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Issue 63 - 10 Best Unusual Places to Stay

Scotland Magazine Issue 63
June 2012


This article is 6 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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10 Best Unusual Places to Stay

Keith Fergus looks at some interesting places

Corsewall Lighthouse Stranraer, Dumfries & Galloway
Positioned at the northern tip of the Rhinns of Galloway, and at the entrance of Loch Ryan, Corsewall Lighthouse grants one of the most scenic places to stay and unwind. On a clear day the northern coast of Ireland will be visible as will the Isle of Man, the long finger of the Kintyre Peninsula and a good portion of the Ayrshire and Galloway coastlines. Built in 1815, under the auspices of the celebrated engineer Robert Stevenson (one of the hotel’s suites is named after the great man), Corsewall Lighthouse was automated in 1994 and subsequently transformed into a hotel. There is a certain romance about spending a night in a lighthouse, particularly when the beams of other lighthouses can be spotted once darkness falls. The remote location of Corsewall Lighthouse also adds to the atmosphere, and with selection of beautifully furnished rooms, the majority with superb coastal views, and a restaurant serving mouth-watering locally sourced food, Corsewall Lighthouse offers a fabulous holiday destination.

Barns Tower Peebles, Scottish Borders
The beautiful Georgian mansion of Barns House was designed by Michael Nasmyth in 1773 for William Burnet (4th Laird of Barns) and his wife Margaret Stewart. Prior to the building of Barns House, the Burnets had lived in the adjacent Barns Tower (their Initials W. B and M. S. are carved above one of the upper floor windows) and it is thought that this striking building dates from the late 16th century. After 1773 the tower was used as servant’s quarters and today it is now used as an unusual holiday let. There are lots of lovely touches that make Barns Tower a special place to stay including a spiral staircase (and a hidden one), an open fire, flag stone floors, an authentic Scottish box bed, and hand-made tables and chairs. Much of the wonderful restoration has kept, as much as possible, the original woodwork. The vibrant and bustling town of Peebles is only a couple of miles away, home to a variety of excellent visitor attractions as well as some of the finest walking and cycling in Scotland.

Roulotte Retreat Melrose, Scottish Borders
A night spent in a traditional Romany style caravan (or roulotte as they are known in France) in view of the iconic Eildon Hills, will provide an unforgettable experience for many. Roulotte Retreat, on the outskirts of the lovely town of Melrose, in the heart of the Scottish Borders, has a number of these intricately carved, beautifully decorated and elegantly furnished caravans, all of which take you back to a bygone era where all thoughts of mobile phones, handheld computers, 24-hour news and anything to do with the technological age we live in can be banished, even if it is just for a couple of days. There is a real tranquil and cosy feel when staying in a roulotte, a sense heightened by the wood burning stoves and quirky lighting within the caravans while the beautiful surroundings of Roulotte Retreat makes it incredibly easy to switch off and enjoy the scenery and wildlife of this gorgeous part of Scotland.

Trossach Yurts Thornhill, Stirlingshire
Another traditional dwelling is a yurt, which has been prevalent in Central Asian nomadic culture for over 1000 years. Bigger than tents and with thicker walls (a felt material covers a wooden latticed frame), these distinctive structures have been transported to the stunning surrounds of the Trossachs, an area made famous by the likes of William Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott – both writers would have, without doubt, been intrigued by a Yurt and spending a night in one would surely have appealed. The Ben Lomond, Ben Ledi and Stuc a’ Chroin yurts (named after three prominent local peaks) measure 18 feet in diameter and therefore have loads of room inside and can comfortably sleep up to five people on beds and futons. A wood burning stove (which also has an oven), barbeque and atmospheric lighting, provided by solar panels and lanterns, all impart a wonderful, uncomplicated and eco-friendly holiday, set within the Trossachs countryside.

Fernie Castle Treehouse Letham, by Cupar, Fife
Tree houses will, for many, bring back childhood memories of building ramshackle structures with planks of wood and old, rusty nails on the branches of a nearby tree. These recollections may be one of the reasons why Fernie Castle Treehouse is proving so popular although as soon as eyes are cast on the treehouse, it will be appreciated that this treehouse is more than just a few planks of wood and nails found at the back of a shed. Set amongst the beautiful woodland surrounding the 14th century Fernie Castle, the beautifully elaborate structure has a fairy-tale look to it with a flight of stairs leading up onto a balcony to pass through the eye-catching stained glass double doors and into the striking living room and comfortable bedroom whilst upstairs is the delightfully decorated octagonal bathroom. The treehouse is set well away from the Fernie Castle Hotel and this seclusion only adds to the feeling of tranquility of this unique hideaway.

