After two years of holidaying at home, many of us have discovered just how versatile and luxurious self-catering can be. From hot tubs to saunas, pizza ovens and BBQs, there’s often a plethora of added extras to make a stay that much more enjoyable.
Newhall Mains in the Highlands must surely win on the most impressive offering - it has its own airstrip for those that want to skip the long drive or train journey.
Newhall Mains is a reimagining of the traditional “Mains” building — a Scottish term historically used to refer to the main buildings of a farm or working estate. It was, not so long ago, on the ‘at risk’ register, but has been restored (by Euan Ramsay and his mum Rebecca) and turned into a quadrangular layout of cottages and suites centred around a courtyard.
Budget or boutique
This is seriously boutique as rooms are either cottages or suites, each individually designed, with a small bar and restaurant. Prices are about £275 per night, which reflect the offering, but aren’t as unaffordable as the airstrip may make it seem.
There are five cottages and four double bedroom suites that offer a variety of options for couples, groups and wedding parties, as they sleep from two to six. My two bedroom cottage, Ruaridh, was set over two floors and had a colour scheme of green, yellow and floral fabrics. The open plan living room and kitchen had a green velvet sofa and white washed furniture and spacious farmhouse style table. Upstairs was a master double bedroom with freestanding tub, along with en suite shower room and a twin room with its own shower room.
Interiors have been designed by London-based Kelling Designs, and are elegantly modern interpretations of heritage country style. They remind me of Kit Kemp’s work and feel very comfortable - a home from home (if only my home was this chic).
A lot of work has gone into restoring the buildings, with the exterior rejuvenated using traditional materials: stone, limerender, lead and slate. Finishing touches inside include bespoke furniture, individually crafted fabrics and underfloor heating.
Wining and dining
Breakfast (which is included), seasonal bar food, private dining and pre-prepared meals are all available from the kitchen at Newhall Mains. There’s also open fire cooking on the Argentine grill if pre-booked. When we visited it was an unseasonably warm, and we enjoyed a light lunch of salads, cheeses and sandwiches in the courtyard. Bigger dishes include lobster and crab linguine, minute steak with hand cut chips and macaroni cheese, classic dishes, made with local and seasonal ingredients.
After a day exploring the Highlands, a drink in the snug, Japanese inspired whisky bar or out in the courtyard is an ideal way to wind down. Expect classic cocktails, a good selection of wines, fizz, beer and non alcoholic drinks. It may be Japanese inspired, but doesn’t skimp on our national drink, with drams from nearby Glenmorangie as well as Balvenie and Dalmore.
For those who don’t fancy cooking, the in-house chef can prepare informal meals.
Worth getting out of bed for
Cromarty, an 18th-century harbour town is close and worth a visit. The Moray Firth is an ideal spot to see dolphins - one of the many species of wildlife in the area and in Cromarty you can book a chartered trip on a RIB. In September, pink footed geese pass through and in summer, head to The Falls of Shin to see the salmon leaping upstream.
If you’re a whisky fan, The Glenmorangie in Tain has tours and tasting of one of Scotland’ best known whiskies. Look out for the stills, the tallest in Scotland.
The accessories are the epitome of little luxuries, from Robert Welch cutlery to Stölzle glassware and pure wool quilts.
Newhall Mains offers spacious luxury cottages and gorgeous romantic suites with elegant interiors and comfy furnishings in the Highlands. Elegant interiors, modern conveniences and private surroundings are just some of the details that make a stay here unique.
Newhall Mains, Balblair, By Dingwall IV7 8LQ; 01381 632032, www.newhall-mains.com