Escape: Newhall Mains

The splendid façade was repaired using traditional materials – stone, lime render, lead and slate.

Luxurious interiors and thoughtful finishing touches make this beautifully restored mains building in the Highlands a tempting retreat

Words Miriam Methuen-Jones

Tucked away in the Black Isle, just a short drive from Inverness, is a holiday retreat with a difference. Newhall Mains is a gloriously renovated former farm building arranged around a courtyard where up to 28 people can stay across four double bedroom suites and five individually themed cottages. You could book the whole thing for a wedding or special event, but it’s equally enticing if you’re just passing through on an adventure (the North Coast 500, say, or whale-watching in the Moray Firth). Not that there’s any pressure to be energetic: the spacious interiors, comfortable and beautifully designed, invite you to kick back and relax in style.

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I was booked into Irene, a two-bed cottage (the cottages and suites are named after the family who lovingly renovated Newhall Mains). Like the rest of the accommodation (including the luxe bridal option, which comes complete with a huge tub in the bedroom and a dressing room full of mirrors), it has been given purposeful individuality by interiors firm Kelling Designs through stylish decor and quality materials. 

Two views of Irene cottage. The bathroom is finished in a rich red, with a generous tub that’s perfect for a soak after exploring the local area and illuminated by a skylight that floods the space with natural light. There’s more bold colour in the cottage’s living room, courtesy of Kelling Designs’ careful eye.
The kitchen in the Irene is beautifully kitted out, and has access to the central courtyard. The cottage has its own outdoor table and set of chairs if you fancy dining alfresco.

A cottage stay is billed as self-catering, but an impressive breakfast selection is available if you want it, served in the expansive communal dining room. I also tried out the ‘Meals at the Mains’ service which delivers a hamper to your door; all you need to do is heat up the oven. Even I could manage that… And the food was phenomenal. The rhubarb crumble alone is worth coming back for. The delivery service is a great option if you’re arriving sans car or if you’re so bewitched by the soothing atmosphere that you can’t bring yourself to venture beyond the gates.

Left: The honeymoon suite has an enormous curtained tub. The throws on all the beds are made with wool from Newhall Mains’ own Jacob sheep. Right: The exterior of the long barn, which was renovated as a standalone holiday hire. A surge in demand soon saw the rest of Newhall Mains restored and put to use.

Prior to its renovation, Newhall was crumbling into ruins. You’d never believe it now, looking at the golden stone and elegant arches of the exterior. Inside is just as impressive: the enormous L-shaped dining room shows off gorgeous exposed brick that hints at its agricultural roots. It’s a generous space but it doesn’t feel echo-ey or cavernous like some barn conversions. Clever details such as bespoke screens help to create comfortable zones that invite you to relax. The central courtyard is a great spot to convene, with firepits lit at night to encourage lounging and lingering. The bar (designed by Studio Francis) is stocked with an impressive selection of whisky (special mention for the array of Japanese blends) and gin, including Ullapool’s Seven Crofts. Euan Ramsay, who runs the place, tells me that the bar is the team’s latest focus: they want people to come to Newhall Mains just to try the drinks. 

Left: One of the bedrooms in Irene cottage, complete with bold colours and a fantastically comfortable bed. Right: Like whisky? There’s a fine selection here. A new bartender has just been hired from Rome to shake things up (literally)

If expertly crafted cocktails don’t tempt you, perhaps the private airstrip will. That’s right, there’s a dedicated space to land your plane here. “It was always sort of a pipe dream,” Euan explains. “I got my pilot’s licence and then noticed there wasn’t anywhere in Scotland that was a pleasure to land and stay the night. So while we were renovating this place I casually asked our contractor if it could be done. One week later, he had started work on our airstrip.” 

Arriving by plane is not the only way to get here, of course. Newhall Mains caters to travellers of all types, including offering Tesla charging points for electric cars – part of the business’s initiative to be as eco-friendly as possible (private flights notwithstanding). The new barbecue area was crafted from leftover sandstone and slate, and all the carpeting throughout is by Unnatural Flooring, made from recycled fibres. 

Not every holiday rental comes with its own airstrip. Newhall Mains can organise private sightseeing flights over the spectacular Highland scenery.

There are thoughtful touches all over. You’ll find personalised whisky miniatures (Newhall Mains’ own blend), playful wallpaper in most rooms (especially welcome in the disabled toilet, an often unfairly neglected space) and works by local artists on the walls. The art collection is far from complete: “We could have rushed, bought commercial pictures and had them up on the walls within a few weeks,” Euan says. “But we wanted to take our time and build a collection we’re proud of.” 

This attitude sums up the whole ethos of the place. There’s a real sense of development and patience in the design. Instead of a rush to get everything perfect immediately, it feels more like a gentle journey towards a final, comfortable destination. This laid-back but attentive approach certainly makes for a relaxing stay. There are very few places that genuinely allow you to completely forget about the stresses of everyday life, but I think this is one of them. 

From £95 per night in a double suite. www.newhall-mains.com 

Looking for more staycation ideas? Check out Edinburgh or Pitlochry