One of Scotland’s finest sporting estates – a favourite of Queen Victoria’s now owned by the Astor family – has come up for sale just days before the Glorious Twelfth, with a £10.5m+ asking price – making it Scotland’s most expensive. And it’s rumoured that the Camerons are interested…
Sprawling across 12,000 acres of magnificent Aberdeenshire near Tarland, The Tillypronie Estate offers an exceptional 11-bedroom country house and gardens, set in amongst some top-of-the range shooting, stalking and fishing. Strutt & Parker is launching the property in six lots tomorrow (Tuesday 9th August).
Queen Victoria herself laid the foundation stone for Tillypronie House, which was constructed in 1867 by Sir John Clark, the diplomat son of the Queen’s physician, Sir James Clark. Victoria then visited the estate with her friend and confidant, John Brown (aka Billy Connolly).
The Royal connection doesn’t end there; our very own Queen Elizabeth planted a Dawyck Golden Beech in the gold-themed Golden Jubilee Garden, which opens up to the public twice a year. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan also got in on the gardening action at Tillypronie, planting some kind of conifer. Other famous guests include American writer Henry James, who described the property as “this supremely comfortable house – lying deep among the brown and purple moors”, and went on to wax about “the glorious view of sweeping hills and gleaming lochs that lies forever before the windows”.
More recently, The Daily Record reports that former Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha – whose mother Annabel is married to William Waldorf Astor III – has been sniffing around the property after moving out of Downing Street. “Sam Cam is an Astor,” says a local quoted by the Record. “Her mum is married to one of the Astors and speculation is rife that she has asked hubby David to buy it.”
The estate has been in the vendor’s family – which the Daily Mail describes as “Britain’s answer to the Kennedys” – since 1951, when they bought it from Sir Thomas Royden, the Chairman of the shipping line Cunard White Star (who had owned it since 1925). The current owner, Philip Astor (a former President of the Bullingdon Club) inherited it in 1984, and married his wife – Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country, Justine Picardie – at the estate back in 2012.
Tillypronie’s been a magnet for well-bred sporting folk for a few generations now, attracted by what Strutt & Parker calls “a remarkable variety of sport” including: driven grouse shooting; the renowned high bird Towie pheasant shoot; roe deer stalking, rough shooting and duck flighting; trout fishing on a number of gorgeous lochs, and salmon fishing along a 2.4-mile stretch of the river Don.
Historically, Tillypronie was one of the most prolific grouse moors in the Highlands, with a regular average of 2,000 brace a year during the 1960s and 1970s. There are four named beats and, while recent records have been more modest than in the past, increased investment in moorland management over the last five years has seen a steady improvement in the grouse bags achieved.
Philip Astor, the current owner: “Tillypronie is a truly magical place, which has given huge pleasure to family and friends of all ages since I inherited it over 30 years ago. The house is one of those places that immediately conveys a sense of happiness; and I don’t think the garden has ever looked so beautiful.
“I have worked hard over the past few years to restore the grouse moors to something approaching their former glory, but I feel it is now time for someone else to continue that exercise. Meanwhile I am immensely proud to have developed a spectacular pheasant shoot, where discerning teams of guns have been eager to return year after year.”
Selling agent Robert McCulloch, Partner in Strutt & Parker’s Edinburgh office: “The style, setting and outlook of Tillypronie House is like no other in Scotland. Nestled discreetly in the hills above the Howe of Cromar, the panoramic views across Deeside are inspirational at all times of year. Standing on the Tillypronie terrace on a summer’s evening, sipping a glass of something chilled, is priceless in itself.”