Adrenalin and Adventure in Mountain Biking Heaven

Scotland is a haven for mountain bikers. Whether you’re just heading out for a few hours of adventure or taking to the tracks for some serious cycling, the country has the forests, hill, glens and awesome scenery to rival any of the world’s mountain biking destinations.

Photo Courtesy of Stewart Meldrum

One of the most popular places for the sport is the South of Scotland. The area is sometimes overlooked by visitors as they head to the central belt and beyond, but it’s somewhere that mountain bikers in the know return to time after time.

Stretching from the Scottish Borders in the east to Dumfries and Galloway in the west, the area features the famous 7Stanes – a series of mountain bike trail centres comprising a mixture of different graded trails running through fabulous mountains and hills.

One of the most popular is Glentress in the heart of the Tweed Valley near the pretty Borders town of Peebles. The centre boasts a skills area for beginners, plus excellent Green and Blue routes. More experienced mountain bikers will love the Red route with its Spooky Wood descent, as well as the epic 30km Black route.

Adrenaline-junkies can pop along the road to Innerleithen and experience the leg-burning climb and thrilling single track descents of the centre’s XC route, or the exhilarating, ‘extreme’-rated Innerleithen Downhill with its Cresta Run, Matador, Make or Brake and Gold Run sections – definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Downhill course at Innerleithen – Photo Courtesy of Stewart Meldrum

Further west, in Dumfries and Galloway, another highlight of the 7Stanes is Mabie, just south of Dumfries. It offers something for every level of mountain biking, from peaceful rides through the forest to the 17km Red-graded Phoenix Trail and The Dark Side, a 3.8km orange-rated bike park graded trail that’s strictly for experts.

A recent visitor to the South of Scotland is famous cycling adventurer, Markus Stitz. Born in Germany but now based in Edinburgh, he is known for cycling around the world on a bike with just one gear. Markus recently stayed at Whitmuir Steading Cottage – a delightful converted farm building that sits between Melrose and Selkirk and is surrounded by stunning countryside.

Markus Stitz on his recent visit to the Whitmuir Estate – Copyright:

Markus has kindly created some new cycle routes around this beautiful part of the Borders. These Ale Water Trails range from the 9-mile Selkirkshire Ward Route, which is great for beginners and starts and finishes in Selkirk, to the 108 mile Reiver Raid loop that offers 11 hours of exhilarating riding.

Whitmuir Steading Cottage’s Games Room

Whitmuir Steading Cottage sleeps four people from just £450 for 7 nights and comes complete with a games room and pool table for enjoying downtime together, plus important cycling accessories including bike tools, a puncture repair kit and an air pump. It is one of three of our cottages that are set on the beautiful Whitmuir Estate.

Further north, the hills and glens of the Scottish Highlands also feature some mountain biking treasures including two great routes on the Glenlivet Estate in the heart of Cairngorms National Park just 4 miles from the village of Tomintoul.

The 9km Blue trail is idea for novice or experienced riders and comprises sweeping single track trails and forest roads. It is suitable for families and is great for a bit of wildlife spotting along the way.

The 22km Red route includes sections of the Blue run, but then branches off to take riders across moorland and through woodland on monster climbs and flat-out fast sections. Technical trail features include drop offs, rollers, stone staircases and berms. The centre also has a café, bike hire and bike washing facilities. It is also close to Tomintoul Distillery, if you fancy a wee dram after your ride.

Cosy Corrunich Cottage

One of our wonderful wilderness retreats, Corrunich Cottage is also close-by. With a previous life as a barn, it has now been lovingly converted into a spacious, open-plan cottage for two people that is warm, light and airy and includes a fitness room with rowing machine, cross trainer, weights and table tennis.

Corrunich Cottage is pet friendly and costs from just £450 for 7 nights.

Find out more about mountain biking breaks or call 01835 822277 and speak to our friendly booking team who can help you choose the perfect cottage for your stay.

