For 120 years, the grand Tulchan Estate has played host to VIPs and royalty including a succession of iconic British Kings; King Edward VII, King George V and King George VI. Following a multi-million dollar refurbishment project, Tulchan reopened its 22,000 acres that boast not only the world’s premiere shooting, fishing and vistas, but also lodging designed with majestic luxury at its core.
So what exactly happens within the rich boy playground walls, and how do the likes of Prince Harry spend quality time with Prince Charles? James Wong ventures to the hills of Speyside, Scotland, to find out.
It begins with touchdown
Arriving at Aberdeen International Airport, I am greeted by resident chauffeur, George, who escorts me to one of Tulchan’s fleet of luxury Range Rovers. It’s been snowing out yet you’d hardly notice as our mammoth vehicle effortlessly glides over icy country terrain and heated seating emits the kind of warmth you only feel on massage beds. It’s about an hour of hill gazing before we arrive at the Victorian hunting lodge in the heart of Speyside, North East Scotland (though Inverness Airport is a closer alternative). Coming from the city, I’ve always been a tad uneasy with the wilderness, but the Tulchan grounds had a crisp air of calm—like a rehabilitation centre overdue, where indulgence and wellbeing dance together over candlelight.
Checking in to royal splendour
Field sports in Scotland were traditionally spent in draughty lodges with no central heating and poor water pressure (evidently, Scotsmen were strong enough to persevere). Tulchan however offered a premium sporting experience and today every detail from interior design to estate-grown and locally sourced produce is the upmost example of what modern Scottish estates have to offer.
It was prolific interior design company, Nicholas Haslam Ltd that revamped the lodge. Keeping it loyal to the past with original features such as the panelling in the former library to the artwork dotted through over the walls. The team have created a spectacular haven for the sporting gentleman and his companions. At its core the Tulchan Club includes fourteen bedrooms, a bar, dining rooms, library and our favourite, the cinema room. I enjoyed an evening in as butlers set up the private screening for me and me alone. I tucked into freshly popped popcorn, wrapped up in Tulchan blankets and relaxed with a selected blockbuster from Sky Demand. Why go to the cinema when the cinema can come to you?
One the second night the bathroom was my after-hours retreat. I soaked for hours, surprised that the water temperature remained constant. “Was that a heated bath that I used last night?” I asked the next day; “Nope, it’s just a really good bath tub” smiled a staff member, as I mentally calculated saving up for such a bath tub of my own on a writers salary.
Feasting like a King
The Tulchan Estate Farm is where much of the produce is grown and reared to supply guests with ingredients for meals in the lodge and beyond. Home bred Aberdeen Angus and Wagyu Beef, 80 day free range chickens, eggs, dairy and non-dairy produce, honey, herbs, and vegetables give Tulchan’s resident chef Oliver an abundance of juicy creativity. On one occasion I worked up such an appetite that I returned at 5pm for afternoon tea (starring homemade carrot cake and scones), before resting 90 minutes, and then tucking straight into dinner.
Dinner was an unforgettable experience. That very night we started with slow-cooked salmon and beetroot salad, roasted mallard (from Tulchan waters, of course) and finished with a moist bread and butter pudding. Meals can be paired with wine, or perhaps some Scottish whisky. We recommend picking up a bottle en route back to Singapore at duty-free. Brands include Bruichladdich from the island of Islay, and Glenfiddich from Speyside. The Tulchan team are planning a gin distillery on site in the near future too.
The great outdoors
Personally shooting has never appealed, but for the likes of royalty, it gracefully demonstrates accuracy, control, and speed in aiming at targets. The estate offers shooting opportunities such as grouse shooting and roe deer stalking on its private land, and non-shooters like myself have a myriad of outdoor activities to partake in.
Tulchan fishing is made up of eight miles of double bank salmon fishing on the world-renowned River Spey. The four six rod beats, which make up the fishing, are available to both members and non-members. If you have patience and want your salmon or sea trout for the evening extra fresh, give it a go.
I opted to leave the sports to the enthusiasts and do what I love when travelling – hiking. The Scottish countryside is famed for breathtaking hills and glistening lakes, and the Cairngorms certainly don’t disappoint. I braved the winter weather for one of the most picturesque walks of my life, exploring the glens, Trout Lake, woodland and open moorland. Two hours of walking was plenty for me to witness the kind of scenes that Narnia stories are based on – Scots Pines included. Longer routes are available taking explorers into the hills and the wilder parts of the Cairngorms, neighbouring castles and historic mills.
Wear it like Vin Diesel
I’ve always wanted to try on a kilt and decided on a grey tweed number while on Scottish soil. Howie R Nicholsby of 21st Century Kilts suggested I pair mine with knitwear and boots on this occasion. However, kilts can be customised to suit for everything from weddings and black tie functions to holidays and daily chores. “I’m trying to push the boundaries. By evolving the garment, I mean to bring it back to its original roots, which was everyday wear, pre-the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745” says Howie, who has dressed some big Hollywood names including Vin Diesel. Diesel owns a Sinclair Tartan Kilt inspired by his Mothers heritage and also a leather kilt which he wore for the MTV European Music Awards in 2003.
I don’t understand why Tulchan is not available on prescription to stressed out city folk around the world for it’s just the medicine. That said with prices from SGD 163,723 per year’s membership, the cost would leave a dent in a nation’s economy. Tulchan may well only serve as remedy for the Nick Youngs of Singapore, but a wider clientele can enjoy the fishing and lodges sans membership.
The only downside to my two-day stay was that I had over indulged in eating. But one could argue that it’s better to overindulge in the fresh than overindulge in the processed. The culinary offerings, along with nature, outdoor pursuits and home away from home comfort gave me the energy and clarity to return to modern city life, and mean business, a bit like a King and more like a boss.
Membership starts at £95,000 (approx SGD 163,723) per year, and can be obtained by application only to the Tulchan Estate. Visit tulchan.com for more information.