Any visitor to Scotland has options for accommodations. Hotels certainly; B&B’s abound – though they can be hard to book in the height of tourist season; holiday rental homes; and self-catering cottages. Each has their advantages, but for me, the self-catering cottage seemed the right option. I planned to base in one location, like the hub of a wheel, and then branch out like spokes to seek, see and visit people and attractions in the regional area.
A three week holiday meant three locations and I tried to make them as diverse as possible, while also satisfying my inner desires for the regions of Scotland I was determined to see – Glasgow, the Highlands, and the Isle of Skye. Each was chosen for a reason:
•Glasgow (rather than Edinburgh) because more of my online friends seemed to be near there, and because I felt it offered a greater range of potential employers to talk with, and that was part of my mission. Plus, ironically, as I learned during my visit, Glasgow is where my 8th great-grandfather was born in 1627 so perhaps there was something supernatural at work in my choice.
•Ardeverikie (Glenbogle) in the Highlands, if you know me, was a no-brainer. It was the filming location for Monarch of the Glen, where I lost my heart to Scotland. It was the initial reason for my trip, I could stay nowhere else!
•Isle of Skye – this location choice was set in part by photographic images shared by @landscapes365 on Twitter and by my desire to experience good live music and a suggestion that the Inn at Edinbame on Skye was known far and wide for its Sunday afternoon music sessions.
With my base locations selected I turned to the Internet to research self-catering cottages. I suppose a principal advantage of the self-catering option is that you can prepare/cook your own meals – a budgetary thing. I did not; well very few. For me the cottages offered a degree of privacy, more of a ‘coming home’ feel each evening, rather than trudging through hotel lobbies and dealing with front desk personnel and housekeeping. I ruled out B&B’s largely because most are residences where the owner lives downstairs and guests stay upstairs. With a couple of dodgy knees, I wanted to avoid stair climbing. While this limited my cottage selection sightly, it was no problem finding cottages that offered all ground-floor accommodation.
Each of the cottages came completely equipped, comfortably furnished, and included internet, Each also provided easy access parking – a premium in some parts of Scotland. I chose each on my own, using only online research tools. My cottage on Skye was suggested by an online contact so my research began there. I see no reason why anyone could not do their own search and find suitable self-catering options, though there are rental agencies available who can assist and consolidate the search for you. Websites like mustvisitscotland.com can also help. So here are my thoughts on each and a few pics…
GLASGOW – GAVINBURN COTTAGES
Originally farm workers cottages, this old stone building is now remodeled into three charming original Gavinburn Cottages, including mine, the Glenmorangie.
These cottages are not technically in Glasgow – they are nestled into the hillsides above the village of Old Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton. The A82 sits conveniently at the bottom of the hill and City Centre of Glasgow was a short half-hour drive away. Gavinburn sits on land I’m told was once part of the Glen Lussett estate and offers five cottages – three in a wonderful old stone building that was originally farm worker cottages. Two new cottages were purpose built just a few metres away. I was fortunate that, while fully booked over the Eater holiday, for my week-long stay I was the sole resident in the complex – magnifying the magnificent tranquility this location offers.
These are the newer purpose built cottages at Gavinburn. Well appointed inside, I’m happier with the charm of the original stone building.
Besides its convenient location, these cottages offer amazing views of the River Clyde, the nearby Erskine Bridge, and even Glasgow in the distance. Sitting out in the evening and watching the lights in the village below and the city afar twinkle on at twilight was an ultimate in relaxation.
And the view looking downriver toward the sea.
The view looking up the river Clyde toward Glasgow.
My cottage, the Glenmorangie, was a single bedroom unit – what we in the States would call an efficiency apartment. A nice living area with a small dinette table, small but efficient kitchen, a well appointed ensuite bath with walk-in shower and a bedroom with great views. It was the perfect base to explore Scotland’s central belt as attractions in Glasgow, Falkirk and even Edinburgh were within an easy drive of an hour or less. A train station is just 5 minutes away in the village. The cottages are also situated near the beginning of a nice hill walk to a loch higher up in the hills and walkers passing by were a common site every day, regardless of weather.
Enjoyed a small fire in the woodburner on my first night to take the chill off!
My cottage, being a one-bedroom unit in the original stone building, offered old world charm outside with modern clean lines and styling within combined with an overabundance of peace and quiet.
ARDVERIKIE ESTATE – GLENBOGLE
This is THE house everyone knows as Glenbogle
Location, location, location! For my second week there was never any question where I would stay, the Ardverikie Estate – Glenbogle. The magnificent historic home was the prime filming location for the BBC drama Monarch of the Glen. The estate is opened to the public only once annually, so your only other option to see it is to either book a stalking party, sign on to the approved quad-bike tours, or let one of their cottages, which I did.
I selected the cottage named Pinewood. It is a modern two-bedroom unit that can sleep up to four. The romantic in me would have preferred the Cinderella-esque Gatehouse – which can be let – but its 3-level spiral stair case and my knees would not have been a good match. I’d have been sleeping on the sofa as the bedroom is at the top of the stairs.
Pinewood is a modern two-bedroom home that would fit right in at almost any suburban neighborhood.
Entry to the estate is marked by the Gatehouse. YOU can stay in this house, it is let as a self-catering cottage. I did not only because my bad knees would never survive the 3 floor spiral staircase that leads to the bedroom.
