Enjoy all the wild adventure of Skye – then return to the civilised embrace of The Crofter’s House, a cosy, stylish cottage.
Words Natasha Radmehr
Photography Katya de Grunwald, India Hobson, Victoria Mackenzie and Anne-Sophie Rosenvinge
Even in the dead of night, no city is ever still. The hum of street lights; bin-rummaging foxes; the faint, off-key strains of ‘Wonderwall’ assaulting guests at a distant house party. When I moved to Glasgow from a small town many years ago, my definition of ‘quiet’ quickly expanded to accommodate the buzz and clamour that soundtracks life in the city. Peace? I could scarcely remember it.
As we drive over the sea to Skye, though, the memory returns. Calmness descends like a mountain mist. It’s in the pale skies and black cliffs, the velvet-skirted hills and silvery lochs. By the time we reach the Crofter’s House, my partner and I have already slowed down to sync with the gentle rhythm of the landscape.
It was the heart-stopping scenery that inspired Sarah Chesworth, creative director of Glasgow design agency Sanna Mac, to seek out a secluded bolthole on the island. “I think because it’s so dramatic, it makes you feel very small – and there’s something quite calming about that,” she says. Chesworth had become enamoured with Skye while working on the branding for some of its homegrown businesses (including Kinloch Lodge, Birch and the Isle of Skye Sea Salt Company), even entertaining the idea of moving there. Initially, she thought about building a new house on a plot of land – but the logistics of doing it from Edinburgh, where she lived at the time, weren’t on side. Instead, she bought a diminutive stone cottage that she could steal away to when required, and rent out to holidaymakers the rest of the time.
The Crofter’s House has stood at the foot of Ben Tianavaig for almost two hundred years. It’s just five miles south of Skye’s capital, Portree, but exists in undisturbed solitude along a single-track road, a whitewashed beacon in the wilderness. “Not many tourists venture down this way,” says Chesworth. “Even in summer, when Skye can be so busy, it’s relatively quiet here.”
When the designer bought the cottage in 2014, she was gifted a blank canvas to work with. The previous owner had already replaced the roof and windows, freeing her up to focus on the interior design of its kitchen, living room, shower room and bedroom. Her vision was for it to be clean, simple and serene. Taking cues from Scandinavian design, the panelled walls and exposed beams were painted white, and the snug rooms decorated sparingly but thoughtfully with pieces by Danish designers. In the living room, a Louis Poulsen pendant hangs above a modular grey Hay sofa; Gubi lamps throw soft pools of light in the bedroom. I almost feel guilty heaving a bulging bag into such a considered space.
It’s not long before we’re making ourselves at home, however. We arrive on a rainy Saturday evening, picking up logs from the local garage to fuel the wood-burning stove. Cosseted by the roaring fire and metre-thick walls, it could be torrential outside and we would neither notice nor care. The shelves are lined with books and a tempting Scrabble board, but the drive catches up with us and we clamber into bed for an uninterrupted night’s sleep in delicious, dark silence.
In the morning, gentle birdsong makes a welcome change from phone alarms and revving motors. Though we could easily spend a day relaxing by the fire, we’re eager to enjoy the spoils of the island. We stop first at Camustianavaig Bay, two minutes along the road. “I like to pop down there with a cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening,” Chesworth tells me later. “There’s a very sweet family of seals who usually come and say hello.” Sadly, we don’t meet them, but the drive to Neist Point Lighthouse – our hiking adventure for the day – rewards us with grazing sheep, deer and seabirds.
We return in the evening exhausted but happy, laden with food to cook in the well-equipped kitchen. I could get used to this, I think, imagining a life unplugged from the daily grind where simple pleasures can shine. I feel like I’ve been to a spa for my soul. “I think that’s what I love about it the most; the feeling of being there,” says Chesworth. “I always feel comfortable, the sun always comes out. It’s my happy place.” I think it could be one of mine, too.
WHAT TO DO IN SKYE
Hop in the car and take a road trip across the island: between the Old Man of Storr, Fairy Pools, Neist Point and the Quiraing, you’ll have whiplash from admiring the muscular mountains and stretches of moorland at every turn.
For sustenance, start your day at Birch in Portree, a specialist coffee house that marries Melbourne café culture with Scottish produce.
A hearty lunch can be found at Café Cùil in Carbost. It’s owned by award-winning chef Clare Coghill, who hails from Skye but first opened an outpost of the café in Hackney before returning to home soil.
Scorrybreac is the place to go for Michelin dining, but if trad is more your vibe then Skeabost House Hotel will tick your boxes.
In the mood to shop? Stop by Skyeskyns on the Waternish peninsula for luxury sheepskin throws (and an insight into the time-honoured tradition of making them), and browse the jewellery, art and homeware at Portree favourite ÒR.
The Crofter’s House can be rented from £145 per night. Bookings subject to a £50 cleaning fee.