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The 21st century Scottish estate

Times change, and even something as traditional as the Scottish estate moves with them. Emma Chalmers reports on what today’s buyers are seeking.

The traditional Scottish estate of 100 years ago was based on enjoying the country pursuits of fishing, shooting and stalking in the dramatic Scottish countryside. Family and guests stayed in the “big house” at the heart of the estate, which was geared pretty much exclusively towards these sporting pursuits, with farming enterprises running alongside.

The traditional country pursuits are still important on today’s estates, but modern owners are usually not focused purely on these sporting activities. Their motivation is just as likely to be conservation, recreation or the simple desire to get away from it all; owning a piece of Scotland can be an opportunity to indulge a passion or a pastime and also generate an income.

The modern estate

The estates of the 19th and 20th centuries were not always seen as sources of income, but today’s owners are far more commercially minded and expect their estates to be as selfsufficient as possible. This may involve developing renewable energy projects, exploring afforestation opportunities, renting out cottages as holiday homes, turning the principal house into a wedding or event venue or adapting traditional outbuildings as breweries, artisan distilleries or kitchens for niche food production.

Many estates have farms run either inhand by the owner or tenanted on short, medium or longer term agreements, some of which run for generations. The wide range of commercial opportunities, hand-in-hand with traditional country pursuits, allow the 21st century estate owner to get away from it all in beautiful countryside and enjoy generally healthy capital growth, so it’s no surprise that there continues to be strong demand from prospective purchasers from all over the world.

Estate Sales

The number of estates coming to the open market has declined over the past four years. Most sales are handled by the agent on a strictly private basis, sellers being drawn to this method as they seek a quiet departure from their estate.

Strong demand continues with potential buyers seeking estates across Scotland from the remote Highlands to the rolling Perthshire countryside and down to the Borders. The west coast continues to be of great interest with its beaches and dramatic scenery.

A residential estate with principal house, a number of cottages and perhaps 100 or so acres is highly sought after, particularly when it is accessible from airports and the cities.

In the past five years, Galbraith has handled the sale of more Scottish estates than any other firm. We are involved in estate transactions from all sides: buying, selling or providing valuation advice.

When an estate is brought to the market it may be the first time for generations and it is essential the sale is handled by professional agents experienced in the market. A landed sale involves many intricacies and an understanding of these complexities is essential.

Valuing an estate requires a detailed knowledge of the worth of the elements that make it up, such as deer, salmon, grouse, forestry or planting land, farmland, buildings, cottages, and of course the principal house or shooting lodge. Values vary depending on quality, location and other issues but capital values at present, based on a five-year average, are approximately in the following range:

Red Stags   £30,000 to £45,000
Driven Grouse £3,500 - £4,500 per brace
Walked Up Grouse £2,000 - £2,500 per brace
Planting Land £1,500 - £2,000 per acre


Galbraith has a long pedigree in the estate market. Whether selling, buying or valuing, we have highly experienced professionals covering Scotland and the north of England.