One of the advantages of a holiday spent in the Oetker Collection Masterpiece Estates is the attentive Host that is at your disposal, should you choose to take advantage of this exclusive offer. We caught up with James Middleton to hear about his experience as Host at the Glen Affric Estate in Scotland, and how he entertains guests visiting the Highlands.
Your responsibility as Host is to help guests make the most of this magical Masterpiece Estate. Which activities are essential when visiting Glen Affric for the first time?
There are many different things to do at Glen Affric, and my role as Host is to get a feel for what each group will truly enjoy. Glen Affric’s Victorian Lodge is set on the stunning Loch Affric, surrounded by the Highland hills. I would definitely recommend that first-time guests take a walk around the Loch to experience the unparalleled beauty and tranquillity of the Scottish Highlands. For the adventurous, a morning swim in the Loch is a must. There’s really is no better way to wake up for the day!
Have you always been passionate about country life? What do you think inspired your fondness for the countryside?
The countryside has always been a big part of my life. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t passionate about the countryside’s beauty and fresh, clean air. Spending quality time with friends and family amid glorious surroundings is one of the biggest pleasures that life can offer. It gives you the chance to relax, let go and spend uninterrupted time making magical memories with the ones you love.
What would consider a day well spent at Glen Affric? What sorts of activities and leisurely pursuits are involved?
My ideal day at Glen Affric starts with a morning swim in the Loch. The Estate can provide wet suits for cold mornings! Then, a hearty breakfast cooked by the wonderful resident chef, James Lowe. After breakfast, a group activity like clay pigeon shooting is always a hit– even if it can get competitive at times! For lunch, the Estate boat can escort guests to the private fishing bothy at the far end of the Loch for a delicious picnic. Then, we return to the Lodge on foot, taking in the wonderful natural surroundings. Back at the Lodge, there’s the option of sailing, paddle boarding or canoeing on the Loch if guests are up to it. Then, after a freshen up, the evening starts with either a local whisky or gin tasting session– followed by a wonderful dinner prepared by Chef James and served in the elegant dining room or the Argentinian Grill room. After dinner, the lights go down and the music goes up! The Estate engages some very talented musicians, and it’s great fun to partake in a traditional Scottish Ceilidh dance.
Since Glen Affric is set in the Scottish Highlands, are there any Scotch whiskies or Scottish delicacies that you particularly enjoy?
There are so many different Scotch whiskies– each crafted in a unique way. For Scotch enthusiasts, I heartily recommend the whisky tasting experience offered by the Estate. Similarly, Scotland produces so many wonderful delicacies; it’s very difficult to choose. Chef James works with organic, local produce to create fantastic Scottish dishes. A particular favourite of mine is the venison prepared with the Estate’s home-grown produce.
With 10,000 acres of wilderness to explore, how long should one spend at Glen Affric in order to make the most of the Estate?
The feedback we get from the majority of our guests is that they wish they could have stayed for longer! We can tailor the activities to suit any length of stay. The average stay is for 3 or 4 nights, which makes for a very action packed holiday. For guests who come for a week or more, we incorporate more relaxing down time, such as treatments from our resident spa therapist or gentle walks in the hills.
You’re also known for your sharp, savvy style. What are the best looks to wear at Glen Affric? Is it not the perfect opportunity to experiment with tweed?
A visit to the countryside is the perfect time to wear tweed! It’s actually a very versatile material– from tweed breeks for hill stalking to a dapper tweed jacket for dinner. There are some fantastic tweed designs to explore. We even have our very own Glen Affric tweed.
What are the most important rules to observe while game shooting?
The number one priority for any activity involving guns is safety. Safety procedures are paramount and must be respected by all participants. As far as game shooting is concerned, respect for the game is particularly important to me. The Estate participates in a programme that ensures a balance is maintained between the native red deer population and the Scottish Highlands habitat.
Have you been to any other Oetker Collection Masterpiece Estate?
I am very fortunate in that I have visited many Estates in the British Isles, and each Estate is as wonderful as the next. I recommend that guests visit as many of the Masterpiece Estates as they can. The collection will soon expand further into Europe, and I’m looking forward to visiting some of the European Estates.
When you need a respite from the countryside, where do you head for a taste of the urban life?
I don’t think I will ever need respite from the countryside. However, I spend a fair amount of time in London due to my commitments. My favourite activities in London are running with my dogs or testing myself on a climbing wall.
Is there a surprising fact or an insider’s tip about Glen Affric that you’d like to share?
The Glen Affric Estate includes over 30 miles of ancient pine forests and has one of Scotland’s largest ancient Caledonian pinewoods. The Estate is home to many wildlife species including otters, red squirrels, red deer, osprey, native pine martens and black grouse. It is a majestic residence in a natural wonderland.
Learn more about Glen Affric and Masterpiece Estates here.