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A little piece of Africa in the Scottish Highlands

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  • by STEPHEN EMERSON
 

PERCHED on top of a hill, with sweeping vistas of the Cairngorm mountains and Loch Insh, Katchana does not look like your typical Scottish holiday home.

Surrounded with panoramic windows and built on leveraged foundations, it wouldn’t be out of place on an African plain where instead of deer roaming on the horizon you would expect to see something a bit more grisly.

It’s design, however, is no accident.

The house was built on the remains of a former sawmill by the aunt and uncle of current owner Gavin Anderson on their return from Zimbabwe in the 1970s.

They gave it it’s name which translates to ‘big house’ back in Zimbabwe.

Hand-carved elephants and other assorted African imagery are scattered throughout however this small spot of Africa in the Highlands really comes into its own at night.

If you’re brave enough for the sub-zero dash through snow to Katchana’s hot tub you will be rewarded with a remarkable experience.

Pour yourself a fine malt or tipple of choice and gaze up to the stars on a clear night.

Being over 50 miles from nearest city, Inverness, light pollution is at a minimum meaning you can on a good night get a great view of the sky above.

You can spend hours, and I did, staring up at the stars burning brighter and shooting across the sky while the surrounding wildlife rustles around in the bushes.

You would be forgiven for thinking you where in the middle of Zimbabwe’s Kalamari desert and not 10 miles from the A9.

The directions to Katchana sound clandestine in nature - “take the dirt track past the green house on the left, take the left fork on the road”.

This is a place which is off the beaten track and with that comes an environment rich in wildlife.

The estate in which the house sits is thronged with a plethora of different species.

• See a 360 degree panorama of Katchana views

Katchana has the busiest bird table I’ve ever seen. It is a hive of activity from dawn to dusk with birds both big and small jostling for position.

I was also fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of two deer meandering through the woodland.

What I witnessed though was only a fraction of what exists in the woods surrounding this house.

The guest book is full of references to golden eagles, pine martins and badgers.

Katchana has one big advantage over large nearby resorts and hotels - peace.

The house is suited to those who want to relax in silence or others who have had an active day take and want some rest and recovery.

Myself and two friends skied on the Cairngorms during the day and were able to nurse our bruised egos battered backsides in front of an open fire.

Bar skiing there is no shortage of outdoor pursuits to be had nearby. In the summer previous visitors have indulged in swimming in the River Feshie and River Tromie while cycling, walking, rafting, gorge walking and woodland running is available all year round.

Katchana also has fishing rights to Loch Insh which is home to a number of different fish including Arctic Char.

The living room is large, homely and comfortable. Its centrepiece is a log burning fire which is a challenge to get lit but well worth the effort.

The bedrooms are comfortable and reasonably spacious with a high standard of cleanliness maintained throughout the property.

The kitchen is kitted out for some serious cooking and the dining room could accommodate a large dinner party or - if cooking seems to much effort - you could try The Boathouse Restaurant at Loch Insh Watersports and Activity Centre a few miles down the road.

Katchana is dog-friendly and would be an ideal location for an active family looking for a base while also suiting couples seeking a bolthole for a peaceful weekend away.

A glance through the guest book reveals that this is a place that people come back here year after year. Their comments reveal an affection for the building and its surroundings.

The entry below captures Katchana in its essence.

“Sometimes but rarely we visit places which exude real style and character Katchana has those in spades.”

• Prices per week: Katchana is available from 6th Jan - 5th April 2014 charged at £885, 28th Jun - 05th Jul 2014 charged at £983, 05th Jul - 19th Jul 2014 charged at £1137 and 11th Oct - 25th Oct 2014 charged at £983.

Bookings for Katchana are available through the Sykes Cottages website.

 

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