Discover Dolphins off Scotland’s Beautiful Coastline

Dolphins have long been amongst the most beloved of all animal stars with documentaries, television programmes and films all focusing on these intelligent, friendly, playful creatures and enchanting people of all ages. So much so, that a BBC poll of the public’s top 50 ultimate ‘things to do’ wish list placed swimming with dolphins in the number one spot.

The best way to enjoy these fascinating creatures has to be through seeing them in the wild. Ecotourism has taken the world by storm, more than trebling in the last 20 years and one of the top countries for dolphin spotting is definitely Scotland.

Swimming the Seas

Marine research expeditions off the west coast of Scotland recorded record numbers of dolphins last year with over 2,300 common dolphins being sighted. Visitors can get involved both by spotting them from the shore or by taking one of the many Seafari boat trips that are offered from locations including Gairloch, Oban and Crinan.

Chanonry Point Lighthouse

Scotland’s east coast is also enjoying a dolphin and porpoise boom with sightings occurring from the Fife coastal path south-east of St Andrews to South Queensferry and of course on the highly dolphin populated Moray coast where Chanory Point is regarded as the best location to dolphin spot from the land.

If getting up close to these beautiful animals is something you’d like to experience, we can offer ideal places to stay. The best time to spot dolphins in Scotland is from April to September so now is the perfect time to book a gorgeous holiday cottage as a base for your next ecoadventure.

We have dozens of cottages ideally situated for sealife spotting but have a selected a few that are in particularly prime locations.

The First Officers Quarters forms part of Rua Reidh Lighthouse near Gairloch on the West Coast. Built in 1910 by David Alan Steveson it has a truly spectacular location and this ground floor apartment within the lighthouse has been modernised to create a cosy and comfortable holiday home for up to five guests.

There are views from the property to the Isle of Skye, the Shiant Isles and the Western Isles, cliff top walks and beaches to explore and fantastic wildlife spotting opportunities with whales, dolphins, otters and eagles all regularly seen from the lighthouse wall. A stay in the First Officers Quarters is just £365 for 7 nights – it has three bedrooms and pets are welcomed.

Mallard Cottage’s Wonderful Location

Also enjoying an enviable location is Mallard Cottage in Tayvallich. Sleeping up to 5 adults this stylish cottage features panoramic views of the marina with a stunning galleried landing and an open plan double height living/dining and kitchen area. Priced from £495 to £795 for week long stays it is just a short drive from Crinan harbour where boat trips are offered for wildlife watching and out to the dramatic Corryvreckan whirlpool.

Cherry Cottage’s Garden

Alternative options on the east coast include The Old School House that is very close to Chanonry Point) and Cherry Cottage. The Old School House sleeps 8 people in four bedrooms and also welcomes pets. Priced from £550 a week it is set in a secluded location in Rosemarkie in the Black Isle, just 5 minutes from the beach. For a couple, picture perfect Cherry Cottage offers a fabulous romantic retreat and is the ideal place for dolphin spotting with views of the Moray Firth from the garden. The cottage is located near Ardersier by Inverness and costs from £295 to £495 per week.

Peruse our range of cottages or call 01835 822277 and speak to our friendly booking team who will help you choose the perfect accommodation for your Scottish dolphin spotting experience.

Treasure Hunting in Scotland

If you enjoy the thrill of a treasure hunt and also love spending time in the great outdoors, then a break spent ‘geocaching’ in Scotland might just be the thing you need to harness your inner adventurer.

A term first coined in 2000, geocaching is an activity that now boasts millions of devotees all over the globe and is a fantastic, fun way to get people of all ages out and about and enjoying their surroundings.

One of Many ‘Caches’ to Track Down

All over Scotland, and indeed the world, special boxes or ‘caches’ have been hidden, awaiting discovery. The only equipment you’ll need is a GPS enabled device. Simply log on to the official geocaching site (free) and pop your location into the search box. You’ll then see the coordinates of the ‘caches’ nearby and you can just pick one and off you go.

