In touch with the nation’s history
This ancient property in Aberdeenshire will provide its new owners with a link to the very heart of modern British society
In keeping with the past in Aberdeenshire
CASTLE living in the 21st century may not be as daring and dangerous as it was in days of old but it is still an exciting prospect. The thrill of knowing your family home comes with its own fair share of historical intrigue and is connected to famous families of the past is all part of the charm of Balbegno Castle in Kincardineshire. Balbegno is the jewel in the crown of the Fasque Estate near Fettercairn, located roughly halfway between Dundee and Aberdeen on the eastern fringe of the Grampian Mountains. Two of Britain’s most prestigious families were involved in the establishment and development of the Fasque Estate. The Ramsays of Balmain owned the estate from the 15th century but their lavish expenditure on it proved their downfall, and they sold it to the Gladstone family in 1829. Leith-born John Gladstone, a grain merchant in Liverpool, made his fortune trading in corn and cotton and he became a Member of Parliament between 1818 and 1827.
He was created a baronet by the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, in 1846 and he died just a few years later. He is buried at St Andrew’s Episcopal Chapel, a short distance from Fasque House.
Sir John was survived by his children including most notably, four-time British Prime Minister, William Gladstone. Although William never stayed at Balbegno, he loved the estate and visited regularly, often walking the 15 miles from Banchory station in Deeside to get there.
Current owner Charles Gladstone, a great, great, great-grandson of William, inherited Balbegno several years ago and has lavished “much love and energy” on the Baronialstyle building and surrounding grounds, which extend to around 21 acres.
“The original castle dates back to 1560, and with a beautifully proportioned Georgian wing added in the 18th century,” explains Charles, who is well-known as the organiser (alongside his wife Caroline, musician and singer Cerys Matthews and record industry and arts consultant Steve Abbott) of The Good Life Experience festival in north Wales.
“It is a sensational family home and the location is perfect – you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere but in fact, you are close to two major cities, Aberdeen and Dundee.”
Set in mature parkland in the southern part of the estate, a short distance from the village of Fettercairn, the castle includes six stylish and comfortable bedrooms and there is scope to develop further living accommodation within the original tower.
Tastefully redecorated in subtle, contemporary colours with high quality furniture throughout, the main accommodation is arranged across two floors and also includes three reception rooms.
The extensive gardens include a croquet lawn, beds of roses and other plants and shrubs, and several ornamental trees. Beyond the garden lies parkland, which provides a buffer between the castle and the public road, perfect for exploring – look out for beech, ash and horse chestnut trees and the wonderful 17th century doocot.
One of the most interesting rooms in the castle is the spectacular Great Hall with its painted stone-carved vaulted ceiling depicting the Coats of Arms of the families of 13 Scottish Peers.
“There used to be 14 but there was
The plasterwork in this fantastic hall, which dates back to 1560, has all been restored using yak hair
a falling-out and one was erased,” laughs Charles. “This is a fantastic hall and the original plasterwork which dates back to 1560 has all been restored using yak hair, believe it or not – apparently, you don’t use horsehair any more.
“We have tried to inject colour and light into the bedrooms and reception rooms, while staying truthful to the history of the house.”
Balbegno Castle is one lot of the Fasque Estate at Fettercairn, which is priced at £9.32m for the whole or split into 28 lots.
It is close to Fasque Lake, an eighthectare ornamental lake with three islands, a rowing boat and copious supplies of trout.
The diverse surrounding landscape includes opportunities for golf, field sports, walking and cycling while the paths to three of Scotland’s most easterly Munros – Mayar and Dreish at the head of Glen Clova, and Mount Keen on south Deeside are within an hour’s drive of the estate.
Despite its rural location, Balbegno is close to good transport links including mainline rail connections at Montrose and Stonehaven and motorway access via the A90.
The closest village shop, post office and hotel lie at Fettercairn, or Fetterie, as it is affectionately known locally, which dates back over a thousand years.
The majority of the buildings that exist today have been built since 1645 when the village was sacked and burned by the Marquis of Montrose’s army.
“It’s been wonderful owning Balbegno, as it is rooted in the local history,” adds Charles.
“We will be sorry to see it go but we hope the new owners love it as much as we have.”
A SHIELD OF GREEN: Beyond the garden lies parkland, which provides a buffer between the castle and the public road.
A TURN AROUND THE POLICIES: Former Prime Minister William Gladstone once owned the castle, the current owner is a relative.