When we stay at one of Brucefield Estate’s new Schenbothies, autumn is doubling down.
We’re going from the leaves changing colour, to them slowly dropping to the ground. In this case, there are sudden flurries from the willows outside our luxury cabin.
We make a daft game of trying to catch them, but they leave our deck plastered with orange diamonds.
For those who are romantic about this season, there probably couldn't be a better time to stay at these new eco-bothies, named because they’re situated in the medieval barony of Schenbothy. They opened just a couple of months ago, to offer additional self-catering options alongside their other two-bedroom holiday property, Slackbrae, which has just been awarded five stars from Visit Scotland. In common with that venue, the three cabins have been beautifully designed in a Scandi-Scots style. Our blue bothy is called Mertrick, after the Scots word for pine-marten, though you can also stay at Brock (badger) or Tod (fox).
Although they have a small footprint, raised up in the woodland, there’s everything you could want inside.
For example, the hamper of breakfast goodies on arrival, and the Danish Morso wood-burning stove. We have visions of keeping this fired up all weekend, but end up only using it once. The buildings, which have underfloor heating, have been so well constructed that we’re cosy enough without it.
The sleeping area is up a ladder. We’re a bit nervous about that, since each of us usually needs the loo about twice a night. Yes, knowledge of our puny bladders is probably TMI, but these practicalities matter. It’s fine though, since they have switches on the mezzanine, so you can turn the lights on, and there is netting and a bannister to cling onto. We’re soon scrambling up and down like spider monkeys. It’s very comfortable up there, with a super-king tatami mat and bouncy Egyptian cotton bed linen.
The bothy also has a compact but well-equipped kitchen and a rain shower, light-up mirror and toiletries from a sustainable and natural Scottish brand, Siabann, in the bathroom. Ours is lined with moss green tiles, as well as a couple that are printed. One of these features a picture of the estate’s gamekeeper, Robert Watt, in 1925. He’s standing in front of the ancient oak tree that’s metres away from this lodge. We recreate the shot, except without the tweedy breeches.
The living area, with its velvety teal sofa, Skyeskyns rug and coffee table, offers floor-to-ceiling sliding windows, so you can take in the view. If you go out onto the balcony, it’s so quiet that you can hear the leaves drop. We have stayed in a lot of lovely ‘secluded’ places, where you can still hear the buzz of a nearby road. Not here.
Apparently, there’s lots of creatures to spot on the estate’s 1000 acres of woodland, meadows and heath, which the ever enthusiastic owner Victoria Bruce-Winkler has been nurturing, as part of a 10-year wildlife plan. She takes us out on a walk, through bracken, ferns and ancient trees, and up a ridge, with a view down to the burn. The woodland floor is as thick and springy as a box fresh mattress and rich with life. I feel re-oxygenated. We’re less than an hour from Edinburgh or Glasgow, but we may as well be on a different planet.
Apart from freestyle exploring, there are other activities, like cycling or a pollinator survey, that you can do on the estate. We originally sign up for a bat walk, but our guide, land manager Graham, says it’s a bit late in the year for that, since many species are hibernating.
Instead, he takes us to do some tree planting, using a Finnish device, the Pottiputki, that means there is no digging required. We each pop around five Scots pines in the ground, naming them after our late parents and adding a few randoms, including Betty and Colin, to the mix. We’ll come back in 40 years, if we live that long, and hopefully they’ll be touching the sky like all the others in this magical location.
Brucefield Estate, Forest Mill, Clackmannanshire (01259 690 013, www.brucefieldestate.scot). Prices start at £175 per night.
The tours last 90 minutes and cost £50 for up to two adults. Additional adults (maximum of six people) are £25 and children can join for free.