To fund the necessary works - and managing land on this scale is hugely complex and costly, given advances in
understanding of its specific eco-system - Schefler’s team has re-launched Tulchan as a private members' club, and a
seriously exclusive one. For £95,000 a year - plus VAT - members get two shooting days for eight guns at the lodge
during the season for them to take a pop at a few birds - a few being an eye-watering maximum of 300 pheasant or
partridge per day - with Tulchan’s expert assistance and guidance if desired. Of course, members also get
preferential access to grouse shooting and salmon fishing too at other times.
If that sounds steep, for those two days they get accommodation for 28 of their friends and family - that’s the
entire lodge - airport transfers, tended to by a professional household staff and seriously well fed by the resident
chef and his team. The lodge, which has undergone extensive but sympathetic renovation and refurbishment by Nicholas
Haslam Ltd (this is a listed building filled with grandiose fireplaces and wood-panelled walls, so don’t expect
anything too minimalistic or edgy) also becomes a home from home for the rest of the year, albeit one complete with
spa, gym, bar, cinema room, wine room and, naturally, a gun room.
Tulchan will have a maximum of just 25 members too, with slots still available. The income they bring in will then be
used to help manage the surrounding land, such as closing in countless miles of drainage ditches cut during the
1970s, back when it was thought to be a good way to look after the fens.
“We have to tend to the land in a way that’s holistic, good for all the wildlife and not just for the grouse, which
might have been the thinking in the past,” explains Irwin. “The membership allows the modern management of the
estate to become viable, rather than it otherwise effectively standing still. It means it will still be here in
another 100 years. The land was in need of a lot of TLC, which it’s now getting. We’re heading in the right
direction again. Estates like this have to be more commercial, more savvy, not just a rich man’s hobby.”
The next door estate, for example, has launched the Northeast 250, a road trip through the land taking in the
cultural and outward-bound pursuits of Speyside, the Moray Firth coast, Royal Deeside, the Cairngorms and the like.
Likewise, Tulchan is re-building ties with its local community, not simply by becoming a more dynamic part of the
local economy again, but by opening its restaurant to the public on certain days, with plans to open a deli and
tearoom too. Indeed, Tulchan is aiming towards self-sufficiency in much of its food - Aberdeen Angus, Wagyu Beef
cattle, lamb, chickens, honey, herbs, vegetables - and over the coming couple of years will launch its own
distillery. Refreshingly, this won’t be for whisky, nor for vodka (the new owner has plenty), but for gin.
“Tulchan has to be a place where you can come and enjoy the wilds of the place, of course, but also with the
reassurance that you’re never far from a good martini,” notes Irwin. “During the season the Scottish estates get
very busy - it’s a very competitive market. So we’re thinking as much in terms of what appeals about coming here the
rest of the year. It’s why we’re not opening the lodge to a huge membership - so we can get to know our members,
cater to their specific needs and make sure it feels like a place they want to come to get away from it all. It’s
basically re-envisaging the estate as a high-end brand.”
It’s a brand too that’s not only available to those with deep pockets and an itchy trigger finger. Being an estate of
some impressive proportions, Tulchan also has six cottages, as well as Knocktulchan, its smaller sister lodge, for
non-members to rent out, with all catering requirements likewise tended to. “Most of the people who come to the
estate tend to be pretty good shots already though,” notes Irwin - so you might want to get your eye in first.