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Tourism bonanza to create local jobs as millionaire owner of huge estate next to Balmoral unveils ‘vision’ – but new mansion needed first

Alastair Storey has revised plans for a massive mansion at the Deeside site, after a previous proposal was deemed "inappropriate".

The major plans come as the wealthy businessman revises proposals for his own mansion there.
Abergeldie Estate mansion plans have been approved. Image: Yiangou architects

The millionaire who bought £23m Abergeldie Estate has unveiled his vision to bring the “declining” expanse back to life – boosting local jobs and welcoming hordes of wealthy tourists.

Businessman Alastair Storey snapped up the stunning 11,500 acre slice of Royal Deeside next door to the royals’ Balmoral last year.

The magnate is the chairman and chief executive of Westbury Street Holdings, the largest independent hospitality business in the UK.

The stunning Abergeldie Estate. Birkhall, where King Charles and Queen Camilla stay in Scotland, was part of Abergeldie before being purchased by Prince Albert. Image: Fraser and Mulligan
Mr Storey made his fortune as the chairman of Westbury Street Holdings, a contract catering company he founded in 2000. Image: DC Thomson

His purchase of the land was the first time it changed hands in 500 years – and it brought to an end a hunting deal with the monarchy stretching back to the mid-1800s.

Earlier this year, Mr Storey lodged a raft of plans with Aberdeenshire Council indicating aims to restore several buildings on the site.

Most striking was his ambition to flatten a steading at Bovaglie to create a huge mansion, with a farmhouse nearby becoming a property “for family and visitors”.

Our look at the Abergeldie Estate plans covers: 

  • What the current day expanse is like
  • Exactly how Mr Storey intends to cash in on his expensive purchase
  • And why a new mansion needs to be built to make the vision happen
The mansion originally planned for the site, with the adapted farmhouse beside it… Image: Yiangou architects

What happened to original plans for Bovaglie mansion?

But the plans attracted criticism, with the new home next to Lochnagar deemed “inappropriate”

Patrick Heron, the former director of The Scottish Traditional Skills Training Centre, blasted it as “entirely out of context” – looking more like it belongs in “the Surrey stockbroker belt”.

How the new mansion would look amid snowy surroundings. Image: Yiangou architects

And hillwalkers hit out at the loss of a traditional walking route.

A few weeks ago, those plans were withdrawn.

The farmhouse earmarked for conversion. Image: Yiangou architects

What now for Abergeldie Estate ‘vision’?

Mr Storey has now submitted revised plans for the “main dwelling”, which would be a rather grand home.

Blueprints show it would have a “great drawing room”, office/library and large kitchen/dining room on the ground floor.

The ensuite master bedroom would have its own dressing room, while there would be two guest rooms on the upper level too.

Another view of the new Bovaglie mansion plans at Abergeldie Estate. Image: Yiangou architects

But how does this mansion link to his wider plans for the massive site?

Papers sent to the council explain that Mr Storey wants to live in a suitable home there in order to bring his “vision” to life.

The new owner, who was raised on the Fyvie Estate and in the past has shunned the spotlight, reveals that he wants to make “declining” Abergeldie both his “family and business base”.

Documents state: “The main house will form the primary residence and will allow the owners to work efficiently towards meeting their goals.

“Ensuring that the owners can be located on the estate allows wider social, economic and environmental benefits to take place.”

At the moment, the land comprises:

  • Livestock-focused farming.
  • 2,683 areas of woodland.
  • Residential and commercial properties, “in various conditions”.
  • A former mill building and a community hall.
  • A fish trap site used by the government for salmon monitoring.
Dilapidated farm buildings on the estate. Image: WCP Architects

Why does new owner need to build a mansion to achieve this?

The estate was sold without a principle house as the previous owners opted to retain Abergeldie Castle, which has been in their family for centuries.

The redundant steading and adjacent farmhouse at Bovaglie were chosen as “the obvious candidates” for such a development, as revealed in our Planning Ahead round-up in September.

Abergeldie Castle near Ballater. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

So what exactly are the plans to revive Abergeldie Estate?

Mr Storey, 70, says he is “investing significantly in upgrading the buildings and the natural environment of Abergeldie”.

He adds: “We believe our plans will have considerable beneficial impacts on economic, environmental and social aspects of the estate and the surrounding area.”

And he lists the “main aspiration” for the historic estate as: 

  • Using the natural resources there to “produce food and timber” – while “protecting Abergeldie’s special habitats”.
  • Improving properties across the estate, some of which are already being done up.
  • A “new tourism enterprise” is to be formed, with topnotch self-catering units, and “experiential holiday packages” where guests can get back to basics with forays into nature, wildlife tours and woodland walks.
  • Hunting trips will be offered now that the royal family don’t have exclusive access to the land.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with her husband the Duke of Edinburgh and their sons (l-r) Prince Andrew, Prince Charles and Prince Edward at Balmoral. Hunting has been part of royal life there for generations.
  • Work has started on improving fish habitats along the River Dee.
  • Mr Storey wants to explore opportunities to regenerate native woodland.
  • Historic dykes, farmhouses and steadings are being restored.

What has already happened?

There are more than 30 buildings currently spread across Abergeldie Estate.

Already, accompanying plans to turn farm buildings nearby into a base of operations for hunting are progressing.

The scheme, at Clachanturn Farm, has been approved by Aberdeenshire Council.

A C-listed cottage on the site that is being upgraded. Image: WPC Architects

Building papers estimate that the new larder and storage units will cost £200,000 to build.

Plans to alter and extend the 19th century Balnacroft Farmhouse and “modernise” its C-listed kennels are in the works too.

Plans for Abergeldie Estate could capitalise on Balmoral tourism

Perhaps the initial stage of making Royal Deeside his business base came when Mr Storey’s WSH took over the Rothesay Rooms restaurant in Ballater.

And his proposals could cash in on the huge tourist attraction next door. Balmoral is a must for most visitors to the region.

The expansive Abergeldie Estate.

What do you think of the plans? Let us know in our comments section below

But the businessman’s plans to bring Abergeldie back to life come as his next door neighbour, King Charles, is downsizing some operations at Balmoral Estate

It’s been reported that the monarch is moving herds of cattle and ponies south to Hampton Court. 

You can see the new Abergeldie Estate plans here.