Come for an exhilarating woodland stay designed to refresh and reinvigorate adventurers young and old
Photography Department Two
Words Catherine Coyle
The tagline for Glen Dye is ‘Home of the Brave’. You’ll see it (discreetly) all over the 30,000-acre estate to the south of Banchory, where Charlie and Caroline Gladstone (descendants of Victorian prime minister William Gladstone) have created the kind of retreat that meshes an old-school spirit of adventure with luxurious interiors so laidback you might not even notice the thread-count of your sheets or the original art on the walls.
I mention their motto for two reasons; firstly, because at North Lodge – one of the three self-catering properties they’ve renovated – they have managed to create just that: a home. From the hamper of treats awaiting you on arrival (marshmallows for toasting, croissants for baking and whisky for warming you up) to the deep, velvety furniture draped in slouchy blankets that beckon you to cosy up, North Lodge feels special and familiar all at once.
It’s brave too, since it invites guests to immerse themselves in more than just the fabulous roll-top bath. When you stay at North Lodge, you also get the use of the wonderful River Cabin, a stroll away down a private path on the banks of the river. Bring towels, robes and food – it has a hot tub and a barbecue. If you’re chilly after a bit of rock-pooling or trout tickling, or hungry after exploring the surroundings, there’s a log-burning stove, blankets and a dining table here – everything you might need is on hand to save you from traipsing back to the lodge or having to cut short your evening.
The North Lodge itself, a lovely Georgian building, was renovated a little over a year ago. It too has been stocked with everything you might need should you not care to cross the threshold until check-out. That said, the owners have designed the space to show that the location, not necessarily the accommodation, is the star attraction. It’s remote and simple; the kind of place where adventurers might research their latest book and where children can run off unsupervised, only coming home when they’re hungry and want to show off their forest spoils of gathered wildflowers, pebbles and acorns. With dirty fingernails and wind-flushed cheeks, their connection to the outdoors needn’t end at nightfall; the forest around the River Cabin is lit by twinkling LEDs and provides the perfect setting for campfires, open-air cooking and ghost stories.
That’s not to say that luxury has been eschewed in favour of a back-to-basics approach; North Lodge has Wi-Fi, an open fire, a quirky library aimed at adult and junior guests, and a turntable and selection of vinyl (Charlie is a music buff who, along with Caroline and friends Steve Abbott and Cerys Matthews, launched the Good Life festival in 2014 at the latter’s North Wales farm).
There’s a hearty hybrid of high-street pieces – tasteful accents like Original BTC lighting and Habitat throws set against mellow Farrow & Ball hues – and vintage treats (the couple run Pedlars online emporium of one-of-a-kind delights) that, crucially, tell a story. There’s the portrait of Will Gladstone that hangs in the living room, for example; his was the last body to be repatriated at the end of the First World War.
All the details, right down to the contents of the welcome hamper, point to the Gladstones’ commitment to celebrating the good stuff all around us. Ready-to-bake croissants and freshly laid eggs are from neighbouring Finzean Estate farm shop (if you do venture out anywhere, make it here), the eco-friendly shower gel is Glen Dye’s own brand, and the whisky is distilled just a two-hour jaunt away through the Cairngorms National Park.
It’s worth exploring: Glen Dye is relaxed about walkers, cyclists and runners, and positively encourages foraging, embracing Scotland’s right-to-roam rules. Taking on the terrain is welcomed, whether that’s climbing mountains or a gentle stroll to fire up the hot tub.
There are two other holiday properties available to rent on the estate, with plans to open another cottage and cabin later this year, all conceived with the same unabashed spirit and verve as North Lodge. Charlie’s self-penned field guide to Glen Dye is a scout’s dream and speaks of the joy that this forest has brought him and his family (the couple have six children) and how they have embraced it as the centre-point of their lives.
It’s not just home to the Gladstones. It’s also, even if only for a short stay, home of the brave.