OLD Camperdown has been muttering about the number of Highland estates

currently on the market. While we most certainly have more than enough

acres of our own to be getting on with, I have a feeling he might be

thinking of acquiring just another little bit of deer forest. And why


Mind you, we have had quite a few shocks recently in the Highlands,

what with Lord Kimball leaving Altnaharra in Sutherland; all that

wrangling over Mar Lodge; Billy Whitbread selling Kinlochewe; Algie

Cluff disposing of Clova, and the Forsyth family putting Ballathie in

Perthshire on the market.

I was just amazed to hear about Mark and Sandy Diks, the Dutch couple

who bought Ben Alder, near Fort William, for #1.5m only a few months

ago, and then decided to sell because Mrs Diks disliked the Scottish

climate! I could have understood this had she been Australian or

Italian, but the Dutch we have to shoot here are out in all weathers.

One can barely coax them indoors! Thinking about it, I really should

have driven over to have a chat with Mrs Diks. It could have made all

the difference!

Camperdown has also been going on about the modern trend of buying and

moving on. He refers, of course, to Peter de Savery, the English

yachting enthusiast, and Derek Holt, the Ayrshire businessman, who built

the Kip Marina. First of all, de Savery bought Glenborrodale Castle on

Loch Sunart, which he now runs as a hotel. Holt bought Skibo Castle in

Sutherland from the Carnegie/Thomson/Miller family, then, just a few

years later, sold on to de Savery. And now Holt has bought the Island of

Gigha from the receivers of the financially beleaguered Malcolm Poitier.

At least some of the old families are holding their own, but

significantly those with diverse business interests. Lord Laing, the

biscuit tycoon, who lives at Dunphail, near Forres, is virtually next

door to his brother Fergus, at Relugas, in Morayshire (some locals call

it Laingshire). I was really pleased to learn not long ago that Hector

Laing has set his sons up in neighbouring estates: Anthony and his wife

Fof, at Culmony, and Robert and his wife Fiona, at Bantrach.

Then there are the Ivory and the Gammell families who have been

leading lights in Glenisla in Angus for decades: James and Felicity

Ivory at Hole of Ruthven at Kirriemuir; Ian and Johanna Ivory down the

road at Ruthven House, near Meigle; Brian and Oonagh Ivory at Brewlands,

and those Gammell cousins, Jamie and Jimmy, at Alrick and Craig. Between

them, the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, the Keswicks, the Landales

and the Jardine Patersons, the latter families all from the Jardine

Matheson Hong Kong dynasty, account for a lot of Dumfriesshire.

And I was delighted to hear that Alistair and Elizabeth Salvesen have

bought the Whitburgh estate near Pathhead, in Midlothian. What with

brother Robin at Eaglescairnie in East Lothian; sister Evelyn, with

husband Ian Crombie, at Rankeilour in Fife; cousin Andrew at Findrack in

Aberdeenshire, and nephew Jeremy at Cardrona, near Peebles, it was about

time they returned from Cumberland.

But the clan feeling has always been strong in Scotland, although

maybe not in my family where my sister and I live as far away from each

other as possible. When Torquil, The Master of Camperdown, has finally

finished at Eton and Cirencester, we fully expect him to instal himself

nearby, most likely in the dower house used by my mother-in-law before

we packed her off on the world tour.

LAST night, I arranged for Fiona, our daughter who is at university in

Glasgow, to take a party of her chums to the Childline Ball being held

at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. I do wish I could have gone along

myself since I used to simply adore waltzing under those magnificent

chandeliers in the great ballroom. Mind you, that was in the days before

the local council turned the old place into a multi-purpose community

centre; as far as I know, there hasn't been a really smart dance there

for well over a decade. So maybe things are getting back to normal at


Anyway, the guest-of-honour last night was Esther Rantzen who presents

that amusing television programme about life, and although I have not,

as yet, heard from Fiona, with Mike D'Abo's Band from London (he was the

one who took over from the good-looking chap who sang Pretty Flamingo

with that Manfred Mann pop group in the 60s), a jazz band, and Scottish

country dancing into the bargain, it must have been just like the old


Sheriff Neil Gow has written in to chastise me about my bad spelling

for which I feel suitably humbled. Alas, I am not a journalist, I am

only a woman! I should say, however, that when Camperdown and I were

stalking on Arran, we visited Sannox Lodge at the north-east end, not

Strabane, where Lady Jean (as a Duke's daughter, a lady in her own

right) has done wonderful things to what I understand was formerly the

old factor's house, next to Brodick Castle.