A castle is for keeps

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The Independent Online
My sincere thanks to Knight Frank, property consultants of distinction, for considering me with a set of particulars which put the competition to shame. I refer to their 24-page glossy brochure extolling the virtues of the Taymouth Castle Estate in Perthshire.

In the days when estate agents used to send out particulars I recall they were particularly drab documents - the epitomy of monosyllabic monochrome. They were the bits of paper which you swept off the coffee table just before guests arrived. The Taymouth Castle particulars, in contrast, is a document to be proudly put on display when expecting visitors.

Most particulars include phrases like "half landing leading to third bedroom/study" or "walled town garden laid to lawn". Not only are these economical with the truth they are also deeply unimaginative. The one good thing about there being no houses to buy is that there are no particulars to read. What a breath of fresh air then to receive the brochure from Knight Frank. There is no doubt the particulars are helped by the breathtaking natural beauty of the estate and its castle but the creators of this document have done much more than sling together a few glossy picture-postcard style photographs.

When it comes to the section on the golf course there are pictures a- plenty, but also a detailed breakdown of the membership and green fees. The River Tay, which flows through the estate, is delightfully portrayed visually but there is also an analysis of the number of salmon caught in the last five years. In 1992 18 were landed peaking at 68 in 1994 but down to 44 last year.

"Given the performance of other neighbouring beats there is significant potential for this catch to be improved," the brochure adds helpfully.

The compelling combination of hard fact with enticing optimism is one which should be replicated. Why do so many particulars say "within easy walking distance of public transport" when it is a two-mile hike? Why not take a leaf out of the Knight Frank book and give precise distances along with the average time taken to cover it by the fat and unfit. Add optimism by pointing out the station is but a pounds 3.50 cab ride away by all means.

Life is easier, certainly, if the property you are selling has character. Taymouth Castle boasts many rooms including gallery, library, baron's hall, billiard room, Chinese drawing room and a banner hall. These are eloquently described.

The castle must have getting on for a hundred rooms but nowhere do you find the phrase "Bedroom 67, 25' x 14' with fitted cupboards".

Why is it that estate agents insist on describing every room in the house, even those which are little more than glorified cupboards? I prefer the Knight Frank approach which focuses on quality, not quantity.

I would quite like to buy the Taymouth Estate, not least because included in the price is The Old Church, the Brae. It is now used as a kind of market but was once a "Wee Free" church. This is important to me because my friend Pedro's partner Emma is beginning to annoy me. She was wittering on about how she had found a fitted loft in Battersea which the builders advertised as "twee free". No one knows what this means. But if she is going to get a twee free loft I am determined to get a Wee Free church.

I have fallen in love with The Taymouth Castle Estate and will be down to the building society next week to seek a mortgage to fund the pounds 5.5m asking price.

I will woo the lenders by quoting Robert Burns. "The Tay meand'ring sweet in infant pride, the palace rising on its verdant side."

My fear is that the building society will quote Private Frazer out of Dad's Army: "We're doomed, we're doomed."

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