In a remote spot on the coast, tucked behind a thick belt of pines and invisible from the sea that lies before it, is the house that Jennifer Veitch, who owns it, has been searching for all her life
Jennifer Veitch was just nine months old when she spent her first summer holiday camping on a beach at Roshven in Lochaber. The beach overlooks Lochailort and has views to Eilean nan Gobhar (Goat Island) and the islands of Eigg and Rum, and was her family’s favourite place. As she grew older, they would take a rowing boat over to Goat Island, sometimes even camping there for the night. This beautiful corner of the country was a constant throughout Jennifer’s childhood, and even when the landowner sold up and the family were no longer able to camp on the mainland, they would still holiday in the area. “This was always a really special place that felt like home,” says Jennifer now.
Living in London with her husband Rupert Hodges and their children, she kept her eyes peeled for any properties or land for sale in the area. “There wasn’t much over the years, and anything that did come on to the market was snapped up in an instant,” she says. So when a friend mentioned knowing someone who was selling a plot near Jennifer’s childhood campsite, it was too good an opportunity to miss.
The site in question was completely overgrown with rhododendrons, which made it very difficult to see the lie of the land. That hardly mattered, as Jennifer says: “The important thing was that it was just round the bay from where we used to camp, right on the beach, right in our spot.”
Jennifer and Rupert had always assumed they would buy an existing property and renovate it, but when they saw a spectacular new-build close to the site in question, they realised they could purchase the land and have their own house built on it. The neighbouring house that they so admired had been designed by Edinburgh-based architect Helen Lucas for herself and her family, so it made sense to buy the plot and get her on board for their project.
The couple wanted a house that would be able to accommodate more than just their own family. “We knew we’d be coming up here with ten people at a time, so the number of bedrooms was important – we wanted to feel as if we could easily manage that many people in the house,” Jennifer says. They also wanted a large open-plan living-dining-kitchen space, with a second seating area upstairs where the kids could watch TV without encroaching on the conversation below. And, crucially, they wanted their home to make a minimal impact on the landscape while being oriented towards those tranquil vistas. In this, they discovered a kindred spirit in Helen, who had approached her own project with the same ethos. “The idea was to touch as lightly as possible on the landscape, and to leave the rock as intact as we could,” she says.
“The first challenge for the main contractor was clearing a route through the tree belt to gain access to the site – without losing any of the pine trees”
As the site was cleared, its bare, rocky surface was revealed. “Those rocks were extremely beautiful when they were exposed, and we hadn’t really been aware of that at first,” Jennifer says. “We wanted the house to almost float over them.” As such, the house is constructed on oak supports, as if on stilts, hovering over the rocks. The building is tucked back into the tree belt and sheltered from the prevailing south-westerly wind.
The materials are robust, from the sturdy oak under-structure to the stainless-steel fixings. The green oak and douglas fir frame was supplied by Carpenter Oak & Woodland, while the Siberian larch used to clad the house (sourced from Russwood, along with the oak flooring) is longer lasting than Scots larch, with a lifespan of around 70 years. Once weathered to a silvery finish, and complemented by the zinc roof (by Artisan Roofing), the house will be almost invisible from the sea.
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 114-121, issue 90.