Review: Kirnan Estate shooting lodge-style cottage a holiday haven in lush Argyll - Scotland on Sunday Travel

The life jackets and umbrellas in the local supermarket brought a wry smile as we arrived in mid-Argyll in torrential rain amid two severe weather warnings.

The cottages on the Kirnan Estate, six miles north of Lochgilphead.. Pic: Contributed
The cottages on the Kirnan Estate, six miles north of Lochgilphead.. Pic: Contributed

But the summer downpours will have further contributed to the lushness of the vivid green landscape and only increased the allure of our haven from the storm destination – the delightful Chapel Cottage, one of three holiday properties on the Kirnan Estate, six miles north of Lochgilphead.

Dumping our wet clothes in the entrance hall boot room, which set the scene with its tongue and groove panelling, handy bench for pulling off boots and large Belfast sink, we found ourselves stepping into our own mini Victorian shooting lodge, sensitively refurbished with a combination of contemporary and classic decoration and furnishings.

Enhancing the atmosphere was the faint aroma of logs beside the large open fireplace as we entered the expansive sitting room, flooded with light from windows on two sides, with large sofas, rugs and cushions – and board games galore.

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The sense of space in the “cottage” – part of the main estate house’s complex of buildings – was emphasised by its 35ft-long hall with attractive grey and white patterned wallpaper, and best of all, an enormous bathroom with the unexpected additional and welcome luxury of underfloor heating.

The room features twin basins, a freestanding deep bath, and, as its centrepiece, a glass-walled shower along the length of one wall large enough for a family with two young children to all use together because it has four shower heads, two of them at youngsters’ height.

Complimentary Scottish Fine Soaps Company toiletries include the rather fine Sea Kelp bath & shower gel.

We gravitated towards the dining kitchen in the centre of the house with its long table and padded benches, complete with basket of goodies including large sourdough loaf, lemon biscuits and seaweed chutney from Mull, milk from a dairy on Gigha in the fridge, and, when available, eggs from the estate’s “Cluckingham Palace” chicken coop.

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The lush countryside around Kirnan Estate, near Lochgilphead. Pic: Contributed

Following the local produce theme, we dined in one night on an upmarket ready meal – fish pie from the Skipness Smokehouse on the Kintyre peninsula, available from the Co-op in Lochgilphead.

Sleeping up to eight, and configured for two families, the cottage has two ground floor double bedrooms, one ensuite, the other with that grand bathroom opposite.

Upstairs there is a classy “dorm” for kids under the rafters of the former chapel from which part of the cottage is formed – four single beds on a split level, with a charming short-length French bath in the adjoining small bathroom, and jaunty touches like a ship’s brass porthole fitted to a small round window marked “Cabin”.

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I loved the feel of staying in a historic building which had retained traditional features such as its panelled doors, working wooden window shutters and slate tiled roof. Outside, doors, fences and drainpipes are smartly coordinated in matching grey beside the raspberry and peach honeysuckle and mauve clematis.

One of the bedrooms in Chapel Cottage, one of three holiday properties on the Kirnan Estate, six miles north of Lochgilphead. Pic: Contributed

This beautifully restored self-catering accommodation is the creation of Gemma Rogers and Rob Evans, who moved from Cambridge to buy the 430-acre estate last year while continuing to run an anti-money laundering firm they co-founded in 2016.

Their warm welcome added to our immediate sense of relaxation on arrival.

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On the estate, the couple are completing a forestry felling programme, replacing uniform conifer plantations with deciduous trees to encourage wildlife, and building new tracks to provide easier walking opportunities to hilltop viewpoints south towards the Crinan Canal and islands such as Jura, which Rob was proud to show us.

Other activities available include complimentary trout and salmon fishing on the River Add and two lochs on the estate, and paid for clay pigeon shooting.

A bedroom in the rafters at Chapel Cottage, Kirnan Estate. Pic: Contributed

There’s an Alpine-style wooden hut with central barbecue and chimney near the cottage and another beside one of the lochs, an hour’s walk away.

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Gemma, a qualified yoga teacher, runs bespoke sessions for guests and treated us to a one-hour beginners’ vinyasa class which proved the best start to a Monday morning and while challenged, afterwards I felt remarkably relaxed and relieved of stress.

The estate’s airy former boathouse, with yoga mats on its wooden floor, provided the perfect venue, but, weather permitting, classes are held in the gardens or on a lochside platform.

Kirnan provided the focal point for a whistle-stop weekend tour of mid-Argyll centred around the area’s stunning waterways.

Travelling there down Loch Fyne, a delicious lunch at Brambles Cafe Bistro among the distinctive white-washed buildings and black window casings of Inveraray got us off to a fine start, with the giant sausage rolls in the window display every bit as good as they looked. A bustling local business with friendly staff, efficient service and lovely food.

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Continuing our watery theme, we followed the Crinan Canal north and west from its mouth at Ardrishaig, learning about its wartime use by transiting midget submarines at the new Egg Shed heritage centre, to Crinan at the other end, which was enhanced by the rare sight of a red squirrel darting across the road.

Highland cows close to the shore on the Ardfern Peninsula. Pic: Contributed.

Midway along, we gained useful local knowledge – and a welcome caffeine shot – at the horsebox-style Polly’s Coffee Stop, beside Lock 10, west of Cairnbaan, which was busy with families on yachts heading in both directions.

Returning home, we followed a third waterway, Loch Awe, reaching its southern end at Ford thanks to the invaluable tip that the direct route up Kilmichael glen from Kirnan was a public road despite, unusually, its three closed gates to keep in livestock.

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Taking the undulating, largely single-track road along the west side of the loch, we appreciated its smooth surface as part of upgrading the route for timber lorries – though thankfully we didn’t meet any.

We left Argyll with lovely memories of the atmospheric Chapel Cottage, a gorgeous retreat that would make for a wonderfully restful holiday.

FACTFILE

Kirnan Estate, Kilmichael Glassary, Lochgilphead PA31 8QL. Chapel Cottage (sleeps eight), from Chapel Cottage: from £425 per night, Torrnalaich Cottage (sleeps two), from £200 per night, Kirnan Beg (sleeps two), £220 per night, all with a minimum two-night stay, with discounts for two weeks or more depending on time of year. Yoga: £50 for one-hour class. Clay pigeon shooting (25 clays): £50 per person. www.kirnanestate.com

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Brambles Cafe Bistro, 5 Main Street West, Inveraray PA32 8TU. Call 01499 302252 or www.inverarayhotel.com/food

Polly’s Coffee Stop, Lock 10, Cairnbaan, Lochgilphead PA31 8UE. Call 07801 009939 or www.facebook.com/Pollyscoffee/

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The expansive sitting room at Chapel Cottage, on the Kirnan Estate, six miles north of Lochgilphead. Pic: Contributed