Live your life lead­ing the field

The Herald Magazine - - etc SCOTLAND’S HOMES HOT PROPERTY - ANN WAL­LACE

WHEN he was a child, Wil­liam Gal­lacher spent many happy sum­mer hol­i­days in Scot­land, “mess­ing about and fish­ing”.

“I grew up in Hert­ford­shire – my par­ents were Scot­tish but moved down south for work,” he ex­plains. “We would come up here for hol­i­days, though. And my mother al­ways said to me – if you do go back, make sure you go back to Aberdeen­shire.”

Wil­liam did, and liv­ing at his won­der­ful his­toric home Skel­later House in Strath­don has not only rekin­dled his child­hood af­fec­tion for the area, it has also al­lowed him to con­tinue his favourite hobby.

“The house is sit­u­ated be­side some of the best rivers in Scot­land – the Spey and the Dee, the Deveron and the Don,” he ex­plains. “It’s per­fect if, like me, you en­joy fish­ing. It is one of the things which drew me to the prop­erty in the first place. It is also iconic, this house – I think it looks amaz­ing.”

Skel­later House is in­deed a com­mand­ing prop­erty, with hills ris­ing be­hind and a long, sweep­ing drive­way in front. It was built by Lach­lan Forbes in 1727. The Forbes fam­ily crest re­mains above the door, a re­minder of the fam­ily’s in­ter­est­ing and dis­tin­guished past.

George Forbes fought at Cul­lo­den and died in Oc­to­ber 1767; John Forbes mar­ried a Por­tuguese princess and be­came a Field Mar­shal in the Por­tuguese army – he died in Brazil in 1809. “We have had vis­its from a few mem­bers of the Forbes clan – one from South Africa, an­other from South Amer­ica – keen to learn more about the an­ces­tral home,” smiles Wil­liam, who bought Skel­later around 10 years ago. “It is fun to be able to show them around.”

The house was com­pletely gut­ted prior to its restora­tion in 1975 by builder Alas­tair Harper. In 2004, un­der the guid­ance of ar­chi­tect Michael Ras­mussen, Aboyne con­trac­tor Mike Forbes built a spec­tac­u­lar kitchen in the old sta­ble block, for which he was pre­sented with the Fed­er­a­tion of Mas­ter Builders Crafts­man­ship Award.

“The orig­i­nal kitchen was very small, so the work done to cre­ate the new kitchen was in­cred­i­ble,” says Wil­liam. “It is a fan­tas­tic room.”

At the same time the in­te­rior was re­worked by Mikhail Pi­etranek of Bal­later. Lo­cal crafts­men were em­ployed to add new fire­places to the din­ing room, draw­ing room, hall and bed­room, as well as adding cor­nices and chang­ing ar­chi­traves. All of the work was done un­der a His­toric Scot­land Cat­e­gory A List­ing.

The ap­proach to Skel­later is im­pres­sive – the long, straight drive ris­ing gen­tly to a cir­cu­lar sweep at the front is very grand, a re­minder of the orig­i­nal owner’s stand­ing.

It is beau­ti­fully dec­o­rated in­side, a wel­com­ing fam­ily home which com­bines the fine de­tail and his­tory of the 18th cen­tury with all the lux­ury and flex­i­bil­ity of 21st cen­tury liv­ing. In­side, there is a wel­com­ing hall­way, an el­e­gant draw­ing room and fan­tas­tic sit­ting and din­ing ar­eas, with the kitchen at its heart. A cloak­room, of­fice, util­ity room and games room, plus the dou­ble garage and work­shop, pro­vide great flex­i­bil­ity.

There are five bed­rooms, a bath­room and a shower room. The at­ten­tion to de­tail, both in cre­at­ing authen­tic pe­riod fea­tures and in the

The sur­round­ing Aberdeen­shire coun­try­side is brim­ming with op­por­tu­ni­ties for field sports

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