Tag Archives: Holidays in Scotland

Scotland’s Golfing Greats

If you’re a golfer who is thinking about a sporting break in Scotland, then you are in luck as you have over over 550 fabulous courses to choose from.

We’ve all heard of the big hitters – Gleneagles, Carnoustie and, of course, Royal Troon which plays host to this year’s British Open in July. They are certainly amazing places to enjoy a round, but there are also lots of hidden gems right across the country that have some of the most beautiful scenery to admire as you play.

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The Burn on the Carnoustie Course

Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Course is just a few miles from Inverness and as it is situated on a narrow peninsula it has incredible sea views, with dolphins being a regular sight near the 4th hole. While St Andrews in Fife is famous the world over, the region also has some great golfing alternatives. Anstruther is a pretty fishing village with a multi-award winning fish and chip shop and a very picturesque golf course with wonderful views out to the Isle of May and the Bass Rock. Nearby Aberdour is another great course that is set in beautiful parkland with breathtaking views across the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh Castle. It is also very easily accessible as it is just 30 minutes away from Edinburgh Airport.

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So Near and Yet So Far

Further south in the Scottish Borders, The Roxburghe Golf Course in Kelso is the region’s first Championship course and was recently voted the 6th best golf experience in Scotland by ‘Bunkered’, the UK’s best-selling golf magazine. Situated on the Duke of Roxburghe’s estate, its 14th hole (known as the Viaduct) looks right down to the River Teviot and has been described as one of the best driving holes in Scotland.

The Boat of Garten Golf Course near Aviemore is situated by the River Spey in the beautiful Cairngorms National Park and the scenery that surrounds it is simply stunning. Each hole in this 6,000 yard, 18-hole course has been cleverly shaped in tune with the natural landscape. Its location, close to some of Scotland’s finest whisky distilleries, is another excellent incentive for a visit.

Machrihanish Dunes Golf Course can be found near Campbeltown alongside the better known Machrihanish Course. It opened in 2009 on a Site of Special Scientific Interest and features spectacular views, exciting blind shots over the dunes, uneven fairways, some enormous bunkers and joyous fast greens, as well as some grazing sheep that do a good job of keeping down the rough.

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The Standard Diameter Hole

Mary Queen of Scots is reported to have played golf at the Musselburgh Links course way back in 1567. One of the world’s oldest courses, it is from here that the 4 and a half inch diameter of the hole became standard. It just happened to be the width of the implement used to cut out the hole at Musselburgh and in 1893 the R&A made the size mandatory. The course hosted the Open six times between 1874 and 1889 and still offers the chance to play The Old Golf Course the way it was intended with original Hickory golf clubs (available to hire).

Whether you are teeing off on one of Scotland’s showcase courses, or playing your way round some of the country’s lesser-known golfing treasures, at Unique Cottages we have fantastic accommodation that’s great for golfing groups and/or couples.

Find out more on our website or call 01835 822 277 and speak to a member of our helpful booking team.

Perfect Group Getaways

If you fancy gathering your friends or family together for a few days of fun and relaxation, perhaps to celebrate a special occasion, we have just what you need. Picture a beautiful home all to yourselves, in a gorgeous Scottish location with lots to see, do and explore, or maybe a secluded spot where you can hide away, watch the local wildlife and simply enjoy each other’s company.

If this sounds ideal to you, then one of the larger properties from our specially selected portfolio could be just what you’re looking for.

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Balnald Farmhouse

Set in the heart of rural Perthshire is Balnald Farmhouse, a cluster of original farm buildings dating back to 1886 that have been converted into a beautiful country home with six double bedrooms and plenty of rustic charm. The double-height drawing room with its wooden beams and wood-burning stove is kept light and bright by large picture windows that are set into the former cart shed arches. What was once the milking parlour is now a spacious dining room that has the added feature of a dining table that converts into a snooker table.

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The Hot Tub

Outside in the grounds guests can enjoy a game on the tennis courts, have a soak in the hot tub or simply relax on the south-facing patio and admire the scenery. There is easy access to fantastic local hill walks including the 10 mile Glen Lyon Horseshoe that starts in Inverar and takes in four different munros along the way. The village of Fortingall is also close by and is home to the Fortingall yew tree, which is thought to be over 5,000 years old. Prices for Balnald Farmhouse start at £995 for a 7 night stay for up to 12 people and again, reduced rates are available for parties of 6.

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Stronshira House

Stronshira House is a wonderful 5 bedroom lochside retreat set in a large, enclosed garden right on the edge of Loch Fyne in Argyll. Loch Fyne is a beautiful sea loch that is connected to the Sound of Jura by the Crinan Canal. It is home to dolphins, seals and otters and is also renowned for its oysters.

