Thatched cottages are comparatively rare in Scotland, but there are five in the conservation village of Collessie, in Fife. The hamlet is truly picturesque, with a thirteenth century church at the centre.
“It is quite a quirky village but very pretty,” says Damaris Stuart-William who bought one of the thatched cottages, South View, four years ago.
At the time she was looking for a Fife base during term time so that her son, Toby, now aged 10, could go to St Leonards, the independent school in St Andrews. She also has a house in Newtyle, Perthshire.
Damaris is a psychologist, who at the time was a consultant in the NHS in a unit in Dundee, and so she was also keen to find somewhere within easier commuting distance of her work.
She says: “We had actually already found another property in the area, but the sale fell through and I’m now glad it did. When I walked into South View I just fell in love with it.”
She says that she had always dreamed of living in a thatched cottage from childhood - although moving from her native Surrey to Scotland had narrowed the chances somewhat. “What are the chances of it? But the house was perfect in lots of ways for our needs - the school bus picks up and drops off from close by and the commuting for me was much easier.”
And then there is the cottage itself. South View is a wonderful ‘C’ listed thatched cottage with enormous character and charm. It is thought originally to have been the village school and schoolhouse and probably dates from the 1800s.
The cottage is laid out over two floors, and although quaint, doesn’t feel small. It has a breakfasting kitchen, sitting room with wood burner, third bedroom which Damaris uses as a music room and a bathroom on the ground floor level.
A lovely staircase winds up to the upper floor where there are two good sized double bedrooms, one of which has an en-suite.
What is more, there is potential here to extend the accommodation. Damaris says: “The cottage was originally the schoolmaster’s house and you can just see the outline of a building that used to adjoin it, which would have been the classrooms. There has been planning permission to build on that footprint again, so if someone wanted to extend the cottage, it is possible.”
The planning permission, which has now lapsed, included adding bedrooms and bathrooms. Damaris says: “Had we been staying, I would have been really tempted to investigate that route.”
The cottage was brought back into use by the previous owners who bought it when almost derelict a decade ago and carried out a total refurbishment. Damaris says: “They did such a good job, totally gutting the house and finishing it to a really high standard. All the stone floor slabs were lifted and cleaned, then replaced. It must have been a real labour of love.”
The features such as stone steps and the rafters in the bedroom are what makes the cottage as beautiful inside as it is picture postcard on the outside. Damaris says: “There are lots of favourite bits of it: the log burner in the lounge, the built in bookshelves, the original high backed loos and the slipper bath and the feeling that you are tucked under the beams when you are in bed. It has a lovely feel to it throughout.”
The pretty cottage garden runs round the house and has off street parking and is private, with lawns and an outside eating area.
The village of Collessie is a real draw too, says Damaris. “It is a lovely place, very arty and with a great sense of community. There is a village fete, a ceilidh at Hogmanay and a very friendly feel.” There are a few holiday cottages in the village too and South View would surely let well if the next owner were inclined to go down that route. For Damaris, a change of career - going into private practice after 22 years in the NHS - means a move south for her and Toby.
She acknowledges that some buyers might find a thatched roof daunting, but says that living under such an unusual material didn’t phase her. “We have always had country properties and there is very little difference, practically, in having a thatched roof. You need to make sure that the chimney is swept every year, and you insure the house through a specialist insurer, but apart from that it is fairly straightforward.”
The roof was rethatched in the previous owner’s time as part of the whole cottage refurbishment, so is only around six years old and Damaris says: “They last a minimum of 25 years so there is plenty of time before it even needs to be considered.”
“And if I ever needed advice about thatch, there are four neighbours in the village who are experts.”