5 Great Self-Catering Winter Getaways
What could be cosier in winter than hopping on a ferry with family, friends or a loved one in search of a self-catering escape? Think epic views, roaring fires and bubbling outdoor hot tubs where you can enjoy a wee dram with a breathtaking view of the starry night sky.
The good news is that in over twenty years as a travel writer I've covered the length and breadth of this glorious country and I have found a wealth of brilliant self-catering escapes across the mainland and islands. I'd like to share some of my favourite cosy winter escapes with you now, all of which are just a ferry ride away. What are you waiting for?
1. Ahoy Rahoy!
Morvern for me is one of the most underrated corners of the Scottish mainland. It's also very remote as you will find when your mobile phone signal and the modern world disappear when you arrive at the Rahoy Estate. The ferry over from Fishnish on the Isle of Mull is all part of the experience. There are accommodation options - either plump for one of their trio of cottages or their spectacular contemporary Caorann. The cosy cottages sleep a maximum of four people, while Caorann can house eight in some comfort. Think a massive living area fronted by a wall of glass that really opens up the local scenery, a modern music system and a seriously cosy wood burning stove. You won't want to leave, neither will your dogs as they are welcome too.
2. Take a Group Doon the Watter
I love a trip 'doon the watter' through the Firth of Clyde and the sailing from Ardrossan in Ayrshire to Brodick on the Isle of Arran is one of my favourite ferry trips in the world. There is a brand spanking new ferry terminal on the island to check out too. If you have a large group the National Trust for Scotland's Shore Lodge and Bunkhouse is spot on. It sleeps a whopping 14 people so you can bring plenty of your mates. It offers simple, no frills accommodation, but the location is spot on by the shore as it sounds and it sits on the fringes of Brodick, the island's main village. Brodick Castle and its remarkable grounds tempt nearby too. Winter is a great time for wildlife too as the island's large population of red deer - the UK's largest land mammal - descend from the high hills in search of food and shelter in the colder months.
3. Low-Fi Romance
Fancy really escaping from it all and just enjoying time for two shared with the might and beauty of the Atlantic? Well that is exactly what you get on a wee farm on the lovely beach studded island of Coll when you check into Coll Storm-Pods. Run by a friendly local couple - they usually leave some free range eggs and a pot of homemade jam for your arrival - these bijou charmers have all you need. The turf roof and electric heater keep things nice and cosy. The Atlantic lies just across the fields. Get there and you can enjoy a bracing stroll as you sweep along the epic puffy white sand beach that lies just across the dunes. Coll boasts over two dozens beaches so there are plenty more to explore too.
4. End of the World Escape
If you want to spirit your loved one off for a romantic escape in serious style then the Sound of Harris is the place for you. We are talking serious design, from the beautiful Harris Tweed clad sofas, through to the Japanese hot tubs in the brace of stylish abodes here. Designer kitchens and remarkable art swirl into the beguiling mix too. The huge feature windows offer epic views of the Sound of Harris. You really feel you are set adrift at the end of the world here. The sunsets and sunrises have to be seen to be believed. The ferry journey across to Harris is all part of the charm and you can see the ferry as it eases down the Sound of Harris from your bed. You can get even closer to the local seals, dolphins and otters if you head for a wee ramble along the rugged coast.
It's back on the mainland now for the option in this list that really can boast that it has it all. Portavadie on the southern reaches of the glorious Cowal Peninsula sits right by the ferry terminal where the ferry from Tarbert docks. It's much more than just a self-catering hideaway. Indeed they have a mass of self-catering options, from a cosy wee turf roofed cottage for romantic breaks for two, through to large modern apartments that come with feature windows and their own saunas. And if that were not enough there are two restaurants to choose from, a 230-berth state-of-the-art marina and then the best of all... the spa. Their new spa is truly spectacular. As well as a range of massage and beauty treatments, you can sit in an infinity pool or hot tub right on the beach feeling the salty spray from Loch Fyne. It is one of my favourite experiences anywhere in Scotland. Go!