The house is just 3 miles from Inveraray – a pretty town that is famous for its 19th century jail, a popular tourist attraction that has a reputation as one of Scotland’s most haunted locations. Stronshira House is the perfect place to escape to, with accommodation for up to 10 people and the family dog. Prices start at £850 for 7 nights and there are reduced rates available for parties of 6.

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Linthill House

Another very special property that is ideal for family gatherings is Linthill House in the Scottish Borders. This elegant country mansion dates back to the 18th century and is located in 100 acres of parkland, just 6 miles from the pretty town of Melrose. This elegant building features a grand entrance hall (complete with baby grand piano) and 9 bedrooms that are spread out across the house’s east, south and west wings. A billiard room with full sized snooker table provides recreation for evenings or rainy days and you can fish for trout in the Ale Water which runs through the grounds.

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The Grand Drawing Room

Spend your days enjoying leisurely riverside walks and having picnics by the pond or stroll the mile along to the village of Lilliesleaf. The fabulous food, rich history, heritage and landscapes of the Scottish Borders are just on the doorstep. Linthill House sleeps 16 people and accepts 2 dogs, with prices starting at £1,795 for a 7 night break. Short breaks are also available.

These are just a small selection of our larger properties that are perfect for group getaways. There are many more options on our website, as well as smaller cottages for any type of holiday or short break. Discover more or call 01835 822 277 where a member of our friendly team will have lots of great suggestions to help you find your perfect holiday property.

Scottish Borders Saddles Up

Towns and villages across the Scottish Borders are gearing up for the upcoming season of special events and one of the area’s most spectacular traditions – the Common Ridings.

Hundreds of horses and riders will turn out in 11 separate festivals to take part in each town’s annual ride-out – a celebration of the centuries old riding of the Boundaries. The tradition harks back to the days when the magistrates and burgesses of the town made an annual inspection of the various markers that outlined the ground belonging to the town. Each town has its own special week of events each summer that combines with various ride-outs with parades, music and song.

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Jedburgh Callants Festival

The rides are the most spectacular element of each festival and can over 300 horses and riders gallop across open fields, through rivers and up hillsides and parade through town centres behind an elected principal rider that bears the town flag as they follow the historic boundary lines. They can last anywhere from four to ten hours and often include a ceremonial element.

It’s an amazing sight, with almost everyone from each town turning out to cheer on the riders and wish them luck and a safe journey with the phrase – ‘Safe Oot, Safe In!’ Many of the rides start first thing in the morning so if you want to see them for yourself, you’ll need to be prepared for an early start.

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Galloping Across the Fields

Hawick is the first of the larger town ride-outs and this year’s Common Riding Festival takes place from 5 to 11 June, with the main ride-out being held on Friday, 10 June 2016.

In Hawick the traditional ride-out is combined with a commemoration of the young men who successfully defended Hawick from a raiding party at the Battle of Hornshole in 1514. Following the disastrous Battle of Flodden in 1513, where all Hawick’s menfolk between the ages of 16 and 60 were killed, it was heard that a raiding party was approaching and the young men of Hawick decided to defend their town. They surprised and defeated the invaders who had camped at Hornshole, taking their banner and riding triumphantly back to town. Although small in scale, the victory was a huge boost to the town’s pride after the Flodden defeat.

The main ride outs for each town take place on the dates below, although dates should be confirmed before travel:

  • West Linton – Saturday, 4 June 2016
  • Hawick – Friday, 10 June 2016
  • Selkirk – Friday, 17 June 2016
  • Melrose – Monday, 13 June 2016
  • Peebles – Wednesday, 22 June 2016
  • Galashiels – Saturday, 2 July 2016
  • Jedburgh – Friday, 8 July 2016
  • Duns – Saturday, 9 July 2016
  • Kelso – Saturday, 23 July 2016
  • Langholm – Friday, 29 July 2016
  • Coldstream – Thursday, 4 August 2016
  • Lauder – Saturday 6, August 2016

These events are the most familiar example of the heritage and traditions of the Scottish Borders but the region is also filled with stunning countryside and history and makes a wonderful holiday destination at any time of the year.

We have a selection of fabulous cottages in gorgeous locations in the area, ranging from romantic retreats for two, to beautiful family friendly cottages that are perfect for a relaxing break or a larger family get-together. We even have some properties that allow you to bring along your own horse, should you fancy riding in some of the beautiful countryside yourself.

Click here to discover more or call 01835 822277 where a member of our friendly team will have lots of suggestions of great places in the region for you to stay.

Charming New Addition – The Study at Minto

History fans and those looking for something ‘a bit different’ are sure to love the latest addition to our portfolio, which is set in the picturesque village of Minto in the Scottish Borders.

Perfectly set up for two people, The Study at Minto was built in 1889 as the village school in a location that was deemed to be ‘the most beautiful and commodious in the south of Scotland’. The views are indeed stunning and can be enjoyed from the beautiful raised patio outside after a day spent out exploring the local area.

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Open Plan Living Area

The building itself has undergone a long and careful restoration and preservation that has retained most of its stunning original features including fine Gothic windows as well as floors, doors and decorative woodwork.

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Four-Poster Bed

The interior is a fabulous eclectic mix of history and craftsmanship. An intricately-carved Tudor four-poster bed provides a rather grand place to sleep, after which you can cook-up a tasty breakfast (free range eggs can be sourced in the village) in a kitchen constructed from an early 19th century French sideboard rescued from a chateau south of Paris, with worktops formed from recycled Victorian pews from a Borders church.

Two stunning carved oak panels on either side of the south window date from 1890 and were created in the workshops of the eminent Scottish architect, Sir Robert Lorimer. Amongst the exquisite Persian rugs and French and Scottish furniture dating from the mid 18th to the late 19th centuries, visitors can also discover a 1920s working gramophone and taxidermy including a rare Capercaille named Hector who was a pet on a Scottish estate that died of natural causes.

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Shower Room

Even the shower room at The Study is packed with history with its loo and basin being beautiful reproductions of the original Thomas Crapper line from around 1880.

There’s no shortage of history in the surrounding area as well, with lots to discover on the many walks near the cottage.

An old medieval church lies abandoned in the woods across the golf course, surrounded by the remnants of Victorian planned rose gardens. Attached to the church wall, you can still see a ‘joug’ – a terrifying chain that was placed around the neck of gossiping women as a means of punishment!

North east of Minto village is Fatlips Castle. Built as a Turnbull clan stronghold in 1530, its memorable name is said to originate from the habit of members of the house to greet guests with less discretion than was considered decent at the time. The key to the Castle can be borrowed from an adjacent village.

There’s a treasure-trove of beautiful buildings and bridges in the nearby Minto estate, as well as a hidden lake with a delightful waterfall in Gibbies Glen. The area’s natural beauty also includes the giant and famous Minto Larches. Grown from seedlings and planted in the glen 300 years ago, they are thought to be the oldest and best examples in Scotland.

Nearby Ruberslaw Hill is actually an extinct volcano and an ancient place of worship. It has been much celebrated by poets and writers in the Borders who have seen from its summit one of the most beautiful views in Scotland.

Filled with history, tradition and natural beauty, this part of the Borders is a wonderful place to visit and with its fabulous charm and character, The Study makes the perfect base. Pet friendly and sleeping two people, a week’s stay starts from just £450.

Monster-hunting Holidays!

Scotland is a land of legends, from kelpies (water-horses) to faeries and giants to selkies (seal-folk); there are no shortage of stories about supernatural creatures which thrived in the wild and untamed Scottish landscape in times gone by. Possibly the most famous of all these beings is Nessitera rhombopteryx who some believe still resides in the one of Scotland’s largest, deepest, fresh water lochs, right in the heart of the Highlands.

Famous? Then why haven’t you heard about this legendary entity?

Ah, but you have, possibly by one of her other, more common, names. For the creature of which I speak is the notorious Loch Ness Monster, more affectionately referred to as Nessie!
The first recorded sighting of a monster living in the area of Loch Ness was over 15 hundred years ago, when Irish monk St Columba was visiting the Pictish shores. After having sent one of his followers into the water to attract the ‘water beast’ he demonstrated the power of his God by commanding the creature to break off his attack and caused it to flee in terror!

The first ever picture of the Loch Ness Monster?Fast forwarding to the beginning of the 20th century, further interest was sparked when George Spicer and his wife saw what they described as ‘a most extraordinary animal’ cross the road in front of their car and disappear into the Loch. The sighting lead to numerous ‘hunting’ parties visiting the loch over the following few years determined to catch the monster ‘dead or alive’. It was at this time that the well known ‘Surgeons photograph’ was taken, which has now been exposed as a hoax. However in 1938 a South African tourist called G. E. Taylor made a 3 minute recording on 16mm colour film of the elusive creature, and although only a single frame was ever made publicly available, experts have said that it is ‘positive evidence’ of Nessie’s existence.

In 1943 the monster was seen again by C. B. Farrel of the Royal Observer Corps as he carried out his duties on the Loch. He described a finned creature with large eyes and a neck that protruded 4-5 feet out of the waters. 11 years later, the crew of a fishing boat called the Rival III reported sonar readings of a large object at a depth of 480 feet keeping pace with them for approximately half a mile as they sailed across the loch.

