Bell Ingram heads project team for Braemar Castle restoration 

Bell Ingram Design’s conservation architect Susan Burness is heading up the team tasked with restoring A-listed Braemar Castle and its grounds.

Work had now started on the project following confirmation of funding support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic Environment Scotland. The main contractor is Harper & Allen Masonry.

Braemar Castle, located at the Haughs of Dee, has been an army barracks, family home and visitor attraction since it was built in 1628 by John Erskine, the 6th Earl of Mar as his Highland hunting lodge.

It was a target in the first Jacobite uprising in 1689 and torched by John Farquharson of Inverey. Following the Battle of Culloden, the castle was used as a garrison for Hanoverian soldiers to suppress any lingering Jacobite support.

It was gifted to Braemar Community Trust on a 50-year lease by owner Captain Alywne Farquharson, 16th Laird of Invercauld and Chief of Clan Farquharson, in 2007. Since then, it has been managed by the Braemar Community Ltd. group whose vision is to conserve the castle as a visitor attraction and community resource for schools, charities and individuals.

Susan Burness said: “Bell Ingram are delighted to have been appointed by Braemar Community Ltd. to improve the fabric and infrastructure of this important building. It is a great opportunity to secure the castle for future generations.”

The repair and conservation of the Castle exterior and Curtain Wall will include structural repair, re-harling and lime-washing. Further research during the development phase will confirm the specific shade.

Susan continued. “The restored building will reflect the original colour, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the Castle. Essential interior works, including electrical upgrade, window repairs and drainage upgrade, will provide a more appropriate environment for the collections averting any further detrimental effects to collections conditions and providing a more pleasant environment for visitors.”

Elsewhere, the Castle setting will be enhanced with sightlines cleared, landscape management and re-planting in the Grounds and Curtain Wall areas.

Susan added: “The visitor arrival experience will be improved with all visitors entering through the Grounds gate, which will be widened to enhance accessibility, and reaching the Castle via an accessible all-weather pathway. The improved Castle experience will also see the removal of the existing cabin and the introduction of a modest extension providing accessible visitor toilets and improved space for introductory interpretation and a tour group assembly point.

“Development of the Grounds experience also encompass the refurbishment of the timber fog house to feature a timeline on the accessible path depicting key points in the Castle’s story linking with the interpretive focus of the Castle, nature trail through the grounds and re-instated garden experience.”

If you are interested in finding out more about what Bell Ingram Design can bring to your conservation project, get in touch by calling 01738 621 121 or emailing with us today.

Article posted on 13/06/2022

Achieving record results for our clients in a complex property market

Despite the uncertainties surrounding the Covid-19 crisis and ever-changing guidelines for the industry, Bell Ingram’s property team has enjoyed huge success over the last two years.

Repeated lockdowns have seen us all spend more time in our homes, which has really focussed the mind of buyers on what they truly want and need from their spaces, and as a result we are seeing unprecedented demand for rural property with ample green space as well as additional living space.

Such high demand coupled with a shortage of stock has driven up valuations with residential properties achieving anything between 5% to 30% over the asking price, and I expect this upward trend to continue into 2022.

The land and farm sales markets are also highly competitive, and our well-placed agents have experienced great results in these markets. As rural business experts, Bell Ingram agents understand the rural market and are able to take a creative approach to selling to achieve the best results for our clients.

Being part of a firm that includes, valuations, land management, forestry, mapping and planning pays dividends. For example, our Perthshire agents recently achieved 25% over the asking price for a farming client by separating land for forestry and securing permissions for property development. 

Meanwhile, a recent large estate sale achieved 13.5% over the asking price of £1.6million following 173 viewings and 50 offers for our client.

With so much opportunity in the market currently, now is a favourable time to sell. But for buyers it is not always the ones with deepest pockets who are coming out on top! Buyers who have all their ducks in a row, and who are outwith chains, are often more successful than the highest bidder in securing their dream home.

