The end of the road: new-build guesthouse on Skye

A businessman who’d spent half his life in hotels, the owner of this home on Skye had long dreamed of owning the perfect guesthouse – so he built it himself

Some journeys take you from A to B in the most straightforward manner imaginable. Others, like Andreas Adalian’s route to the Highlands, are labyrinthine with U-turns and cul-de-sacs, the destination uncertain until you finally arrive. His began in central Europe, took in London and the far south-west of England, with a detour as far north as Orkney, before he settled on Skye in 2012.
Andreas, an economist and engineer, was looking for a change of career. “It had always been my ambition to run my own guesthouse,” he explains. “I’d travelled extensively as a businessman for years, living half my life in hotels, so I knew exactly what kind of experience I wanted to create for guests in a place of my own.”
Living between Switzerland and London, he first looked at settling in Exmoor, but the financial downturn struck and put paid to those plans. “So I turned my attention to Scotland – it’s cheaper than England!” he laughs. “I was all set to move to Orkney when I had a sudden gut feeling that it was perhaps not quite right, that it was maybe a little too remote for the business I had in mind. That’s when I thought of the Isle of Skye, where I’d been on holiday before.”
Andreas wanted a home for himself and his family that would also have space for guests, and a chat with Alan Dickson, principal architect at Skye-based Rural Design, convinced him of the idea of building a guesthouse from scratch, rather than purchasing an existing one. “I asked Alan if he had designed a house that could also function as a guesthouse. He said no but that he’d give it a try.”
With the architect’s help, Andreas managed to find a half-acre plot, with planning permission, on the north-west coast of the island. “It was exactly where I’d stopped on a previous holiday to take photographs of the spec­tacu­lar surrounding landscape. It felt like destiny. The rest happened very quickly.”
He wanted a house that would be cosy yet functional and be both contemporary and traditional. “I had in mind a modern yet cosy house – very relaxing and comfortable,” he says. “I like the idea of a mix of old and new – that’s why I asked for oak floors, timber beams and an open stone fireplace in the living area. I was also keen that the views could be enjoyed as much as possible, but I didn’t really ask Alan for anything else.”
What finally emerged following a year-long construc­tion is a five-bedroom home arranged over two levels. On the ground floor is the living and dining area, with two en-suite bedrooms to the front of the house, with a further guest bedroom reached by a staircase. Andreas and his family’s two-bedroom living quarters on the first floor are accessed via a private staircase from a door at the entrance. Completing the picture are the ancillary spaces including the kitchen, which are accommodated in a single-storey lean-to element at the back and side of the house. So far, so simple. But there is an element of innovation at the heart of the design – for Skye, at least…
“On this island, the classic house design is by default one and a half storeys,” explains Alan Dickson. “What we’ve tried to do is to push the height of the building up to a one-and-three-quarter-storey. This means that the roof doesn’t begin at waist height, where you’re looking out of a dormer window as in a one-and-a-half-storey building. It now starts above head height, which means we can get full-height windows in the bedrooms on the upper level.”

This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 114-122, issue 95.

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Words Caroline Ednie
Photography Nigel Rigden
What A new-build five-bedroom house
Where Near Dunvegan, Skye
Architect Rural Design
Contractor Donald Mackenzie, Skye
Budget £360,000