Getting away from it all proved difficult for swashbuckling businessman Jonathan Turner.
Bamburgh, where he had a second home, had become a hotspot for fellow Yorkshiremen and women lured over the border by Northumberland’s beaches.
“I kept bumping into people I knew, which was lovely but it didn’t feel like an escape from everyday life,” says Jonathan, who has now put a couple of hundred miles and a stretch of clear blue water between him and his former holiday haven.
He now has a remote Scottish hideaway and, in true Turner style, buying it was a snap decision. The entrepreneur and head of the Bayford Group has built his fortune on acting fast or as he puts it “spotting opportunities and having the guts to grab them” while others tarry with sums, spreadsheets and consultations before making a move.
His supersonic speech reflects his quick thinking and his matey, charismatic personality has helped seal many deals. Known to his friends as JT, he grew up in Horsforth, Leeds, and studied business in Newcastle. His first big deal was in 2000 when he bought the UK’s largest group of petrol stations and doubled his money when he sold them 18 months later. In 2004, he bought out his family’s firm, Bayford, which specialises in fuel cards, oil distribution and petrol stations.
He’s now looking at diversifying into gas and electricity supply while continuing to boost his classic car collection. Like most of his ventures, the Scottish property turned out to be an excellent call even though it didn’t match his search criteria.
“I started looking for a little bolthole in Scotland, somewhere I could disappear and the budget was £200,000,” he says.
When a property agent called to tell him about a 13,000-acre estate for sale in the Highlands, he told them he wasn’t interested but couldn’t resist driving up in one of his “old Jags” to take a look. Laudale, the principal house on the estate, is on the unspoilt Morvern peninsula – a nature rich area full of wildlife, including sea eagles and otters.
The 10-bedroom property was built on the southern shore of Loch Sunart for John Campbell of Ardslignish in the mid-1700s. It comes with forests and moorland, 800 head of deer and seven holiday cottages.
“It is in the most gorgeous location and it gave me an emotional feeling when I saw it. It was the same feeling I have when I see a fabulous car and I just have to buy it,” says Jonathan.
After taking advice from estate management experts at Savills, he followed his heart and has no regrets.
“It was an emotional purchase rather than a business deal. The estate was losing money when I bought it, though it’s not now. I took a punt and it’s one of the best things I have ever done in my life. I go up there a lot with my family and we all love it,” says Jonathan whose main home is a farmhouse near Ripon.
Along with providing a retreat for him, his wife Karen and their three children, Laudale is now a luxury holiday let.
When he first saw it in 2012 it needed renovation and he relished the prospect of giving the property a new life.
It’s something he did in spectacular style at Bowcliffe Hall in Bramham, now a wedding and events venue with a members’ club. The long-time owner of the hall until his death in 1955 was aviation pioneer Robert Blackburn, one of Jonathan’s heroes. Blackburn built his first monoplane in 1909 and introduced the first scheduled flights in the UK
The grand house was faded to say the least when Jonathan bought it. He spent millions on the renovation and added a timber-clad, wing-shaped building in the grounds named “The Blackburn wing” in honour of the great Yorkshireman.
“I enjoyed doing Bowcliffe but I’m not really a property person. I just like creating something and making a difference. I like a challenge,” he says.
At Laudale, he has put in ten new bathrooms and refurbished all the rooms. He and Karen sourced furniture and paintings from auction houses in Edinburgh and from Tennants in Leyburn. They also sought inspiration from Maison d’Objet interiors exhibition in Paris. To add a personal touch, the couple commissioned Yorkshire-based Abraham Moon to produce a Laudale tweed for cushions and upholstery.
Theming some of the bedrooms enabled them to add quirky touches, like fishing rods and tackle in the “Perch” room and a lamp made from an old gun in “Trigger”, a shooting inspired room.
Now the makeover is complete, the property offers the glorious getaway he craved, though Jonathan is most enamoured by the seaplane he bought to make his journey to the Highlands. The Spirit of Laudale, a Cessna 208, is operated by Loch Lomond Seaplanes and is the only commercially available seaplane in the UK. It picks him from RAF Leeming and drops him off outside the house, saving a six-hour car journey. It’s also available for guests to use.
“I saw one about four years ago on Loch Lomond and thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen,” he says. “It ties right back to Robert Blackburn, who was the biggest builder of seaplanes in Europe before the war.
“Now I have Robert Blackburn’s house at Bowcliffe and I have the only commercially available seaplane in Europe and this beautiful estate in Scotland. They give me a tremendous amount of pleasure and I don’t want to sell them ever.”