Stay The Night: Knoydart House, Inverie
Despite its secluded setting, this place offers some polished comforts. Rhiannon Batten tried some luxury off-grid living
Sunday 20 March 2011
Tucked away on the Knoydart peninsula, Inverie is famously one of the remotest villages in the UK. Getting there involves either a seven-mile boat ride or an 18-mile hike, so it's not the kind of place where you would expect to find a luxury holiday home complete with underfloor heating, Wi-Fi and hot tub. Yet, this is all on offer at newly opened Knoydart House.
A vision of wood and glass, the house is set incongruously above the village's old stone cottages. It is owned by Ian and Jackie Robertson, Aberdonians who arrived in Knoydart in 1992 and took over the neighbouring Old Forge pub shortly afterwards.
The couple put the pub on the market last year and, as old hands at hospitality, are now turning to self-catering instead. "People were always asking in the pub for accommodation, so we decided to sell up and do it ourselves," says Jackie.
Here, they've taken the challenge of off-grid living and turned it into a positive. Electricity comes from a small, private hydro scheme. Other green features include larch cladding, an air-source heat pump, wood-burning stove, high-grade insulation, energy-efficient appliances and an OWL monitor to help keep energy use low.
The perfect retreat for outdoor-loving sybarites, despite all the interior comforts, it's the wide-angle views of Loch Nevis (equally enjoyable from the hot tub) that make Knoydart House special.
Like the open-plan sitting room, dining room and kitchen, the house's five bedrooms – one king-size, one twin and three that can be either super-kings or twins – are decorated traditionally. Given the ultra-modern exterior (and bathrooms) it's a surprise to find upholstered headboards, antique chairs and, in one room, a half tester bed, but the ancient and modern mix is in keeping with the Robertsons' distinctive style. Ian jokingly refers to Jackie as "Wonder Woman" and it's not hard to see why. Among her many commitments, she's found time to make a Harris tweed beanbag for the sitting room, and dining room tablemats featuring black and white photographs she took herself while on a local deer-stalking trip. Bag the main ground-floor bedroom if you want to lie in bed and look out at the water below, which is framed by Scots pines.
The food and drink
The kitchen is so elaborately equipped for self-catering that one fellow guest was prompted to ask whether there was a cafetière, "because I'm going to need a coffee while I work out how the coffee machine works". (There was.) Just remember to do your shopping in Mallaig because Inverie's tiny village shop stocks only the absolute basics. No visit to Knoydart is complete without a visit to the most remote pub in mainland Britain (the oldforge.co.uk). A focal point for the local community, as well as visitors, it serves everything from hearty, home-cooked venison stews to diver-caught scallops and fresh langoustines. (Mains cost about £8 to £15). If you're lucky, there'll be an impromptu ceilidh or gig for post-dinner entertainment. There's an active live music scene here, including the Knoydart Festival, which takes place in late April (knoydartfestival.com).
Bathrooms come with refillable bottles of Arran Aromatics toiletries and the fridge contains a jug of milk, but special requests are happily arranged, from chilled champagne to beds scattered with rose petals. There are also bikes for those who want to try some of the emerging mountain bike trails. There's a guitar and cello for visiting musicians and, oddly, a running machine. Boat trips to Eigg, Rum, Canna, Muck and Skye are possible, but most visitors are drawn here to explore what Ian describes as "17,000 acres of nothing" – woodland, moorland and munros owned and managed by the Knoydart Foundation. Ranger-led walks take place on Wednesdays (£5 per person; contact knoydart foundation .com).
Children are well catered for, and dogs are welcome (on ground-floor areas only). The three ground-floor bedrooms are all wheelchair accessible (though there are steps between two of them and the main living areas).
Single-week rentals cost from £975 for up to a maximum of 10 people. Getting to Knoydart House is easier than it sounds. You can take the train along the scenic West Highland line from Glasgow or Fort William to Mallaig (scotrail.co.uk). From there, you can either catch one of two daily, 45-minute ferry services (they run five days a week in the summer, three in the winter) to Inverie at £18 per person for a return (knoydart-ferry .co.uk). Or, at the weekend, you can take one of two daily, 20-minute water taxis, price £20 per person return (01687 462916).
Knoydart House, Inverie, Knoydart, by Mallaig PH41 4PL (01687 460012; knoydarthouse.co.uk).
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