OWNING a country estate might seem to many people to be the height of aspiration, with all the physical benefits of a healthy outdoor life as well as the social cachet of living in a heritage property infused with a sense of history – but it is actually a job with complex responsibilities.

That is the message from Baird Lumsden partner, Donald Yellowley, who said: "It is not all candlelit dinners and riding to hounds. Being the custodian of a modern rural estate is more akin to being the chief executive of a large business, responsible for the livelihoods and wellbeing of scores, if not hundreds, of people.

"And it is a business which, particularly in Scotland, has its own unique set of challenges and issues arising from the necessity to adopt a more wide-ranging and creative approach to estate management than traditional country pursuits.

"That is why it is increasingly important for estate owners to have the best possible quality of advice from a professional factor, a role which has been pivotal to estate success for centuries and is now entrusted to experts such as Baird Lumsden, the country department of DM Hall Chartered Surveyors."

Rural estates remain the bedrock of many country communities, with traditional farming activities becoming a declining part of overall income sources, which now tend to include woodland, shooting, minerals and in many cases, substantial commercial and leisure activities.

Factoring in such a diverse business has to be proficient in everything from general estate management to dealing with tenancies – both agricultural and residential – grant applications, buildings and repairs, valuations, tax implications, compensation claims, boundary disputes, wills and succession planning.

Successful estates will plan for years ahead, with regular reviews of the efficiency of operations, the need for renovations, plantings and potential land sales – all decisions which must involve the interests of the family, particularly the heirs.

Mr Yellowley, who is based at Bridge of Allan, Stirling, continued: "They must be open to new opportunities, such as the upsurge in interest in natural capital and forestry. In the past, the value of land for agricultural use was higher than for planting trees, but recent incentives have altered this landscape.

"The ability of woodland to capture and store carbon dioxide means it has a crucial role to play in combatting climate change. For estates, this opens up a potential new income stream through trading carbon credits under the Woodland Carbon Guarantee scheme which came into force in 2019."

Alongside woodland, buyers from around the world are seeking to buy Scotland’s ubiquitous peat bogs, in order to offset carbon emissions created elsewhere. It is one of the few places where green resources can be acquired on a meaningful scale.

The number of buyers registering interest in land purchase has increased dramatically over the past year, but few estates changed hands and about half of those which did sold privately, without coming on to the open market.

Other, less obvious, means of maximising the potential of woodland are also becoming available. Contemporary interest in 'natural burials' has led to some businesses creating peaceful, rural, resting places for loved ones.

One such is Strowan Woodland Cemetery near Comrie in Perthshire, where interments take place in the valley of the River Earn in environmentally-friendly wicker, wood or bamboo coffins. There are no markers, so the landscape remains untouched, but relatives can locate the grave on a memorial board.

As well as this, two other DM Hall-managed estates offer memorial tree planting services.

Mr Yellowley concluded: "These alternative sources of income can be quite volatile, and subject to sudden disruption as the past year has demonstrated, but the proportion of total estate income from them continues to show positive growth.

"In an increasingly complex sector, it is more important than ever for estate and land owners to support their activities with the best possible professional advice."