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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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