Baron yields castle after 500 years

FROM the spectacular ramparts of Craighall Castle towering above a gorge on the River Ericht, the Rattray clan withstood a siege by Cromwell's roundheads and fought off attacks by feuding rival clans.

But now, after 500 years, the clan seat has finally fallen to the Sassenach – a London investment banker.

Craighall of Rattray on the outskirts of Blairgowrie, has been home to 20 generations of clan chiefs but the current laird, a descendant of William the Conqueror, has been forced to sell his title and the fortified mansion of Craighall of Rattray Castle, which has been occupied by his family since 1533.

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Lachlan Rattray of Rattray has sold the historic Scots baronial building and its surrounding 176 acres of "ancient native woodland" and sporting and farm estate for an undisclosed sum to a London investment banker, who plans to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on the dilapidated pile and turn it into his own family home.

Last year the baronial property was on the market for 2.2million, with the title thrown in.

The new Baron of Craighall and Rattray can enjoy salmon fishing on the Ericht, as well as pheasant, woodcock and woodpigeon shooting, and deer stalking. Lachlan, his wife, Nicky, and their three children, Thomas, 16, Hewie, 13, and Flora,ten, were the 20th generation of the family to live at Craighall.

Lachlan said: "I'm feeling quite relieved that it's now sold. It was a lot of money to have tied up in one place, and I didn't have the finance available to carry out the kind of work that was required for it. So, I'm actually pleased to be out of it.

"It was sold on 30 March to a London-based investment banker who is going to make it his family home. It needs a lot of work. I hope the new owners will be able to restore it to its former glory and retain some of its atmosphere. I am happy that it has gone to someone who can afford to look after it."

He added: "We have bought a little sheep farm in the area. Psychologically, we have moved up the hill. We haven't actually moved up in the world, but we have moved up the hill. The title stays with the house so I will simple be known as Mr Rattray. I've gone from being a laird to a farmer and I'm quite happy about that."

The red sandstone castle, which was first put on the market in 2008 in a "secret sale", was sold furnished with a collection of family heirlooms and portraits dating back to 1533.

The location, perched above Scotland's second-deepest ravine, was originally chosen by the Rattrays as a fortress to defend against attacks from their arch-enemy, the Earl of Atholl. The estate includes the ruins of a Pictish fort, which stands on a serpent-shaped mound associated, according to local tradition, with pagan rites.

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A glossy brochure produced by the estate agents, and circulated privately, described the property as "one of Scotland's most spectacular homes".

Lachlan, an Old Harrovian and son of the eccentric late laird Captain James Silvester Rattray, who lived in a council house in Blairgowrie, has struggled to maintain the 13-bedroomed property, as well as its sprawling gardens. For the past few years, the Rattrays have opened up the castle as a bed & breakfast, with double rooms from 35 per night.

The laird also took on the task of restoring the ancient building through the 1990s, and he ran an architectural salvage business from the castle during the restoration. Since 2001, Lachlan has travelled the UK as the "Bath Wizard", restoring old baths, but the business has failed to save the family pile from being sold.

Last July, he sold three war medals at auction for 2,800. The silver medals – Crimea 1854-56, an Indian Mutiny 1857-58, and a Turkish Crimea award – belonged to Lieutenant General Sir James Clerk Rattray.

Lachlan said: "It was a challenge just moving out. I worked out that the last clearout had been in 1817 and in one form or another it has been the family home since 1533. This is a new chapter in the family history. It's a little bit surreal but we haven't had time to dwell on the significance. We're busy getting our new place ready."

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