Because we ask our buyers the right questions, we always secure the best deal for our clients. We would therefore recommend that anyone who is thinking of selling their rural property to get in touch with our agents as soon as possible to discuss your options.

If you are considering selling your home, farm or estate, our dedicated team is on hand to provide the expert advice you need. Contact Carl Warden on 01738 621121 or email

Article posted on 16/02/2022

What is rural land worth this year? Land values in Scotland and the North of England 

Bell Ingram’s guide to average rural land values in Scotland and the North of England has been updated and proves a useful tool for many involved with land transactions.

In reviewing the figures, Sarah Tyson, Head of Valuations, said:

“Average arable land and the best pasture land values have been relatively steady but there is still limited supply and continuing demand, especially where neighbours have the chance to buy. Borrowers are looking to take advantage of current low interest rates whilst they can and certainly AMC lending has seen a lot of fixed loan rate being very popular.

“The forestry sector remains very strong with good timber markets. The unprecedented demand from investors for land suitable for tree planting continues and is further fuelled due to the impact of Natural Capital, including peatland restoration and rewilding projects, although values are very site specific (and can seem eye watering), making it difficult to apply averages.

“Values for sporting interests are steady, but again vary depending upon the particular estate, location and facilities. Scotland has seen an increase in estate sales to those looking for forestry/Natural Capital interests and these examples of land use bring different dimensions, and, approach to prices. Nevertheless, deer management is still essential, and fishers are ever hopeful of a catch!”

Note: The figures quoted provide general indications of value only and should not be relied upon. If you have a property which needs an updated valuation for any reason, get in touch and one of our team of RICS Registered Valuers or Sales Agents will be able to assist.

Article posted on 14/02/2022

The business of carbon net zero

There’s no doubt that climate change and nature decline are the big buzzwords within the UK’s rural land sector as both Holyrood and Westminster push to meet their Carbon Net Zero targets by 2045 and 2050 respectively.

How we address these issues is placing new demands on the landowners and land managers who, as custodians of the landscape, must find a balance between securing the natural environment for future generations while supporting the multiple objectives the land must meet.

While the growing number of government targets has opened up new opportunities for the land-based economy, the application of carbon and ecosystem investment and natural capital concepts is still in its infancy and further complicated by different legislation, aims and targets both sides of the border.

At Bell Ingram we believe that a practical land management strategy is the key to navigating this fast-developing landscape and unlocking associated opportunities.

Woodland Carbon

Carbon in forestry is the hot topic at the moment. Not only does planting trees help to combat global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide, but it has the potential to generate a significant additional income for landowners.

In essence, this is because Woodland Carbon (and Peatland) is tradable and has a value. Carbon sold when trees are planted (or Peatland restored) can provide landowners with additional income. And verified carbon can be used by business to offset their UK carbon emissions.

The Woodland Carbon Code (WCC), which is administered by Scottish Forestry, is the quality assurance standard for woodland creation projects in the UK and generates independently verified carbon units. Backed by government, the forest industry and carbon market experts, the Code is unique in providing woodland carbon units right here in the UK.

Bell Ingram has an established track record of delivering Woodland Carbon Code (WCC) projects, successfully implementing both native woodland and commercial conifer schemes ranging from a few hectares to many hundreds.

From woodland creation through to long-term forest management and timber harvesting, our carbon team can offer a comprehensive range of environmental services and have the expertise to ensure the carbon opportunity in your new investment is developed to maximise potential.

Peatland Restoration

Peatland is an excellent carbon store. The hydrology of peatland, in its natural waterlogged state, prevents carbon within organic matter at the surface oxidising and being released as carbon dioxide. Restoration is crucial as degraded peatland has been contributing to rising carbon emissions.

While woodland creation carbon work is already well established, Peatland Restoration is less advanced and although there are many schemes (and even more planned) the general belief is that there will be major changes to come in order to make this more appealing/available in the future.

Like the Woodland Carbon Code, the Peatland Code is a voluntary certification standard designed to provide assurances to carbon market buyers that the climate benefits being sold are real, quantifiable, additional and permanent.

