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The Temple of Theseus, Pitfour Lake, near Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire

The Temple of Theseus

The Temple of Theseus, The Pitfour estate, in the Buchan area of north-east Scotland, was an ancient barony encompassing most of the extensive Longside Parish.

The Temple of Theseus
The Temple of Theseus

Stretching from St Fergus to New Pitsligo. It was purchased in 1700 by James Ferguson of Badifurrow, who became the first Laird of Pitfour.

The temple was built as a bathing house for the Pitfour Lairds, one of them even kept alligators in it at one point!

The Temple of Theseus

It’s in a sad state of repair nowadays and is awaiting renovation, near Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire.

The Temple of Theseus

The estate was substantially renovated by Ferguson and the following two generations of his family.

At the height of its development in the 18th and 19th centuries the 50-square-mile (130 km2)

The first three lairds transformed the estate into a valuable asset. Lord Pitfour, the second laird, purchased additional lands including Deer Abbey and Inverugie Castle. Pitfour’s son, James Ferguson, who became the third laird, continued to improve and expand the estate by adding the lake and bridges, and establishing planned villages.

The third laird died a bachelor with no children, so the estate passed to the elderly George Ferguson, who was only in possession of the property for a few months.

Pitfour estate

George was already a wealthy man, owning lands in Trinidad and Tobago, but despite not directly improving the Pitfour estate he added considerable value to the inheritance passed to his illegitimate son.

The extravagant lifestyles of the fifth and sixth lairds led to the sequestration of the estate, which was sold off piecemeal to pay their debts.

What remained of the estate was sold after the First World War.

Pitfour estate

The mansion house was demolished in about 1926, and its stone used to build council houses in Aberdeen. In more recent times some of the remaining buildings, including the temple, the bridges and the stables, have been classified as at high risk by Historic Scotland because their condition has become poor.

The chapel was fully renovated and converted to a private residence in 2003; the observatory was purchased and restored by Banff & Buchan District Council (now Aberdeenshire Council) and can be accessed by the public. The racecourse has been forested since 1926, and the lake is used by members of a private fishing club.

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