Mar Lodge Estate

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Mar Lodge from Linn of Dee Road

Mar Lodge Estate is a Scottish Highland estate in Aberdeenshire, owned by the National Trust for Scotland. It is entirely contained within the Cairngorms National Park and important for nature conservation, landscape, recreation and culture. There are many separate places and structures on the Estate, among which Mar Lodge is the principal building.


Mar Lodge Estate is located in the heart of the Cairngorms of Scotland, with the Lodge five miles to the west of Braemar.


Mar Lodge Estate is recognised as one of the most important nature conservation landscapes in the British Isles and occupies nearly 8% of the Cairngorms National Park.[1]

The estate covers 29,340 hectares (72,500 acres) of some of the most remote and scenic wild land in Scotland, including four of the five highest mountains in the UK.[1]

Extreme weather conditions are experienced across the estate, especially on the plateau. Landslides, avalanches and floods alter the landscape and give it an interesting geomorphology.[2] The estate is characterised by rounded granite Cairngorm mountains to the north, with deep corries and crags down to the valley floor. Spectacular glacial breaches include the Lairig Ghru and Lairig an Laoigh. To the south west are the more open, rolling hills of the Geldie and Dalvorar. Waters flowing from the mountains become the headwaters of the River Dee.

Flora and Fauna[edit]

The estate contains examples of remnants of the ancient Caledonian pine forest, heather moorland, juniper scrub and a part of the high Cairngorm plateau. It supports important populations of red grouse, waders and raptors.[1]


The estate includes land which has a number of national and international natural heritage designations, one of the country's largest areas of Scheduled Ancient Monuments and archaeological sites.[1]


The architectural importance of the estate is reflected in that there are 5 listed buildings including Mar Lodge, which was built in 1895 by the Duke of Fife. The ballroom has a spectacular 2,435 red deer stags heads lining the walls and ceiling. Mar Lodge was severely damaged by a fire in 1991 but rebuilt soon thereafter. Mar Lodge has been converted into holiday flats and retains many of the grand features of its heyday as a hunting lodge.[3]


Mar Lodge is a traditional Highland Estate, now owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland. Today, it provides opportunities for Salmon fishing, deer stalking, grouse shooting and walking, with several mountain bothies.[1]


Today Mar Lodge Estate and Mar Estate are two independent Highland Estates. They are the two largest remnants, in upper Deeside, of the historic Earldom of Mar.

John Erskine[edit]

The 'modern' story of the estate begins with the participation of John "Bobin' Jock" Erskine, 6th Earl of Mar in the Jacobite Rising of 1715. The resulting forfeiture of 1716 brought to an end the essentially feudal landholding system practiced in the Earldom of Mar.

At this period the locality of Mar Lodge was known as Dalmore from dail mhor (Scottish Gaelic: great plain) and was held by the McKenzies who had acted as foresters to the Earls of Mar from at least the 17th century. Documents in the National Archives of Scotland – for example (NAS GD124/6/95) dated 11 December 1661 refers to 'John McKenzie of Dalmoir [sic]'. Later documents (NAS GD124/6/61) dated 1707 – for example – refer to 'Kenneth McKenzie of Dalmore, forester to the Earl of Mar' – the duties of forester were to 'protect the game, to supervise timber-extraction, to conserve the woodland, and to apprehend trespassers' – Dixon & Green (1995).

1716 – 1735 (Lord Grange & Lord Dun)[edit]

The process of resolving the forfeiture of 1716 took many years. The estates of the now attainted and exiled Earl of Mar were sequestrated.

The next owners of the estate were James Erskine, Lord Grange and David Erskine, Lord Dun – with Dixon & Green (1995) giving the year of their purchase as 1719 – however, some NAS documents suggest 1724 is more likely – for example (NAS GD124/15/1251) is a congratulatory letter to Lord Grange on the purchase of the Mar Estate dated 18 August 1724 and (NAS GD124/15/1252) are three letters from Lord Grange to Lord Dun detailing his difficulties in purchasing the Mar Estate dated between 18 August 1724 and 8 October 1724.