Logging Your Visit

Once you find the cache, look inside and sign the log book. You may even find some trinkets to swap, or a stamp to mark your own personal log book before putting the box back for other geocachers to find. All that’s left to do is to log your experience on the geocaching site when you get back. There’s quite a community of geocachers out there, most of whom are keen to share their experiences with fellow treasure hunters and many will have left reviews of their searches for your chosen cache.

Geocaching is a great way to find out more about your own area, or a place you may be visiting. Take Melrose, for example, a beautiful town in the Scottish Borders. A quick look on the geocaching website reveals a host of beautiful walks, amazing scenery and fascinating facts ready to be discovered as you search out your treasure.

As you look for the Rhymers Bridge cache you can learn about the reputed prophet, Thomas the Rhymer and his fairy friends and see where JMW Turner painted a waterfall when visiting Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford in the early 19th century. You could even follow this up with a visit to Abbotsford itself, Sir Walter Scott’s wonderful ‘conundrum caste’ on the banks of the River Tweed on the outskirts of Melrose.

Hollybank Barn

Wherever you decide to head to on your Scottish geocaching adventures, our cottages make the perfect base. If you do decide to geocache in the Scottish Borders, why not stay in Hollybank Barn in the charming village of Gattonside with its winding lanes and chain footbridge that links the village with the town of Melrose. With a 5 star rating from our guests, it has a chic modern style and sleeps four people. Prices start at £460 for a 7 night stay.

The Trimontium Stone Summerhouse cache is hidden at another fascinating Borders landmark that few people discover on their visit to the region. The Summerhouse is a fascinating little building built with stones taken from a nearby Roman Fort in 1908 and while that wouldn’t be approved of by our modern day preservation standards, it’s fascinating to see and may well whet your appetite for all things Roman and encourage you to find out more about the region’s history in Roman occupied Britain at Melrose’s Trimontium exhibition.

Eildon Cottage

You could try one of our newest properties, Eildon Cottage in Melrose. This secluded cottage sleeps 4 people and up to 2 pets and is in easy walking distance of Melrose’s many shops, pubs and restaurants. It is ideal for exploring the region and has a lovely wood-burning stove to curl up in front of after your day’s exertions. Prices start at £345 for 7 nights.

Browse our range of cottages that are spread out across the whole of Scotland or call 01835 822277 and speak to our friendly booking team who will help you choose the perfect accommodation for you and your treasure hunting team.

Discover Scotland’s Rich History in 2017

Scotland has just been placed at an impressive number 2 on the Rough Guide’s list of Top Ten countries to visit in 2017. As far as we’re concerned, it’s right at the top of the list of must-see destinations at any time, but with 2017 being dubbed Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, there are even more reasons to visit.

This special year aims to shine a light on Scotland’s greatest assets and hidden gems with a range of exciting events and activities celebrating our traditional music, storytelling, world-renowned history collections and heritage.

With over 450 cottages across the length and breadth of Scotland, our guests are never far from a story about Scotland’s fascinating past.

Skara Brae Neolithic Settlement

200 year old Brekkan Cottage is located 14 miles from Stromness on West Mainland Orkney and is close to the four amazing archaeological attractions that make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage sites. The most famous is probably Skara Brae, which was rediscovered following a storm in 1850 when wind and high winds stripped away the grass to reveal the outline of a number of stone buildings. Over the years, excavations and investigations have revealed a domestic settlement from the late Neolithic years (3200 to 2200 BC) with stone walls, passageways roofed with original stone slabs and stone furnishings including beds and dressers.

The Ring of Brodgar

The Ring of Brodgar is a Neolithic stone circle surrounded by a rock cut ditch set in a spectacular natural amphitheatre of lochs and hills. Another of these Neolithic gems are the Standing Stones of Stenness – possibly the oldest henge monument in the whole of the British Isles. These four upright stones, each up to 6 metres tall, would have once been part of a stone circle on an ancient ceremonial site.

