The western isle of Mull was something of a second home for Sarah when she was growing up, as most of her family holidays were spent there. As an adult she was quick to introduce John to the charms of the island. But it was her parents’ decision, eight years ago, to build a house on Mull for their retirement that prompted the couple to consider a firmer connection with the place themselves.
During one of their trips (not exactly a short hop) from their own home in Devon, Sarah and John discovered a dream plot on the east coast of the island.
“The builders who worked on my parents’ house were able to point us in the right direction,” explains Sarah.
Located at Glen Forsa, with stunning views toward the Sound of Mull, the site rests just 100 yards from the beach. An ideal 12-minute drive from the ferry and just 25 minutes from Tobermory, the site nevertheless has that delicious sense of peace that is, for many visitors, an intrinsic part of the island experience.
Given their own location in Devon, it suited the couple down to the ground that the plot not only had planning permission secured, but a specific, architect-designed, timber-framed house had already been approved.
Sarah and John were more than happy to go with the design, which utilises glass to maximise the impact of those views. As well as the double-aspect patio doors which connect the downstairs kitchen/dining area with an external terrace, there is the wow-factor upstairs lounge with its glass wall.
The impending arrival of their first child made it tricky for Sarah and John to travel regularly to Mull during the build. Fortunately, everything went to plan, and Sarah’s parents were able to keep them in touch with progress, sending regular photo updates.
“As soon as the build was complete I moved up with our baby boy,” says Sarah, who was pretty excited by the prospect of bringing life to the blank canvas of the interior.
While they built Faoileann Ghlas as an option for their own retirement much further down the line, Sarah and John always intended to let it, in the meantime and for the most part of the year, to holidaymakers.
“We always spend Christmas and New Year on Mull,” says Sarah, admitting that she wishes they could visit more often. But then this luxurious beachside bolthole does attract a steady stream of guests, in no small measure down to her skilfully planned interior.
Fed up of visiting holiday houses that weren’t nearly as nice as their own home, the couple wanted this place to exceed rather than deflate guests’ expectations.
Sarah shopped for interior finishes while the build took shape. Preferring to touch and feel prospective buys, she eschewed internet shopping in favour of stores such as Marks & Spencer and Laura Ashley, the latter the supplier for most of the wall coverings and some of the furniture. Most of the art in the house was sourced from local artists.
While she had opted for a traditional look in her own home (a thatched cottage), Sarah was aware that the modern nature of this build called for a more contemporary style.
In the kitchen, glossy vanilla units are teamed with solid oak flooring and stainless steel worktops. Bathrooms (two of the three guest bedrooms have en suites and there’s also a family bathroom) boast sleek tiled finishes and there is an additional downstairs and upstairs WC.
Additions such as the white wrought iron beds (in one of the two double bedrooms and the twin bedroom) from Marks & Spencer, nevertheless blend a romantic traditionalism with the modern touches. Since comfort was always paramount to Sarah and John in their vision for the house, they went to great effort to source the best possible mattresses and crisp bedding. It’s a philosophy that has continued throughout the property.
“We wanted proper coffee cups, quality glasses and sharp knives,” says Sarah; “These are all things people have at home, so there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have them here.”
Today visitors from around the world – as far flung as Australia and as relatively close as the Netherlands – are using those lovely cups and mattresses. A bit of a perfectionist herself, it was vital to Sarah to place the week-to-week running of the house in trustworthy hands. When her parents decided it was no longer a task for them, Sarah was lucky to find a local couple who share her fastidious approach.
“It really is immaculate for every arrival,” she says.
But if life is beautifully ordered inside Faoileann Ghlas, the world outside can be a little wild. You don’t even have to step outside to see it, as the right armchair can afford sightings of sea eagles, otters and deer, not to mention the barn owl resident in the garden. Guests can also watch ferries gliding back and forth between Mull and other destinations such as Barra.
Most guests do of course want to get out and explore. As Sarah and John, who now have two young children, can confirm, it’s the perfect place for a wander in the woods or a paddle in the sea.
“It’s such a safe environment for kids,” says Sarah, and the wider island also has much to recommend it. As well as its most recognisable destination, Tobermory, there’s a majestic mountain range (Ben More its highest peak) and a plethora of white sandy beaches that are often completely deserted.
All in all there is potential for endless colour in a visit to Faoileann Ghlas and the beautiful Isle of Mull.
For enquiries tel: 07746 831918 or 01271 370582, visit www.selfcateringmull.com; prices depend on the number of guests in the party, and time of year of the booking.