The Middletons bought Mungo’s Den to be a winter cosy bolthole but it’s turned out to be much more than that.
John and Fiona purchased the property in the secluded hamlet of Portnalong on Skye five years ago.
“A friend was celebrating his 50th birthday in Brodie Castle near Inverness,” John recalls.
“We were living in Leicestershire but we’d seen Mungo’s Den online and while we were at Brodie Castle we thought we would pop over to Skye and have a quick look.
After ten minutes in here we wanted to buy it. It’s a small space but it’s just such a cosy, quirky little retreat.”
Whilst most visitors to Skye aim for the summer months, John and Fiona bucked the trend.
“We never stayed in it in the summer, we only ever stayed in the winter and Mungo’s was just a bolthole where we could come up, walk when there’s nobody on Skye, and then light the fire and shut the door for a week,” says John.
“Then we started using the local pub and the shops and everyone was so friendly and so welcoming that it wasn’t just about being on Skye in the winter, it was somewhere we wanted to be permanently.
And, whilst it seems to be a world go-to destination at the moment, it wasn’t only the location that prompted us to move, it was the people that we met here.”
Picture: the open plan living room, www.coolstays.com
The couple had been running Mungo’s Den remotely as a holiday let for two years before they made the move, but it hasn’t changed much in that time.
“There are a lot of timber and glass houses on Skye which are very fashionable and I think Mungo’s is a little bit different and we wouldn’t want to lose that appeal,” says John.
Picture: the porch, www.coolstays.com
“It had already been converted from an old telephone exchange, when we bought it.
The story goes that the couple who originally owned it were a husband and wife team.
"She was a television set designer and he was a builder and handyman and between them they created this rather unique conversion.
"We bought it lock, stock and barrel – furnishings and all – as we just loved everything about it.”
The cottage is located over two floors. On the ground floor is a small porch, an open plan kitchen and living room and a bunk room and bathroom.
Picture: the master bedroom, www.coolstays.com
A spiral staircase leads up to the master bedroom which runs the length of the roof and incorporates a cosy but bright sitting area.
“From a guest’s viewpoint, we’ve made sure the cottage has everything. It’s not a four mugs and four plates set up.
"You can get fantastic seafood from The Oyster Shed nearby, so if you want to cook a lobster here, there’s everything you need to do it."
Picture: the kitchen, www.coolstays.com
And you won’t be cooking your lobster in a faceless contemporary kitchen either.
Handmade by a local carpenter, Mungo’s is a work of art with inlaid tiles and stained-glass inserts.
“The kitchen does work really well, as does the bathroom, which is luxurious and spacious and probably not what you expect in this size and style of cottage.
Picture: the stained glass kitchen cupboards, www.coolstays.com
"We’ve also got a huge, comfortable bed in the master bedroom, which I think is very important.
"Ultimately it was the winter that made us fall in love with Skye so everything here is designed with warmth and comfort in mind.”
Picture: the bunk room, www.coolstays.com
John and Fiona have continued to add their own little touches to Mungo’s over the years including re-modelling the seating area outside using railway sleepers and enlarging the space to make it more defined, but when they decided to move to Skye a few years ago they took on something a little more challenging.
Picture: the bathroom, www.coolstays.com
“We ended up buying an old croft cottage in the village of Stein which we completely renovated and turned into a B&B,” says John.
“It’s been very successful and we’ve got a great life now, but it was a complete lifestyle change.
“I ran a knitwear company for 25 years, then worked in property development and building, so we had some experience of renovation.
"Fiona was an accountant in a university. We just felt it was the right time to do it.
“My work has always been office-based, but my passion is building and making things and it was something I was always interested in.”
The 250-year-old cottage was taken back to the walls and roof and completely refurbished, with John and Fiona doing a lot of the work themselves.
“It does seem bizarre that we bought Mungo’s but didn’t really have to do too much to it and then we move to Stein and have to do everything.
It was definitely Mungo’s that encouraged us to come to Skye – it really was the catalyst,” says John.
“Unfortunately, we don’t get to stay there as often now and we do miss it.
"However, we do set aside one week every year to stay and redecorate and we always make sure it’s in the winter.”
Words: Nichola Hunter