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Millionaire American owners turning Kildrummy Castle Hotel into mansion – and ‘centrepiece of estate’

The £4 million project is nearing completion as the socialite couple breathe new life into the entire 5,500-acre expanse.

Kildrummy Castle Hotel could become a new home under plans lodged by the owners.
Kildrummy Castle Hotel could become a new home under plans lodged by the owners. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Kildrummy Castle Hotel will soon be the extravagant new home of millionaire estate owners as a £4 million renovation nears completion.

And that’s just one part of their major plans for the scenic slice of Aberdeenshire.

The B-listed Edwardian mansion fondly recalled by many as a picturesque hotel dates back more than 100 years.

It was created by landowner Colonel James Ogston, who “invested heavily” in the thousands of acres near Alford.

The ruins of Kildrummy Castle with the estate beyond. Image: Savills

The military man built it as his country house just behind the dramatic ruins of 13th century Kildrummy Castle.

It became a 16-bedroom hotel in 1956, and remained a staple of the north-east’s hospitality offering until its closure in 2017.

At that point, the estate and its various landmarks were put on the market.

Who are the new owners?

When New York socialites Chris and Camille Bently bought Kildrummy Estate for £11 million in 2020, they found various buildings had “suffered from many years of under investment”.

The hotel. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

Since that time they have put their own mark on the land, doing what they can to rewild it.

They have also done up the acclaimed Kildrummy Inn restaurant and guestrooms a short distance away from the manor and castle remains.

And now, the couple have shed more light on their plans to turn the former hotel into a home.

What is happening to Kildrummy Castle Hotel?

The wealthy new proprietors say they are keen to “respect” Colonol Ogston’s vision for the estate as they roll out their modernisation programme.

An article in the Press and Journal in 1909 detailed the “fine modern building” being created, which would later become his home. Image: British Newspaper Archive

Planning documents explain how the new owners “should also be able to deliver their own vision  to make the estate relevant and special again”.

They want to “protect its long-term future, its workers and the wider community”.

Architects state: “Their ambition is to return the estate to its former position as one of the premier estates in Scotland, and develop its commercial potential and as a provider of local employment and contributor to the wider economy of Aberdeenshire.”

The hotel and castle seen here. Image: LDN Architects

120-year-old mansion will become ’21st century family home’

The papers reveal that work on the old manor, thought to have started some time ago, is “about to be completed”.

Various internal alterations were needed to turn the 16-bedroom venue into a four-bedroom home.

The changes also include creating a new £350,000 garage.

The new garage which has been added can be seen here. Image: LDN Architects

All heating, lighting electrical, plumbing and drainage systems were found to “either be unfit for purpose or have reached the end of their useful lives”.

They have been replaced and upgraded, with decorative historic lights and fittings restored.

Meanwhile, a first floor dining room is being turned into a family kitchen, and a “media room” will be formed in what was the commercial kitchen.

A view inside the building from 2012. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

A bar is being added to the hotel office, while a 1970s extension was earmarked for demolition as the plans progressed.

There will be a music room created on the second floor, along with a roof terrace.

The third floor will have a games room and storage space.

Building documents say the scheme has cost the couple £4m.

When finished, it will become a “21st century family home worthy of being the centrepiece of the revitalised estate”.

A glimpse inside during its past life. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

What else is happening?

To go along with this, an application has recently been lodged outlining changes to the estate entrance.

The Bentlys want to widen the gates to allow for “modern vehicles” to enter without the risk of damaging the sides.

New gates featuring the “family crest” would be erected, and stone lion heads added.

Meanwhile, safety barriers would be added to the bridge linking to the mansion, and wall-mounted lighting would be installed to illuminate the former Kildrummy Castle Hotel.

The bridge was based on Aberdeen’s Brig o’ Balgownie. Image: Liz Wilson

What do historians think of Kildrummy Castle Hotel plans?

However, the council’s built heritage team is demanding more information before the changes can be rubber-stamped.

Reflecting on the grandiose gate envisioned, the officials comment: “This is a significant
change from the currently modest entrance.”

They say the owners have not offered much in the way of “justification” for this.

This shows how the new gates could look, with the family crest… Image: LDN Architects
How the stone lion head would look. Image: LDN Architects

Council heritage bosses also take a dim view of the lighting plans.

The report states: “I am concerned about the extent of lighting proposed throughout the site, and those proposed to be attached to the listed structures.”

They warn this could have a “detrimental effect” on the historic buildings, and seek assurance that only the “minimum necessary” might be added.

The current “modest” entrance. Image: LDN Architects

Historic Environment Scotland, meanwhile, is “broadly content” with the suggested work at the B-listed building.

But while the quango accepts the need for barriers on the impressive bridge due to safety concerns, bosses ask that any changes be “minimal”.

Some work has already taken place on the bridge. Image: LDN Architects

What are the wider plans for the estate?

The owners, who are animal rights campaigners, want to “regenerate” the natural environment damaged by decades of hunting.

Two months after the sale went through, Mr and Mrs Bently halted shooting there – saying they “oppose all forms of animal cruelty and abuse of wildlife”.

Are you intrigued about the future of Kildrummy Estate? Let us know in our comments section below

The B-listed Back Den bridge leading to the Kildrumy Castle Hotel has already been restored.

You can see the Kildrummy Castle Hotel plans here.

Read more: 

Millionaire US owners want to add ‘five star’ rooms and craft shops at Kildrummy Inn

Mega-rich new American owners reveal Kildrummy Estate plans

Talk of the Town: Is the newly refurbished Kildrummy Inn Aberdeenshire’s most stylish dining spot?