Down on the farm

Rhiannon Batten experiences holiday perfection in a pastoral corner of south-west Scotland

Booking a holiday cottage is often a bit of a gamble. You've seen a picture of it on the internet or in a brochure and made a decision - based on better -than-average odds - that it will turn out to be as good as it looks.

Booking a holiday cottage is often a bit of a gamble. You've seen a picture of it on the internet or in a brochure and made a decision - based on better -than-average odds - that it will turn out to be as good as it looks.

However, there's still an outside chance that when you arrive things won't be quite as they seemed. Will there be a three-lane motorway tucked behind the hedge of your country idyll? Or, will you find that you can no longer walk along the bucolic local footpaths because Madonna has moved in next door and wants to close them all? Most of the time you break even, ending up with a cottage that's no better or worse than you expected. But at High Lodge in Galloway, for once luck doesn't come into it. So perfect is this tiny former gamekeeper's cottage that I had to be dragged away when the week was up.

The moment you walk through the door you realise that this is a very special place. A bunch of freshly picked wild flowers sits in an old jug on the kitchen table next to a home-made lemon cake that's hidden beneath a Cath Kidston tea towel. The small Shaker-style kitchen boasts an old ceramic sink, a tasteful collection of pretty cupboards and crockery, smooth wooden floorboards and, in pride of place, a cream-coloured Rayburn giving off a cosy heat throughout the diminutive building. If that other champion of Scottish holiday style, Cawdor Cottages, has been described as the Vogue of the rentals market - well thought-out and inoffensively fashionable - then High Lodge is its World of Interiors equivalent - not just fashionable but exquisitely designed.

Hidden away near Garlieston, in the quiet south-west of Scotland, the cottage belongs to 30-something dairy farmers Finn and Ella McCreath. It's an appropriate association, because the property feels a bit like a churn of buttermilk. The walls are painted in soft, Farrow and Ball shades, the carpet is a neutral sea-grass and the downstairs curtains are recycled tartan blankets, albeit in subdued, natural colours. In fact, the effect of all this wholesome good taste is that it makes you want to start cooking cottage pie and drinking freshly pressed apple juice.

Come in a year or two and you'll be able to do just that without stepping off the surrounding farmland. The bathroom's elegant free-standing bath looks out over a small orchard that Finn and Ella have recently planted at the back of the cottage. In the meantime, you can buy organic meat and milk direct from the McCreaths and help yourself to vegetables from the patch beside the farmhouse.

At High Lodge, it's the scale of the building that makes staying there so much fun. Romantically, the cottage only sleeps two (two more if you use the sofa bed in the lounge). Climb the ladder to the attic bedroom and you're in a den of white linen and cosy blankets. It feels a bit like sleeping in a Wendy house. In the lounge there are petite wooden-framed pictures, while the Alice in Wonderland effect is heightened by an enormous radio that sits on the mantelpiece above a wood-burning stove - and by a gigantic sofa that's perfect for curling up in if the weather turns blustery.

Which is something you might start wishing for if you want to keep the lights on at night. With its wind and solar-powered electricity (there's a discreet windmill to the side of the cottage and solar panels on the roof), the cottage is also eco-friendly. There's no self-righteousness about the ecological ethos though - no chemical toilets or lecturing notices on the wall about using plastic.

Instead, you're simply left with a keener sense of the importance of conserving energy. If it runs out, you know that you will have to call Finn to bring up a generator. But unless you stay indoors all the time it's unlikely you'll need to.

From the huge recessed window in the lounge you have a temptingly open view right the way through Finn and Ella's organically-farmed fields to the sea, with not a road or house in sight. Step outside and veer left for a wander down through the fields and you find yourself in an Enid Blyton landscape with house martins and swallows overhead and cow parsley, nettles and apple blossom to the side of the path.

Coming out at Garlieston's pebbly beach, a footpath along the coast leads up through bluebell woods to a spooky tumbledown cottage. Here, squeeze through a pair of rusted iron gates that look like something from a gothic film set and you're suddenly out of the woods and following a bracken-edged clifftop path that leads to the ruin of Cruggleton Castle and the ultimate picnic spot.

The castle's solitary remaining arch frames a cascade of cliffs sinking into clear sapphire water. Leg-wobblingly far below, as the waves break over smooth rock, their spreading surf nudges cormorants and gulls to launch themselves off on fishing expeditions, or to seek out a more restful perch on little tufts of grass that have survived in ledges among the cliffs.

It's tempting to do the same walk every day, but then you would be missing out on the area's other attractions. Ten minutes' drive north, for example, brings you to Wigtown, Scotland's answer to Hay-on-Wye, with an annual literary festival that takes place each autumn. Here many of the 30 or so local book shops skirt a pretty village square, as do its post office, butcher and pub - although on the day I visited, people were showing more interest in the town hall's webcam of an osprey hatching in a nearby nest than in the retail possibilities.

From cavernous second-hand shops to a specialist in supplying ancient newspapers, Wigtown's book shops are the kind of places where you go in looking for a specific title and come out two hours later clutching a dozen books and a stomach swollen from the owner's generosity with cups of tea. Presumably many of the previous guests at High Lodge know the feeling. The cottage was originally designed as a writer's retreat, and a flick through the visitors' book shows that at least one visitor was so inspired by her stay that she ended up writing a book there (it now sits on the cottage's shelves alongside Ian McEwan's Atonement and Gordon Adair's spooky A Closed Book).

There is history close to High Lodge too. Five minutes' drive in the other direction brings you to Whithorn, which as the place where St Ninian settled in the 4th century lays claim to being home to the first Christian church in Scotland. Further south still, on the tip of this spear of land, is the picturesque Isle of Whithorn. Actually a village set around a harbour rather than an island, this is the site of St Ninian's cave. You can still reach the cave, and its carved crosses, by wandering out along the rocky, clover-sprung shoreline at the edge of the village. Or you can just sit in the sun and watch as white-sailed boats spill out from the nearby harbour.

But if you really want something to remember Galloway by, take a tip from Finn and drive out over the moors north of Mochrum. Here, in a lonely field ,you suddenly come up against the surreal sight of a large herd of shaggy Galloway Belties. As the name suggests, this special local breed of cow is all black, except for a neat white stripe, like a girdle, around its waist. Up close they are far fiercer looking than their eyelash-batting sisters on the postcards down in Wigtown. Still, they're pretty enough for it to be best not to visit just before dinner - especially if you've got an organic joint roasting away in High Lodge's Rayburn.

High Lodge costs from £145-£325 per week (01988 600694; www.cottageguide.co.uk/highlodge). The McCreaths also have two larger properties to rent within the main farm courtyard, as well as kennels for guests' dogs. The 2004 Wigtown Book Festival takes place from 18 to 26 September (01988 402036; www.wigtown-booktown.co.uk). For information contact the tourist board (01387 253862; www.visitdumfriesandgalloway.co.uk)

Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: MI Developer

    £35 - 45k: Guru Careers: An MI Developer is needed to join the leading provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitness Manager

    £20000 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leisure organisation manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Manager

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Delivering an inspiring, engagi...

    Recruitment Genius: Learning Team Administrator

    £17500 - £20500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for a great te...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions