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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Scotland’s First Snorkel Trail

Scotland is famous as a location for a wide range of active holidays, from golf and fishing to skiing, mountain biking, canoeing, and many more.

Now, thanks to the Scottish Wildlife Trust, it also boasts its first ever snorkel trail – a set of nine, self-led trails in the waters off the North West Highlands that allow both beginners and advanced snorkelers to dive down and see the impressive variety of Scotland’s marine life.

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Exploring the Waters

Many people might think it is too cold to snorkel in Scotland, but the British Sub Aqua Club disagrees, saying that the colours and life under the surface in places like the north west coast are up there with the coral reefs you can find abroad.

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Sunstar Starfish

So while you won’t be able to ‘Find Dory’, the Pacific Regal Blue Tang of the recent animated blockbuster, in Scottish waters you are likely to see lobsters and various species of crab as well as a surprising variety of starfish including common starfish, sunstars and brittlestars. Scotland’s living seas are also home to extensive beds of Maerl (an unusual red coralline algae) and colourful sea urchins that cling to rocks around the coast and harbours. Keep your eyes peeled too for sea squirts, sponges and anemones, as well as cuttlefish, dead man’s fingers, dogfish, butterfish, jellyfish and periwinkle. If you are lucky you might even manage to see dolphins or the impressive, but harmless, basking sharks.

The North West Highlands Snorkel Trail comprises of sites at beaches and bays along the coast near Gairloch, Ullapool and Lochinver. It is a stunning part of the world with truly majestic scenery and that, in addition to its rich marine life, is famous for other wildlife including ptarmigan, golden eagles and deer.

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Pebble Coast

We have several beautiful self catering properties in the area that would make a perfect base for exploring both on land and at sea. The Old Schoolhouse at Achiltibuie, north west of Ullapool is set just 200 yards from the sea with beautiful views across to the Dundonnell Mountains. The nearby Kirkaig Falls and Suilven Mountain are well worth visiting, as is the ruined and rumoured to be haunted Ardvreck Castle.

Other accommodation options in the area include the gorgeous Pebble Coast that is set in an amazing clifftop location near Gairloch with magnificent views out across The Minch to the Isle of Skye and the Outer Hebrides and direct access down to a lovely pebble beach.

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The First Officer’s Quarters

Also near Gairloch are The First Officer’s Quarters in the spectacular setting of Rua Reidh lighthouse, which comes complete with a private wildlife hide for the use of guests. It is known as a great spot for witnessing the beautiful natural light show of the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights.

If you do decide to go snorkeling, please read the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Snorkel Safety information on their website before you go. It contains lots of vital information to keep you safe and help you make the most of your watery adventure.

To discover more about our properties in the North West Highlands, click here or call us on 01835 822 277.

Holidays on the Right Track

It is almost a year now since the Waverley Railway Line from Edinburgh to Tweedbank near Melrose in the Scottish Borders was re-opened by Her Majesty the Queen on 6 September 2015.

The new line was great news for the region, particularly after 46 years of it not being in use. The transport link has made access to this beautiful part of Scotland so much easier for both visitors and locals alike.

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The Loading Bay and Garden Where the Train Tracks Once Ran

The line, which was originally completed in 1849, travelled all the way across the country to Carlisle, passing through Hassendean Station around 5 miles from Hawick. Some of the attractive buildings at this rural train stop have now been converted into self-catering accommodation by their architectural designer/owner and have just joined our portfolio.

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Railway Memorabilia

Hassendean Station didn’t serve a large community, but relied on both passenger and goods traffic from rural farms and houses. Goods were dealt with at The Loading Bay, which has now been converted into a wonderful holiday cottage that sleeps 4 people. The main living area at ‘Platform Level’ is light and bright with windows showcasing breathtaking views across the countryside. The two bedrooms are downstairs at ‘Goods Yard Level’ and throughout the house the antiques, railway artefacts and memorabilia are sure to fascinate and delight.

Outside, you can enjoy the daytime vistas or star-filled night skies from decking that overlooks a lovely lawned area that sits right where the trains once ran. The UK’s only surviving Victorian timber footbridge which once stretched over the lines still stands by the cottage to this day.

