HRH PRINCE Charles is known for many things, but something he perhaps does not get enough credit for is his regeneration of Dumfries House, found just outside of Cumnock, East Ayrshire.

In 2007, Dumfries House was about to be sold off, along with its entire collection of Chippendale furniture, before HRH stepped in and used £20million of his own charitable foundation’s money, The Princes Trust, and personally brokered a £45million deal to secure the house and its furniture.

The idea behind this was so that a sustainable business could be created that would help to regenerate the local economy in East Ayrshire, and, more than 10 years later, it’s safe to say that this goal has more than been achieved.

In order to look at just some of the estate’s success so far, The Scottish Farmer was invited along to visit the Woodlands restaurant, found nestled within the estate’s grounds, to learn a little bit more about this fantastic business, and all that it brings for the people of East Ayrshire, and Scotland.

Our reporter chose, on this occasion, to take all three members of her family with her – dad, mum, and brother, so that she could get a mix of opinions about the experience.

On the evening we arrived at the Woodlands restaurant, it was in the middle of October, so it was rather dark, and chilly, and being honest, we weren’t really sure what to expect.

As you arrive in the car park, which can be found just to the side of the Woodlands building, the first thing you can see is what looks like an industrial kitchen, through a large window, something which threw us all a bit, since we thought we were attending a standard-sized restaurant, not a banquet hall. However, we were pleased to find that on entering the restaurant, it was as lovely as you would expect, if not more so.

Apart from the fantastic service from the staff, we were impressed with the restaurant’s overall décor, which had a quality that you would, of course, expect for any member of the royal family, although we didn’t think the prince himself would actually dine here – of course, we were wrong.

“Prince Charles is very hospitable, and often entertains guests in this restaurant. It’s the perfect size for a small party, and very comfortable,” explained Liz Conquer, our head server on the evening of our meal, and we have to agree with her.

Quality, not quantity, is evidently the ethos of this restaurant, with enough seating for around 30 people at once (we imagine that’s more than enough people for HRH to entertain during an evening).

Included is a small lounge area, perfectly situated beside the bar, which is ideal for having an aperitif or digestif.

So, the overall feel of the restaurant is first class, but one of my biggest interests was the kitchen – why is it so large?

Head chef of the Dumfries Estate, Tom Scoble, was kind to give me a tour of the kitchen, and explain a little bit more about it.

“This is the kitchen where all of the food on the estate is prepared, so whether it’s a wedding or a party, or anything else, the food is prepared in here,” he said.

However, this is not just a kitchen, it’s also a learning centre, and the food for functions is actually prepared in a much smaller area – “it makes keeping things clean that bit easier,” explains Tom, and the larger area of the kitchen is used for school pupils and youngsters on courses.

The Belling Hospitality Centre, found in the Woodlands’ kitchen, provides a course which is designed to cater for twelve young people, aged 16 to 24, who are not in employment, education or training, and working closely with The Prince’s Trust, the course provides experiences and outcomes to open up future employment opportunities. The centre also provides introductory cooking skills for primary school pupils. supports school education through activities based around the Primary School residential activities allowing pupils to experience introductory cookery skills.

The kitchen has three four-station teaching pods, each suitable for one or two students working individually, or in pairs and this is complemented with the chef’s theatre station, which is a fully commercial teaching and demonstration area.

All 12 cooking pods are equipped with the latest technology and two stations are designed to accommodate those with additional support needs.

Being attached to the Woodlands restaurant means that students can learn everything from food preparation to bar and barista service.

Tom explained: “We have quite a high success rate, and many of our students leave to go into full-time jobs, with one of them having actually gone on to work at Turnberry, while others have ended up staying on here as staff.”

After the course is complete, the students aren’t just left to their own devices, as they are given further opportunity to get full-time employment.

“At the end of their training, we close the Woodlands restaurant for the evening and invite along potential employers, so that they can see the students in action, and perhaps even offer them a job, and that has proved to be very successful,” said Liz, who you can tell would be the perfect kind of mentor for young people in the industry.

A perfect environment and a fantastic learning centre for young people, the Woodlands ticks all the boxes for being a good business, but what is the food like?

All four of us made a point of ordering something different, and each dish was presented to perfection, and the quality of the food was some of the highest we have ever seen.

Another highlight was finding out that the produce on the menu is as locally sourced as possible, and the meat, in particular, is supplied by Sorn Mains’ own Jimmy Nisbet.

Chateaubriand was on the menu, using Jimmy’s meat, and it was the kind of stuff that simply melts in your mouth.

On working with Jimmy, Tom commented: “We have worked with Jimmy for a number of years and he is so resourceful, and reliable.

“Knowing that the meat is well-reared and produced locally is a huge bonus for us and that is why we use Sorn Mains.

“Jimmy doesn’t supply us with chicken, for example, but he does source it for is, so his service is fantastic all round.”

At the end of the meal, I turned and asked, as I always do, what everybody thought, and, although we don’t do ratings-based reviews, I am delighted to say that dad, who is a bigger food critic than Paul Hollywood, gave the entire experience a 10/10.

Woodlands really is fit for a king, and long may it last.