Top 10 Unique Scottish Holiday Homes
Top 10 Unique Scottish Holiday Homes
The gauntlet was recently thrown down by Chic Scotland’s editor: “Tell me about 10 Unique Scottish Holiday Homes.” A few years ago, I would have struggled, today I’ll be leaving some fabulous destinations off the list. Scotland has upped its game when it comes to holiday accommodation and whether you want quirky, dog-friendly, romantic, cool or instagrammable, this fabulous country has something to suit. My recommendations show the sheer scale of what is out there, not just my favs!
Scotland is world-renowned for its castles but let’s dispense with the image of cold, damp and dark too. Several years ago, it would be an apt description of Kilmartin Castle but having undergone a major renovation which was recently televised on The Great Hotel Escape, owners Steph and Si have transformed this former relic into a hip B&B. Think luxurious, under-floor heated wet rooms, a Great Hall in which to hang out and listen to an eclectic selection of vinyl. Enjoy a dram from the whisky snug and then retire to your room to soak in glamorous copper baths and snuggle up in sumptuous bed linens. Guests gravitate to the kitchen where Si and Steph whip up imaginative breakfasts which are served in the atmospheric, but again, super toasty, dining room. The Caledonian Way passes through the village making the castle a great stop off and with The Kilmartin Hotel literally 3 minutes’ walk away, evening meals are sorted too.
A little smaller but just as full of charm is the fascinating Downie’s Cottage which overlooks the village of Braemar. Jackie and Calum Innes came across the cottage in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park in 2006. Largely untouched since the 1930s and full of original features and historic mementoes the building was listed by Historic Scotland as a building of national importance. As a result, Calum and Jackie set about a major renovation to bring the cottage into the 21st century whilst celebrating its rich past. Today, guests can cook in the handcrafted oak kitchen, sleep in a box bed, soak in the stunning pine bath and watch the Northern Lights from the wood-fired hot tub. This is the kind of history lesson I like.
Location, location, location is Dod Mill’s USP. A collection of self-catering cottages centred around a former grain mill near Lauder, Dod Mill offers guests rustic luxury in an idyllic country setting. Accessible yet remote (it’s only 40 minutes’ drive from Edinburgh and 4 miles from Lauder), you can be as energetic or as lazy as you wish. Enjoy a wander along the Mill Lade to the Mill Pond and check out the wildlife or chill out in the cottages and appreciate the bold and quirky interiors which reflect the industrial heritage of the site. Meraki spa products and linens from Laura Thomas add to the luxury experience and encourage you to really slow down. Now breathe…..
Surrounded by wilderness and continuing our rustic theme are Glendye Cottages & Cabins. Offering a wide and eclectic mix of accommodation which includes a Georgian House with its own outdoor cabin, a 1955 Airstream Safari caravan and two incredibly hip steadings it’s holiday accommodation that’s imaginative, inventive, totally off the wall and will fill your Instagram feed with ease. Guests can also enjoy such delights as an outdoor, wood-fired hot tub, an outdoor shower created in the bones of an abandoned sawmill, Big Green Egg BBQs, fire bowls and an exclusive games room and outdoor entertaining space. All that’s left to do is decide which place appeals to you most!
So far, on my Top 10 Unique Scottish Holiday Homes, I’ve remained firmly in Scotland but if you really want to get away from it all, then take a trip to Middle Earth which can now be found in, you guessed it, Perthshire! Bagend and the Burrow are no gimmicks, however. The creation of these traditional, stone-built, Scottish cottages took 16 months and whilst they’re built into the hillside with grass roofs, they’re filled with all the comforts a hobbit would expect. Handcrafted wooden sinks, beds, dining tables and chairs adorn the interior. Heating is via a wood burner and bathing facilities come courtesy of a roll top bath in one and a shower in the other. Owner, Ian’s vision is that when a guest visits, they’ll feel as if they’re entering a little house that belonged to a hobbit. You can borrow it, but when you leave, the little hobbit is going to come back….
Continuing my grass-roof theme but on a grander scale are the Scandi-chic and super curvy Stonehouses. Having moved back to Scotland from Africa, owners Gavin and Rachel Anderson had been inspired by the innovative buildings the Africans created in challenging locations and wanted to bring this to the hills above Ullapool. It wasn’t an easy process, but the result is breath taking. Both properties are luxurious, stylish and comfortable and have their own saunas, but the quirkier Treetop House is my favourite. Voted one of the best ’50 Cottages in Britain’ in The Times, there’s no guarantee the waterfall directly outside Treetops’ window will always be flowing but when it does it is spectacular. Probably one of the few places you’ll stay and say: “Bring on the rain!”
If you really like to be beside the sea, then you really can’t get much closer than Tangle Tower on the shores of the Moray Firth. Formerly an observation tower during WWII, a Coastguard station and today, after an incredibly sympathetic restoration, a hip and contemporary holiday home that celebrates its past. In the kitchen you can still see evidence of where the boats were launched straight into the sea. And, whilst the décor takes its inspiration from the sea views, this is no traditional seaside cottage. This is the place to dolphin watch in style, without leaving your front door and without getting wet! With its enclosed garden, it’s also very family friendly.
Unique! Most definitely, campervans which don’t break down – now where’s the fun in that? Located on the site of the former train station, West Beach Caravan Park on the gorgeous Moray Coast, you get all the fun of the Dub Box without the hassle of wishing you had AA membership. Daphne (the red one) and Dougal (the turquoise one) are two retro caravans which resemble the iconic campervans and are guaranteed to make you smile. They each include a seating area/double bed, cooking facilities and heating. With a guaranteed sea view, you might even spot some bottlenose dolphins. You know what they say: ‘life is better at the beach’.
I’m showing my age but if you’ve ever watched ‘Little House on the Prairie’, then note this is what I think of as a log cabin. No flimsy imitations, this the real deal, built in the woods on the shores of Loch Garry. To complement its forest location, the exterior is rustic, but the interior is cosy and quirky. The owner owns the Packhouse in Surrey and has an eye for the unusual which is evident in her interior choices. It’s picture perfect for a Christmas break (there’s even a couple of sleighs!) but just as good in the summer with plenty outdoor space to enjoy a barbecue or a dip in the hot tub. The Cabin can also be booked with additional accommodation which is provided in the Shepard’s Hut and Bunk House.
Last but by no means least is another TV subject, Fiddle Hill Cottage in the Scottish Borders which appeared on Charlie Lumsden’s Impossible Builds. Owners, Bill and Sukie wanted to create a ‘one-off’ and they’ve certainly achieved it. Their post and beam house is impressive, eco-friendly and most importantly great fun to stay in. Having visited a few times, my daughter’s favourite past-time is reading under the stairs and my son likes to watch TV through the bannisters whilst hiding under the massive log bed on the mezzanine level! I love trying Sukie’s homemade jams and chutneys and exploring the smallholding to see what all the animals are up to. If you like your children to be free range and your accommodation dog-friendly and eco-conscious but with luxury, comfort and Netflix, this is the place for you.