The Code was developed in 2015 and is managed by the IUCN Peatland Programme. The reduction in carbon emissions by peatland restoration is quantified, validated, and verified in a similar way to the Woodland Carbon Code.

Get in touch

Done right, these new natural capital markets offer exciting opportunities. However, carbon funding is a fast-moving and developing area and we strongly advise both buyers and sellers of carbon to take professional advice.

Please contact Partner and Head of Carbon Mike Thompson at Bell Ingram for more information. Tel. 01738 621 121 or email


Article posted on 10/02/2022

Scottish Forestry continues to forge stronger working relationships with farmers through Integrating Trees Network 

The Integrating Trees Network is up and running and going from strength to strength.

This farmer and crofter-led initiative is supported by Scottish Forestry and the Scottish Government. Its aim is to build up a strong network of farm woodland demonstration sites across Scotland, with the hosts showcasing how growing trees has helped their business.

Sharing experiences and hearing from those who are actually doing it – including Bell Ingram’s Matthew Imrie – is all part of the ever-growing Integrating Trees Network. The initiative has now run ten virtual events, attracting farmers and crofters from all over Scotland.

Farming Networks

The network has built up a strong network of farm woodland demonstration sites across Scotland.

There are six farm woodland demonstration sites across Scotland, hosted by: 

  • Andrew Adamson of Messrs W Laird & Son, Netherurd Home Farm, Peeblesshire.

  • Matthew Imrie (Bell Ingram), Hillhead Farm, Torrance.

  • Andrew and Debbie Duffus, Mains of Auchriachan, Tomintoul.

  • Andrew Whiteford, Burnfoot and Ulzieside Farm, Sanquhar.

  • The Barbour family, Mains of Fincastle, Pitlochry.

  • The Lockett family, Knockbain Farm, Dingwall.

These fantastic farming hosts have shared their experiences along with a number of key practical messages for others thinking of planting trees. These are:

  • Use well known contractors – not always the cheapest but being recommended by others shows they know their job.

  • Environment – you have to work with what’s on the ground, don’t try and change it too much or work against it.

  • You can do the work yourself and you don’t need to rely on contractors. It can be a steep learning curve and there are challenges. It just takes time and planning, but there is support out there.

  • Understand your reasons for wanting to plant trees on your land and your business priorities.

  • Do your research: evaluate your land and monitor your farm to find out what areas are under performing for livestock but could still be suitable for planting trees.

  • Make sure you consider whether planting trees will complement your existing farm enterprises.

  • Treat your woodland as another crop, making sure you are managing it properly.

  • Involve the local community as much as possible in planning – that helps to defuse any potential issues.

  • Ask whether having trees on the farm will help diversify the nature of the business to become more adaptable, and in the future will it provide much needed shelter.

  • Create a habitat for wildlife: life’s pretty boring without wildlife!


As the network has developed, more resources have been created to help land managers take that next step to planting trees on their land. Simplified woodland creation guidance, small farm loan scheme, FAS funding to name but a few and most of all, having access to other farmers and crofters who can share their practical knowledge to those considering woodland creation on whatever scale. This information is available online at and

A video featuring Bell Ingram’s Matthew Imrie, Hillhead Farm, Torrance, one of the host farmers, discussing the decision to plant trees on his family farm and key considerations others farmers should be aware of. Watch it at

Everyone is welcome to book onto these free virtual online events. This is a farmer and crofter-led network so please get in touch and let the organisers know what topics you want  to discuss. Drop or an email. Events coming up:

Tea and Trees with Crofters: Thursday 17th February, 6 – 7pm

A chance to chat about planting trees on your croft – come and share your experiences and ask your questions. This discussion group will bring crofters together to chat about woodland creation projects along with specialists from Scottish Forestry and The Woodland Trust, Croft Woodland Project. This will be an informal networking event and a chance to make connections and chat with other crofters to share your experiences and knowledge. Join with a cup of tea to discuss the objectives, challenges and potential for integrating trees on crofts. Look out for booking details on the Integrating Trees Network website

