If the perfect trip takes you as far out of your own life as possible, then the ultimate adventure can be had in and among the estates of Scotland. How best to channel the royal existence for a weekend or more?
You could buy a Scottish estate of your own, like the 12,000-acre Tillypronie Estate in Aberdeenshire, which was sold in 2016 and comes with an 11-bedroom stone manor, salmon river, gardens, and Scots pine-studded forest, though the price tag of $13.6 million might give pause, not to mention the payroll for all those butlers, gardeners, housekeepers, and cooks you’d need to run the place.
Or, you could go to an agent who specializes in sporting “lets”—British parlance for rentals—and book a country house or estate lodge for a week. In the Highland hamlet of Old Struan there is Kindrochet Lodge on the Atholl Estates. Rents for the Victorian stone lodge, which sleeps 16, start at around $3,000 a week—internet included, but exclusive of housekeeper, cook, provisions and tips. Guests commonly dress for dinner. Tartans optional.
Start with an 11th-century medieval fortress nestled between the French regions of Bordeaux and Cognac. Add 22 rooms with silky walls, rich berry-hued drapery, white marble baths, and cornice canopies. Then decide between veal with caramelized chanterelles or Ballotine quail with reduced grape and shallot chutney from Chateau de Mirambeau's Michelin-starred restaurant.
It is a great way to throw a house party, says Mark Merison of Merison Sporting Ltd, based in Wiltshire. “You eat well, live well, and are in the company of good friends.”
There is also Corrour Estates, a 57,000-acre property set on the edge of Rannoch Moor, offered by George Goldsmith Ltd, of Exclusive Properties and Sporting Estates in Scotland. The granite, steel and glass contemporary lodge designed by award-winning architect Moshe Safdie features a dining hall that seats 40, seven en suite bedrooms with handmade mattresses and a rooftop hot tub. Rents start from $62,000 a week, fully catered for up to 14 guests. Ruffles and flourishes are happily tailored to order. For example, Goldsmith can arrange for a bagpipe player—or for something more full-throated, a complete pipe band with 20 pipers and five drummers—to do honors. “A lovely experience, especially after you’ve had a whiskey or two,” Mr. Goldsmith says.
Adherents of more traditional style might prefer the 18th-century 12-bedroom Knock House, on the 17,000-acre Benmore Estate on the Isle of Mull, listed by Robert Rattray of Perth-based Sporting Lets. Among its amenities: a 42-foot yacht that the owner is swapping out for a 50-foot boat in the coming season, tennis courts and a kennel with room for four dogs. It is priced from around $15,000 to $26,000) a week. (Find Ireland's most enchanting castle.)
One of the newest players in bespoke luxury letting is Edinburgh-based Reiver Travel, owned by Ted Innes Ker. In his previous job for a similar company, Innes Ker, more formally known as Lord Edward Arthur Gerald Innes Ker, second son of the 10th Duke of Roxburghe (“My brother will be the next duke. I’m a lowly lord,” he demurs), he once arranged for a group of Texas businessmen to spend three nights at Floors, his family’s castle, with helicopter hops to three premier golf courses and a night in a 15th-century castle before returning to Edinburgh. Cost for the week: a tad over $250,000. Whims are accommodated. A young guest craving macaroni and cheese, got it—served on crested china. Before departing, guests receive a leather bag with treats like haggis-flavored chocolates and cashmere socks.
A Scottish sojourn has been considered downright chic ever since Prince Albert bought Balmoral Castle in the Aberdeenshire Highlands for Queen Victoria in 1852. Current owner Queen Elizabeth II, who carries on the family tradition and spends summers there, and can sometimes be spotted motoring to Sunday services at Crathie Kirk, the nearby parish church.
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And if the lessee wishes to consummate the Highland Romance by buying an estate of his or her own? No problem. George Goldsmith and Robert Rattray can arrange that as well.