There are very people in the world quite like Jonathan Turner, who exudes an infallible kind of energy that affects those around him. As the Chief Executive for the Bayford Group, Jonathan is a shining example of what success should look like — balancing business portfolios, collecting rare vintage racing cars, and spending time at his beloved Laudale Estate.
We sit down with Jonathan Turner on the last day of our Scotland adventure and explore the Laudale Estate through the eyes of its most gregarious custodian. In conversation with Jonathan, we talk about the delicate ecological balance of Loch Sunart - a responsibility that he was willingly taken on, his enthusiasm for details, and the story of how left his heart in the breathtaking lochs of West Scotland.
How did you come to acquire the Laudale Estate? In your opinion, what makes this a unique destination?
We’ve got a holiday home in Bamburgh in Northumberland, fondly referred to as Barmburgh Castle. One summer four or five years ago, we were there on holiday and we kept bumping into people we knew. So I said to my wife, we are gonna go to Scotland and find a holiday home there. For a few years, we started looking for a holiday home and couldn’t find anything. We were on the verge of giving up, when I got a call from an agent saying that an estate has come into the market. An estate was the last thing on my mind; I’ve got enough business interests and was busy enough in my life that I din’t want to take on what is essentially another business.
But then he sent me some pictures, and as the case usually is with these things, it’s a very similar situation to my old cars, I’ve got quite a few old cars and when I sit inside a classic car — that’s how I know if I’m gonna buy it or not. So I knew even before coming here what exactly was gonna happen. I even tried to set myself up for disaster and decided to come in December so it would be dark and gloomy. When I got here, stood in the lawn, saw the view, I knew that I didn’t even need to go into the house to know that this place was special. The sheer size and scale of this place was breathtaking — it was and still is one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen!
I then got to know the other aspects of the business, farming, forestry, holiday cottages, and though relatively small compared to my other endeavours, it was big for Scotland. We’ve got thirteen thousand acres, which is quite a lot of land to manage. I took my time in buying it as well, as there were a lot of aspects to the estate that I wanted to learn and understand — like stalking, managing eight hundred head of deer, and managing three thousand acres of forestry. It is a massive responsibility as everything we do will have an environmental impact even thirty years down the road. For me, I am the custodian of this special place, and have to look after it and invest in it accordingly. I really care about Laudale and this part of the world, and I want people to see that a lot of love has been placed in its care.
What was your favourite part about taking on this project?
In the house, my favourite bit was working on the bedrooms and spending time working on the different names as I wanted each room to have different themes. It took us a while to come up with all the specific themes, but the most exciting part was to go out in the world and find all the things that would fit with each room. The Perch bedroom for example, was created around a fishing theme and I knew that I had to find old fishing rods and fishing lines to decorate. In the Trigger room, I found an amazing old shotgun and a local craftsman turned it into a lamp. We’ve got Ecurie Ecosse - named after the old Scottish racing team, and it is a room I particularly love. I used to own an Ecurie Ecosse D-type jaguar, which was modelled after the original, one of the most famous cars in the world. That car was really quite symbolic as it won second place in Le Mans in 1955, and I sold it to help me fund the acquisition of this estate. Funnily, I sold a Scottish racing car to help me fund my Scottish Estate - which is quite romantic I think.
From an environmental standpoint, what makes this place so special compared to the other places in Scotland?
We’ve just had a lovely chat with my favourite local ecologist Matt this morning, and we talked about how this is the longest sea loch in Scotland. Right outside the house is the Laudale Narrows, we’ve got nineteen miles of Loch starting from Loch Head which is where our holiday cottages are, but it narrows right outside the house and this is the most ecologically interesting area. The fact that there is a family of porpoises living on the inner loch tells us how varied the species are out there.
Working with Scottish National Heritage, we have determined that this site is of specific scientific interest. They know that this is an important ecological site in Scotland, and as of yesterday, we are now on our way to becoming a marine protected area, of which there are only thirteen in Scotland. Local ecologists like Matt are constantly discovering new things about the environment, he has lived here thirty years and is still learning. Yesterday we passed through a tree with lichen that could be made into a natural dye — it’s all very fascinating.
In what ways are you and your team at The Laudale Estate helping to protect the delicate ecological balance in the estate — whilst managing the property?
Everything that we do here goes through both local ecologists and the Scottish National Heritage. We can’t lift a spade without the recognition of the impact our actions have on the land. The people I work with in my team all know that, so we don’t do anything that would create or alter the course of nature in the long term. For example, quite a few people have spoken to me about opening a wind farm here, which could be quite lucrative, but would completely devastate the landscape — and so is something we would never consider.
With so many picturesque places to choose from, What is your favourite spot in the Laudale Estate?
There is a cliff just a short drive away from the house, which will call the Coffin Trail. You go along the shore then drive through the forest, and when you get to the top you look back where you’ve come from and you see all the way down the loch. In order to get there, you have to go through a series of different experiences, and being there atop that cliff is an experience in itself. You can see the loch, the landscape, the house, the forest, the deer — and you are overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and scale of Scotland.
I truly believe that Scotland is one of the most beautiful places in the world, without a shadow of a doubt — for me that is an indisputable fact. You can’t stand there, and say it was average. It is easily one of the nicest places in the world; we are a postage stamp for Scotland.
Interview by Hannah Tan
View our Gallery of The Laudale Estate
Read about our Stay at The Laudale Estate