Category Archives: Tips

Inside Information from the Unique Cottages Inspectors

Welcome to Scotland!

Well, it’s official. The Scottish have always had a reputation for being welcoming and now a Cambridge University study has labelled us the friendliest people in Britain!

So with stunning scenery, amazing wildlife, delicious food and drink, activities galore and the best welcome in Britain – what better place to come for a break?

Of course you’ll need somewhere fabulous to stay while you’re here and that’s where we come in with our collection of beautiful cottages of all shapes and sizes. We’ve spent years searching the length and breadth of Scotland for the best holiday cottages, most of which are exclusive to us.

blog-island-house-externalWhy not watch the sun go down on the beautiful island of Tiree surrounded by friends and family? Island House is a charming lochside property that can sleep up to 15 people so is perfect for get-together getaways. It can take two dogs as well so your furry friends don’t have to miss out on all the fun. We have a wide selection of other dog friendly properties, but more on that in a future blog…

blog-corglass-cottage-externalYou will find one of our lovely ‘cottages-for-two’ tucked amongst the hills of Strathspey, less than an hour’s drive from Inverness airport. Corglass Cottage is a delightful Highland hideaway with stunning uninterrupted views from large picture windows in every room. You can even enjoy a magnificent panorama of the Glenarder valley from the bath.

blog-killiecrankie-lodgeIf you fancy hiding out in a log cabin in the woods, then Killiecrankie Lodge, set deep in the Perthshire countryside could be perfect for you. It has a picturesque garden stream, decking and an enclosed garden. With a location close to the pretty town of Pitlochry, there are lots of activities for families or couples to enjoy.

Or how about this stunning property on the shores of one of the most photographed lochs in Scotland? Achnacarran Boathouse on Loch Awe in Argyll is architect-designed, expertly furnished and has a private pier, slipway and fishing rights. blog-achnacarron-boathouse-upstairsThe house has views to die for particularly from the upstairs sitting room, and there is an abundance of wildlife nearby including deer, pine martin, red squirrel, otters, barn owls and osprey so you can experience Scotland’s outdoors in all its glory.

We have hundreds of beautiful properties to choose from and add new properties to our portfolio on a regular basis, so why not follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook or sign-up to our e-newsletter to make sure you receive all the latest news and suggestions on where to take your next break.

Our cottages have rolled out their welcome mats and are ready to give visitors Scotland’s famous warm welcome, so all you need to do is visit our website or give us a call on 01835 822227 to start your search for the perfect cottage and perfect holiday.

Calling all Foodies!

May joins us this year with the sun shining and a pleasant warmth which promises that it going to be a fantastic summer weather wise, and I for one am looking forward to the opportunities that dry and warm conditions offer!

Indulging in a little (or in my case a lot of) alfresco eating is one of my favourite ways to spend the long, warm summer evenings; especially if the food is something a wee bit more special than your normal barbeque cuisine of charcoaled sausages and bedraggled burgers.

I find that one of the best ways to get exciting recipe ideas for mouth-watering meals that are perfect for outside dining is to attend one of the many food festivals that take place throughout Scotland.  With a variety of fresh local produce, Scotland’s food fairs and festivals are a celebration of all that is great about Scottish fare and a brilliant chance to pick up some interesting (and tasty) tips to spice up your summer eating.

Whether you fancy trying something completely different like venison jerky with a wild garlic salad, or want to put an interesting new twist on old favourite by adding the award winning Crittel Cheese to your burger rather than a bog standard slice, Scotland’s food fairs and festivals are an ideal place to get inspiration.

One such festival takes place later this month in Argyll, on the banks of Loch Fyne.

The Loch Fyne Food Fair is a two-day celebration of west coast food, with the star of the show being the world famous Loch Fyne Oysters.  These are known for their superb taste which is in large part due to the exceptional cleanliness and quality of the loch in which they grow (that and the fact they’re so fresh).  Fortunately, if you can’t make it up to Loch Fyne on the 14th or 15th of this month, you can sample this exquisite local delicacy all year round at the Cairndow Oyster Bar and Restaurant which is open 7 days a week.

See cottages near Loch Fyne >

More Scottish food festivals >

and on the eighth day God created chocolate!

As our property manager Eelin reminded me, Easter is not all about chocolate, but I have to admit, for me it definitely plays a very big part of my celebration of the festival!  There is something about the taste of chocolate when it’s been made into the shape of an egg which somehow makes it that bit yummier.

I have a bit of a penchant for non-brand name chocolate Easter eggs which have not just come off the supermarket shelf.  I prefer an egg that is a little bit more unique, one fit for a special occasion such as Easter.  The decadence of a hand-made, beautifully decorated, luxury chocolate egg that holds a secret treat inside which remains unknown until you crack open that tasty oval exterior, now that’s an Easter egg worth breaking my healthy eating plan for!

Regular readers of ‘Our Unique Blog’ will know that here at Unique Cottages we like to share with you our specialist knowledge of Scotland and tell you about the hidden treasures of this beautiful country.  So, as an Easter treat allow me to tell you about a wee village in the Highlands that always comes to mind when I think of indulging in some very special chocolate, and a chocolate shop which you just have to visit if you’re in the area.

