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The Gareloch at 7am This Morning

From Rhu Point



Shandon Hydro

One of the bonuses of having a dog again is that it is an incentive to go on some of the delightful walks in this area. We’re spoiled for choice, because within 20 miles of where I live there are dozens of rewarding scenic walks. One of the walks I used to take my old dog Jet (a greyhound lurcher) before he got too infirm was in the grounds of Shandon Hydro (an upmarket spa hotel now long gone) and the disused railway line which serviced it.

I took Sally down there today and re-acquainted myself with a walk I’ll no doubt now be taking regularly again.

This old level crossing gate has remained despite being unused since 1939

This old level crossing gate has remained despite being unused since the second world war (edit: I have since found out it was used until the 1970's)

The walk follows the old railway line which ran parallel with the West Highland Railway (Glasgow to Fort William and Mallaig) and which at one time was a branch line from the village of Rhu to Shandon/Faslane. The Hydro occupied a position near what is now the Faslane Naval Base which is home to the Trident armed submarines or Britain’s nuclear deterrent (if you believe that version of events).


The Trident Base at Faslane

The Shandon Hydro was originally the home of brilliant Dumbarton born engineer and steamship pioneer Robert Napier

Shandon Hydro in 1901

Shandon Hydro in 1901

Source:  here

The house was originally built as a private house for Robert Napier, the shipbuilder. On his death in 1876, it was purchased by a largely Glasgow-based syndicate who added a swimming pool and the Turkish baths before opening it as a hydro.

The two pages reproduced below, are taken from a four page ‘winter circular’ published at the end of the nineteenth century. They show the winter charges and the ‘General Regulations’. Strict though these seem, they are less severe than those in several other similar establishments. ‘Visitors who formerly wintered in the South of France have found in the Sheltered position of Shandon, on the shores of the Gareloch, equal protection from the severity of the weather with all the comforts and conveniences of Home.’

*There remain hydros at Dunblane Crieff and Peebles. That is to say large multi purose hotels occupying their own estate. I remember a visit to Crieff Hydro in the mid 90’s when it was still a temperance hotel (there was no alcohol on sale) Whilst that has changed now, Crieff Hydro still has strict rules relating to the serving and consumption of alcohol on the premises. Presumably Shandon was a temperance establishment as well.

* Water is best: the hydros and health tourism in Scotland, 1840-1940 / Alastair Durie. — Edinburgh : John Donald, 2006. — p.80


These printed sheets are amazing. Servants for hire (£6 per month!) to work a 15 hour day! Morning prayers, cut flowers etc. etc. Despite on the one hand the opulent luxury, some of these rules are incredible – the wakening bell for instance! Lights out in public rooms at 10:30pm and “Visitors are requested not to engage in  loud conversation in the corridors and bedrooms after 11:00pm” which was the same time they were requested to turn their heating off.

It shows how used to, and accepting of, rules even the rich were in relatively recent history.

This is the (presumably man made) lake which I took a photo of this morning. The old picnic tables are still there along with a little jetty where the (wealthy) guests no doubt ventured onto a rowing boat.

There’s also the remains of a bandstand nearby.


The outbreak of WW2 signaled the end for Shandon Hydro as it was commandeered by the government (presumably because of its proximity to the naval base)

I believe it was demolished before the end of the war.

However 70 years later its memory is still very much in evidence.