13 September 2012

Yurt, Bothy & Firetruck in the Scottish Highlands

Written by Published in Eco Travel

‛Go stay somewhere else if you want nice plush hotel carpets’ says Walter Micklethwait, proprietor and host of Inshriach, summing up his attitude towards guesthouse management.

This is Inshriach House, a 10-bedroom Edwardian pile originally built as a shooting lodge by the Black publishing family in the 1900s. A century on and it feels like the Blacks are still in residence – the rooms are named after various family members and the style hasn't changed much.

Walter and his mother, Lucy, have restored it with an eclectic mix of reclaimed and handmade furniture. ‘Lived-in’ is a key Micklethwait phrase.

 DSC0005Exploring the house is like stepping into a work of fiction and every effort has been made to stay true to the story – Mrs Blacks room has a four poster bed so high it comes with a step ladder.

Meanwhile, in the servants quarters The Poor Room has a single bed and Dickensian pictures on the wall. It's an austere chamber of bleakness reflecting Walters sense of humour.

The servants bells have been rewired – don't let the children know says Walter with a chuckle as we go down the back staircase. The other staircase forms an open gallery looking down over a long dining room table which looks like it's been stolen from the mad hatters' tea party. Knowing Walters propensity for salvaging old furniture, it probably has.

But its not all about a return to times of old; there are solar panels on the roof and the house is powered by a wood pellet-fired boiler in the basement.

Wood-fired heating is a theme at Inshriach, as we discover as Walter continues the tour to the other sleeping options, three quirky camping options: a Yurt, a Bothy and a 1950s converted fire truck.

Passing by props and backdrops from Walter's set-building days - now used as stages for the 1000 capacity and growing annual Insider Festival – we arrive at the Bothy, a wooden hut with a bed, stove and an outdoor shower. Initially built as a retreat for Scottish artists (www.thebothyproject.org), the bothy is perched in an idyllic glade surrounded by heather.

Next stop, ‘The Beer Moth’, a fire truck converted into a sleeping space for two, which has been a great hit with tourists and fashion magazines alike.

The thoroughly photogenic canvas-topped truck is decked out with a Victorian brass-framed double bed, leather armchair and breakfast table on an oak parquet floor. A wood-fired Rayburn with a salvaged snooker table slate as a hearth provide the heating and cooking options. The fact that it is still road-worthy certainly adds to the appeal.

Last but not least is the Yurt. Nestled on a bracken-strewn slope in a private corner of the estate this is seclusion at its finest. There’s no electricity, minimal phone reception and only candles and lanterns for lighting. Even the nearest bathroom is a tramp across the fields to a farmyard which resembles a mechanic’s chop shop and acts as the car park for visitors.

Amongst the hollowed-out MGs and camper vans propped up on bricks, folk wander around with champagne glasses in hand; fellow guests enjoying the tranquil disorder that gives the place its appeal.

Inshriach-28Back to the yurt, and eating, hot water and cooking come courtesy of the wood burning stove. One suspects the log pile and axe outside are more than just an aesthetic touch. This is all about long evenings reading, stoking the fire and making your own fun. The centrepiece is a grand double bed piled high with thick rugs and blankets.

If your cooking skills aren’t up to scratch, or you fancy a night off, local eateries include The Old Bridge Inn in Aviemore, a cosy pub with generous portions and delicious Speyside beef. Or there’s Anderson’s in Boat of Garten, where Scottish classics have a creative twist – try the guinea fowl stuffed with haggis. And for pudding few can resist the homemade icecreams – a remarkable range including chilli and lemongrass, black treacle or peanut butter.

It's not all making fires and eating – the Cairngorm National Park is renowned for its walking, skiing, mountain biking and fishing. And for those bitten by the glamping bug, persuade Walter to put on another yurt-making course.

Big converted houses are two a penny in this part of the world – as Walter himself points out – but Inshriach is not your classic country house. Add the candlelit romantic retreats and shabby chic flair and it’s more like stepping into a fairy tale – somewhere where anything goes and the unconventional is king.

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For more information and booking go to www.inshriachhouse.com  or call 01540 651 341
For camping options, book via Canopy & Stars

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