Travel UK: Back to Nature

A luxury self catering cottage in the Argyll countryside provides the ultimate space to disconnect from everyday stresses.

We knew we were in trouble as soon as we turned into the driveway,” Gemma tells us, as she shows us around Chapel Cottage, our home for the next few nights. She and partner Rob first laid eyes on the cottage, along with their own home, and two other holiday lets, plus the 400-acre estate of woodland, lochs and wild gardens they all sit on back in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. Having realised that they could manage their consulting business from anywhere, the couple decided to fulfil a lifelong dream to find peace on their own little piece of rural Scotland, and moved their lives from Cambridge to rural Argyll. 

And it is easy to see why they fell for the Kirnan Estate, which is located in a remote spot in Kilmichael Glassary. Rugged and breathtakingly beautiful, it is believed that a dwelling place has stood on the site since the 13th century, though it is thought to have been abandoned in the 15th century, later falling into ruins. The current accommodation was rebuilt in the 19th century using much of the original stone, making it feel much older than it actually is. Which isn’t to say that it is lacking in historical significance – explore the grounds and you’ll stumble across prehistoric artwork, and a medieval fort and settlement. In more recent history, one member of the Campbell family, who had it rebuilt as a shooting lodge, boasts a final resting place in Westminster Abbey. It is like catnip to my history loving other half.

While he revels in the backstory, it is the gorgeous interiors that do it for me. Gemma explains that though the cottage didn’t require any major structural work, she wanted to put her own stamp on it, ensuring that it felt very much like a home from home for guests. She describes the look as “modern country house chic” – antique furnishings meet high tech modern comforts. There are nods to Scotland, with the odd tartan blanket, but it is all done very tastefully. Think muted colour palette, tactile soft furnishings, local artworks on the walls, G P & J Baker wallpaper, Linwood fabrics and Pooky light shades.

The stunning yet practical Neptune kitchen features an induction hob, along with all of the kit a keen cook could wish for (including a variety of cookbooks focusing on locally available specialities, like game). There’s even a small but perfectly equipped utility room with washer dryer (I wish that I could forget about laundry on holiday, but with two little kids in tow, determined to explore rural Scotland fully, this is but a pipe dream). There are deep, freestanding baths in the bathrooms, and a glorious double shower in the master, which boasts toasty underfloor heating that is a very welcome addition for us softie southerners, unaccustomed as we are to the damp Scottish chill.

There’s also a huge open fireplace in the sitting room, and we spend our first evening in front of its inviting blaze, playing games from the selection left out for guests to enjoy. The next morning, enveloped in Hugo Boss dressing gowns and ensconced in our divinely comfortable bed with a cup of tea, we are grateful that the kids are tucked away in the eaves, about as far away from us as it is possible to get. With more thoughtfully chosen games and books up there, it is some time before they come down in search of breakfast – we haven’t enjoyed a lie in of this quality for months.

Breakfast is eggs left out by Gemma, from the estate hens, scrambled and served with delicious smoked salmon from the local Skipness Smokehouse, buttery toasted sourdough, coffee and juice – all part of a thoughtful welcome hamper left out for us. It sets us up well for a day of exploring. And there is much to see in this striking part of Scotland, where every turn in the road presents an ever more stunning vista.

Over the course of the next few days, we walk along the pretty Crinan Canal – linking Loch Fyne with the Sound of Jura, it’s known as Britain’s most beautiful shortcut, and it’s easy to see why; we go beachcombing on the windswept beach at Carsaig; we go beaver spotting at Knapdale, where we find plentiful evidence of their handiwork, but not a trace of the furry folk themselves; we enjoy panoramic views from the Dunadd Fort and place our feet in the replica of the ceremonial footprint used to initiate the earliest Scottish kings; and we marvel at Cairnbaan’s prehistoric rock art. At the end of each day we happily return to Chapel Cottage, shrugging off our rain-soaked gear in the oh-so useful boot room, where the underfloor heating ensures that everything is dry and toasty for our adventures the following day. It is utterly blissful. 

From £425 per night, with a two-night minimum stay (