After announcing their retirement, a Royal Deeside couple who have fronted Kincardine Castle and Estate for over four decades have described a life of both frustration and luxury.
Andrew Edward Hanning Bradford and wife Nicola Barbara Bradford moved into Kincardine Castle at the young age of 24 and 22, tasked with rebuilding an estate unchanged since the Second World War.
Now aged 66 and 63, the couple provide 61 affordable rented houses on their estate and have been hosts to the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Clio Gould during their “world-class” hospitality events.
Before officially taking over management in 1979, Mr Bradford began his work at the castle when he and a sibling would lift a bale of hay between themselves at the age of just five.
Taking on casual work during his high school years, Mr Bradford explained: “I started farming in 1976 and in 1979 I was asked to take over the management of the estate.
“Obviously they were very different times, I suppose the most surprising thing for people was that rent controls from 1915 were still operating so houses were still on the rent that they had been established at.
“I had tenants from before the Second World War. One of them was paying £4 per year in rent which may have been enough in 1920 but it really wasn’t enough to improve a property in 1979.
“It was hardly surprising that every property was in a pretty difficult state of disrepair.
“Today the estate has more properties than it had in 1979. We provide a latest count of 61 affordable rented houses.
“There are so many different aspects to the job but I think it’s fascinating. I have probably been a counsellor, I have been a confidant, I have shared in tragedy and I have shared in triumph of the people who have been tenants of our houses.
“So to some extents we have been part of an extended family”.
While Mr Bradford’s family have owned the estate for several generations, the huge responsibility of managing both a castle and an estate came as quite the surprise to Nicola who “thought she was marrying a farmer”.
She said: “We got married in 1978, I thought I was marrying a farmer because that is what he was then. It only became apparent that he was going to inherit the estate after a year or two.
“We were very young and the responsibility and the the idea that we might be inheriting such an enormous challenge and project didn’t really phase me at all.”
Moving into the castle itself in 1982, the couple were also forced to tackle parts of the building which “had been effectively abandoned for half a century” – adding 14 bathrooms and transforming the venue into the “world-class” hospitality destination it is today.
Speaking of some of his highlights, Mr Bradford said: “It is all people related – those are the best moments.
“There was the marvelous moment I sat down at my dining room table and it just dawned on me that this was a wonderful gathering and that I was effectively being paid to eat Gordon Ramsey’s food and drink every glass of extremely fine Claremont wine.
“We have had numerous famous chefs cooking here and that has been great fun.
“In the drawing room we have had Clio Gould playing her stradivarius and Verlon Thompson playing his guitar in the great hall.
“Equally we’ve had some leading businessmen coming to stay for meetings and things.
“It’s magic moments and a tremendous privilege to have people like that come to stay and to share moments with them.”
Despite assuring that they “are not disappearing completely,” the couple announced their retirement in a statement on Monday.
Saying it will be “hard to let go” of their roles, Mr Bradford said: “Time marches on but it is not that. You will have to take my word for it but you need an enormous amount of passion to look after an estate, to look after a council as big as this one.
“It’s a continuous seven day a week job and responsibility. My concern is if our grandchildren grow up to think of this place simply as grandad and granny’s house then they will not be likely to have the passion sufficient to look after it when their turn comes”.
It means Mr and Mrs Bradford will pass over the reins to son Edward, wife Rosa and their children at the end of the month who are preparing for “business as usual” once Covid-19 restrictions allow them to do so.