Laird speaks of "simply appalling" reality of inheriting a country estate

The village of  Luss in the heart of Sir Malcolm's estate. PIC: Creative Commons.
The village of Luss in the heart of Sir Malcolm's estate. PIC: Creative Commons.
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A laird who owns 40,000 acres of some of Scotland's most beautiful countryside has spoken of the "simply appalling" reality of inheriting a country estate.

Sir Maclolm Colquhoun owns Luss Estate on the banks of Loch Lomond, which he took over following the death of his father, Ivar, 11 years ago.

Sir Malcolm of Colquhoun owns around 40,000 acres of around Loch Lomond but said the land was "completely useless" from a commercial point of view. PIC: Creative Commons.

Sir Malcolm of Colquhoun owns around 40,000 acres of around Loch Lomond but said the land was "completely useless" from a commercial point of view. PIC: Creative Commons.

In a newspaper interview, Sir Maclolm, who splits his time between Scotland, London and Ethiopia, where he funds a school project, said the estate was "very hilly, very beautiful" but "completely useless" from a commercial point of view.

He grew up in Rossdhu, the estate mansion, which was later leased to the developers of Loch Lomond Golf Club.

Sir Malcolm said: "It’s better this way. The fate of most owners of these big places is to be bankrupted by them.The developers have spent millions of pounds on the place, and it’s in far better condition ­today than the day it was built. We can still go there whenever we want, and the staff treat me as if it is my home."

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He added there was a perceived pressure on those who are due to inherit big houses to "go home to them".

Sir Malcolm said: "That’s what they feel, though I don’t think they have to. If you inherit [a really big] pile, it’s ­simply appalling. Suddenly your life has been torn apart and you’re expected to go and look after this pile of stones. I wouldn’t blame anybody who said, ‘I just don’t want to know’.”

Around half of Luss Estates, which has been in the family since 14th Century, has been sold off over time.

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The laird said forestry on the steep slopes of the estate was challenging and that farming his land was not particularly lucrative.

“Some years it makes a tiny profit, other years it makes a whacking great loss. We do it because it’s the right thing to do. If all the ­subsidies were to be withdrawn, then one would walk away from it and ­revert it to being beautiful hillside," he said.

Sir Malcolm, 71, is 31st chief of Colquhoun and 33rd of Luss.

He told the Sunday Telegraph he would swap the estate for "2,000 or 3,000 acres of really good land".

Other income for the estate comes from a fish smokehouse and a pioneering a self-service filling station on the A82, which was inspired by a trip to France when Sir Malcolm and his wife nearly ran out of petrol.

He said he would love to build a chairlift from Luss up into the surrounding hills to allow as many people as possible to get "out into the beyond".

Sir Malcolm described running Luss Estates as a "huge responsibility" with the regeneration of the village of Luss another major part of the estate's work.

"I’m charged with passing it on to the next generation in a better shape than I found it, for a start, and you’re also employing people that depend on you to pay their mortgages," he added.

Sir Malcolm’s son, Patrick, 38, is involved with the business, and will eventually take over.

“Then we can relax," Sir Malcolm said.