The splendour of a Highlands hideaway

There's no chance of cabin fever during an idyllic retreat that takes self-catering to a new level.

Wednesday, 3rd January 2018, 2:57 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd January 2018, 4:00 pm
The Aquila lodge at Eagle Brae, in Struy, Scotland

When a herd of wild deer watch inquisitively as you unload your car just a few feet away, you know you’ve just stepped foot into a magical place.

Situated on a tranquil hillside between Glen Affric and Glen Strathfarrar, Eagle Brae is an enchanting Scottish Highlands hideaway.

The Spencer-Nairn family has owned Struy Estate, where Eagle Brae sits, since the 1930s but it’s Mike Spencer-Nairn and his wife Pawana’s vision that has put it firmly on the map for wildlife lovers and those seeking a luxury retreat. The hand-crafted log cabin ‘village’ was eight years in the making and it’s clear Mike and Pawana have poured their hearts and souls into creating the ultimate self-catering destination.

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Julia Bennett with husband Tony and son William at Eagle Brae, Struy, in Scotland

Just a 30-minute drive from Inverness, Eagle Brae is made up of seven Canadian pioneer-style log cabins.

But a cabin in the true sense of the word they’re most certainly not.

Built from sustainably sourced colossal western red cedar logs from British Columbia and finished with wild-flower green roofs maintained by grazing goats, each luxury lodge is a unique work of art.

Our cabin, Aquila (which means Eagle in Latin), stood at the edge of a steep face overlooking the dramatic scenery of Strathglass.

Eagle Brae, in Struy, Scotland

Its wrap-around terrace – complete with a majestic eagle head carving – was the ideal place to set up the telescopes for some bird watching over the River Glass. And we also enjoyed some wildlife spotting closer to home, with ‘Bill the badger’ (who’s partial to a jam sandwich) treating us to a few visits during our two-night stay.

Inside, the views are just as spectacular with soaring, pitched ceilings, mezzanine floors, and Pawana’s Indian Himalayan heritage visible throughout with woven textiles and engraved wooden panels.

Our cabin had a wonderful open plan kitchen, dining and living area with a wood burning stove to add that cosy touch.

There are two modern bathrooms, two extremely comfortable double bedrooms and – best of all – two log cabin beds which our three-year-old son William was delighted with.

Wild deer watched as we unpacked our car

The attention to detail is astonishing – from antler chandeliers made by Mike to the mesmerising natural patterns and knots in the logs.

A luxury hamper filled with Highland treats – such as shortbread, honey, oatcakes, chutney and Pawana’s homemade elderflower cordial – is waiting for you on arrival.

And there are more than enough mod-cons to make guests feel at home with Wi-Fi, under-floor heating and even a study area with PC and printer if you’re really desperate for some communication to the outside world.

The cabins are so spacious and homely, it would be tempting to do nothing but hibernate in one of the leather armchairs in front of the wood burner within the warmth of the cedar fortress.

The Highlands meets the Himalayas

Every need is certainly catered for – a concierge service available for groceries and homemade meals delivered to your door.

Not forgetting Eagle Brae’s impressive sustainability CV with a micro hydro scheme, biomass pellet burners and borehole water supply.

But there’s so much to explore beyond the cabin with a whole range of activities to keep you occupied for days on the 8,000-acre estate – from fly fishing to camera stalking and kayaking to pony trekking all available through the friendly and efficient Eagle Brae team.

We decided to venture a little further afield and enjoyed a few trips out. A visit to Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle made for a great day out and an afternoon exploring Glen Strathfarrar gave us two sightings of golden eagle and a glorious view of a stag who gave us a sharp stare as he stood proudly on a rocky promontory.

We took Mike’s advice and stopped off at Chanonry Point, a spit of land extending into the Moray Firth, to watch seals playing in the incoming tide.

(The Moray Firth Dolphins eluded us – but that just gives us an excellent reason to return.)

One of the bedrooms in the Aquila lodge

With a landscape brimming with history, we also paid a visit to Culloden Battlefield – a powerfully moving site where the 1745 Jacobite Rising came to its tragic end – and the fascinating Clava Cairns, a Bronze Age burial site just a stone’s throw away.

I can’t help but think Eagle Brae is now part of that rich Scottish history – taking self-catering to a whole new luxury level with a retreat that removes all the stresses of normal life.

Sitting on the terrace just moments before we set off on the six-hour journey back to the Fylde coast, we found ourselves looking longingly at the spectacular scenery with only the sound of deer hooves to interrupt our peace.

It’ll have to be our New Year’s resolution to return.

FACT FILE

- Eagle Brae is situated in Struy, Beauly, Inverness-shire, Scotland

- The smaller cabins are Tringa, Parus, Sylvia and Strix.

- The larger cabins, which sleep six people, are Buteo, Loxia and Aquila

- For more information and prices visit www.eaglebrae.co.uk or call 07738 076711

Eagle Brae in Struy, Scotland
Julia Bennett with husband Tony and son William at Eagle Brae, Struy, in Scotland
Eagle Brae, in Struy, Scotland
Wild deer watched as we unpacked our car
The Highlands meets the Himalayas
One of the bedrooms in the Aquila lodge
Eagle Brae in Struy, Scotland