Kincardine Estate – by Andrew Bradford

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

The Land

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

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

At 57 degrees North timber grows slowly and reaches maturity, for saw-milling purposes, at between 55 and 100 years depending on species. Wartime fellings (both world wars) plus a violent storm in 1953 completely devastated our woodlands and most of the forest area was replanted with 1,250,000 trees between 1958 and 1972.

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 in 1930 are now >150′ tall and still 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 neighbouring estates and this now handles over 30,000 tons of timber per annum.

Recently the use of timber for biomass has influenced influence timber prices. Timber biomass 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 prevents us from doing this.

We farm about 400 acres ourselves.

Agriculture is heavily dependent upon Agricultural Support Policies. It will be interesting to see how this will change in the future.

Fishing

The River Dee forms our southern boundary and the estate owns a mile of 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. It takes around 6 years for the offspring of one generation of salmon to return as adults.

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 over-fishing at sea, 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.

Salmon fishing is an important local industry sustaining some 400 full-time equivalent jobs in Royal Deeside alone.

Please see our Fishing page for more information.

Shooting

The estate woodlands host a variety of game birds. Many of the smaller woods were planted to produce driven pheasants but, in doing so, we’ve created havens for a wide variety of other species too.  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.

Please see our Shooting page for more information.

Housing

The estate owns 69 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. Instead government pursues policies which cost the taxpayer more. We keep telling them they’re crazy not to try harder to work with us.

Commercial Property

The estate also rents some shops and 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 (see elsewhere on this website) and it is also used on several occasions a year for charitable fund raising purposes. Kincardine Castle also retains the role of a family home and it is this which gives it that special homely ambience so appreciated by all our guests along with our world-class cuisine and hospitality.

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 plant, fencing and ground maintenance as well as meeting the endless needs for repairs, refurbishment and even enlargement of our houses.

Food Production

In 2008 we started a small food production enterprise which now supplies delicious home baking, jams, chutneys and marmalades as well as seasonal items to local outlets. Seriously good food, locally produced.

Employment

At the latest count we employ 33 people in a mixture of full-time, part-time and casual jobs.  In a tiny rural community that’s a significant impact.

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.

 

Find Out More

Would you like to learn more about the history of Kincardine Estate? Please get in touch with our friendly team for more information.

 

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