I am the MD of MacLean & Bruce, a small and unique company providing a limited number of guests with luxurious experiences unavailable by any other means. I founded the company with my fellow directors after we were involved in organising a trip for a member of a royal family. The experience was a steep learning curve and involved us having to learn quickly about privacy, discretion, and extremely high security procedures, on top of the essential logistical and versatility skills required. We are passionate about our magnificent country and the range of outstanding produce we supply, from whisky to Aberdeen Angus beef. Historically we have given the world an impressive number of inventions, from penicillin and general anaesthetic, golf, the bicycle, the television and the telephone, to the giddy heights of the flushing lavatory.
In many minds, Scotland often conjures up romantic notions of rugged castles, mist-shrouded mountains and sweeping glens. These ancient fortresses and formidable landscapes hint at the turbulent and often violent history, the sites of many bloody battles won and lost, all hard fought.
Today a small selection of these historic castles and stately homes offer a highly luxurious and off-beat alternative to hotels. Relaxing in traditional and elegant surroundings, in total privacy and security, waited on by discreet and attentive staff – the tourist trail is long forgotten. Entertainment can be arranged ‘at home’ or in the city, and can feature anything from casino to a pipe band with Highland dancers.
Scotland’s natural produce is of outstanding quality, and we are well served by top suppliers. Using trusted and talented chefs, menus and wine lists can be pre-arranged to suit guests’ preferences, and a butler will keep glasses topped up with a variety of excellent aperitifs and digestifs.
Unlike hotels, where smoking bans are absolute, it can be possible to enjoy a cigar in the comfort of an intimate, but well stocked, whisky library. A whisky and cigar masterclass, with experts in each bringing knowledge and fun to their talks, or simply a dram in front of a crackling log fire, is the perfect end to the day.
Outdoor activities range from white water rafting to horse riding, from archery to falconry, from race track to off-road driving. Ghillies will take guests onto lochs, rivers or the sea and gamekeepers run the
shoots, be it clay pigeon, pheasant or stag. We can even arrange for a chef to be on standby waiting to cook and serve you the fruits of your labours in an outdoor dining room.
One of my business partners is Charles MacLean, one of the world’s leading authorities on the complex subject of whisky. He will accompany guests who have an interest in whisky, bringing expertise and fun to distillery visits and whisky tastings. Through his contacts guests are assured of introductions to master distillers, rare drams, or the chance to fill their own cask or bottle.
Distilleries are flung far and wide, from close to the capital city to the remote Orkney Islands. Accompanied by Charles, guests will enjoy of the warmest of welcomes and plenty of tastings at all. Accessing these distant locations is simplest by using helicopters or light aircraft. Having flown over dramatic landscapes you can land on a deserted white sandy beach with a blazing bonfire and a chef preparing fresh seafood, wine chilling in the natural spring waters. Whether it is classic car, horse-drawn carriage or hot-air balloon, or even the highly luxurious Hebridean Princess boat or Royal Scotsman train, the service and standards of transport will be the very highest, and the experience a unique one.
The ancient capital, Edinburgh, provides a blend of quirky historical architecture with contemporary culture and entertainment. Private shopping experiences with silversmiths and jewellers, watchmakers or cabinetmakers, contemporary artists or antique furniture dealers,
leather artisans and leading fashion designers can be created. Using age-old traditions combined with modern technology to produce Scottish goods of the very highest standards, we make introductions to talented Scottish designers and craftsmen. Guests may wish to design their own tartan or estate tweed, have it woven at the same mills as leading international fashion labels, and shipped home. A coat of arms can be created, approved by the Lord Lyon, and applied to tableware.
A private reception and dinner at Edinburgh Castle or on The Royal Yacht Britannia is a fine end to a day in the city. Tiny, characterful pubs serving craft beer and oysters may be preferred; each itinerary is designed to fulfil the wishes of our guests.
Our guests sometimes wish to combine business with pleasure, either in meetings or viewing potential investment opportunities, both of which we are delighted to arrange. As the home of golf, the Old Course in St Andrew’s is a very fine substitute for the office. On the bucket list of most golfers, it is notoriously difficult to obtain tee times, thus making it all the more special an experience. In Scotland you are never far from a golf course, there are numerous historic, modern, and exciting courses to be enjoyed. Professional golfers will give a masterclass in exclusive surroundings for anyone who wishes.
These are just a few of the Scottish experiences which we can make possible. Whatever size of group and length of stay, we personally accompany groups and provide introductions to our favourite places and people. By doing this we create a ‘house-party’ style atmosphere and do our best to ensure that our guests never feel like tourists, but like friends. It makes me proud to be able to show off the best that Scotland has to offer, and create magical experiences for our guests.