The hotel is built on a rocky promontory that is in effect the last part of the high sea cliffs that run to the north of New Dunnottar. To the south of the hotel the cliffs drop away to the flat, sandy beaches of New Dunnottar itself. Just to the south of the hotel is the natural harbour of New Dunnottar, where the River Spreewell meets the Atlantic Ocean after its short journey from the Lathmoor Hills.
This natural harbour, sheltered by the promontory, is probably what attracted the first settlers who hailed from the town of Dunnottar on the east coast of Scotland. The site was first settled some time in mid-17th century, but no records exist of the town until 1688 when the Manor House of Richard Montrose, one of the original settlers, which was built on the site of the hotel, was burned down.
By all accounts the promontory was left uninhabited for over 150 years until 1846 when a coaching inn was established to serve the new coaching road then being extended along the coast. Rather than build the inn in the town itself, the rather unlikely site of the old Manor House was chosen. Whether the coaching inn would have been successful we shall never know as it too burnt down in 1848.
The next milestone in the history of the House on the Hill came in 1927 when a group of local businessmen decided to build a hotel on the hill to cash in on the growing number of people escaping urban life in New England and beyond for a vacation in the country. A description of the hotel in 1928 can be found here.
Sadly history seemed destined to repeat itself since, shortly after the new hotel opened in 1928, it too burned down. The site lay empty until early 2007, when it was given a new lease of life by a consortium of New England property developers led by Mr Seth Arnold, who decided to fund the restoration of the House of the Hill to its former 1920s glory. The result is a magnificent hotel in one of New England's most appealing locations, full of the charms of the 1920s but without sacrificing any of today's modern conveniences.
The promontory on which the hotel is built was originally connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. It is still in use today, but is regularly submerged at high tide, limiting access to the hotel. The approach to the causeway is along a steep path that winds down the cliff, with an equally steep path on the hotel's side, leading up to the plateau on which the hotel is built.
Adventurous guests may still use this route if they wish. However, over the years, several bridges have been built to connect the hotel site with the mainland, the first one being constructed in 1847. By 1927 a new footbridge had been built, but this was destroyed along with the hotel in the fire of 1928. Only in 2007, when construction work started on the restoration, was a new bridge put in place. Keeping faith with the 1920s restoration of the hotel, this was a footbridge. As before, guest parking is provided on the site of the old stable block on the mainland, a short walk from the hotel proper. This leaves the whole of the top of promontory free to act as extended grounds for the hotel.
Mr Arnold has carefully researched the history of the hotel and has found that despite its short working life, it attracted several important guests, including the renowned writer, Miss Amelia Stonehard, author of such classics as "The Crystal from Beyond". Of course, in 1928, Miss Stonehard had yet to embark on her career as a writer, but what is little known is that as well as being a successful author, she was also a talented amateur artist. The painting shown below is "Guests on the Beach" believed to have been painted during or shortly after her stay at the hotel in 1928. It shows four guests walking on the beach at New Dunnottar with the promontory of the hotel in the background (the hotel is actually hidden behind the left most of the figures).
Extensive research on the guest registers by Mr Arnold has enabled him to identify the four guests in the painting who are believed to be, from left to right, James Roberts, Roberto Giuliani, Benito Rossi and Nico Scafrati Jnr, all of whom stayed in the hotel in 1928. The original of the painting was obtained by Mr Arnold from Miss Stonehard's private collection on her death in 1998 and now hangs, with his kind permission, in the ballroom of the hotel.