Woodland Creation for Biodiversity: What needs to be considered? Discussing the ground examples, Thursday, 24th February  7 – 8pm 

Come along and hear from Colin Edwards, Environment Policy Advisor, Scottish Forestry, on how to create woodland to meet your biodiversity objectives. Looking at basic principles of site selection, key species to plant, integration of open habitat and creation of future habitat to maximise your biodiversity benefits. Hear and discuss with our land managers their practical experiences of creating, woodland for biodiversity. Hosts for the night are Andrew Barbour, Mains of Fincastle, Pitlochry and Richard Lockett, Knockbain, Dingwall. There will also be a representative from, Woodland Trust. Booking details on the Integrating Trees Network website www.farmingforabetterclimat

Article posted on 10/02/2022

Biodiversity Net Gain and its impact on future infrastructure and housing projects 

Biodiversity Net Gain is an approach to development which aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than beforehand. Implemented correctly, it should have a positive ecological impact, delivering improvements through habitat creation or enhancement.

It’s by no means a new concept, in fact Biodiversity Net Gain has been best practice among responsible infrastructure companies, developers and landowners for some time now. Bell Ingram, for example, has been working for a major utilities client on a project to provide biodiversity enhancement for a major pipeline development in the North-West of England. Our land agents have been tasked with identifying and acquiring nearby land with the potential for habitat creation and enhancement. The project started in 2020 with completion scheduled for 2030.

It’s worth noting that Biodiversity Net Gain has been a part of planning policy in England through the National Planning Policy Framework for a couple of years, although it has not been widely adopted. 

However, the principle has now become enshrined in law as one of the more ambitious provisions of the new Environment Act 2021. This legal requirement, which applies only to England*, requires new developments to provide a 10% Biodiversity Net Gain to be maintained for a period of at least 30 years in order to secure planning permission.

While this condition has no legal effect yet (and will be brought into force through secondary legislation at a date not yet known), the provisions are far reaching and complex.

In essence, Biodiversity Net Gain means developers in England must ensure their projects deliver biodiversity improvements to meet the required 10% increase. To do this, they must evidence a project’s final Biodiversity Net Gain value using the specified Defra biodiversity metric if they want their plans to get a green light.

To achieve Biodiversity Net Gain, proposals must follow the ‘mitigation hierarchy’ which compels planning applicants to avoid harm in the first instance, then mitigate or finally compensate for losses on-site, off-site or through a combination of the two solutions. These measures will be implemented in planning conditions.

*The Biodiversity Net Gain principles set out in the Environment Act only applies to England, but the Scottish Government has committed to bring forward a new biodiversity strategy in October and its delivery plan six months later.

With a background in environmental management, Ben Hewlett is a Land Agent based in Bell Ingram’s Northwich office where he works on behalf of our utilities clients.

Article posted on 10/02/2022

Devil’s Advocate: Making the case for and against the reintroduction of beavers

Hunted to extinction around 400 years ago, beavers were once a native species in Scotland.

In 2009 the Scottish Wildlife Trust, in partnership with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and Forestry and Land Scotland, launched the first beaver re-introduction trial at Knapdale Forest in Argyll.

The trial had mixed results but through further re-introductions elsewhere, both legally and illegally, Scotland’s beaver population is now reaching record levels.

This increase in numbers has prompted much controversy and debate, especially with the announcement of a new beaver release site being approved at Argaty, near Doune, which is the first since Knapdale.

Against this backdrop, Senior Associate Charlotte Gilfillan and Assistant Land Agent Carrie McLennan from our Highland Office explore both sides of the argument and discuss the future of beavers in Scotland.

Carrie McLennan

There’s no doubt that beaver reintroduction has caused plenty of conflict between conservationists and land managers. Depending which side of the fence you’re on, you either love them or hate them … and in my line of work, it tends to be the latter.

However, it is important to look at re-introduction with an open mind, as beavers have the potential to bring a whole host of environmental, economic, and social benefits. Right now, this is more important than ever, and keystone species such as the beaver have the power to define entire ecosystems, so maybe it is time that we viewed them in a different light?

