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Case Studies > Glenesk Retreat and Folk Museum

Glenesk, Brechin

Case Study Glenesk Retreat and Folk Museum Glenesk, Brechin
Case Study Glenesk Retreat and Folk Museum Situated on the eastern edge of the Cairngorm National Park, near the Angus hamlet of Tarfside, the Glenesk Retreat and Folk Museum has a proud past and – thanks to the support of its staff and local volunteers as well as several nearby estates – a promising future as a tourist attraction.

The idea of transforming the building into a museum for artefacts from around the Glen came from retired Glenesk schoolteacher Greta Michie, who in 1955 approached the late Lord Dalhousie for his support. With the addition of a small shop and tearoom, the Glenesk Retreat and Folk Museum was soon up and running, staffed by a small team of dedicated volunteers. Despite being a little out of the way, the beautiful scenery and the museum’s exceptional collection, documenting the domestic and social life of those who lived and worked in the glen over the decades, proved very popular.

By the turn of the century, though, the building housing the museum finally began to show its age, with ever more money needed to maintain its crumbling fabric.

“There was just too much water coming in – it wasn’t fit for purpose,” said Richard Cooke, Factor for Dalhousie Estates and Board member of the Glenesk Trust. “So we successfully applied for grants from the European Rural Development Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Angus Council, along with the aid of a grant from the Community Land Fund. In 2005, the Trust used this to buy the building from Lord Dalhousie and fund a million-pound redevelopment. Lord Dalhousie donated the net proceeds back to the Trust.”

Today, the renovated Retreat still houses the folk museum, as well as a licensed restaurant and tearoom, and resources such as meeting rooms for local small enterprises. It has also become an important social venue for the community, hosting film nights, ceilidhs and even weddings.

Moving the Retreat onto a more professional footing has also brought its own challenges though. “Volunteers still play a vital role, but we now also have paid staff in the restaurant and a general manager”, Richard said. “This is good news for the local economy, but we’re still a relatively small enterprise in remote location with little passing trade and the annual turnover falls well short of our operating costs”.

Faced with a funding deficit, the Glenesk Trust went for support initially to Angus Council and then to the three local estates with which it has historical links: Invermark, Millden and Gannochy. “The trust has been fortunate in that all three estates understand the importance of the Retreat, and are willing to support the local community. Their support has taken a number of forms, from free administrative support to donated grouse shoots which raised over £20,000 this year,” said Richard.

Councillor Bob Myles, Chair of the Glenesk Trust and a local farmer, is full of praise for all three estates, and believes the contribution of estates in general is too often overlooked. “Those who criticise shooting estates – generally accusing them of being elitist and out of touch – don’t realise what they do for rural communities, from providing employment and work for local tradesmen to their broader social contribution. If you speak to the actual estate owners, they’re here because they want to be here – they’re passionate about the area and want to put something back in.”
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