A WEALTHY Scots aristocrat with links to the royal family is selling off part of his empire in the shadow of the Grampians.

Thousands of acres of land that for 700 years have been in the ownership of the Ogilvy family, one of the country's most distinguished dynasties, have gone on the market for the first time. They are expected to raise around (pounds) 4m.

David Ogilvy, the 13th Earl of Airlie, a title created in 1586, is a former lord chamberlain of the Queen's household.

Last year the 78-year-old, a neighbour of the Queen Mother until her death two years ago, entered the ranks of the UK's richest people with an estimated fortune of (pounds) 30m.

The earl, whose brother is Sir Angus Ogilvy, the 76-year-old husband of Princess Alexandra, the Queen's cousin, has decided to sell off a portion of his grouse moor in Angus.

The Rottal and Tarabuckle sporting estates, which straddle both sides of Glen Clova, one of Scotland's most beautiful glens, are, as a package, for sale at offers over (pounds) 4m.

Airlie Estates, the trading body representing the family, owns large swaths of the county, consisting of more than 30,000 acres, largely in Glens Clova, Prosen and Moy.

At the heart of the estate is Cortachy Castle, the earl's principal seat near Kirriemuir. It dates back to the sixteenth century and is said to be haunted by the spirit of a drummer.

Ewan Berkeley, the family's factor, said that the reason for the sale was a ''rebalancing'' of its sporting, forestry, residential and fishing assets. ''We are simply reducing the amount of grouse moor with an eye to meeting the needs of the estate in the twenty-first century.''

He said proceeds would be reinvested in other areas and that two jobs affected by the land sale were expected to be taken over by the purchaser.

''The family is not turning its back on anyone or anything. It will remain heavily involved with the future prosperity of the activities in Glen Clova and its people,'' Mr Berkeley added.

The factor said considerable interest had been shown, both from the UK and abroad, and he expected any deal would involve a private individual.

Airlie Estates said it had no intention of disposing of any more of its land and would continue to own the remainder of the glen. F P D Savills, the estate agents selling the land, indicated that it had been instructed to market the estates as one lot or as separate ones.

A spokeswoman said last night: ''It's a very beautiful area and will create a lot of interest.''

The two estates on the market have in the past been run as one, covering some 11,740 acres in total.

They are renowned as driven grouse moors but also have red deerstalking and fishing on the South Esk.

Rottal, facing south with views down the glen and valued at more than (pounds) 3m, is the larger estate with 8000 acres.

It includes the 11-bedroom Rottal Lodge, five estate houses, farmland, a hill loch and about 150 acres of woodland.

Tarabuckle, on the western side of the glen, is around 3700 acres. It has a farmhouse and two cottages and is on the market at more than (pounds) 800,000.

A four-bedroom cottage, Wester Eggie, is also being offered for sale as a separate lot at offers over (pounds) 200,000.

When Princess Alexandra was married in 1963 to Sir Angus, who was recently treated in hospital for acute pneumonia, she allied herself with a family that can trace its ancestry back to Pictish times.

After Scotland became a united country, Ogilvy ancestors became the first Earls of Angus.

They were always staunch monarchists, and an Ogilvy helped Mary, Queen of Scots to escape from Lochleven.