Let James Middleton Show You the Beauty of Nature at This Historic All-inclusive Estate in the Scottish Highlands
Remote properties give travelers the opportunity to truly get away and to experience impeccable scenery all around them, but planning for isolated stays can often be a challenge.
Enter Oetker Collection’s Masterpiece Estates, providing travelers with a host at each of its estates, and helping arrange everything from transportation to all-inclusive services to make getting truly away an easy possibility.
The unforgettable experience of being so immersed in nature at the collection's 19th century Victorian Glen Affric Estate, which sits nestled in the midst of a nature reserve spanning thousands of acres, can be felt as early as the ride up as views of moss-covered trees, black cliffs, and rivers emerge.
The lodge, which was originally built over 12 years under Lord Tweedmouth as a gift for his daughter, was purchased in 2008, underwent a refurbishment and later opened to guests for exclusive rentals under the ownership of David Matthews (owner of Eden Rock in St. Bart's and father-in-law to Pippa Middleton).
Today, guests can enjoy a stay with James Middleton as their host, who takes part in every step of the journey, from arranging activities like paddleboarding and boat trips to hosting intimate meals and providing area expertise.
The property includes seven double bedrooms, five bathrooms, and spaces like an afternoon tea parlor, a drinks cellar, dining rooms, and reading rooms that provide a relaxing atmosphere — but the real splendor awaits outside.
Glen Affric Estate is surrounded by more than 30 miles of ancient pine forests and one of Scotland’s largest ancient Caledonian pine woods, with animals that range from otters, red squirrels, and red deer, to osprey, native pine martens, and black grouse roaming its grounds.
The action starts as early as 6 a.m., when the wildlife begins to emerge with the sunrise, with each of the estate's rooms providing magnificent views for guests to enjoy as soon as they awake.
The surrounding weaving hills provide a range of walking trails that come with magnificent views of the Loch Affric, while the water provides a calm setting for activities like fishing, swimming, kayaking, and wind surfing.
Middleton's love of the countryside makes him an ideal guide as he helps guests acclimate to the range of wonders that await, from embarking on early morning swims in the Loch to whisking guests on boat rides to a lovely beach and hut at the end of the water (a magnificent setting for intimate outdoor wedding ceremonies).
Outdoor activites include mountain biking, clay pigeon shooting, deer stalking, and salmon fishing, which the estate's dedicated staff guides guests through, while a dedicated room housing Hunter boots and outdoor gear give travelers everything they need for the adventures that await.
Winter blankets the area in magical snow, which is all the more majestic when riding through the trails on the property's Highland ponies, while bees flock in the summer to create Scottish heather honey (an intensely aromatic, delicious, and thick honey) guests can enjoy at the estate.
In the fall, purple heather flowers put on a colorful display in combination with the golden hues and deer that can be seen frolicking and dipping into the water.
Inside the estate, historic charms radiate throughout, like in the reading room where scenes of the Highlands painted by 19th century artist Sir Edwin Landseer can be seen today.
In addition to the main lodge, guests will also find a stable cottage that houses two en-suite double rooms, one en-suite twin room, and the greenhouse used by the in-house chef James Lowe to prepare immaculate daily meals.
Meals are made with a focus on local ingredients, often coming straight from the grounds, which is why guests will spot pigs and chickens surrounding the property. Here, plates incorporate the meats — like 10-year-aged venison — into the mix.
Breakfast options range from traditional Scottish breakfasts (sausage, bacon, black pudding, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, eggs, avocado, and smoked salmon) to brunches featuring salads, roasted beef fillets, and lemon desserts topped with lime-infused blueberries.
Packed lunches with hot soup, sausage rolls, and sandwich selections let guests spend their time outside in comfort, while afternoon tea services include finger sandwiches, scones with wild jam, and pastries like parsnip and banana cake.
Dishes offer unexpected gourmet twists, from smoked haddock topped with a cheese and beer sauce to an apple terrine with raisin puree and an olive oil shortbread crumble or chocolate mouse served with a delectable pistachio ice cream.
Alongside tasty dishes, stays also incoporate pre-dinner drinks, canapes, and wine selections, while a range of whisky and Scottish gin tastings can also be organized in spaces like a cellar dedicated to drinks guests enter through candle-lit stairs and corridors.
The property also offers beauty treatments and massages, though the surrounding scenery provides a relaxing escape in itself.
My two-day experience here was my most rejuvenating stay and sleep yet, with estate representatives saying they often have guests point out the impeccable sleep they get thanks to a combination of clear air, a lack of light pollution, and the peaceful quiet that sweeps the terrain.
But the most appealing aspect of staying at Glen Affric Estate might be the personalized experience guests receive, from a turndown service that includes a note and goodies from the host to each guest, to itineraries set just for travelers and cozy evenings spent chatting next to a lit fireplace with spectacular views of nature no further than a look away.
Bookings can be made through Oetker Collection, with all-inclusive stays at the property starting at $16,900 based on accommodation for up to 20 guests for a minimum of two nights.