The former spa town Strathpeffer, just a 30-minute drive from the Highland capital of Inverness, is home to what has to be described as a chocolate lover’s heaven.  ‘Maya Belgian Chocolates’ is run by Maître Chocolatier Fabienne De Mulder who creates and sells a range of over 40 different chocolates from her shop close to the centre of the village.  Fabienne’s signature chocolates include ganache made from raspberry pulp covered in white chocolate, ganache infused with Earl Grey Tea covered in dark chocolate and ganache with Amaretto (Almond based liqueur) covered in milk chocolate (I’d tell you more but my mouth is watering with the thought of these 3 alone!)

As well as selling individual chocolates and truffles, boxes and bars, the shop is well known for its Hot Chocolate, which is truly ‘to die for’ and at certain times visitors can even watch Fabienne creating her exclusive chocolates right there on the premises.

If like me, a fabulous chocolate shop selling delicious melt in your mouth treats is enough of an attraction on its own to inspire you consider holidaying close by, then Unique Cottages have a number of delightful properties in the area which will provide comfortable and attractive accommodation for your chocolate pilgrimage.

Kinkell Castle Cottage (sleeps 2)

Red Kite Cottage (sleeps 3/4)

Peediequoy Cottage (sleeps 6)

What is the Cateran Trail?

If you’ve perused our cottages in the Perthshire area, it is likely that at some point you will have come across some mention in the cottage descriptions of the Cateran Trail.  But what exactly is the Cateran Trail?  And why would being in a cottage in close proximity be such an attractive prospect?

With no real beginning and no real end, the Cateran Trail was the first public, marked circular walking route in the UK.  The trail takes you through 64 miles of stunning Scottish countryside displaying the best that the country has to offer.  However, the history behind the route is a reminder of Scotland’s less peaceful times!

The Caterans (most likely taken from the Gaelic ‘ceathaime’ meaning ‘common people’) were infamous cattle thieves who thrived in the lawless areas of Scotland from the middle ages right up until the 17th century.  Using the cover of darkness, often when their victims were involved in distracting festivities (such as a wedding), these parties of fierce warrior marauders would steal livestock and disappear into the night.

Not taking chances, the Caterans were generally well informed about the unfortunate folk they targeted.  They reduced the risk and avoided capture by taking a different route when leaving with their spoil than the one they had used to stealthily arrive.  Skilled at evading detection, they would commonly use the old ancient drove roads through the remote hills and valleys, some of which now make up the accordingly named Cateran Trail.

The trail is now well signposted and helpfully split into 5 sections which can tackled individually (each section is between 8-16 miles long) making it entirely possible to walk the whole trail in the space of a week.  For those who wish to experience the variety of stunning scenery the trail has to offer, and follow in the steps of these elusive raiders (without the exertion of covering 64 miles) the Cateran ‘mini trail’ provides a circular alternative totaling 20 miles (split into smaller 3 sections) which can be easily tackled over a long weekend.

If you fancy walking a route that will take you through truly stunning Scottish landscape, which remains as beautiful and unspoilt as it was years ago when the Caterans used it for rather more sinister purposes, then Unique Cottages have a choice of cottages which make the perfect base from which to venture.

Cottages in the area include:

Middleton Bothy (sleeps 2)
Dun Cann (Sleeps 2/3)
Ardlebank Cottage (sleeps 4/5)

Great News!

For all those already signed up to receive the Unique Cottages’ Newsletter I’m pleased to say that the April-May issue should have arrived in your inbox this week – we hope you enjoy!

Our bi-monthly e-newsletter has now been electronically whizzing its way to our customers in its current format for over a year and readership continues to grow.  If you aren’t already signed up to receive your copy of this valuable resource then let me tell you a wee bit about it.

Unlike many of the other newsletters distributed by our competitors, we don’t try to sell you anything or go into the boring details of changes within the business, we just share with you our specialist knowledge of Scotland in the hope that it will help you enjoy your holiday in Scotland even more!

We are based in Scotland, focus only on self-catering properties in Scotland and by doing this for over 40 years we have built up quite a repertoire of useful and interesting information well worth sharing with you.  The 6th issue of ‘Unique and Unspoilt’ is once again full of articles which let you in on some of the best of our exclusive knowledge of Scotland, giving you an inside track on how to get the most out of your holiday to our beautiful land.

However, it’s not just we who contribute to the Newsletter.  In fact, we have a talented guest who was staying in one of our cottages near Loch Sunart to thank for one of the most stunning pictures in this issue, a photo that is testament to the beauty which surrounds you when you visit Scotland!

Whether you’re a regular visitor to our fine shores, thinking about holidaying here or just have interest in what the country has to offer, then why not subscribe to ‘Unique and Unspoilt’ which every two months will arrive in your inbox bursting with details of the delights of Scotland?

Here at Unique Cottages we are always grateful of any comments or suggestions from our customers and if you have any ideas for articles for the ‘Unique and Unspoilt’ Newsletter then please get in touch.

