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Kincardine Estate History

A brief account by Andrew Bradford

Formed out of much larger estates in 1710 Kincardine Estate was bought by my great-grandmother in the 1880s, although her family had previously been associated with the area for many centuries. Since then the property passed through the female line, hence my rather un-Scottish surname.

The estate covers some 3,000 acres and, roughly speaking, the land cover is:

Forest - commercial
1,500 acres
Forest - amenity
200 acres
Agriculture - tenanted
600 acres
Agriculture - in-hand
400 acres
Rough Ground, muir etc.
250 acres
Buildings, roads etc.
50 acres

The land ranges from elevations of 290 - 850 feet above sea level on ground which was heavily swept by ice between 2,500 and 5,000 feet thick only 11,000 years ago. Its amazing how it recovers if you wait a while. The estate runs a number of enterprises briefly described below.

Forestry: In these latitudes timber grows slowly and reaches maturity, for saw-milling purposes, at between 55 and 100 years depending on species. A violent storm completely devastated the woodlands here in 1953 and most of the forest area was replanted with 1,250,000 trees in the 20 years following that disaster.

The large trees in the policy grounds around the castle survived the storm and are older. There are some fine examples of beech, oak, ash and sycamore and also some North American species such as Douglas and Noble Firs. The tallest Douglas Firs, planted only 75 years ago, are now 150' tall and growing strongly.

Our timber produce faces international competition from Canada, the Baltic States and Russia and the returns from growing timber are small once the planting, harvesting and transport costs are taken into account.  

Some time ago we started a timber harvesting and marketing co-operative with our neighboring estates and this now handles over 40,000 tons of timber per annum.

Recently the use of timber for biomass has influenced influence timber prices and this provides the heat for Kincardine Castle.

Agriculture: Our farmland is not high quality land. The estate provides land, buildings and farmhouses for 6 small tenant farms. These are very modest enterprises. It would be far more efficient to amalgamate them into one large unit, but tenancy law rightly prevents us from doing this.

We farm about 400 acres ourselves.

Agriculture is heavily dependent upon support from the Common Agricultural Policy. It will be interesting over the next few years to see how reforms of the CAP will take effect.

Fishing: The River Dee forms our southern boundary and the estate owns salmon fishing rights on the north bank. Atlantic Salmon enter the Dee from the sea all year round and swim upriver to spawn in November. Adult salmon stay in the river as adults for up to 12 months and during this time they don’t feed. The young hatch in the spring and take between two and four years to grow large enough to migrate to sea.

The proportion of Atlantic Salmon that return from sea to breed in Scotland's rivers has declined in recent years. There are numerous theories as to why this might be and they include the effects of global warming on the sea temperature, poaching and predation by the huge seal population now resident in UK waters. On the Dee we are making strenuous efforts to turn things around. Commercial netting in the Dee Fishery District was bought out and all rod caught fish are being released. The fish conservation strategy started in 1995 and continues. It takes 6 years for the offspring of one generation of salmon to return as adults, and it is interesting to note some catch statistics from Kincardine Beat

  • 2001 - best season since 1989
  • 2004 - best season since 1988
  • 2009 - best season since 1986
  • 2011 - best season since 1980
  • Since 2000, the average catch has risen by over 160%.

Salmon fishing is an important local industry sustaining some 400 full-time equivalent jobs in Royal Deeside alone. In Scotland rod fishing brings in more money than does golf. More info...

Shooting: The estate woodlands host a variety of game birds. Many of the smaller woods were planted to produce driven pheasants. In recent years Kincardine Estate has produced some fine driven pheasant shooting. We have leased our shooting to a local syndicate. Shooting parties can, of course, stay in the house and shoot as we can rent shooting on neighbouring estates. More info...

Housing: The estate owns 70 houses. A few of these are tenant farm or employee’s houses but the bulk of them are rented as residential dwelling houses. Our rental policy seeks to support the local community. If all our houses were rented at the open market rent many local families would not be able to afford to live here. We therefore set rents, often well below market levels, to support local needs. Despite forgoing a very considerable quantity of rent in this manner housing is the estate’s biggest enterprise. Currently government bias against the private rented sector prevents us doing more to help those who need housing.

Property: The estate also rents 4 shops and a number of workshops and land for other commercial enterprises. We also have a quarry for granite which is used in repairing roads. It produces around 100,000 tons of rock a year.

Kincardine Castle: Kincardine Castle was built in 1894 to replace a rather more sensibly sized house which existed on the same site. Since 1985 we have used the castle for commercial purposes and it is also used on several occasions a year for charitable fund raising purposes. Kincardine Castle remains a family home and it is this which gives it that special homely ambience so appreciated by all our guests.

Property Maintenance: All our property requires managing and maintaining and we do a great deal ourselves with a small team of talented and dedicated staff. In many cases we provide the following services for our properties: roads, water supply, sewage treatment and ground maintenance as well as meeting the endless needs for repairs.

Summary: Kincardine Estate is a small but varied business. Our land is of high scenic and environmental value and parts of it, and many of the buildings and much of the land are recognised by national designation as being of special quality. Nicky and I have dedicated our lives to it and I hope you will agree that it is a glorious place. We are delighted to share it with you.

Andrew Bradford