FOR the first time in 35 years, a farm on The MacRobert Trust estate in Tarland, Aberdeenshire, is to be tendered for letting.

Ranna Farm extends to 553 acres and will be let from November 28 this year, on a five-year Short Limited Duration Tenancy, with the possibility of a further fixed term, by negotiation, at the end of the five years.

The farm is one of nine main holdings on the Trust’s 7200acre estate in the Howe of Cromar, that also comprises commercial and amenity forestry, Douneside House Hotel, Alastrean House (let out as a care home) and residential property.

Estate manager with The MacRobert Trust, Simon Power, explained: “The Trust is pleased to offer this farm to let; it is open to tenders from applicants with a range of approaches to farming the holding. In addition to conventional farming practices, alternatives such as regenerative agriculture, organic farming and diversification, or a mixture, would be of interest to the Trust – it is open to all ideas.

“One of the main reasons for the five-year SLDT is to give both the tenant and the landlord time to understand how farming will be supported in future. The general expectation is that support for farming from the Scottish Government will have more of a focus on environmental improvement and the contribution farmers can make to maintaining and enhancing public goods.“

“We are aware that there is so much uncertainty just now about UK and Scottish farming, so we want to be open to both conventional approaches and new ideas. We would be happy – and excited – to take new farming practices forward with a new tenant."

Mr Power continued: “We are really interested in the potential for regenerative agriculture, but we recognise that the big question is how to make it work in the north-east of Scotland.

“We don’t know anyone who has completely bitten the bullet and embraced the process. There’s perhaps not enough information on how to do it up here, but we would be keen to work with someone who was interested in trying. We know it’s likely to be hard to launch such an approach from day one and it could take the whole five-year length of this agreement to get the system in place.”

Ranna Farm was purchased by Sir Alexander MacRobert in 1917 and now includes the original 122 acres he had bought at Burnside in 1888. Sir Alexander came from a poor background in Aberdeen but worked hard to improve himself and ended up a well-respected and wealthy man having set up the British India Corporation.

The wider estate was acquired in 1918 from Lord Aberdeen. The house at Burnside was extended and improved, beginning in 1904, and became Douneside House. Sir Alexander had three sons with his second wife, Rachel Workman. Sir Alexander died in 1922 and the family tragedy did not end there. The eldest son, Alasdair, was killed in 1938 when crash landing at Luton having flown back from India, and Roderic and Iain were both killed serving in the Royal Air Force in 1941. Following the death of her last son, Lady MacRobert is famous for funding the purchase of a Stirling bomber which bore the name 'MacRobert’s Reply'; four Hurricanes were subsequently purchased and bore the names of family members.

After the loss of her family Lady MacRobert focused her energies on running her estate, which involved farming over half of it in hand. She was forward thinking – she had already established the first Friesian dairy herd in Scotland in 1913, with the aim of supporting the health of people by improving the quality of milk, created a Highland fold and bred very good quality Aberdeen Angus. She invested in modern farm buildings and machinery.

Lady MacRobert established a number of charitable Trusts in 1943, with the aim of supporting other charitable organisations. Following her death in 1954, the Trusts, ultimately amalgamated into one, continue her charitable work and the running of the estate.

Mr Power explained,:“The Trust came out of in-hand farming in 1986 and it was then that Ranna Farm was let. It has been run as a beef and arable unit by the same family since then. Now it is being offered openly to all-comers, although applications from the Trust’s current tenants will, of course, also be welcomed. It is very difficult to know in advance, but we are really hoping for high interest."

He continued: “The Trust aims to be a supportive landlord, so that its tenants can run successful businesses, whilst receiving a fair rent in return. The Trust will do what it can to work with a new tenant to ensure the letting proves successful.”

By coincidence, the holding is being let just after COP 26, being held in Glasgow; the Trust is conscious of its own responsibilities in relation to climate change and the loss of biodiversity and what it can do to address these issues. It is also undertaking a Natural Capital Assessment of the estate to begin to understand the condition of soils, water, biodiversity and a range of other issues on the estate to help inform future management. All applicants will need to show an interest in climate change and biodiversity issues.

“Uncertainties over subsidies are affecting all sorts of tenancy issues just now, but the hope is that in five years, the situation will be clearer,” said Mr Power

The 553 acre holding has a three-bed farmhouse, a good set of modern buildings and productive land, a mix of s 3.2, 4.1 and 4.2 on the land classification scale. There are currently nine main holdings on the estate, and many of these have been occupied by several generations of the same family.

“As a Trust, we want to encourage all-comers – young, established farmers, families. We would love to help someone progress in farming or give someone a start. We are not ruling anyone out!”

The farm is advertised in this edition, interested parties are invited to email the Trust at to obtain the particulars.

A viewing day is planned for July 17, depending on Covid restrictions.