Friday 19 October 2018

This Himalayan-inspired Highland hideaway is the perfect Scottish safari escape

Loxia, one of the incredible log cabins at Eagle Brae
Loxia, one of the incredible log cabins at Eagle Brae
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

It took a week of sulking in traffic to finally cop on... I was nursing a Highland hangover.

It wasn't brought on by a sweet bottle of single malt, but a longing to be back at Eagle Brae.

I'm normally a content commuter. I'd have podcasts and music at the ready and luckily, I've never found sitting in traffic much of a chore.

But after spending a few days nestled cosily in the Scottish wilderness - when the only road delay we faced was a minor halt when a doe stopped on the dirt road leading to our cabin to feed her two hungry fawns - I was pining.

Inspired by their love for northern India, owners Mike Spencer-Nairn and his wife Pawana set about creating Himalayan hospitality in the Highlands.

Their initial plan was to build Himalayan huts on the estate Mike's family has owned since the 1930s, but building regulations and the small problem of getting skilled craftsmen from India to northwestern Europe knocked that one on the head.

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Their compromise is seven luxurious pioneer-style Canadian log cabins built on a tranquil hillside between Glen Affric and Glen Strathfarrar, two areas of extraordinary natural beauty just waiting to be explored, just a 30-minute drive from Inverness.

Comprising of enormous interlocking cedar wood logs, these incredible hand-built structures are a stunning addition to the natural beauty of the area.

The transformation of the estate took eight years and you only have be in Mike and Pawana's company for about 30 seconds to realise the warmth they have for their creation and each other. At radiates from cedar wood once you set foot inside your cabin.

If the haunting scenery doesn't take your breath away, the cabins themselves will have you gasping for oxygen.

With soaring, pitched ceilings; mezzanine floors and terraces that look out over the rolling hills and valleys, engraved wooden balconies lovingly created by Pawana's relatives in India, colourful hand-woven textiles, various wildlife carved into the cedar wood by skilled Canadian craftsmen, antler chandeliers (Mike's handiwork) and two wall mounted jackalope heads (a mythical crossbreed between a jack rabbit and an antelope)... the interior is bright and playful.

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A fully-fitted kitchen will cater to your needs and the wifi coupled with the satellite TV and a PC and printer upstairs will make sure than you're not completely cut off from the rest of humanity... but you can be if that's what you wish.

Underfloor heating and a wood burning stove in the living area will keep you nice and cosy throughout your stay.

What sets Eagle Brae apart from its competitors is the proximity to wildlife and scenic vistas.

Hikers will marvel at what Glen Affric and Glen Strathfarrar has to offer including the astounding Plodda Falls, which includes a viewing platform which allows you to look town as the water vanishes 150ft into a ravine.

There are no trespass laws in Scotland so you are free to explore what the Highlands has to offer.

Before you contemplate shelling out big bucks to travel to Africa to drive alongside lions and giraffe, you should take a closer look on what is available via a short plane ride to Inverness.

Apart from Eagle Brae's resident goats Barnaby, Billy and Bakra, who tend to the wild flower and grass roofs of each cabin, and the gorgeous Kyla (below), who will greet you on arrival, the estate offers so many other ways to get closer to nature.

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Kyla

Fishing enthusiasts can try and land a salmon, trout or pike in Eagle Brae's own waters and rods and permits can be purchased at the reception.

Outside of summer months, they also offer sled-dog rides around the wildflower meadow directly across from the log cabin village, other activities like archery, pony trekking or kayak trips are also available.

The immediate area surrounding Eagle Brae is a haven for avid birdwatchers. Raptors including the golden eagle (where the village gets its name), osprey, red kite, merlin, sparrow hawk, kestrel, peregrine falcon, barn owl and the tawny owl have all been spotted.

The area is also inhabited by large numbers of deer. The resident gamekeeper can take you out "camera stalking", where you shoot only with a lens, but still get to crawl around the countryside on all fours.

On your arrival at Eagle Brae, you'll be treated to a hamper including a range of Highland goodies, including shortbread, honey, oatcakes and chutney.

A concierge service is also available for groceries and homemade meals.

The estate also produces its own wild venison burgers, as well as pork from rare-breed Berkshire pigs and lamb from four-horned sheep. Knowledgeable mushroom foragers might also be tempted by the estate's chanterelle slope.

Eagle Brae is the perfect escape from drudgery of everyday life... the only problem is the Highland Hangover when you return home.

Get there

Loganair (logainair.co.uk) flies directly to Inverness from Dublin and back daily.

Eagle Brae: (0044) 7738 076711; eaglebrae.co.uk). Three of the cabins sleep six people, the remaining four sleep two and range in price. Dogs are allowed in all seven cabins.

Weekly rental starts from £1,259 (€1,420).

Read more:

Flowers of Scotland: Taking the family on a Scottish Highland adventure

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