What lies beneath the tranquil waters of Loch Ness? (photo courtesy of conner395)In 1960 the monster was again caught on film by Tim Dinsdale, which, when digitally enhanced in 1993, showed a creature with rear flippers and a plesiosaur-like body (plesiosaurs were carnivorous aquatic reptiles which lived at the end of the Triassic Period). Sceptics have said that due to the poor quality of the film, these features could have been created by tricks of the light as it reflected on the water, but no one really knows.

Just 4 years ago the monster appeared on film again, when Gordon Holmes videoed a jet black ‘thing’, about 45 feet long, moving quickly through the loch waters, but because the footage did not include anything which could be used as a scale comparison, once again it can not be classed as definitive proof.

A visit to the Loch Ness Monster Visitor Centre in Drumnadrochit ensures you a sighting of the beast! (photo courtesy of n.hewson)So, the legend remains just that!  There is no undisputed verification of the existence of a monster living in the waters of Loch Ness, but then again, there is no sure proof that there is not! Perhaps, sometime soon, someone will get the evidence that Nessie isn’t just a myth or tale, but rather another example of how the unique, unspoilt landscape of Scotland supports species that have been long extinct elsewhere.

If you fancy taking on the challenge and take part in a bit of Nessie spotting then Unique Cottages has a selection of cottages close to Loch Ness, including two where you can actually see a great length of the loch from the window!

See cottages near Loch Ness >

Come Rally Round!

Throughout history there have been plenty of famous people who have hailed from Scotland.  Rightly so, many of them have become local heroes who are celebrated and remembered by their fellow Scots in various different ways.  Jim Clark is one such star who lives on in the hearts of his countrymen, and back in 1970 an event was started which ensures he will to continue to do so for generations to come.

The Jim Clark Rally, near ChirnsideIf you’ve never heard of Jim Clark, then suffice it to say that he was one of the best formula one racing drivers of all time.  His versatile driving style lead him to become twice world champion, no small feat for a lad who grew up on a farm not far from the Berwickshire town of Duns.

Sadly, Jim Clark died in a racing accident in Germany when his car veered off the track and crashed in some trees; however, the annual Rally that commemorates this short but exciting life ensures that the legend lives on.

Jim Clark action in the Scottish BordersOver the past 40 years the Jim Clark Rally has grown to become one of the biggest motor sport events in the UK, attracting drivers and spectators from all around the world.  The course winds its way through the beautiful Scottish Borders countryside in and around where Jim Clark grew up, providing a suitable challenge for those who wish the follow in the great man’s footsteps.  For the less intrepid, there are plenty of places on the various stages where you can admire others’ driving skills and get a great vantage point for watching the action.

This year the Jim Clark Rally begins on Friday 27th of May and provides a great weekend of entertainment for motor-sport lovers and those, like me, who secretly wish they could have been rally drivers themselves!  Spectator packs are available from the Jim Clark Rally official website, were you can also find more information about the event, as well as a collection of photos that demonstrate the thrills and spills of the last few years.

Something novel…

I’m of the opinion that reading is definitely ‘medicine for the soul’ and that a good book can transport you to another place, a world away from any worries or stress.  Whether it be a gritty crime mystery, a heartwarming romance, an epic historical thriller or a light hearted comedic satire, there are books suit every taste.

Melrose Abbey, Scottish Borders.Avid readers like myself will, no doubt, be delighted to hear that once a year, in the pretty Border town of Melrose, lovers of literature congregate for a celebration of the diversity and enduring appeal of the written word.

If, when you think of books and reading, the image of a dusty old library with a misery guts of a curator sharply ‘shhh-ing’ you for the slightest sound springs to mind, then prepare to be surprised!

The Borders Book Festival has a relaxing, jovial, carnival type atmosphere, which is both exciting and exhilarating!  In fact, you would be hard pushed to find such a wide collection of witty, intelligent, imaginative people all in one place at one time!  But it is one factor which unites them all and that’s a love of all things literary!

Borders Book Festival 2011, Melrose, Scottish Borders.With a range of events taking place from the 16th to the 19th of June, the Borders Book Festival offers something for everyone, no matter your age or interest.  The festival attracts famous names such as presenter Peter Snow, broadcaster and journalist Michael Parkinson, impressionist and playwright Rory Bremner, comedian Rory McGrath and actor Larry Lamb, to name just a few.

The event is eminently family friendly, and children (of all ages) can have fun while they learn about the Murderous Maths of Everything, create their own story in the Mazes and Monster Workshop or just sit back and enjoy the free Storytime sessions.

So, if you agree that sometimes there is nothing better than curling up with a novel, then why not check out theVisit Melrose, Self Catering Cottages Scotland. Borders Book Festival this year and join an exceptional celebration of the written word in some truly beautiful Scottish surroundings?

Self Catering Cottages in Melrose >

More about the Borders Book Festival >

Here’s a video about the venue where the festival is held (it refers to the 2009 festival, but will be held at the same place this year), I hope to see you there! >