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Fancy a country cottage in Scotland, where you sit in the evening, a dram in your hand, watching the sun going down over a horizon filled with hills? (The building faces west, obviously.)
Sure, I’ve stayed in a few and, to be perfectly plain, such ideal places certainly exist. The self-catering sector in Scotland is very wide-ranging. I’m quite happy to list a few places. Any property you read about here has either has been recommended, or I’ve been shown round or have stayed there. (But none of the owners are buddies!) These are just a few pointers to start you off.
There are two broad categories in self-catering cottages in Scotland. The first is when you turn up at your booked place and it’s very clean, or even immaculate. (You should get an idea what to expect from its star grading, assuming it participates in the national scheme.) There is a set of instructions, just possibly a starter pack – fresh milk etc – you know the kind of thing. But basically, you’re on your own.
The second case is when you arrive and discover the owners live nearby or adjacent – either way, there’s some kind of interaction. Perhaps the starter pack might have fresh scones as well! You might feel more relaxed as you have an instant source of information on tap. But for some, a get-away-from-it-all break might include anonymity – so I’m not saying the fact the owners are going to be accessible all week is an advantage. It’s just how things are.
Another observation is just to point out that lots of traditional style country cottages in Scotland let on a self-catering basis are owned by local farms. Simple, when you think about it: modern agricultural practice simply does not need the manpower. Old Scottish words to describe roles in the farm ‘hierarchy’ – such as grieve, meaning the overseer or farm-bailiff, or even the orraman (where orra means spare), have all but gone. However, the accommodation is still there! Suitably modernised, the farm worker’s house becomes the dream country cottage in Scotland!
Likewise, sometimes the ancillary farm buildings or steadings have been hugely upgraded and all over Scotland play their part as self-catering properties in farming’s diversification. A good example can be found at the luxury development called Morton of Pitmilly, in North-East Fife, near Crail, where the accommodation has high quality leisure facilities ‘bolted-on’ as part of the package.
Sometimes a country cottage in Scotland comes complete with a hot tub with a view. This one is near Strontian, Argyll.
I suppose I had to start naming names at some point, didn’t I? Well, in the category of ‘helpful owner lives nearby’, Bluebell Croft at Strontian, in Argyll, comes to mind. This development slightly blurs the boundary of what self catering entails, as in this country cottage in Scotland (a couple of modern houses, to be honest), the owners will deliver beautifully cooked meals if you order them, as well as fresh vegetables from their poly-tunnel nearby!
Another example I noted recently of positive interaction is the self-catering business run by the Caughies, a farming family in Galloway near the most southerly point in Scotland, called the Mull of Galloway. (More on Galloway touring here.) Though the owners are busy with beef and dairy cattle on their 400 acres they somehow manage to find time to welcome their guests with a range of goodies from champagne and chocolates to eggs and wild boar meat – and also offer a tour of the farm, a great opportunity for an insight into Scottish farming.
Dundrum Cottage, Kirkbride Farm Holiday Cottages, near the Mull of Galloway.
As somewhere that fits the model of an immaculate and well equipped cottage, really a modern and energy-efficient building to withstand its exposed position, the property that comes to mind is up in the north-west, quite near Achiltibuie, at Laide of Reiff. It’s a ‘one visit won’t be enough’ kind of experience, if you like the sense of being snug in the face of the elements. (Come to think of it, a country cottage in Scotland should always be checked out for energy efficiency given the uncertain Scottish weather. Draughty and romantic are seldom found in the same sentence.)
Another self catering model, not quite a classic country cottage in Scotland experience, is the family run log cabin or chalet business. These can be found all over Scotland, with just one example I saw recently called Portnellan Lodges – good standard of accommodation and set right in the centre of the Highlands near Crianlarich.
Lots more – the flapjacks in the welcome pack at Dairy Cottage, Glendaruel, have received positive comment, and I can vouch for the home-baked scones at Dalnoid Holiday Cottages. They’re in Glenshee – another place that can claim to be in the heart of Scotland. Then there’s the Coastguard Cottages at Portsoy on the Moray Firth coast if you want to see dolphins.
But wait a minute: there’s something you must check – seriously. I remember one year we all had such a nice holiday in a log cabin in Perthshire. We booked the next year. Having seen the location of all of the discreetly sited cabins we chose one whose location gave us a fine view. Disaster! Why? Unlike the first year’s cabin, this one didn’t have a dishwasher. So that’s my final tip. It’s the one feature you must confirm in advance! Otherwise, your country cottage in Scotland can lead to the faintest of domestic disharmonies.
Basically, there’s a huge choice here and standards overall are very high. It's a great way to discover Scotland.
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Scotland in Three Days