No less amazing is Orkney’s Maeshowe Chambered Cairn. Built around 5,000 years ago, it’s a work of Neolithic architectural genius with an entrance aligned with the setting of the midwinter sun so the light illuminates the tomb’s interior. There’s added interest in the form of some Norse graffiti left by crusaders who broke into Maeshowe in the mid 1100’s.

Brekkan Cottage, Orkney

Brekkan Cottage sleeps 4 people and costs from £345 for 7 nights. If you’re lucky, you may even catch sight of the wonderful Northern Lights during your trip.

Scotland’s much more recent industrial heritage can be explored in a fabulously entertaining way at New Lanark in Lanarkshire. Founded in the 18th century, it tells the story of social pioneer Robert Owen and his cotton mill village. Mill owner Owen provided decent homes, fair wages, free healthcare, a new education system for villagers, as well as the first workplace nursery school in the world.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, New Lanark has been beautifully restored as a living community that welcomes visitors from all over the world. The Visitor Centre includes the Annie Mcleod Experience where you can travel back in time to learn about the life and times of a mill girl in 1820s New Lanark. Other highlights include Robert Owen’s School for children, 1820s and 1930s mill worker homes, Robert Owen’s house, the village store and some working textile machinery. You can even indulge in a spot of shopping in The Mill Shop, enjoy a walk in the surrounding woodlands and see the spectacular Falls of Clyde nearby.

Cosy Medwyn Cottage

Medwyn Cottage is an ideal location for visiting New Lanark. Sleeping 4 people with a stylish interior and wood-burning stove to curl up in front of, it costs from just £395 for 7 nights with discounts available for couples.

Many of our properties have their own special history. Heatherlea Cottage near Dalwhinnie in Invernesshire stands alone on the hillside where Bonnie Prince Charlie encamped his army after raising his standard at Glenfinnan. He may even have rested in the old crofters cottage that forms the basis of this modernised, cosy property. It is pet friendly and sleeps up to 7 people, making the ideal holiday location for lovers of the countryside, walkers, climbers, mountain bikers and also, with a location less than an hour from the Cairngorm and Nevis ski areas, winter sports fans. Prices start at £365 for 7 nights.

Blackcraig Bridgehouse

One of our most unusual properties is Blackcraig Bridgehouse near Bridge of Cally in Perthshire. This castle-like bridge dates from the 1800s and straddles the River Ardle, just 7 miles from Blairgowrie. It has characterful notched battlements, a winding stone spiral staircase and turret, plus much of the original flooring and wood paneling.

This fantastic property even contains a sauna that has wonderful river views. Blackcraig Bridgehouse sleeps 2 people and prices start at £365 for a 7 night stay.

Browse our website at or call 01835 822277 for friendly advice and recommendations from a member of the Unique Cottages team who can help find you the perfect accommodation for you to enjoy discovering more about Scotland’s rich history and heritage in this special year.

Scotland – A Winter Wonderland for Sporting Adventures

Over 1,000 sled dogs and 250 mushers (dog sled drivers) are set to descend on Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands on 28 and 29 January 2017 for the 34th Siberian Husky Club Sled Dog Rally.

It really is an amazing spectacle with teams of between two and eight dogs pulling their musher on a sled around a trail of between four and seven miles. If there’s no snow, the mushers use a three-wheeled rig to complete the course. The dogs involved have all been bred for hard work and freezing temperatures and include Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Samoyeds, Greenland Dogs and Canadian Eskimo Dogs.

Aviemore Dog Sled Rally

Sled dog racing is just one of the many winter sports on offer in Scotland. Skiing has been popular here for decades, with Cairngorm near Aviemore being the most popular of the winter resorts, with a reputation as one of the UK’s most beautiful places to enjoy the sport. The mountain is home to the UK’s highest funicular railway and there’s a ski and snowboard school for beginners or anyone wanting to brush up their skills. Non-skiers can ride the train to Ptarmigan Top Station, have a bite to eat in Scotland’s highest restaurant and enjoy the spectacular scenery from the viewing platform.

