In 1850, William 11th Duke of Hamilton was looking for a place to kick back and hunt. His castle in Brodick on the eastern side of the Isle of Arran just wasn’t cutting it anymore. So William bought a 27,000-acre property, taking up a quarter of the island, and called it Dougarie.
Dougarie, in the northwest quarter of Arran, spans from the central western town of Machrie north to Lochranza. The estate cuts in about half of the 167 square-foot island.
Over 160 years after being originally bought as a shooting range for the Duke, Dougarie is still standing, with three cottages rented out to tourists and vacationers.
“The estate nestles in the Iorsa Glen, with craggy mountains as a backdrop and stunning seascapes to the front,” Jackie, Dougarie’s office manager, said via email. “It is the essence of Scotland.”
The Dougarie Estate was purchased by current owner Stephen Gibbs in 1972. Gibbs opened the estate to tourists, adding venues for golf and field sports. In addition, the region is rich with opportunities for hiking and a sometimes rocky, sometimes sandy coast to walk along the Firth of Clyde.
The three houses available for rentals are the High Dougarie Farmhouse, the House of Machrie and the Machrie Farm Cottage, all located near the main coastal road. Gibbs and his family, as well as other workers at the estate, live in various other properties on the estate.
Jackie, who has worked at the Dougarie Estate for just over a year, said working for Gibbs is “like being part of the family.”
The High Dougarie Farmhouse, where I stayed during my week on the Isle of Arran, sits high up on rocky crags. The front of the farmhouse overlooks the First of Clyde, and the fields in between are full of sheep. Jackie said a local farmer owns the sheep and leases the land from Gibbs.
On a typical summer night at the High Dougarie Farmhouse, the peaceful sound of waves and cry of sheep can be heard throughout the night. Archaic stone walls, about three feet high, border each property, with occasional barbed wire knotted with dirty-white clumps of wool. It is not uncommon to see a shepherd, complete with quintessential overalls, walking through his sheep pastures, a peppy border collie close at his heels.
Arran, an island located off the southwest coast of Scotland, is located in the Gulf Stream. This causes year-round mild temperatures. The island even features palm trees in the more heavily populated towns.
“The Isle of Arran is a magical place and I feel very privileged to live here, especially as I only moved here 18 months ago,” Jackie said via email.
The Duke of Hamilton was married to Princess Marie of Baden. Their daughter married Prince Albert of Monaco, then later married Count Tassilo Festetics of Hungary.
Forty years after being built, John Burnet Son and Campbell had the opportunity to renovate the estate. However, they did not follow through with building plans, so the estate still retains original design, according to an information sheet provided by Jackie. Dougarie still continues to be a sporting estate, as William the Duke had intended.