by Beth Roberts, travel writer
Hidden away in the Scottish Highlands, there’s a certain spellbinding something about these uber-luxe lodges that’s seriously good for the soul…
“Welcome to Inverness – good luck out there!” our air hostess laughs as we disembark into horizontal hailstones. Scotland, seemingly eager to live up to her rugged reputation gives us a bracing welcome. Half an hour later, we’re met by Mike at tiny Beauly station and are soon winding our way up through Strathglass, a wide valley stretching to Glen Affric in the west – the shimmering surface of the river meandering alongside us. As we climb the sleet turns to snowflakes, frosting the tips of the pristine pine forest and dusting the distant mountain peaks.
Arriving at Eagle Brae, we’re greeted by Kyla – a Bernese mountain dog the size of a small bear. It’s here, perched on this remote highland hillside that owners Mike and his wife Pawana have painstakingly put together the ultimate self-catering destination. Nearly a decade in the making, it’s not hard to see why it was such a lengthy job.
Seven luxury log cabins are scattered across 8,000 acres of untouched, undulating highland, all perfectly placed to drink in the glorious views down the glen. To even call these ‘log cabins’ is a misnomer – these Canadian style lodges are hand-hewn from giant red cedars, sustainably sourced from forests in British Columbia and seamlessly blend into the landscape with their wildflower roofs.
Outside, our cabin Loxia overlooks the prettiest pond where wild deer gather as the evenings draw in. Inside, we find a curious combination of Celtic-inspired interiors alongside hints of Pawana’s Himalayan heritage – colourful hand woven textiles, engraved wooden balconies and the spicy smell of cedar. They’ve thought of every last little luxury here, from the welcome basket of highland goodies including a few wee drams of whisky to the wood burning stoves and underfloor heating that keep our toes perpetually toasty.
This highland hideaway is the perfect place to unwind. By day, we venture out across the estate – seeing barely another soul. Come the evening, you can opt for one of the pubs in nearby Lochness or Struy if you’ve rented your own car, but revelling in the luxurious comfort of our cabin we pre-order our groceries through Eagle Brae’s online concierge service and have the most delicious fish pie delivered to our doorstep, followed by marshmallows toasted on an open fire, of course.
For the adventurous there’s a host of activities to choose from, be it pony-trekking, wildlife watching, fishing or even husky-sledding. While the environmentally conscious traveller will be relieved to discover this is one of the greenest holiday destinations in Europe, entirely self-sufficient and carbon neutral.
We leave in the dead of night on the first flight back to London, a full moon casting our shadows as we slip down the road to meet our taxi, deer stirring in the bushes and snow crunching underfoot. Looking up at an inky sky sparkling with stars and about as far from the city lights as it’s possible to be, we hope it won’t be long before we have an excuse to return.