanisation, such as the mechanised spit in the kitchen of the house.

A stable block nearby and the Home Farm were both built around 1820. At the east and west entrances little lodges were built, reflecting the style of the mansion.

However, in 1822, money ran out as Tait accrued huge debts, so the estate was put on the market, but failed to sell.

Tait died in May 1832, aged 67. On his gravestone at Tait’s Tomb, the family burial ground, it states: "His taste adorned this lovely valley, in the bosom of which he lies. His genius – in advance of the age in which he lived – originated, in a great measure, the improvement of the district..."

Following his death, the Global Insurance Company took over the property. They finally sold it in 1859 to Sir Andrew Orr, the former Lord Provost of Glasgow.

He made further improvements and additions to the house including the pink sandstone porch and a new rectangular tower around 1870.

Inside, it was enriched with carved woodwork, and there was an oval dining-room in the west wing, with a beautiful hand-painted ornate ceiling.

There was also a substantial library. In addition, he created two new approaches to the house, one near the West Lodge on the Tillicoultry side, and one by the East Lodge, around a mile from Dollar.

When Orr died in 1874, he bequeathed the estate to his brother James. When died in 1899, the estate passed to his nephew John Kerr, then to his son J. Ernest Kerr in 1904. It then passed to his daughter Margaret then to her daughter Lucy, but it was left to fall into disrepair.

In early 1961, the house was used by Dollar Academy following the fire that swept through the school’s Playfair building.

The grand mansion was demolished in 1970 and the sandstone blocks are the only evidence the house was ever there.

One noted visitor to the estate was Robert Burns. In 1787 he was a guest of the estate manager Gavin Hamilton whose stepmother was the sister of Tait’s wife, Charles Murdoch.

It was during his two visits that year he fell in love with Margaret Hamilton, known as Peggy, and penned ‘Young Peggy Blooms’ and ‘My Peggy’s Charms’.

He also wrote ‘The Banks of the Devon,’ paying homage to the river running through the estate. A memorial to him stands near the East Lodge.