We were desperate for a short break. A couple of days away for some peace and quiet to recharge the batteries. But where would we find somewhere that would give us a change of scenery and the opportunity to unwind?
We didn’t have enough time to travel anywhere where sunshine was guaranteed and we wanted something more relaxing than a noisy city break. Could Scotland, and the West Highlands at that, provide an answer?
Off we headed to Garmoran Square, close to Acharacle on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. The trip across was stunning. The stark mountainsides, dramatic sea views, glorious woodland and dark lochs were as beautiful and atmospheric as we hoped and we could feel the stress falling from our shoulders as we meandered to our destination.
And hadn’t we picked well? Garmoran Square is a superb courtyard development with four apartments. I found it hard to believe this was not a conversion of an old stable block rather than a new build that only opened about 10 years ago. Susan and Kenneth were welcoming and helpful without being intrusive – the perfect hosts.
I immediately checked out the kitchen to see if it was well enough equipped to prepare the steaks for dinner. I needn’t have worried. It had everything you could have asked for. With a full-sized cooker, food mixer, blender, sharp knives, mixing bowls and casserole dishes, I think you could easily cook a four-course family meal for six with no problem.
Our bedroom was equally impressive, with ample wardrobe space, TV and a vast and comfortable bed, as well as a wonderful en suite with spa bath.
Before we did anything else, I made a nice cup of tea. Our hosts had left milk, freshly baked bread and a wonderful fruit loaf, a perfect pick-me-up after our journey.
After dinner it was great to pile the dishes into the dishwasher and forget them. We enjoyed a glass of wine as we lounged in the living room. The underfloor heating kept the place very cosy, but we found the open fire hard to resist and I think I spent more time looking at the flames than the TV. But we didn’t sit up too late; the silence and darkness outside were working their magic and we were ready for bed.
Next morning I was nursing my coffee and gazing through the huge picture windows over a lovely view to the hills beyond. Chaffinches were busy flitting from tree to tree. A little robin stood sentry on the decking. And a red squirrel kept us amused leaping from branch to branch looking to supplement its winter hoard.
We decided this was the day for a bit of exploring so headed off to Castle Tioram, the ancient seat of Clan Ranald. It’s a very impressive ruin sitting on a rugged island which I had visited before during the summer when we had to share the beach with dozens of others. But today, in glorious winter sunshine, we had it to ourselves.
From there, you can find the Silver Walk – a brilliant rugged coastal path. But we were more in the mood for a short stroll so headed back to the car and off to where the Seven Men of Moidart, who accompanied Bonnie Prince Charlie as he escaped capture by government forces, were commemorated by seven large trees. Sadly a few of them had been felled by storms and recent attempts to replace them have not grown well. But we did come upon a herd of red deer hinds grazing close to the road.
We also visited Glenfinnan to see the now internationally famous viaduct which is a magnet for Harry Potter fans, as well as the monument that marks the place where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard before embarking on an adventure that ended so tragically on Culloden Moor.
The following day, it was a trip through the Ardnamurchan Peninsula to Sanna Bay, the most westerly point in mainland Britain. It’s a single track road much of the way, but the joy of visiting in winter is there are few other cars on the road. And the bare trees afford glorious views that might otherwise be missed. And what a reward at the end of the drive. It is an astonishingly beautiful and unspoilt beach and we were completely alone with nothing but some gulls for company.
Make sure you plan ahead for a trip to this part of the world in the winter. Many of the restaurants that depend on the summer tourist trade close or operate restricted hours in the winter, but Susan was able to advise us where was open.
Spectacular scenery during the day and relaxing evenings in this warm and luxurious hideaway had proved to be a winning combination for beating the winter blues.
Prices for three nights out of season start from £260 for a one-bedroom house up to £400 for a three-bedroom house. Prices are fully inclusive of all electricity, bedding, towels, welcome pack, Wi-Fi and coal and wood for the fire. More information at www.garmoransquare.com