Ramsay was the second son of the 14th Earl of Dalhousie and the Countess of Dalhousie (the former Lady Mary Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, sixth daughter of the 1st Earl of Ancaster). He was educated at Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford. He served in the Black Watch during the Second World War, gaining the rank of Major, and was awarded the Military Cross.
Ramsay married Margaret Stirling of Keir, daughter of Brigadier-General Archibald Stirling of Keir, a Member of Parliament, and a granddaughter maternally of the 13th Lord Lovat, in June 1940. They had three sons and two daughters.
In 1945, Ramsay was elected as the Unionist Member of Parliament for Forfarshire and served until 1950 when he succeeded as Earl of Dalhousie and Chief of Clan Ramsay on the death of his brother, the 15th Earl. He was appointed Governor-General of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1957, and served until 1963 when the federation broke up, becoming independent Zambia and Malawi.
In 1953, Dalhousie was awarded an honorary degree by Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, which had been founded in 1818 by the 9th Earl. He served as Lord Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother from 1965, Lord-Lieutenant of Angus (1967-1989) and Chancellor of the University of Dundee (1977-1992). He was a Lieutenant of the Royal Company of Archers, the monarch's bodyguard in Scotland and was created a Knight of the Order of the Thistle by Queen Elizabeth II in 1971. |}