Bamff estate has been owned by the Ramsay family since the year 1232, when Neish Ramsay, a doctor, was given the lands of Bamff, Fyal, Kinkeadly and Ardormie, as a reward for saving the life of his patient, King Alexander II of Scotland. He is reputed to have removed a hairball from his stomach in an early successful operation. Local legend tells a longer story involving a magic potion made of a white snake caught at the cave behind the Reekie Linn waterfall.
The present building began as a tower house whose origins are not known for sure but are likely to date to the 13th century. Sir James Ramsay, who collected and edited the charters, states that a “new tower” must have been built between 1580 and 1595 since a charter installs George 11 in the “Manes of Bamff, tour, fortalis, ortcheardes”. But contemporary architectural historians say that the new tower will most likely have been built on the site of the old tower and some of the stonework will date from the original building. It was unusual to move the building unless there was a problem with the site. In the case of Bamff, built on a rock in otherwise low wet ground, the site was well chosen.
The house was altered and extended in the 18th and 19th century. The vaulted ceiling of the original kitchen was cut and the present library was made out of the space above. In 1820 the present dining room was added, as a drawing room, and in 1843 the architect Robert Burn remodelled the house. The area in front of the house was lowered at that time to raise the height of the basement floor and create the present hall. This also involved removing a double external staircase, which had given direct access to the first floor. Elaborate ceilings were added to three of the rooms at that time along with the present main staircase. The spiral staircases at the back, various other offices were added, along and the present kitchen began life as the dining room.
At this time most of the Old Brewhouse was built, incorporating part of an older building. It was used as scullery, larders, brewhouse, dairy and washroom in the days when the estate was partially self sufficient and made its own beer, butter and cheese. Paul’s mother remembers her mother’s claim that the butter at Craighall was never as good as Bella’s butter at Bamff. (Bella was the dairymaid, of course).
Things were changed around quite a bit in the late 1920s: marble fireplaces (probably dating from the Burn alterations) were removed and replaced. Four rooms were added for staff on the east side. The contents of the house have been accumulated by the family over the last 250 years.
During the second world war Bamff House was used by the Women’s Land Army as accommodation for a task force of young women, known as lumberjills, who worked as foresters in the surrounding woodland producing timber for the war effort. One of these women, in her eighties, came to visit the house a few years ago. She had been a secretary in Perth when the war broke out, aged around 22. She had joined the women’s land army and been posted to Bamff where she and the other young women started work in the woods at 7.30 am and worked a ten hour day, cutting down trees without chainsaws and extracting them from woods with ponies. At the end of this long day they would run down to Alyth (3 miles), twice a week, to the dance, with their dancing shoes in a bag, and then change back into gym-shoes and run back up in time to get into the house before the curfew at midnight.*