Lord Grange was the brother of the Earl of Mar, and other documents make clear that his and Lord Dun's intentions were to purchase Mar Estate to 'provide' for the Earl of Mar's wife and son – Frances, Countess of Mar and Thomas, Lord Erskine. For example – (NAS GD124/15/1246/5) is a letter from Lord Grange to Countess Mar explaining the delay in making payments to her and dated 14 July 1724 and (NAS GD124/17/22) is a book of transactions carried out 'by Lord Grange and Lord Dun in relation to their purchasing of the estate of Mar for the behoof [sic] of Thomas, Lord Erskine' and dated between 26 October 1723 and 13 June 1726.

When Lord Grange and Lord Dun acquired the lordship of Braemar the landholding system was still essentially feudal with Kenneth McKenzie of Dalmore acting as forester, and feuar in his own right. Along with him other feuars include John Farquaharson (Invercauld), Patrick Farquaharson (Inverey), Donald Farquaharson (Allanaquoich) – Dixon & Green (1995).

1735 – 1763 (1st Earl Fife)[edit]

Dalmore, the westernmost part was bought by the astute entrepreneur William Duff of Dipple, later created Earl of Fife, between 1730 and 1737.[4] This formed the nucleus of Mar Estate. In the years that followed, the many minor lairdships surrounding the two large estates of Invercauld and Mar were gradually absorbed by one or the other, until they were the only two estates in Braemar.[3]

Sometime between 1730 and 1737, the property was acquired by the Duffs—this family's first foothold on Deeside—and by the end of the century they had purchased the neighbouring Farquharson lands of Alanaquoich, Auchindryne and Inverey.

— Wyness

The Duffs as Earls of Fife – following the recreation of 1759 – held onto what became Mar Lodge Estate into the 20th century, building the 2nd and 3rd Mar Lodges.

William died on 30 September 1763, and is interred in the mausoleum at Duff House, Banffshire.

1763 – 1809 (2nd Earl Fife)[edit]

In 1763, James Duff succeeded his father William, becoming the 2nd Earl Fife.

The work of Dixon & Green (1995) shows that until the improvements began in the 1760s by James Duff, 2nd Earl Fife much of the estate was populated and farmed by tenants and sub-tenants. Even today – names on ordnance survey maps and ruins on the ground record the existence of townships and farms in the main glens of the estate (including) Glen Dee, Glen Ey, Glen Lui and Glen Quoich from this period.

... during the course of the later 18th century, almost all the farms and townships listed in the rentals were cleared of tenants. The reasons for the clearances varied from place to place. Those townships around Mar Lodge itself were removed to make parkland and improve the view, whilst others were removed to improve the hunting (Glen Lui), or in order to turn land to grass. The result of this process of clearance was a significant reduction in population during the later 18th century, ...

— Dixon & Green

...and himself set the example by instituting near each of his seats a model farm, where agriculture and cattle-breeding were carried on under his personal supervision.

— Stephen, Leslie

James died on 24 January 1809 at his house in Whitehall, London, and is interred in the mausoleum at Duff House, Banffshire.

1809 – 1811 (3rd Earl Fife)[edit]

In 1809 – Alexander Duff succeeded his brother, becoming the 3rd Earl Fife.

Alexander died on 17 April 1811 at Duff House.

1811 – 1857 (4th Earl Fife)[edit]

In 1811 – James Duff succeeded his father, becoming the 4th Earl Fife.

During this period Anderson & Anderson (1850) give interesting descriptions of the estate travelling through it from Glen Tilt and down Glen Dee to Castletown of Braemar as Braemar was known at that time. They describe the location of Mar Lodge as 'in the bottom of the valley', that it is a 'commodious hunting-seat of the Earl of Fife's' and that it was being 'rented, with the adjoining deer forests, by the Duke of Leeds'. They also describe Corriemulzie Cottage (second Mar Lodge) as a 'pretty sporting villa, occupied during the season by General[5] Duff and his family'. From this we can see that the first Mar Lodge was still habitable, and in use, but that the Duffs were only using the 'Cottage' on their visits for the deer hunting season.

James died on 9 March 1857 at Duff House.

The hamlet of Inverey is the only survivor of the estate clearance – not counting the village of Braemar part of which was also very much part of Mar Estate well into the 20th century.