Taking to the Slopes

Skiing has also been enjoyed at Glenshee, since the 1930s when the uplift service used to be provided by a couple of tractors. Things are much more professional now, with 21 lifts and tows across four mountains and three valleys that provide fantastic skiing and boarding opportunities.

Glencoe is another firm winter favourite and has become especially popular with daredevil snowboarders and skiers who love the exhilarating, vertical descent of The Fly Paper, the steepest and most thrilling black-graded run in Britain. Further east, The Lecht Centre is perfect for skiers and snowboarders of all levels, but is particularly good for beginners or intermediate levels, while the Nevis Range Mountain Resort near Fort William combines the stunning backdrop of Ben Nevis with the highest skiing and boarding available in Scotland.

The Nevis range also offers some great Mountain Biking routes, or you can head south and experience the thrills of the Red Bull Run in Innerleithen, and Glentress Forest that is one of the UK’s best mountain biking centres and is part of the 7Stanes group of trails that can be found across the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.

Feshie’s Sitting Room

Wherever you decide to take your Scottish winter break, at Unique Cottages we have some fabulous accommodation options. Feshie is a luxurious new addition to our portfolio set right in Aviemore with stylish décor throughout, three double bedrooms and a cosy wood-burning stove that is perfect to sit and toast yourself by after a day out on the slopes.

Another good option for a winter break is Hawthorn House in Tomintoul – a beautifully presented, pet friendly home that sleeps up to eight people with plenty of space to spread out into and easy access to the Lecht ski resort, just 6 miles away.

Cosy Hawthorn House

The most recent guest feedback the house received describes it perfectly: ‘Excellent cottage. Spacious. Comfortable. Everything you need. Lovely village with amenities. Would return to this house.’

Have a look at the skiing section of our website or call us on 01835 822277 and let our team help find you your perfect winter break.

Celebrate The Festive Season in Style in Scotland

Christmas in Scotland these days is a fabulous affair, with fantastic food, wonderful entertainment, Christmas markets, great shopping opportunities and a very warm welcome.

As recently as 1958 Christmas was still a working day for ordinary Scots. In 1640, an act of the Scottish Parliament abolished the ‘Yule vacation’ and it wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that Christmas Day became a public holiday, with Boxing Day following in 1974.

Relaxing by the Fire (festive socks optional)

The New Year festivities at Hogmanay were traditionally far larger in Scotland and the time when presents were exchanged and while Christmas is now the main time for festive gift giving, many older Scots will remember receiving their childhood presents on 31 December.

A Wee Dram

A big part of Scotland’s New Year celebrations is the tradition of ‘first-footing’ – a custom said to bring good luck for the year ahead. To ensure good fortune, the first person across the threshold of your home after ‘the bells’ chime midnight should be tall, dark and handsome. He should also bring with him a piece of coal to ensure your hearth is warm, some food (often shortbread) so you won’t go hungry, and a wee dram of whisky to promote good cheer for the coming year.

Many towns also have their own unique customs and there are lots of firework displays and parties held across the country. It is a wonderful celebration to be part of and a great time to come to Scotland. Apart from Edinburgh’s amazing Hogmanay street party, concert and fireworks, Scotland’s festivities include the family-friendly Red Hot Highland Fling in Inverness and the unique Stonehaven fireballs parade. This awesome spectacle involves a ritual where participants swing balls of fire around their heads to burn off any bad spirits left behind from the old year.

Edinburgh at Christmas

Being such a popular festive destination, holiday properties in Scotland are often booked up weeks, months or even a year in advance, but at Unique Cottages we still have some fantastic properties available. These include a cosy rural retreat for couples, some perfect countryside properties for families and an Edinburgh city apartment that’s ideal for enjoying the bustling Christmas markets, fairground rides and the lively atmosphere of Scotland’s capital city.

Many of our properties welcome pets, so there’s no need to leave your four legged family members behind and lots of our cottages feature open fires or wood-burning stoves to cosy up in front of during your festive break.

Browse our festive offers online or call us on 01835 822277 for friendly advice and recommendations from our team.

