Ardo House is a group of historic granite buildings built in the 18th and 19th century as the centre of a farming estate. It is surrounded by 5 acres of grounds sheltered by large trees and the low hills of the Parish of Belhelvie.
Mary and Chris Cane have been at Ardo since 1986 and manage the comfortable self-catering accommodation as a place to relax or a base to explore the surrounding area of North East Scotland.
Up to the uprising of 1715 Ardo was part of the much larger Belhelvie Estate, now the Parish of Belhelvie. Belhelvie means the mouth of seven rivulets. It was poor land, overlooking the sea, hilly, boggy, stoney. The land had few trees, it was covered by Rushes Gorse and Cotton grass. The names of the farms tell the story of how the land was before it was improved for agriculture. Cannahars means Cotton grass, Dubby is muddy, Muir is marsh, Sheiling is Shepherds house. The name Ardo probably came from an old word Ardache meaning high ground. Actually it is not high, but the hill here in front of the house is high compared to the land around. It is on the old maps as Ward hill a derivation of Watch hill. It has a great view of the coast the city and the hills across to the west. From it can be seen seven parishes. From it’s name Ward there is the probability it was used for watch fires. (For more information on the parish in the 1700‘s see the online edition of ‘The Thanage of Fermartyn’ by the Reverend William Temple.
Up until the Jacobite rebellion, the Belhelvie land was held by James the Earl of Panmure. He supported Bonnie Prince Charlie who was finally defeated in 1746 at Culloden. www.historic-scotland.gov.uk The Earl fled to France and forfeited his land to The British government as did all the Jacobites. The estate was bought up by The Yorkshire Building company for £60,400 and it was divided into several large parcels of land, one of which was Ardo to the west, three miles from the coast.
It was common for teams of up to twelve animals to be working the ploughs in Belhelvie. The last of these ‘twal owsen’ (twelve ox) ploughs was used in 1785 by a tenant farmer in Belhelvie. In 1786 Ardo was purchased by Mr Dingwall, a stocking manufacturer of Aberdeen. He farmed the land for Beef and Barley. He was the Provost (mayor) of Aberdeen from 1799-1801. The modest farmhouse at Ardo was enlarged in the 1850s, by adding a Victorian wing. It was a reasonably sized estate of around 500 acres
In 1920 the first tractor appeared in the parish.
In 1849 until 1952 Ardo was owned by the Harvey family. The estate covered several hundred acres. Farm houses were built and tenants lived and worked on their farms.
Middlemuir and Cannahars were the large farms of around 200 acres, and there were several other smaller ones.
Ardo would have been fairly self sufficient until cars meant Aberdeen was close enough for regular shopping. Its water was gravity fed from Beauty Hill a mile and a half away. It had one of the earliest telephones and electricity was fed here in 1937. There was a blacksmith shop for iron work, a mill for grinding corn. Trees were grown for shelter and timber. There were areas of peat for fuel and wetter land was used for coppicing smaller trees. In the 1850s the new front part of the house was built and the gardens extended to its present 5 acres. The walled garden walls were built and the Beech hedges planted.
Around 1914 and 1916 a grey granite porch with an oak paneled interior was added to the front of the house. The conservatory was built around that time too. It was built by James Walker who was a ‘Hot House Builder’ from Aberdeen. A visitor here says she remembers peaches being grown in this hot house during the second world war. She says the gardener protected them fiercely knowing they were so tempting.
The Last of the Harvey family Captain and Mrs Harvey-Leutit sold off the farms to the tenant farmers in 1948.
There were three owners between then and when it was purchased by the present owners in 1986.
In 1935 as part of the celebration for the silver anniversary of the King George the Fifth. Captain Harvey-Leutit took cine film of the local parish activities. The films were shown to the Parishioners at the local hall who paid a sixpence to see themselves on celuloid. The reels were then stored for several decades until they were reopened in the 1990s in a church cupboard. It was restored by the Scottish Film Archive. The black and white stills are from those films.