Deep in a Perthshire forest are five holiday homes with a difference, combining luxury, eco-friendliness and nature in equal measure
Words Catherine Coyle
Growing up at Lanrick, a 1,500-acre estate between Callander and Dunblane, had a profound effect on Simon Dickson. It made him fall in love with nature and the great outdoors, and even though he moved to London for work and went on to travel the world, he knew his heart would always be in Perthshire. “What makes Lanrick so special is the river running through it,” he says. “The Teith is spectacular. It flows from the Trossachs down to Stirling, and the biodiversity created by it and the surrounding woodlands is really unique.” Now he and his wife Louisa are back on the land that has belonged to his family for the past 120 years, having designed and built a collection of five unique holiday homes that are, quite literally, on another level.
If you were to invite an eight-year-old to draw a picture of their dream home, they might come up with something resembling Lanrick’s treehouses. That’s not to suggest the accommodation is primitive or lacking grown-up appeal; on the contrary, the couple have taken the notion of childhood fantasy and simply elevated it to new heights, adding equal measures of luxury and eco-friendliness. These superlative structures, clad in larch and perched on stilts, feel like a natural part of the woodlands. All five are named after birds that nest on the estate, and all were built by Dickson and his firm, Mallett Construction. At least half of the timber used in each structure is from trees felled on the estate. They sit in a clearing in the forest, close enough to feel like a camp, but far enough apart to ensure you don’t encroach on anyone else’s holiday.
Our home for the duration was the one-bedroom Pipit treehouse (which has a sofa bed for extra guests), whose Scandinavian vibe combines style and practicality. It has step-free access, an indoor shower, an outdoor copper bathtub and an electric Weber barbecue (for lower carbon emissions) on the deck.
“The names were easy – they’re all small birds we see in the woods,” says Dickson. “Pipits visit in the summer; we spot nuthatches and treecreepers all year round, sneaking up and down the trunks of trees; willow warblers love the birches and alders; and flycatchers like to nest in sheltered spots around the houses.”
The idea of a holiday at Lanrick is that you can do as much or as little as you wish – walking, picnics, fishing, or simply enjoying the birdsong. Sliding glass doors encourage you out onto the deck to fire up the barbecue or enjoy a stargazing soak in the secluded copper bathtub. (There is a fully equipped kitchen in the open-plan living space, but it feels as if it would only be necessary in the coldest months.) A Charnwood woodburning stove, meanwhile, helps to blur the divide between inside and out.
What’s special about this destination isn’t so much the plush interiors of these beautifully crafted treehouses (although they are pretty impressive), but their location. The beauty of this part of the world is irresistible, as Dickson has discovered; it’s ultimately what propelled him and Louisa to create these extraordinary hideaways in this enchanting forest. “On any given day you might see a red squirrel on your deck in the morning, pass an otter fishing in the river, see an osprey teaching its chicks to fly, a badger digging among the bluebells and a pine martin hunting in the evening – all within 300 metres of the treehouses, if you’re quiet and observant.”
Prices from £200 per night (minimum two-night stay); lanricktreehouses.co.uk
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