How to join Scotland’s landed gentry
Published: 16 Apr 2012 18:06 GMT+02:00
Updated: 16 Apr 2012 18:06 GMT+02:00
Thousands of people from around the world have become Scottish landowners - and Lairds, Lords and Ladies in the process - thanks to a scheme that combines conservation with satisfying people's interest in Scottish history and culture.
The intriguing concept, operated by the company Highland Titles, has its roots in conservation. The Scottish Highlands are truly beautiful and unspoiled, and once the ownership of the land is divided up between thousands of different people it makes it impossible for the land to be sold and later built upon.
As well as protecting the land from developers, Highland Titles undertake tree planting on a large scale. In the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the company is celebrating 60 years of Queen Elizabeth II by planting 60 acres of native Scottish broadleaf trees.
“We sell land in Scotland to the general public to aid conservation and reforestation, and it costs as little as £30 (€36) per square foot,” says Highland Titles’ Lady Alex Flewitt. The company was formed when it’s founders realised that they would need the help of the public to carry out tree planting on a meaningful scale.
“We wanted to replant the land with native broadleaf trees like ash, elm, birch, willow or alder but ran out of money,” Lady Alex adds. “So we got the public involved with this unique selling point of becoming a Scottish landowner, which allows you to use the courtesy titles of Laird, Lord or Lady.”
The concept proved popular and the profits were ploughed back into purchasing more land. Having started with 20 acres, the company has now safeguarded 750 acres of land, ensuring that the scenery is there to be enjoyed by future generations and also providing a real haven for wildlife. There are 19 pairs of golden eagles that nest in Glencoe Wood, and the scenic landscape is a natural habitat for deer, badgers, stoats and foxes and hundred of species of lichen and moss.
“Our biggest markets are the UK, America and Australia but Europe is big for us now too. There seems to be a very large and enthusiastic Scottish contingent in Germany,” Lady Alex says. “It really does fascinate all sorts of people.”
Even though Scottish landowners can now be found in the far corners of the world, it is surprisingly common for landowners to visit plot. Some people plant flags and take photographs, whilst others take their tent and go camping.
Plots of various sizes can be bought online, from one square foot to 1,000 square feet, and every new landowner receives a certificate, a map with reference coordinates and a legal title deed – official documentation, recognised internationally, that enables you to change your title accordingly.
That’s when you can start to reap the rewards of your newfound status - everything from flight upgrades to shocking the policeman that pulls you over.
Laird is an old Scottish word meaning ‘landowner’. Both men and women can adopt the title Laird, or choose Lord or Lady respectively. Whilst these titles are fun and impressive, they are quite different from the titles bestowed by the British queen. Nonetheless, Lady Alex has experienced advantages that far outweigh the cost of her sole square foot of land.
“I’ve changed my credit and debit cards and drivers license,” she says. “And I use my title when I’m travelling anywhere – booking flights and hotels – and often get upgraded!”
Another reason for owning a piece of Scotland is ancestry. The recent surge of popularity in researching family history has prompted interest “Quite rightly, people are very proud of their Scottish ancestry, and now it can be celebrated by owning a little piece of Scottish land,” she adds.
Highland Titles next project is to unite their global network.
“Our community is really thriving on Facebook so, via social networking, we are looking towards arranging some events in Scotland and around the world to connect our Lords, Ladies and Lairds,” Lady Alex says.
And even if owning such a title is not for you, it could be for someone you know – the perfect present perhaps for the person who already has everything.
Article sponsored by Highland Titles