9th April 2020

Culture / Featured / Caroline Gladstone

A Brave Move by Caroline Gladstone

87 8 mins 4

Caroline Gladstone is co-founder of Some Good Ideas, The Good Life Experience, Glen Dye Cabins and Cottages and the Global Project Manager for the prestigious restaurant group Granger and Co. overseeing restaurants from Japan, Australia, Hawaii and London. Expertly juggling the many business hats she wears, alongside bringing up six children with six dogs, it is obvious Caroline has a knack for project management. She’s extremely creative, thorough and tackles everything head-on with her most infectious laugh.

I first came to Glen Dye in August 1987 and fell in love hard. It took my breath away; the wildness, the lulling sound of the river, the majestic trees, the wide skies, the light. I had grown up in cities all over the world but had always had a deep, almost instinctive yearning for the wilds of Scotland – my paternal grandmother was from Mull – and coming to Glen Dye felt like coming home.

So two years later, just after our first child Jack was born, we decided that we’d had enough of city life, and my father-in-law suggested we move to Glen Dye, and start learning to run the family business up there. We jumped at the chance and said yes without a second thought. For me, it was a dream come true, quite literally. We started to make plans.

We took the sleeper up to Montrose, with Jack in a Moses basket and our black Labrador Finny in the guard’s wagon and travelled up to Glen Dye for the first site meeting. We met builders, electricians and plumbers and put plans in place to do the ‘big’ jobs while we were still living in London. The first job was putting in 400m of sash cord so that we could open and close the windows. The whole house had to be rewired –none of the overhead lighting was earthed– and I had to decide on the best positioning for sockets, double or single, in rooms where there had only ever been one. The plumbing –“as old as Jesus Christ” according to Doug Watson, the plumber– had to be adapted to cope with radiators in a house that had never had central heating.

The house sits on a high bank above the river Dye, surrounded by woodland. It is very hidden and very private.  It is built from local pink Peterhead granite which glitters in the sunlight. The original part of the house was built in 1799, and was added on to in bits, until 1898. The result is a slightly ramshackle, essentially C-shaped traditional shooting lodge, that was originally intended for use only in the grouse-shooting season, late summer to early autumn.

We were the first family to actually use the house as a home and to give it a beating heart.

Caroline Gladstone

Renovations started in September 1989. I had worked for Laura Ashley, and they used three of the rooms as room sets for their 1990 catalogue. By February, all the windows worked, it was safe to switch a light on and the rooms were warm. I found a painter/decorator and briefed him to start with the kitchen, playroom, Jack’s room and our bathroom. Our bedroom and the sitting room had been ‘Laura Ashleyed’. We sold our house in Wandsworth and set our move date for April 4th. Our London life was packed away into boxes and labelled room by room, junk was sifted and sorted, and suddenly, it was time to go. A lorry came and took all the boxes and we piled into the car, with Jack, Finny and Gizmo the cat and set off, without a backwards glance, ready for a new kind of life.

The problem about doing a renovation project long-distance is that while the cat is away, the mice certainly do their own thing and we arrived to find that the painter had started to work on three spare rooms, and none of the rooms I had briefed him to do had been finished. Disappointed, but undeterred and very excited, I gradually unpacked where I could, and our new life began.

We had no local friends, but the Highlands is a very friendly place, and news spreads fast.  We accepted every invitation we got for the first two years so that we could garner a wide circle of friends. And every time a friend from London asked if they could come up for the weekend, we said yes. So we were certainly not lonely.

India was born in May 1991, followed by Tara, Xanthe, Kinvara and Felix. As the family expanded, we renovated more of the house and by 2000, it was completely done. It has been a long project, but worth every second. Bringing the children up in the wild outdoors was the best gift we could have given them. It has instilled a love of being outside in them, it has taught them to appreciate wide open wild spaces. It has given them independence and confidence. It has taught them to be self-sufficient, I don’t mean growing vegetables – although there was a bit of that too – I mean in terms of creativity, finding things to do, games to play, never being bored.

Was I ready for the move? That wasn’t a question I ever asked myself. I know that many of our friends and family thought we were mad, that we should test the water and rent out our 3 bedroomed house in Wandsworth rather than sell it. Charlie and I always jump in with both feet, leaping before we look. I suspect that if we had thought too hard about the magnitude of what we were doing, where we were going, what we were leaving behind and whether it was the right time, we might never have gone. Have I ever regretted our decision? Not for one single solitary second. Not even in the darkest depth of winter. It is the place where I feel deeply at peace and where I feel my spirit soar.

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Caroline Gladstone

Alongside being the co-founder of The Good Life Experience festival, creating Glen Dye Cabins and Cottages, bringing up six children with six dogs, Caroline is the Global Project Manager for the prestigious restaurant group Granger and Co. overseeing restaurants from Japan, Australia, Hawaii and London.

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