Overtoun House was built in 1859-63 for the Rutherglen chemical manufacturer James White. It was designed by the Glasgow architect James Smith (father of Madeleine Smith, who was the defendant in a notorious murder case). The building is made of sandstone from a nearby quarry, and is in Scots Baronial style. A distinctive feature is the porte-cochère main entrance on the northern side of the house; it is inscribed with biblical quotations.
James White's son, John Campbell White, occupied the house from 1891 to 1908; in 1893, he was created the first Lord Overtoun. He was responsible for a great deal of work carried out on the Overtoun estate. For example, nearby Overtoun Bridge
– and its associated driveway were completed in 1895. A hydro-electric scheme – Link
– to bring electricity to the house was begun c.1892.
Shortly before the construction of Overtoun Bridge
, the estates associated with the house were enlarged by the acquisition of land that was formerly part of the Garshake estates, to the west of the Overtoun Burn. To the north of Overtoun House, a folly castle (now gone) – Link
– was created not far from the Overtoun Burn. There was also a walled garden associated with the house.
Much further from the house, high up on the slopes at the foot of the Lang Craigs (the line of cliffs at the near edge of the Kilpatrick Hills), John Campbell White created a track called Lady Overtoun's Walk
– for the benefit of his wife; she would be conveyed there in a dog-cart, and, when walking on that track, she would be able to enjoy a fine view down towards Overtoun House and its wooded policies.
The house and estate eventually passed to Lord Overtoun's nephew, Dr John Douglas Campbell White. Dr White spent very little time in Scotland, and in 1939 he gifted Overtoun House and its estate to the people of Dumbarton. From about 1950 to 1970, the house was used as a maternity hospital; it then lay empty for a while, before being used by the Quality of Life Experiment (1975-76); it was later occupied for several years by the Spire Christian Fellowship. For its current use, see Link
– (the Overtoun House website).
The grounds are open to the public, and there are a number of woodland walks there, which are collectively referred to as "the Nature Trail". For a number of years (1970s-80s) there was a waymarked nature trail here, with an accompanying booklet; although the markers are now long gone, the name "The Nature Trail" is still in common use; see Link
For further information on Overtoun House, see its listed building report – Link
[References: "The Overtoun Nature Trail" (c.1980), a locally-produced booklet.]