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Issue 24 - Hidden luxury in the Highlands

Scotland Magazine Issue 24
January 2006


This article is 12 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Hidden luxury in the Highlands

Alladale is a vast estate packed with natural beauty. It can also host visitors in luxury. Ian Mitchell visited it

Set in the gorgeous Northern Highlands, close to the Sutherland/Ross-Shire border, Alladale Estate is so remote that I had some difficulty locating it on the map before visiting.

Remote – yet accessible at only an hour’s drive from Inverness airport or rail station.

The estate has become a high focus place over the last few years, with the stated aims of its owner, Paul Lister, to re-introduce formerly native Scottish species such as wolf, boar, lynx-and brown bear.

Advocates and supporters of such visionary ideas have been loud in their comments. But why not go, as I did, to Alladale and judge for yourselfand have the opportunity to ‘live like a laird’ at the same time?

Or possibly I should say ‘live like a Maharaja’ since Alladale was built in 1877 as a traditional hunting lodge for an Indian prince.

It is now fully renovated and refurbished providing an unrivalled opportunity to sample the ultimate getaway location.

Lying equidistant between the Atlantic and the North Sea – both can be seen from Alladale’s mountain tops on a clear day – Alladale’s 23,000 acres, five glens, three rivers and 10 lochs are the home to golden eagles, red deer, pine martens, badgers, salmon and other wildlife.

The estate is accessible only by a two mile drive on a private road from where the public road ends.

Alladale Lodge itself provides the ultimate in luxury accommodation for up to 16 people. It is not a hotel open to the public, but a retreat which recreates a ‘house party’ ambiance.

It is fully serviced, including the provision of a cook and domestic staff, to complement the four rangers who oversee the outdoor side of the enterprise.

The rangers are all locals, whose knowledge and experience add enormously to the enjoyment of a stay at Alladale.

The creation of this ultimate retreat is the brainchild of Paul Lister, who has overseen the installation at Alladale of the most up to date conference facilities, which – unlike in many other competing locations – are complemented by on site stalking, fishing, archery and falconry for those, or their partners, attending conferences or business meetings at the lodge.

But while the lairds and maharajas of the past had a simple hot bath waiting at the end of a hard day, today at Alladale massage, aromatherapy and other relaxations, with a Wellbeing Therapist and Personal Trainer, await you.

However Alladale is not simply a corporate location, but can be hired for exclusive use by a group of friends wishing to experience, with modern comforts, the life of a Highland estate from the 19th century.

The food is sourced locally whenever possible, (indeed, you might be lucky enough to have shot or caught it yourself), and is mainly organic in its production.

Naturally game such as local venison (including the estate’s delicious home-cure) feature highly on the menu, as does wild salmon.

You can lounge like a laird here, or you can be as active as you want. The estate runs educational weekends, where guests can develop their interests in painting, photography, cooking, learning to fly fish, or engaging in bird watching.

But Alladale is not simply the ultimate luxury retreat, but is underlain by a serious and long term vision. The estate is the home to the most northerly remnant of the Caledonian forest in Scotland, and a planned reforestation campaign of 300,000 Scots Pine is being undertaken.

Alongside this, deer numbers are being reduced to improve a habitat damaged by over-grazing. To help in this task the estate is offering eco-experience programmes, where guests can engage in the work of “doing something for the mountains and making them glad” in the words of the Scots born environmentalist John Muir.

These opportunities include tagging and surveying the wildlife, tree planting and dyke and drainage repair work on the estate. These activities are based at Deanich Lodge, which takes up to 10 guests. It is accessible only by a seven mile drive further into the heart of estate in 4x4 vehicles. It doesn’t get more remote and wild than this!

As well as restoring a healthy balance between exisiting species on the estate, Paul Lister hopes to establish an environment which can sustain species re-introduction.

Plans are well advanced to created enclosures where, as early as next year, it is hoped to release formerly native species such as wild boar and elk, to complement the existing wildlife, and add to the quality of the guests’ escape.

While ideas for limited species re-introduction within smaller enclosures might be readily implemented, Paul’s ultimate vision of the entire estate being fenced as a game reserve where wolf, bear and other predators roam freely, could be more problematic to achieve.

There are places which might offer part of the Alladale Experience – the remote and beautiful location, or the opportunity to take part in ecotourism or the chance for a luxury away from it all breakaway or the ultimate conference location – but few if any of these places can offer the opportunity of experiencing them all, which you find here.

To celebrate the completion of the refurbishment work on the Lodge, Alladale are advertising some great special offers through to February 15, 2006.

Separate Christmas and New Year breaks which offer exclusive use of the Lodge are also available.

Details of these breaks, and further information can be had from or Andrew Harding at Alladale, Tel: +44 (0)1863 755 338

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