Pinewood is just a short distance inside the gates to the estate which are controlled by an electronically coded barrier. A short distance away is another cottage that is home to estate staff, but I felt completely isolated and private surrounded by the deep woods of Ardverikie. This estate offers indescribable beauty – dense woods, Loch Laggan with its amazing sandy beach, and thousands of heavily wooded acres that are yours to explore.
This beautiful sandy beach lies at the end of Loch Laggan, just at the start of the drive to the big house and a short walk from Pinewood.
Less there be any mistake, the ‘big house’ is off limits. It remains a private residence and you are reminded to respect the privacy of the family – who were in residence the entirety of my week’s visit. That said, if asked politely and respectfully, you can walk up close enough to satisfy even an ardent fan like me in search of the keepsake photograph. I was astonished to learn though that some people actually walk up and try the doors, or peer into the windows. There’s no excuse for such disrespect. This may be – at least in part – because so many stately homes, especially in England, are open for tours even when a family may reside in private on the upper floors. That is not the case at Ardverikie/Glenbogle.
This vacant building was dressed as a pub for MotG, the Ghillie’s Rest
Fans of the show will find other well know shooting locations both on the estate and off in nearby locations like Laggan, Newtonmore, Kingussie and Roy Bridge. Notable on the estate is the beach and a now vacant building used on tele as a pub, The Ghillie’s Rest. This building you can approach and explore from the outside. I took a few quiet, and I’ll admit, emotional minutes to sit on the steps and reflect on on my surroundings and all it had taken to get me there.
Pinewood would easily accommodate two couples or a family of four. The kitchen was huge, there’s a separate dining room, a small bath and an ample living area with sliding glass doors out into the garden. A picnic lunch enjoyed on the front lawn on a beautiful Spring day was a highlight.
A picnic lunch on the front lawn at Pinewood was a welcome visit with nature.
I was surprised that the decor, while very nice, seemed cold, almost harsh. Gavinburn’s Glenmorangie featured great photos of the Clyde and nearby Dumbarton Castle so I expected Pinewood to likewise feature decor highlighting the beauty that surrounds it on Ardverikie, but it does not. No photos, just nicely framed mirrors for decoration. Yet when you can hike or drive the short 3 miles down to a view of the ‘big house’ or out onto the Loch Laggan beach, I guess you don’t need photos?
The living area.
The dining room.
The kitchen was quite large.
One bedroom offers twin beds…
… the other a queen size bed. Both bedrooms offered large picture windows with views.
The bath is small but offers tub or shower.
With the big house, the beach, and views like this, you won’t be in the cottage for long!
ISLE OF SKYE/EDINBANE
For Isle of Skye/Edinbane I selected Tigh Dubh (pronounced Tie-Doe), one of two cottages offered by Alistair and Helen at On the Croft. For sheer cuteness factor, this quaint one bedroom cottage tops the scale! To me, everything about it screams Scotland, and friends who saw the pictures likened it to a Hobbit Hole! All it needed was round doors.
The main entry into Tigh Dubh
The squat stone construction screams quaint!
When it comes to a welcome Tigh Dubh also scored big points. Arriving about 3:30pm, after having driven for several hours from Ardverikie in the Highlands to Edinbane on Skye, I was greeted by a thermos of hot water, teas, milk, sugar and a small plate of homemade flapjacks, Mmm, Mmm, good!
A wonderful welcoming snack!
In truth, Tigh Dubh also has a small loft, perfect sleeping quarters for kids, though a handrail on the log staircase might be a worthy addition for safety? I selected Tigh Dubh purely from On the Croft’s website (as was the case with the others as well). If there was an unexpected surprise it was the cottage (and it’s companion the Merman) are right out the back door of Alistair and Helen’s home. This is a working croft and between the cottages is a working barn/shed. Helen also offers massage and has a small hut and a separate office on the property. At first this felt a bit crowded – and to be honest the website left me thinking the cottage was more isolated – as was the case with Gavinburn’s Glenmorangie and Ardverikie’s Pinewood.
The oh so comfy living area.
The master bed complete with crockery hot water bottle and furry cover that looked like an otter – so cute!
The natural wood and stone construction gave this cottage a unique feel all its own.
There is a loft that serves as a second bedroom – with my knees I did not explore it.
While I had a small concern about this upon arrival my concerns were unfounded. I had all the privacy I wanted/needed and yet it was nice to have both Allistair and/or Helen close by if needed. They were extremely helpful in suggesting sights to see and Helen was exceptionally gracious inviting me into their home when I needed access to a computer printer. My only disappointment – the cat, Mr. T never would let me befriend him while their dog Megan, was a great companion.
The view out the front of Tigh Dubh is nice but you don’t stay here for the view, there are many far more dramatic and colorful places to explore on Skye…
… like Kilt Rock – so named for the way the sheer rock face seems to be pleated just like a kilt. Scotland does not lack for drama on its coastline, but this sight takes your breath away…
…or the colorful seaside port of Portree.
Each property was exceptional and I was completely satisfied with all three. All were great value for the dollar/pound though you do pay a bit more for the access that comes with a let at Ardverikie and it was the only one to require a cleaning deposit (which was quickly and completely refunded following my departure). Each has its own special qualities that made my stays there memorable.
In summary, if you’ve not tried a self-catering holiday, I recommend it. I felt completely at home in each of these cottages. The freedom to keep my own schedule – to rise, lounge, sleep-in, work late or whatever, without concerns for other guests or housekeeping staff, etc. made my self-catering holiday sublime!
For more on my cottage choices check out these websites…