Indeed, this is about more than just re-introducing an extinct species, it’s about restoring lost ecosystems. Beavers are called ecosystem engineers for good reason as they have a profound impact on their surroundings and possess the ability to restructure their environment through the creation of new habitats, increasing biodiversity, and restoring ecosystem functionality.

I believe that improved communication between stakeholders and conservationists could be the key to helping both sides understand the species and its management options.

There are a number of effective measures which can mitigate the negative impacts of the species and allow for landowners and beavers to coexist. Flow devices, for example, alleviate the impacts of beaver-related flooding issues by allowing the flow of water to continue in a waterway where dams are present.

Recent developments regarding translocation also allow for beavers to be relocated, under a protected species licence through NatureScot to other parts of Scotland if they are causing a disturbance to land managers and prime agricultural land. Previously the only option was to relocate beavers to the established trial population in Knapdale, or to move them to England. This means beavers can now be moved to places where they will benefit nature and the environment, reduce the risk of damage to agricultural enterprises, and crucially, help resolve conflict between key stakeholders.

We should also bear in mind that beavers can and do coexist with people. This has been evident elsewhere in Europe, where the species reintroduction in Sweden has been commended as one of the most successful ever, as they have coexisted with society since 1922, offering one of the best examples of the benefits brought by reintroducing a lost species. There is no reason why this cannot be the case in Scotland, we just need to better understand the benefits that keystone species such as the beaver can bring, and utilise the management options available.

Charlotte Gilfillan

The reintroduction of the beaver in the UK  has been hailed a huge success by conservationists and re-wilders, with numbers tripling in Scotland over the last three years.

While I recognise there are some important ecological benefits to the return of beavers, it has come at a huge cost. From destruction of arable crops through blocking drains and ditches, burrowing through flood defences, felling of trees, flooding of commercial forestry plantations, the list goes on. Even designated sites have been impacted in some areas, with beavers raising water levels sufficiently to threaten the site’s favourable status.

Infrastructure hasn’t escaped unscathed either, with roads and railways being damaged by burrowing, damming and flooding. Last year Network Rail announced they had successfully built ‘Scotland’s first beaver tunnel’ in a culvert under the Highland line in Perthshire, to much fanfare. What they didn’t highlight was that it took several teams from Network Rail plus outside contractors and specialists many months of work to resolve the problem of the dammed culvert and build the tunnel, all at significant cost to the taxpayer.

Although mitigation measures like flow devices, translocation and tree protection are available, there are still costs attached to these options. One of the most effective tools in managing beavers, particularly around arable crops, is a licence for lethal control. The future of NatureScot’s Beaver Management Framework and licensing system, which includes lethal control, was subject to judicial review last year, following a legal challenge by Trees for Life. The majority of the complaints were thankfully dismissed but it is vital that this licence remains available as numbers and impacts of beavers increase.

The re-introduction of any species will inevitably bring its own set of unique challenges, particularly those that have been extinct for hundreds of years and whose natural range and landscape is now completely managed. Trials are therefore imperative to determine the feasibility of any re-introduction and to consider the consequences, both intended and unintended.

Given the uncertain success of the initial trial at Knapdale, where the population failed to grow, there is a question of whether future legal re-introductions would have been supported by the Scottish Government. However, by the time the trial results were available many beavers had already been released illegally by private individuals in Perthshire, deliberately and without repercussion, leaving farmers and landowners to pick up the cost.

With the beaver then subsequently becoming a protected species in 2019, this undoubtedly fuelled the debate further and set a dangerous precedent for future re-introductions.

Driven by the Climate Emergency and Biodiversity Crisis, species re-introduction has never been more topical or more polarised. If the re-introduction of beavers in Scotland is to be used as a benchmark against which other proposed re-introductions are considered, then I have a gnawing feeling we could be in serious trouble. Ultimately the question remains, do the benefits really outweigh the costs – I remain unconvinced.

Article posted on 14/02/2022