The unique highland setting of Braemar village has flourished under a combination of extensive local estate involvement and community cohesion. As a local landowner, Invercauld Estate recognises the significance of its role in local engagement. Partnerships closely connect projects throughout the village.
Braemar Community Ltd works to develop major projects amongst the community. Simon Blackett, a volunteer at Braemar Castle indicated that while “the elements are all interesting within themselves, there is strong community cohesion and collaboration between them.” The manager of the community castle, Georgina Errington, said the castle has been a “catalyst” for projects within the community, providing the foundations for further development and opportunities.
Braemar Castle is a centre piece to local culture; the only community operated castle in Scotland, since an improving lease was granted by Invercauld Estate in 2007. £500,000 has been raised so far, to renovate the roof, chimneys and fireplaces, and with a view to harl the outside of the building and build a modern visitor centre.
Volunteers are relied upon both in daily management of the castle: a team of 50 work in gardening, catering, book keeping and car parking, while local support is also vital for fundraising towards restoration and conservation operations.
Each year the castle employs students during the peak season. Hanane Ortega, assistant manager, began work here as a student in 2015, and regards the castle as an invaluable opportunity both in launching her career as a post-graduate and for personal development; “it is great to build a relationship with the community and other volunteers”.
Employment opportunities are being expanded by one of Invercauld’s biggest investments within the community. Ivan Wirth’s exceptionally promising work into the total renovation of The Fife Arms Hotel is set to become one of the most striking attractions to draw tourists to the village. The hotel intends to open in the winter of 2018, having received planning permission in February of 2016.
The focus on deer stalking as a focal source of income to support the estate itself not only assures cultural preservation, but also makes Invercauld a valuable source of local employment. Working with a gamekeeper, factor, pony gillies and stalkers, a centuries-old Highland sport is vitally maintained. This provides the opportunity for the native Highland pony breed to be employed as an efficient mode of transport for the stag. Naturally sure-footed, the breed is able to reach places that vehicles can’t, allowing the romantic, authentic notion of the Scottish Highlands to be preserved.