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Model Olga Roh to turn Inchdrewer Castle into home

Inchdrewer Castle near Banff in Aberdeenshire. Picture: Hemedia

Inchdrewer Castle near Banff in Aberdeenshire. Picture: Hemedia

  • by FRANK URQUHART
 

A RUSSIAN princess and former supermodel has pledged to turn a ruined Scottish castle she bought on the strength of a few photographs into an idyllic escape from the “madness of Fashion Week”.

Ex-Versace model Olga Roh became a baroness last year when she and her husband bought ruined Inchdrewer Castle in Aberdeenshire for a reported £400,000.

The millionairess, who is the creative director of her own fashion house Rohmir, also inherited the ancient title of Baroness of Inchdrewer when she bought the 16th-century fortress, which is on Scotland’s buildings at risk register.

Ms Roh, 43, a mother-of-three who starred in reality TV show Meet the Russians last year, is now visiting the castle for the first time since she and her husband Stephan, a lawyer and economist from Switzerland, completed the sale last November without seeing it first-hand.

She has pledged to restore the keep on the outskirts of Banff to its former glory and turn the castle into a Scottish bolthole – whatever the cost.

Ms Roh, a descendent of Tsar Nicholas II, who was overthrown in 1917, said: “I have no intentions of turning it into Disneyland in Banff.

“Living in the crazy world of fashion, it can be difficult to find somewhere to call home. My children feel most at home on a plane sometimes.

“We have stayed in Monaco, Switzerland, London and various other places but it’s difficult to disconnect in these places. I love the idea of coming to Scotland from the madness of Fashion Week to the peace and tranquillity of our castle. It still feels strange for me to say that, as I have only seen photographs so far. This will be my first visit.”

She added: “As a designer, I am very tactile and believe in the power of touch, so I think the first thing I will do is to feel the old walls of the building.”

Inchdrewer Castle, a grade-A listed keep, is believed to have been built in the early to mid-1500s.

In the course of its chequered history, the castle was attacked by the Duke of Cumberland’s forces in 1746 during the hunt for Bonnie Prince Charlie, following his defeat at the Battle of Culloden. King Edward VII is also said to have visited the castle during his reign.

Inchdrewer was abandoned in the early 1900s before being bought in the 1960s by colourful aristocrat Count Robin de la Lanne-Mirrlees, a friend of James Bond author Ian Fleming. Count Mirrlees, who also owned the islands of Great Bernera and Little Bernera in the Outer Hebrides, died in 2012.

The castle, with its commanding view over Banff Bay, was in a “mainly ruinous state” when Count Mirrlees bought the fortress, but it was partially restored and made wind and watertight by 1971.

No work has been carried out since then and the buildings at risk register states: “The castle is restored, though the interior is left uncompleted and the project is abandoned. External inspection finds the semi-restored building has deteriorated and is now on the cusp of ruination.”

Ms Roh is planning to turn the castle into a family home. She is also hoping her family can become a part of the community in the North-east.

She said: “My whole family has a deep love for Scotland. I think if you asked many Russians in London about Scotland, most of them wouldn’t have a clue. But I come from a much more traditional Russian family and know about history and the links between our two countries over the centuries.

“I really hope that the people of Banff will welcome us and not just see us as some crazy outsiders and oddballs who try to fit in.”

 

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