Deep in the Cairngorms forest is an enchanted holiday home that blends the best of Scottish and Scandinavian design
Photography Martin Kaufmann
Words Catherine Coyle
Restoring historic properties comes with a lot of responsibility. There’s much more to it than adding plaid upholstery or sticking up a commemorative plaque – and that’s before you factor in official recommendations from conservationists. And if completing one period property is challenging enough, embarking on a programme of rejuvenation across the country is the kind of undertaking that requires long-term investment that goes beyond simply finance.
Anne and Anders Holch Povlsen, though, have done just that. The Danish couple have been in love with the Scottish Highlands ever since they bought Glenfeshie Estate in 2007.
They have gone on to acquire more than 220,000 acres, making them Scotland’s biggest private landowners.
The task they have set themselves is just as enormous – they are intent on ‘rewilding’ the land – but their commitment is already, quietly, giving this part of the country a very stylish overhaul.
Their estates run through the Highlands, the Cairngorms, into Grampian and up into Sutherland, where they have recently reopened Lundies, a former manse in the village of Tongue on the North Coast 500 route.
Glenfeshie, however, remains the pair’s home away from home, the place they come to relax when they’re not in their native Copenhagen.
The newly restored Kennels Cottage, which lies deep in the forest and was once used by the ‘kennel man’ who bred and trained the estate’s working dogs, encapsulates the love and labour these custodians of Scotland’s natural heritage put into their projects.
Working with Edinburgh’s Groves-Raines Architects and long-time collaborator and interior designer Ruth Kramer, they have given the house the same soothing and luxurious aesthetic as their other renovated holiday properties.
Anne and Ruth have an eye for chic pieces that are sympathetic to each property, combining locally sourced items and furniture, both new and vintage, with contemporary Scandinavian design.
“The look is reflective of the location and the purpose of the cottage,” agrees Ruth. “We want it to be comfortable and easy to use so that people will feel relaxed and at home. Everything is carefully curated and made by hand and heart.”
This hybrid of comfort and class is bringing a new breed of traveller to the Highlands, one seeking nothing more than mindful relaxation in some of Scotland’s most precious surroundings. And they’ll certainly find it at Kennels Cottage. There are three bedrooms, two of which are in the eaves, and a bathroom stocked with Danish Meraki toiletries and heavyweight towels. Downstairs, the dining room, with its Copenhagen Joinery table and Carl Hansen chairs draped in sheepskin for those crisp Highland winters, is the place to congregate for meals, card games and hot chocolate.
There is no mention of WiFi, TV or tech from junior guests; it’s more rewarding to stoke the fire and sneak glances at the treats in the welcome basket (Danish dark chocolate, sourdough crackers and a pack of Highland Roast from the Inverness Coffee Roasting Co, among other delights).
The palette of materials reflects the cottage’s Victorian roots – think moody aubergine-tinged greys and distressed repurposed timber – but there are plenty of modern comforts, such as underfloor heating beneath the Caithness slabs, to elevate the whole experience to boutique-hotel level.
Locally crafted bunk beds with a bespoke wooden ladder provide extra accommodation or a cosy nook in which to retire with a book, while the double bedroom at the far end of the cottage has Hansel and Gretel vibes, with its Zoffany wallpaper, natural linen drapes and bedding in earthy forest tones fit for a fairytale. Let the magic take hold and succumb to the restfulness of this dreamy woodland dwelling.