Holiday Gift Vouchers

If you are looking for Christmas gift ideas, why not treat your partner, friend or someone in your family to a relaxing break in one of our cottages? Our holiday gift vouchers are available for any value over £25 and, as they are valid for up to 18 months, they really are the gift that keeps on giving.

They come in an attractive gift card that can be personalised with your own message. Just give us a call to get yours ordered in time for Christmas delivery.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Hogmanay!

New Staycation Destinations

Tourism boards across the UK are reporting record numbers of enquiries and bookings in 2016 as British holidaymakers opt for even more staycations, rediscovering the beautiful scenery and culture of our own country.

One of the most famous destinations for anyone choosing to holiday in Scotland is Loch Ness – the fabulously beautiful home of the country’s most elusive tourist attraction, the Loch Ness Monster. It is a gorgeous part of the world which also features the iconic Urquhart Castle, stunningly beautiful by day or when it is floodlit at night, and the perfect backdrop for a staycation selfie.

Strone House on the Banks of Loch Ness

A boat trip on the Loch will allow closer inspection of the Castle, as well as a spot of Nessie-hunting, but if there’s no sign (she’s notoriously shy), you can always find out more about her at one of the area’s two ‘monster’ museums – the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition and Nessieland.

Strone House Sitting Room

There’s wildlife galore at Loch Ness and a huge variety of birdlife including black grouse, osprey and whooper swans that are all common sights at the nearby Corrimony RSPB reserve. The bustling city of Inverness, with its shops, bars and great restaurants, is also just a few miles away.

A great accommodation option in the area is Strone House near Drumnadrochit. Set right on the banks of Loch Ness, it sleeps eight in sleek, contemporary style, with amazing views (that can particularly be admired from the master bedroom balcony) and a multi-fuel stove that keeps it cosy. Prices start at £895 for seven nights – that’s just under £112 each for a whole week for a group of eight people.

Further south is the attractive village of Tarbert on the Kintyre peninsula. Shops, pubs, hotels and houses sit snugly round Tarbert’s lovely harbour. There is plenty to do including the option of catching a ferry to Portavadie on the Cowal Peninsula, with its great outdoor heated infinity pool overlooking Loch Fyne. The Isle of Arran is just a 30 minute ferry trip away and is a mecca for lovers of beautiful sandy beaches and water sports, or you can raise a toast to your staycation in the Kilberry Inn’s “Wee Bar”. Situated around 13 miles outside Tarbert, it is said to be the smallest bar in Scotland and is located in a converted red phonebox.

Loch Head Cottage

One of Unique Cottages’ newest properties near Tarbert is Loch Head Cottage. It sleeps four people plus two pets and its location, backing onto the first hole of Tarbert golf course, is ideal for anyone who loves the game or simply wants to use this beautiful cottage as a base for exploring the area. The cottage costs from just £375 for seven nights.

In his World Tour of Scotland, Billy Connolly described the Scottish Borders as ‘looking more Scottish in appearance and atmosphere – it is what people think the Highlands look and feel like.’ The region is an idea staycation destination with its breathtaking landscapes, grand aristocratic mansions, rich literary and cultural heritage and a host of outdoor leisure activities.

Cosy Pyatshaw Burn Cottage

Active types can enjoy the world-class mountain biking facilities of Glentress and Innerleithen, fish for salmon on the River Tweed, go horse riding, climb the three famous Eildon hills or swing through the trees at the Borders’ Go Ape attraction. More leisurely Borders pursuits include the chance to explore pretty towns and villages such as Peebles, Kelso and Melrose or to step back in time at Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford home, at the magnificent Floors Castle in Kelso, or the stunning Thirlestane Castle in Lauder. Situated just 30 miles from Edinburgh, the town is close to another new property Pyatshaw Burn Cottage. This cosy cottage is nestled among the trees overlooking a pretty burn and is the perfect romantic retreat for two. Prices start from £325 for seven nights.

These are just a few suggestions for Scottish staycations, to explore more for yourself browse our website or call our Booking Team on 01835 822 277.

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