The Tower O'Ess Reimagined

25th June 2020

Nestled on the edge of Glen Tanar, sitting proudly at the entrance to the Glen you will find our newest and most luxurious romantic highland retreat, the Tower O’Ess.

This beautiful conversion of a historic listed building was no easy task. Once the operational gatehouse to Glen Tanar, the Tower O’Ess is steeped in history and features, such as the original gatehouse pulley system, stain glass windows and thick granite walls. All of which have been carefully and tastefully integrated into the Tower’s new design.

We asked Claire Bruce of Glen Tanar Estate why she decided to take on such a challenging project and where her inspiration came from to reimagine and transform this iconic building.


"There were so many factors to take into consideration when we took on this this project. However, we were determined to bring this characterful building back to life by preserving and incorporating as many of the tower’s original features as possible into its reimagined design. We also made the decision to make the tower eco-friendly, using the latest energy efficient heating and insulation technologies. We even gave the tower electric car and bike charging point.”

Claire Bruce

The tower was designed and built between 1871-1873 by Sir William Cunliffe Brooks with his chosen architect George Truefitt. The Tower was originally built as an imposing entrance to the glen. However, in 1918, The Tower O’Ess was converted into an operational gatehouse by Lord Glentanar, Thomas Coats.

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“The Tower O’Ess is full of history and stories. We hope to take couples back in time and allow them to uncover the historic and unique features of the building for themselves. So, when you visit, see if you can spot the original gatehouse pulley system!”

Claire Bruce

To complement the towers beautiful Scottish highland surroundings Claire and interior designer Louise Thurlow came together to create a stunning interior. Their aim was to bring a new lease of life into the property, allowing it to fulfil its destiny as a romantic highland retreat.

“Each room is individually designed using a different colour palette. I took inspiration from the flashes of colour that appear each season on the estate, reinventing the landscape, reflecting that in the design of each room.”

Claire Bruce

“I am passionate about British designers and artists that produce beautiful quality products. It is important to me that we use local and UK based suppliers and artists as much as possible. I think this helps add that personal touch that our guests really enjoy."

Claire Bruce

Much of the pictures, cushions, furnishings and fittings echo the theme of the Tower and come from British artists and designers like Augusta Maclean, Julia Krone, GP & J Baker, Jane Churchill, Christopher Farr and Araminta Campbell.

Julia Krone painted two pieces for the Towers O’Ess. Including a centre piece which hangs above the double ended slipper roll top bath.

“Julia’s mixed media prints fit perfectly into the Tower O’Ess. Julia will be the first to tell you that as a dedicated ‘wild swimmer’, and that most her work is inspired by the lush organic qualities of the river and the sea, the tower was the perfect destination for her life affirming dreamlike landscapes.”

Claire Bruce

Local artist, Stephanie Vandem also painted a piece for the tower titled ‘Lifting 15’, an beautiful oil on canvas which hangs about the fireplace in the sitting room. Stephanie lives locally in Aboyne where the annual Highland Games and stone lifting competitions influenced her piece for the Tower O’Ess.


“Finding the ties between old and new and turning this iconic building into a luxurious highland retreat using local, handpicked and handmade items made it a joy to renovate. We look forward to welcoming couples into this breath-taking one of a kind romantic getaway for years to come."

Claire Bruce