Ecopod Lettershuna, Appin, Argyll & Bute
The spectacular Scottish landscape will be one of the main reasons why people holiday in Scotland. There are a few accommodation providers who want to leave the landscape untouched as much as possible and, consequently, are coming up with innovative ideas to make sure our holidays do not impinge on the scenery or wildlife. One such provider is Ecopod, which is based within some of Scotland’s finest scenery on the banks of Loch Linnhe a few miles west of Appin. Here you will find the remarkable geodesic structures of the Ecopod, which used only a fraction of the carbon footprint usually required when constructing a conventional building, whilst its design means the Ecopod is incredibly friendly to the environment and allows the gorgeous local scenery to take centre stage. The pods themselves have 70 square metres of open plan space to kick back and unwind whilst the panoramic window floods the Ecopod with light and allows for some far-reaching views out to the likes of Mull and the rugged coastline of Argyll & Bute.

Wigwams East Grange, Kinloss, Moray
With its gorgeous coastline, attractive towns and villages and plethora of whisky distilleries, Moray has become an incredibly popular destination for visitors over the past few years.
Spending a few nights in a wigwam may be a little out of the ordinary but the (predominantly) benign climate of this beautiful corner of Scotland makes a wigwam a refreshing option for short break.
Naturally when thinking of a wigwam your mind will be drawn to the tent-like structure of many an old ‘Cowboys and Indians’ movie but the wigwams at East Grange are wooden camping cabins and are incredibly comfortable and snug no matter the time of year. Each wigwam has its own outdoor cooking area where meals can be cooked and eaten under a star-filled sky before retiring to the warmth of the wigwam. East Grange also has its own live music venue (playing a wonderfully eclectic mix of Blues, Celtic, Americana, Folk and Jazz) whilst a wide range of activities, including archery and white water rafting, can be enjoyed nearby.

The Old Church of Urquhart Elgin, Moray
Sitting on the outskirts of the historic town of Elgin is the Old Church of Urquhart, one of the most distinctive and ornate places to stay. This beautifully converted church dates from the mid 19th century and the tower rises to an impressive 70 feet in height. With the church also sitting on top of a small hill there is an uninterrupted panorama across the stunning Moray countryside and coastline. The Old Church of Urquhart offers both self-catering and bed and breakfast options.

The dining, lounge areas and the bedrooms are all beautifully decorated, adding to the character of this charming building. Add to the mix two acres of garden grounds then you have the perfect spot to unwind and switch off from the outside world for a few days. However, if you want to get out and about then Elgin is a great place to visit. With miles of coastline and several whisky distilleries all nearby then The Old Church of Urquhart provides a wonderfully idiosyncratic base.

Gearrannan Blackhouse Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides
A holiday in the Gearrannan Blackhouse feels like you are being transported back in time. The village of Gearrannan stands on the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean and the blackhouses date from the mid 19th century and the sense of history when staying there is almost palpable. The village itself was inhabited right up until the 1970’s and since then the houses and local environs have been declared a conservation area. History is everywhere as each of the four houses is named after the family who once lived there and the double drystone walls and the thatched roofs provide warmth and shelter from everything the Hebridean weather can throw at them. However, when the weather is good there is no better place to be, whether waking up under a pristine blue sky with the great Atlantic rollers crashing into the shore nearby or relaxing with a glass of wine as the sun disappears into the sea. Traditional activities such as weaving still take place within the village whilst the island itself contains some of the world’s finest beaches.

Böds Lerwick, Shetland
Over the last twenty years the Shetland Böds (stone buildings used to house fishermen and their gear during the fishing season) have provided simple holiday accommodation surrounded by some of the finest scenery in Scotland. There are nine böds scattered around the islands, some in very remote locations and with very basic amenities (some have no electricity), but for many, a simple few days away from the rat race, is the main attraction. Many of the böds are steeped in history; Grieve House for instance is where the great poet Hugh McDiarmid lived for nine years, writing much of his best work when here whilst Betty Mouat’s Böd is named after Betty Mouat who was a skilled hand-spinner and knitter and who became a famous celebrity in 1886 when she was a passenger on The Columbine, a boat which drifted to Norway without a crew. But no matter which böd you choose to stay in, a superb break is guaranteed in one of the most wonderful and fascinating places in Scotland, where the views and the wildlife are as varied as they are beautiful.