In the 19th century the estate moved towards being used primarily for recreational shooting and fishing with the building of the Hunting Lodges of Derry Lodge, Geldie Lodge and Bynack Lodge.

1857 – 1879 (5th Earl Fife)[edit]

In 1857 – James Duff succeeded his uncle James becoming the 5th Earl Fife.

1879 – 1912 (6th Earl Fife)[edit]

In 1879 – Alexander William George Duff succeeded his father James becoming the 6th Earl Fife. In 1889 he married the Princess Royal and was made 1st Duke of Fife.

The duke died on 29 January 1912 at Aswan, Egypt and was interred at St Ninian's Chapel, Mar Lodge.

1912 – 19?? (Trustees of the Late Duke of Fife)[edit]

Following the death of Alexander the estate was managed by Trustees.

19?? – 1959 (Duchess of Fife)[edit]

Princess Alexandra, Duchess of Fife died on 26 February 1959 and was interred at St Ninian's Chapel, Mar Lodge.

1959 – 1962 (Alexander Ramsay)[edit]

In 1959 – Alexander Ramsay inherited the estate from his aunt.

1962 – 1989 (John & Gerald Panchaud)[edit]

Mar Lodge Estate was briefly owned by the Ashdale Property Company,[6] who then sold it to the Swiss Panchaud family, in 1962. The businessmen brothers Gerald and John Panchaud[6] ran the estate as a commercial sporting venture and the Lodge as a hotel. Vehicle tracks were constructed throughout the estate, including one leading close to the summit of Beinn a' Bhùird, constructed for a proposed skiing development.[2]

1989 – 1995 (J Kluge)[edit]

In 1989 the estate was bought by Mar Lodge Estate Inc. who ran the estate for sporting purposes, with a greater emphasis on sensitive land management and improvement of facilities and buildings. Renovation of the Lodge was interrupted by a fire in 1991 and finally completely in 1993.[2]

1995 onwards (National Trust for Scotland)[edit]


In 1995, the National Trust for Scotland bought Mar Lodge Estate. Ann Marie Salvesen, a publicity-shy member of the Christian Salvesen shipping and distribution dynasty anonymously donated £4.5m to assist with the purchase. At the time there was much speculation that the Prince of Wales was behind the donation.[7]


The management team includes : Property Manager, Estates Manager, Hospitality Manager, Senior Ranger, Senior Ecologist, and Head Gamekeeper (Head Stalker).

The manager with overall responsibility for the running of the estate is the Property Manager, currently David Frew[8] assisted by the Estates Manager, currently Kevin Davies.[9] Frew previously worked for Scottish Natural Heritage on the Island of Rùm as the island’s visitor services manager. Davies previously worked for the City of London Corporation looking after the Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire.


Long term conservation of the area is a priority of the National Trust for Scotland – in particular the regeneration of Caledonian pinewood by reducing the damage caused by grazing red deer. It has carried out pioneering work in mountain footpath repair, and the restoration of bulldozed hill tracks.[1]

The National Trust for Scotland created the Regeneration Zone (the north eastern third) of Mar Lodge Estate. To maximise the regeneration of Caledonian pinewood in the Regeneration Zone they began a controversial large scale cull of red deer and in 2009 began their "shoot deer until they cannot be seen" policy.


This photograph gallery contains general views of Mar Lodge Estate.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f "Mar Lodge Estate". National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 7 February 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c "Case Study – Mar Lodge". National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 7 February 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "History". Braemar Guide. Archived from the original on 31 January 2009. Retrieved 7 February 2009. 
  4. ^ Wyness, Fenton (1968). Royal Valley – The Story Of The Aberdeenshire Dee. 
  5. ^ He was a Major General in the Spanish army during the Peninsular War
  6. ^ a b Hugh Dawson, A Guide to the Chapel of Saint Ninian, Mar Lodge, Braemar. The Scottish Episcopal Church, Braemar 2015
  7. ^ Paul Kelbie (25 January 2002). "Mystery of donor who saved Mar Lodge is solved". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 7 February 2009. 
  8. ^ "NTS News (Dated : 05/04/2011)". 
  9. ^ "NTS News (Dated : 18/03/2013)". 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 57°00′N 3°30′W / 57.000°N 3.500°W / 57.000; -3.500