Happy Scotland Week!

In the USA (and for the first year in Canada) this week is Scotland Week, which runs from the 3rd of April to the 10th of April and celebrates all things Scottish.  4.8 million Americans reportedly have Scottish ancestry (2000 census) and 4,719,850 people in Canada can be described as ‘Scottish-Canadian’ (2001 census), so both countries’ strong heritage links to Scotland are represented by this weeklong exploration of Scottish culture.

We’re quite obviously biased, but we think Scotland Week is a great idea.  There is indeed so much to celebrate about our fine country!  One such example is our excellent (and unique) cuisine, from Haggis to Selkirk Bannock, Cock-a-leekie Soup to deep-fried, battered Mars Bars we Scots have an interesting variety of ‘traditional’ foods.  Therefore, it is only right that as part of Scotland Week one of our renowned chefs, Michael Smith, shares his expertise with Scotland’s kindred spirits across the pond.

Born in Inverness, Michael Smith is scheduled to appear on a number of well know TV programs in American and Canada, including the ‘Martha Stewart Show’.  However, for those closer to home who wish to sample the culinary delights of this highly commended chef, he will then return to his usual stomping grounds as Head Chef at the highly rated Three Chimney’s restaurant on the beautiful Isle of Skye.

On the edge of Loch Dunvegan, the restaurant offers a first class dining experience on an island that can accurately be described as magical!  Unique Cottages has some wonderful self-catering properties within easy reach of this acclaimed eatery, including The Missionary’s House (sleeping 5) only a 5 minute drive away, Kinlochfollart (sleeping 10) and, new for this year, the extremely inviting Claigan House (sleeping 4).

Although dinning out every night at the Three Chimney’s may not be within everyone’s budget, the joy of self-catering in Skye is that you can recreate the experience back at your home base, with a variety of fresh, local produce available from suppliers on the island.  For more information about our self-catering properties in Skye (because, let’s face it, on an island so beautiful it’ll not just be the fine food that tempts you to visit), send us an email enquiry or call 01835 822277 and we’ll be happy to help you find your dream island get away.

And to those celebrating across the Atlantic, from all at Unique Cottages, may we wish you an splendid Scottish Week this week and an terrific Tartan Day tomorrow!

A unique gift.

So, this Sunday is Mother’s Day which, for me, always brings with it the quandary about what to give my dear old Mum as a token of my appreciation for her and all she has done for me (a great deal if I’m honest).  When I needed her she was always there and continues to be there for me no matter what (Mother’s job you may say) but considering my poor attitude and obnoxiousness at times (especially during my teenage years), I really have pushed the limits of a mother’s love in my time!

I know that people often say that it is the thought that counts and that Mums especially will be pleased with whatever you give them because it’s from you, but still, considering all she has done, I feel the need to get her something that she really will be pleased to receive.  But this is not the easiest of tasks!

I’ve made my mistakes over my lifetime when it comes to choosing that all important Mother’s day pressie. In this particular matter is seems I take after my father, who also, more often than not, purchases presents for my mother that antagonise rather than delight!

After numerous mistakes and leaving my parent’s home with a feeling of failure, despite my Mother’s efforts to reassure me that she “really does appreciate the thought” (my mum could never have made it as an actress) a solution had to be found. And I think I have finally found one, which, over the last few years at least, seems to ensure a happy Mother’s day for all.

My secret weapon in the battle of choosing an appropriate present for the woman I owe my life to is (drum roll please)…..Gift Vouchers!   Yeah, I know sounds boring but I have found that the benefits of buying a gift voucher vastly outweigh the fact you are not giving a gift that you can wrap.  The joy of gift vouchers is that the recipient gets some element of choice, meaning that it is harder to go wrong when making sure the present is something they really like.

However, as with everything in life, there are rules to make gift voucher giving work for you!  Some thought is still involved. It would be fair enough to get your Mother a voucher from Halfords if she’s really into her car, but my Mum’s main concern when it comes to her car is that it gets her from A to B (with plenty of space for shopping bags).  Therefore, a Halfords voucher isn’t going to work for her.  My Mother works hard (keeping an eye on me, my siblings, and my Dad, as well as earning a living) so I find that getting a gift voucher which allows her to treat herself and take time out from the daily grind goes down well.  Last year I got her a gift voucher for a spa day, the year before that I got her a voucher for a posh meal so she could get some ‘quality time’ with my Dad and not have to cook.

With the increase in things you can get gift vouchers for, they really have become a very simple way of giving something that the recipient can tailor to their own tastes, therefore ensuring they like what you give and you can truly show your appreciation of them.  A potential idea for a gift voucher, which may suit some Mothers this year, is one that gives her money off a holiday and offers her a chance to escape and relax for a while.

At Unique Cottages we offer Gift Vouchers for a holiday retreat to Scotland available in multiples of £25 which are valid for 2 years, so your mum not only has a choice of fabulous holiday cottages to choose from but also plenty of time in which to book her well deserved break.