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Signalman’s Cottage

The other cottage on the site is Signalman’s Cottage that dates from 1850 and, as the name suggests, was once home to the station’s signalman. Having been lovingly restored, it sleeps 3 and is full of character, with features including reclaimed pine beams that came from the Titanic dry dock. The cottage has an enclosed garden that is great for pets and looks out over towards Rubers Law, a local hill that is popular with walkers.

Visitors can explore the nearby villages of Minto and Denholm, discover the history and heritage of the pretty Border towns of Hawick, Jedburgh, Kelso and Melrose and wander around their many shops, galleries, pubs and cafés.

The Borders has lots of great golf courses and other activities on offer include fishing, clay pigeon shooting, walking, horse riding and mountain biking.

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Take a Steam Train Trip

If you’ve been inspired by the history of the Waverley Line, the station at Tweedbank is just 13.5 miles away and provides a hassle-free way to enjoy a day trip to Scotland’s capital city Edinburgh whilst taking in the wonderful scenery along this historic route. There is even the opportunity during August and September to take a steam train ride on the line, with gourmet dining and various excursions to try along the way.

A seven night stay starts at £365 for The Loading Bay and £345 for Signalman’s Cottage and they even have access to a little beach hut at Coldingham Bay. We have many more wonderful properties in the Scottish Borders – browse through them on our website or give us a call on 01835 822277.

Break Away to ‘Giant’s Land’

This year Roald Dahl would have celebrated his 100th birthday and enthusiasts of his books are already queuing up at cinemas across the country to see one of his best loved creations that has been brought to life in Steven Spielberg’s live-action adaptation ‘The BFG’.

The $140 million extravaganza hit our screens on 22 July and taking a starring role within the movie is the beautiful island of Skye. No stranger to the silver screen, Skye has featured in several films including Prometheus (2012) and Starlight (2007). Spielberg’s scouts scoured northern Europe for scenery that would perfectly capture the atmospheric ‘Giant’s Land’ of Dahl’s book and found the ideal match in this stunning location.

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The Old Man of Storr

Thanks to the Skye Bridge, this is one of Scotland’s most accessible islands and boasts iconic scenery including the Old Man of Storr and Cuillin mountains, both of which feature in the new film. A firm favourite of walkers and climbers, Skye is also home to Michelin Star restaurant Kinloch Lodge, the world-renowned Three Chimneys restaurant, Talisker Distillery, an array of wildlife and a host of atmospheric hostelries just waiting to rejuvenate any weary traveller. It is a perfect island escape for couples, families, groups and adventurers.

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Dunvegan Castle

History lovers will be enticed by attractions including the Skye Museum of Island Life and The Clan Donald Visitor Centre featuring 40 acres of gardens to explore, a café and Museum of the Isles detailing Scottish history. There is also beautiful Dunvegan Castle to visit – the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and the stronghold of the chiefs of the clan for more than 800 years.

Families can enjoy the great outdoors exploring the many beaches, take a half day boat trip from Elgol out to the Small Isles, with the chance of spotting basking sharks, dolphins and minke whales on the way, or try out the new activities including quad biking and archery that are now available at the Clan Donald Centre.

For thrill seekers Skye presents the opportunity to scale the Black Cuillin that is renowned as the most challenging mountain environment anywhere in Britain. This is the only summit in the British Isles which can only be reached by serious rock climbing skills and technical knowledge. The less adventurous can enjoy stunning views of the Cuillin mountain range from many locations on the Island including Elgol, where you can take a boat trip into Loch Coruisk in the heart of the mountains.

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The Cuillin Mountain Range

For most however what Skye offers is breathtaking scenery, interesting attractions and space to relax – washed down with a fabulous dram and some amazing food, courtesy of the Island’s many wonderful eateries.

If you fancy an escape to this picture perfect island, our properties on Skye range from cosy crofts for two right through to spacious, architect-designed houses that are perfect for group gatherings.

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.

Fun in Scotland with Unique Cottages

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