“Look out for the swallow’s nest”.
We’re given this challenge when checking in to the Earth Ship, a self-catering eco lodge in Perth and Kinross. The property, bookable through accommodation supplier Holiday
Cottages’ website, took four and a half years for farmer Alastair Dawson and his wife Lisa, a teacher, to build, and the bird must have made the structure its home in that time.
We soon forget, however, to hunt for it, since there are so many other cool things to distract our group of three adults, two children (eight and six) and a baby.
These include an entire wall that’s papered in a magnified map of the area, and a reclaimed gymnasium floor that has the right bounce for dancing.
The nieces have their own twin room (can also be made up as a double), with a “sun pipe” that lets natural light into the space, and can be closed off with the flick of a switch.
Here’s the science bit: the energy is provided by wind turbines, it’s built from recycled materials, insulated with straw and sheep’s wool and is south-facing to make the most of
the natural light, plus loads of other clever stuff. You can feel virtuous about staying here, or you can visit just because it’s great – huge and flowing, easily accessible to
wheelchairs or baby buggies, with an open plan kitchen/dining room and living space, upcycled furniture and art work everywhere, plus a kitchen full of modcons and a big telly.
The water is piping hot when we use one of the two wet rooms (one en-suite, in the biggest super king bedroom), with its rain shower, though there’s also a bathroom for
those who want to soak. Or you could use the outdoor hot tub. We slot the poor baby into the high-chair, and push him up next to us, while we simmer away.
Lisa and Alastair live next door, and are good at sensing how much contact to make with their residents. Apart from the fact that they’re great fun, it does pay to be friendly with
your neighbours. The girls get to feed an orphaned calf, and we were so talented at herding their flock of sheep from one field to another, using huffing noises and waving our arms, that we’re thinking of making a human cameo on One Man and His Dog.
Alastair also gave us a goodie bag full of his organic lamb and hogget. We scoffed it at the huge dining room table, along with the welcome hamper, which was full of sausages,
black pudding and bacon. If you want to stock up on these meaty treats, you’ll find them at Hunters of Kinross, just a few minutes’ drive away.
The village also has a great hipster coffee roastery, cafe and shop – Unorthodox Roasters, where you can get caffeined up before a visit to Lochleven Castle, on Lochleven Island,
where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned for 11 months in 1567.
Our captain, for the short boat ride, was a very amusing Canadian.
Along with the official historical chat, he tried to convince my prematurely cynical nieces of the existence of a Loch Leven version of Nessie. He also told us about the island’s resident black pheasant, Pringle, who will come running at the rustle of the eponymous crisps and especially loves salt and vinegar flavour.
Unless you want to take a later boat, you have around 45 minutes before the return journey. In the drizzle, this was just enough for us to circumnavigate the postage-stamp-sized island and explore the atmospheric ruins, with the oldest parts dating from around 1300.
As the boat drew up, we lingered, still looking out for Pringle, but I guess he’s driven by cupboard love. Talking of elusive birds, it was only once we’d returned to our Earth Ship,
on our last day, that we spotted the swallow’s nest – a cosy little knot of straw and fibres half-hidden at the top of one of the wooden pillars inside.
Poor little thing, he’s had to move on, and I wish we didn’t have to fly home either.
A three-night stay at Earth Ship costs from £678 in total. Two dogs are welcome at an additional cost of £20 per dog.
To book, call 01237 459 888 or see www.holidaycottages.co.uk
Admission to Lochleven Castle is £9 for adults, £7.20 concessions, children aged five-15 are £5.40 and under fives are free. For more information, see www.historicenviron-
ment.scot or to reserve your space on the boat, call 01577 862 670.
A message from the Editor:Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers – and consequently the revenue we receive – we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.
Subscribe to scotsman.com and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://bit.ly/3f6QqqM now to sign up.