Shandon Hydro - A Scottish Gem

 In 1833, Robert Napier, a Scottish marine engineer and shipbuilder bought land on the edge of the Gareloch at West Shandon to build a summer cottage, but soon like many of the Glasgow merchants he looked for an architect to build him a fairytale castle.  John Thomas Rochead had won a competition to design the Royal Arch in Dundee and would later design the Wallace memorial.  Napier commissioned him to create a mansion.  This was to be West Shandon House which cost £130,000 to build and was completed in 1852.  No expense was spared to build a quality house and Napier and his wife Isabelle Denny filled their new home with paintings by artists such as Rembrandt, Rubens, Vandyke and Titian, hung Gobelin tapestries and displayed objet d’art such as Sevres porcelain. They lived there happily until Isabelle died in 1875 and Robert in 1876.

The house was soon sold to a Glasgow based syndicate who intended to turn it into a hydropathic hotel.  Hydros, providing water cures in a luxury hotel, were particularly popular in Scotland at this time with more than 20 opening in the latter part of the 19th century.  Shandon Hydro, as it was called, included a heated salt water swimming pool, Turkish baths, a bowling green, a croquet lawn, a golf course and tennis courts.  There was a library full of popular books and greenhouses provided fresh flowers.  Smoking was strictly forbidden except in the Conservatory.

Safe pleasure boats were provided on the loch and broughams or landaus could be rented to take visitors on trips to Loch Lomond or Loch Long.  The Hydro proved extremely popular, until it was requisitioned early in World War One as an experimental submarine base and naval hospital.  Although restored to its role as a Hotel between the wars, its position next to the deep sea-loch on the Clyde made it essential to the navy once again in 1939.  Its popularity declined until it was destroyed in 1957 to make way for the Faslane naval base.

An interesting article on golf in Shandon can be found here