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Exclusive-Use Accommodation Spotlight: Candacraig

By Millie Earle-Wright
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Highland Hospitality

Tucked away in the northeast corner of the Cairngorms National Park, where old pines grow tall and the River Don tumbles towards the North Sea, lies the captivating Candacraig. Surrounded by the Grampian Mountains, vast in their heathery hillsides, this exclusive-use mansion offers seclusion and the opportunity for adventure in the wilds of the Scottish Highlands.

The history of Candacraig can be felt in the very bones of the house – those who have travelled long and far claiming to feel a sense of home within its walls. Perhaps, this is because after the Scottish comedian Billy Connolly sold it in 2014, it was bought by the Lino family, who (when it’s not being privately let) happily call it home.

Candacraig also manages to strike the perfect balance between opulent and intimate. The house contains 12 en-suite bedrooms, each unique in both colour and character. A striking, tartan adorned dining room comfortably seats up to 32 guests. There’s a drawing-room full of books and a wood-clad, whisky library with an open hearth. The kitchen is large, light and spacious while offering an informal dining area with space to chat in a cosier setting. Perfect for large gatherings, but also well suited for smaller, more private occasions, Candacraig offers supreme luxury underpinned by warm highland hospitality.


In 1620, Candacraig and its grounds belonged to the Anderson family. Built in the 17th century, the house was enlarged in 1836 in the traditional baronial style of the time – characterised by a revival in gothic architecture. In 1857, it was bought by Sir Charles Forbes of Newe, who already owned much of the land in the area. In 1900, the estate was passed to Andrew Wallace and remained within the family until 1980. During this time there was a fire, which led to much of the main house being reconstructed. The Body Shop founders, Gordon and Anita Roddick, subsequently took over the estate, making comprehensive improvements before selling it in 1998 to Sir Billy Connolly and his wife, Pamela. The current owners, Lynne and Marc Lino, bought Candacraig in 2014 with a vision for both a luxury rural retreat and a warm family home.


While surrounded by the rugged, rural beauty of the Cairngorm National Park, Candacraig’s immediate surroundings are one of tranquillity and peaceful seclusion. Set above rich riverside fields, with fine views along the valley, the mansion is nestled in 18 acres of mature woodland. Beyond the drawing-room windows, the pristine lawn sweeps out in front of the house and a Victorian walled garden gathers sunshine amongst its narrow paths and blooming hedgerows. A mixture of old trees – oak, ash, twisted pine and dark fir, encircle a large fire pit, perfect for evenings spent sampling whiskies from the library’s extensive collection.

Venturing out of Candacraig’s gates, you soon reach small stone villages full of charm, bustling cafes and local artisan shops. Ballater, a short and scenic drive away, offers lovely restaurants and a charming highstreet; while to the west lies Balmoral Castle, a royal residence since 1852 and an active working estate of over 50,000 acres. A few miles down the road is the small village of Strathdon: home to the Lonach Highlanders and the founding place of the Lonach Highland Games, which takes place every year on the last weekend of August.

Further afield still, you’ll leave the welcoming villages behind and find yourself in vast open spaces full of sky, hills, and heather. Tangy pine forests, rocky crags and wide clear rivers: there is so much to explore in this quiet corner of the Cairngorms. With so much wilderness on the doorstep, the exclusive nature of Candacraig extends past its warm heart, into the beauty of the landscape beyond.


Take a Hike

A keen walker will be spoiled with the variety and abundance of brilliant hiking opportunities that surround Candacraig. With unrivalled access to the Cairngorms National Park – which encompasses more high ground and ancient woodland than anywhere else in Britain – you may choose to bag a Munro, wander along a river, or wind your way through an ancient glen. A landscape rich in history and heavy with folklore, hiking in the Cairngorms is captivating in more ways than one.

Play a Round of Golf

As the world-famous home of golf, there is no better place to play than in the beauty of Scotland. Take the opportunity to visit the UK’s highest course, located in the upper reaches of Royal Deeside or take a trip to the coast, to play on some of the most challenging links courses. With the surrounding area of Aberdeenshire offering over fifty courses, including 2 of the top 10 oldest in the world, many a happy day can be spent on the green.

Explore a Castle

Iconic features of Scotland’s ancient landscape, Candacraig is close to some of the most renowned castles in the country. Take a trip to the 17th-century fortress of Braemar – with its castellated turrets and deep dark dungeon, the castle is brimming with stories sure to entertain and delight all those who enter. You may also wish to visit Balmoral Castle, the holiday home of the Royals, taking the opportunity to stop at the perfectly formed Lochnagar Distillery.

Cast a Line

The River Dee is famous for its salmon, attracting fly fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. Join a ghillie to fish some of the best spots on the river or cast your line into the lovely river Don to hook a wild, brown trout. Whether you’re an experienced angler, or would simply like to give it a go, everyone can enjoy fishing in the heart of the Highlands.

Getting There

In the valley of the River Don, around 18 miles north of Ballater, Candacraig occupies a lovely secluded spot in the Cairngorms National Park. Under an hour’s drive from Aberdeen and only 3 from Edinburgh, the house is private yet accessible.

The drive from both Aberdeen and Edinburgh is incredibly scenic, the latter taking the Old Military Road over the sweeping mountains of Glenshee.

Meet the Author: Millie Earle-Wright

I grew up and studied in the UK. Itchy feet led to time spent in New Zealand embracing the seasonaire lifestyle and travelling in South East Asia. The last couple of years I’ve spent in British Columbia, an amazing place to chase adrenaline.

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