Nicholas Ashley-Cooper is the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury and owner of St.Giles House and Shaftesbury Estates in East Dorset, which has been owned by his family since the 15th century.

The family rescued St.Giles House, and Lord Shaftesbury now lives there with his wife Dinah and their three children. The family are involved in a wide variety of activities, including farming, letting property, events, charity work and an equine business. Lord Shaftesbury has a passion for the outdoors and running. His other love is music and he was a DJ before taking over the estate and is now a trustee of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.


Q: What would be your perfect day out in Dorset?

A: Perfect day in Dorset, would be outside with the children either camping or enjoying a picnic and a glass of wine. If I could combine it with a quick jog to enjoy the nature, then even better!


Q: What are your fondest memories of the county?

A: When I grew up I used to feel like Dorset was the end of the world where nothing was going on. I couldn’t wait to leave! Most of my young adult life was spent in nightclubs in urban locations like Manchester and New York. However, going away made me realise what I had at home. Now I am back, I really appreciate the beauty of the countryside and the authenticity of the little villages and hamlets that make up the county. I couldn’t think of a better location to bring up a family. There’s also a good buzz of activity with producers, artisans and a growing cultural scene, which is great.


Q: What has been your proudest achievement?

A: Restoring our family home St.Giles House which hadn’t been lived in for 50 years and was on the “Heritage At Risk” register. We weren’t really sure what we were doing when we started, but we just had this mission and determination to move back in and call it a home again. We won several awards for the restoration work and I was able to write a book on the project (Rebirth of an English Country House) with Tim Knox, so it felt like a success. It never ceases to amaze me how far we’ve come, but we have been very lucky to have amazing support from family, friends and loads of incredible craftsman. We feel very lucky to have the opportunity to live here and share it with other people through the events we do.


Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?

A: So many places, but I am lucky to have an incredible family history and a wonderful family, and that is my first and most important inspiration.


Q: What would be your favourite thing to do when you have a day off?

A: I should say read and relax – but I’m not that good at putting my feet up. These days it’s doing something with Dinah and the children, climbing or running. In the evening I like to listen or play music if I can!


Q: Where is your favourite place to eat in the county?

A: Home.


Q: What three things do you associate with Dorset?

A: Family, Nature, Authenticity.


Q: If you could summarise the county in one word what would it be?

A: Perfect.


:: Lord Shaftesbury is hosting the fifth BSO's Music at St. Giles concert series at St. Giles House, with the Elias String Quartet on July 17; baritone Roderick Williams with Susie Allan on piano on October 3 and BSO soloists on November 12. The events include a drinks reception and fine dining experience.