A MILLIONAIRE Tory minister and his wife are the new owners of one of Scotland's oldest inhabited mansions after it was sold for the first time in its 850-year history.

Energy Minister Charles Hendry and wife Sallie have bought the 14-bedroom Blair Castle in Ayrshire. The mansion near Dalry and its surrounding estate, including 1300 acres of land, had been on the market for £8 million.

However, it is understood the Hendrys have bought only the historic castle itself and a small piece of surrounding land, and did not pay the full asking price of £2.5m for that portion.

Much of the couple’s fortune comes from Mrs Hendry who received a multimillion-pound divorce settlement from her first husband -- a member of the Moores family, which once owned the Littlewoods empire.

Although born and brought up in Sussex, Mr Hendry attended Edinburgh University and began his political career in Scotland as the chairman of the university’s Conservative Association. He also has strong links to Ayrshire as his father’s family originally came from Ardrossan.

The sale was described as a “once in a lifetime” chance to own Blair Castle, after it came on the market for the first time in almost nine centuries.

Thought to be the oldest inhabited mansion of its type in Scotland, it has 14 bedrooms and its Norman tower is reputed to date back to 1105.

The castle had always been owned by the Blair family, which can trace its ancestry back almost 850 years to the time of William the Lion, who ruled Scotland between 1165 and 1214.

The king awarded the Barony of Blair to the first holder, Jean Francois de Blare, in 1165, and the variant spelling Blair passed down through the generations.

From its origins, the current A-listed building is thought to incorporate features dating from the late 13th century.

Its previous owners, Luke and Caroline Borwick, decided to sell so they could spend more time with their grandchildren in London.

Mr Borwick said last night: “Blair Castle has been a magnificent home to our family for many, many generations. While we are sad to see it change hands after all this time it was the only practical solution for the family. We wish the new owners every happiness.”

In recent years the castle has been used as an exclusive venue for corporate entertainment and weddings and had a five-star VisitScotland ranking. Mrs Hendry, who is involved in events management, hopes to develop that business.

The couple say they will be able to spend a lot of time at Blair Castle. Although they intend to continue to live in Mr Hendry’s constituency, in East Sussex, they hope to spend weekends and holidays in Ayrshire.

Mr Hendry told The Herald: “Sallie is delighted to have the opportunity to complete the restoration work of Blair, which has already been significantly carried out by the previous owners, and to develop its hospitality business which will continue to provide local employment.”

When the castle is rented out as a venue for weddings or family celebrations, local people are often drafted in as waiting staff.

The castle and its estate were put on the market in May, when the selling agents highlighted the fact it generated around £170,000 a year in income.

Last night a source close to the deal said Mr and Mrs Hendry “did not pay as much as the asking price”. The estate, which the couple did not buy, covers almost 1300 acres of Ayrshire farmland and woods.

Mr Hendry worked in public relations, before becoming an MP. He was appointed minister for Energy and Climate Change last May and previously served as Conservative Party deputy chairman and chief of staff to William Hague.



  • Blair Castle claims to be the oldest continually inhabited mansion house in Scotland, and dates back to the 12th century.
  • Legend has it the original tower was built by a Norman knight, possibly on the site of a stronghold of the Celts, and the original rocks used for the foundations can still be seen below one tower.
  • The land surrounding the structure came into the possession of the Blair family in 1165, when King William I of Scotland named Jean Francois Baron of Blair.
  • A second tower was added in 1205.
  • In 1668 the castle was converted into a stately home with a new wing by William Blair, a direct descendant of the baron.
  • He dedicated the new construction to his wife, Lady Margaret Hamilton, and their initials are carved into the masonry above windows.
  • Further adaptations were carried out in the 1800s by Captain William Fordyce Blair.