I’ve never had much luck with camping. T in the Park ended in an early morning police raid of our neighbours and on the beach in Fujairah saw me sleeping in a car thanks to a tent malfunction, so experience and age have taught me the best I can do is any form of glamping which is why it was a joy to completely switch off and get back to nature at Inverlonan Bothies.
There are two bothies in the grounds of the Inverlonan (which comprises three farms within the Glen Lonan valley) - Uisage and Beatha (Gaelic for water of life, a nod to their remote location overlooking Loch Nell) - and are billed as a ‘reimagined’ bothy experience, which means they are much more luxurious than a traditional bothy. Built by Bothy Stores - a social enterprise from artist Bobby Niven and architect Iain MacLeod - each tin bothy has a small living area with kitchen, mezzanine sleeping area accessed by a ladder, private deck, open fire pit, and wood fired pizza oven. There’s no running water, so the bathroom facilities are an outdoor shower and a private eco toilet. To say this gives new meaning to ‘loo with a view’ is a massive understatement.
We booked dog-friendly Beatha bothy. On arrival guests park nearby and walk, or catch a buggy or boat for the final kilometre. We chose to walk down the hill, punctuated with russet ferns and bright gorse.
The bothies have a distinctly Scandi style of interior, with hardwood floors, an ercol style sofa and coffee table, and soft furnishings from Hebridean Skyeskyns. The chunky crockery is from Argyll Pottery and guests can choose from a packed shelf of books, made along with the table and bench seating, from Ash trees felled from the banks of Loch Awe. Three floor to ceiling windows minus curtains or blinds make it easy to sit by the fire at night and watch the wildlife (as Archie, our dog loved to do) and wake up with the sun.
The brainchild of former barrister Lupi Moll, whose family has owned the land since Victorian times, the entire look and feel is simple luxury. The bothies have been designed so you are compelled to stay, read, sleep, build a fire and relax, listening to the bird song from nearby, lichen-covered oak trees.
Budget or boutique
At £250 a night this is a boutique experience, with the emphasis on experience. Inside the bothies are thoughtfully decorated with luxe extras but this isn’t a ‘don’t lift a finger’ holiday. There’s work to be done, such as keeping enough hot water to shower, tending to a fire and cooking outdoors. But this is why they have such an appeal. Forget checking social media or worrying about work when you need to think ahead for these basics. Phone signal and 4G are promised but it’ll depend on network and, by design, there’s no wifi.
Wining and dining
Before arrival, guests will be sent a list of provisions to order. Breakfast, which consists of oats from Aberfeldy, Your Piece Baking Co. muesli, Rora Dairy yogurt or eggs, bacon and sausages from Gilbert’s free-range farm in Taynuilt, is included. Coffee is from Argyll Roasters or Hinba and milk from the Isle of Gigha.
For dinners, we chose a seafood box, pizza kit and beef burger box, which were delivered to our bothy on the days requested. This is local produce as its best. Our seafood box contained freshly caught langoustine, scallops and sea bass, the burgers were from Inverlonan and arrived with smoked Isle of Mull Cheddar, onions and rustic rolls from the Isle of Seil’s Solace Bakery.
Our guestbook had entries with tips on how best to create and cook the pizzas, which come as component parts - sourdough dough, fresh tomato sauce, Great Glen charcuterie, buffalo mozzarella and basil. We managed three big pizzas (the secret is not being shy with the polenta), which were cooked in the wood burning oven outside.
Drinks can also be provided, and the list includes Scottish craft beers, champagne and wines.
On the deck a Yeti cool box serves as a fridge and under you’ll find more fire wood and a box containing the shower, fire lighters, Yeti mugs and a flask. Deck chairs are also squirreled away under here - ideal for late night star gazing.
Worth getting out of bed for
Glen Lonan is home to neolithic stones, including a ‘skull’ stone which sits perched atop a hill. It is in alignment with the remains of a crannog (an ancient fortified dwelling) on the loch and a standing stone which is passed on the road into the parking area. A walk to view this stone is a great way to pass a morning.
Each bothy also has access to their own private beaches - where you can while away hours fishing. Beatha’s beach also has a kayak and paddle boards that are available for use to both bothies.
After a solid three months of at-home yoga with Adriene, I was keen to put my (still pretty inflexible) skills to the test. So I booked a one-on-one yoga session with Karen, a local practitioner. Given Covid, we spent an hour on the deck, and it was where I returned each day to carry on my practise. I’ve not yet found a more peaceful place in which to attempt my woeful tree, downward dog or plank poses.
For those feeling brave, a wild swim in the loch is the perfect wake up. Just make sure the fire is on back at the bothy.
As well as the packed bookshelf, there’s homemade marmalade and Highland Soap Company toiletries.
The bothies are only accessible by boat, foot or buggy and nestle between ancient oaks overlooking Loch Nell. Each bothy is striking as they are sensitive to their environment. Intimate, thoughtful, warm and uniquely Scottish.
Prices: £250 a night.
Inverlonan Bothies, Glen Lonan, Glenlonan, Oban PA34 4QE