Every classic country estate has its own unique character and its own dynamics, and whoever buys it takes on not only its future, but also its past. Undaunted by the weight of history, buyers from all over the world have been lining up to view Findynate near Strath-tay, one of highland Perthshire’s most enchanting all-round estates, which has come to the open market for the first time in almost a century, following the death last year of its owner, Viscountess Ridley. CKD Galbraith (01738 451111) and Sale & Partners (01670 789621) want ‘offers over £4 million’ for the 1,365-acre estate with its 10-bedroom, Grade B-listed Scots baronial mansion, nine estate houses, three hill lochs and superb facilities for stalking and shooting, plus salmon and trout fishing on the peerless River Tay. The Macnab is always a possibility.
Like many estates in Strath Tay, Findy-nate was a Stewart property for centuries before being sold away in the 1870s. It passed through the Walker and Macpherson families until, in 1909, it was bought by the formidable Janet McEwen, who lived there in some style until her death in 1958. The daughter of a Presbyterian minister, Miss McEwen immediately commissioned Francis Deas to remodel the late Victorian mansion designed by Walter Lyon, as an Edwardian country house in the Arts-and-Crafts style. Since then, the interior has remained virtually unchanged down to the original William Morris wallpaper in the morning room.
Miss McEwen did not shoot, but she was a keen fisherman, and in 1929, she landed a 41lb salmon, still a record on the Findynate beat. When she died, Findynate was left to Lady Scarborough, her great-niece, who had electricity installed for the first time. Findynate passed in turn to her daughter Lady Ridley, and when the adjoining estate of Cloichfoldich came on the market in 1970, its lands and fishings were added to Findynate. For William Jackson of CKD Gal-braith, who lives nearby, Findynate is ‘the perfect informal sporting estate, which offers plenty to do all year round, from a lazy picnic down on the river, to more serious exertion up on the hill’.
With 10.5 miles of fishing on the much-improved River Towy rated by many experts as one of the finest game-fishing rivers in the British Isles the Golden Grove estate near Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, is the nearest thing there is to ‘fishing heaven’, says Jim Bryant of Bidwells (01223 559352) who is handling its sale, at £3.5m for the whole, or in up to 21 lots.
Once part of a 50,000-acre estate founded by the Vaughan family in the 16th century, and owned by the Cawdors from the early 1800s until the start of the Second World War, Golden Grove comes with 225 acres of tenanted pasture land and woodland, five residential properties, including a farmhouse with 35 acres of land and buildings with potential for development, four further cottages, the remains of the old Dryslwyn castle, and shooting rights over 3,200 acres of surrounding land. ‘It’s not only the fishing that will be of interest: the property elements will appeal to investors and amenity buyers alike.’
Meanwhile, Bruce Tolmie-Thomson of Knight Frank (020?7629 8171) has been overseeing the launch of two prominent late entrants to the summer estates market. The Wappenbury Hall estate at Wappenbury, Warwickshire, five miles from Leamington Spa, is a quintessential English country estate centred on an imposing, 13-bedroom Victorian country mansion, built in 1894. For more than 50 years, Wappenbury Hall was the home of Sir William Lyons of Jaguar cars, who insisted that the proto-type of every new model be delivered to the hall for approval by his wife, Greta, before the cars went into production.
The current owners have enjoyed the estate for more than 20 years, adding a gymnasium and swimming pool, creating wonderful private gardens and meticulously maintaining the estate’s 460-odd acres of rolling arable and pasture land. Estate buildings include a marvellous Victorian coach house and stable-block, various ranges of modern and traditional farm buildings and seven estate houses. Wappenbury Hall estate is being offered as one or four lots, with a guide price of £8.5m for the whole. It brings with it the lordship of the manor of Wappenbury, which includes historic shooting rights over adjoining land.
The heart of the scenic Wyelands estate, on the banks of the Wye near Chepstow, Monmouthshire, is a classical, Grade II*-listed villa built by Robert Lugar in 1819 for George Buckle, High Sheriff of Monmouthshire, the stone for which was ‘hauled across the water’ from Bath. In the mid 19th century, a stone conservatory was added to the south of the service wing, and the gardens formalised with the addition of arcaded balustrading and a small square summer house. Lugar’s single-storey North Lodge echoes the style of the 15,000sq ft main house, which has four reception rooms, a garden room, eight bedrooms and seven bathrooms, plus a coach house and outbuildings, the whole set in 286 acres of parkland, pasture and woodland.
The integrity of the original ensemble has been carefully preserved by the current owners during their 20-year tenure, the only significant alteration being the addition of the state-of-the-art leisure complex and swimming pool, lit by an octagonal cupola, which has doors opening to the south-and east-facing gardens. Knight Frank quote a guide price of £5.5m.