Now if I were to close my eyes and imagine my absolute ideal peaceful family holiday retreat, I would actually be conjuring up Fisherman’s Cottage. Of course, I wouldn’t have known what it was called until a few weeks ago, and a few of the details would be different, but in essence, that’s where I’d be.
It’s a cottage that simply wraps itself around you as you step inside; it envelopes you in it’s warm welcome, and makes you feel as though you’ve actually come home to a place you’ve never been before.When we arrived (it’s a lo-o-o-ong way up there to the Highlands – Cawdor is around 14 miles from Inverness, and we started from Dorset way down on the south coast. That’s nearly 600 miles.) the outside was admittedly rather unprepossessing; I’ll be honest, we were less than bowled over with the squat dark wooden structure we pulled up in front of.
But the situation? Oh, we were certainly in the right place. Right in the flat of the valley, a matter of 100 yards from the river Findhorn, with the hills sweeping away on either side of us, and absolutely nothing to be heard except the birds.
Heading inside we didn’t really mind if the cottage was super-basic, we were prepared to love it anyway.
But it wasn’t.
Basic, I mean.
It was… charming. It certainly charmed us. The pictures can’t really do it justice – the feeling inside is warm and welcoming and comfortable and… homely. I know it sounds a bit mad, but we just instantly fell in love.
In terms of being equipped, the cottage has everything you’d need. There are three bedrooms – two twins and a double (we actually pinched one of the twins as it was bigger and had the river view. Didn’t see why the children needed to enjoy that…), and two bathrooms (one with a brilliant shower).
The bedding was of very high quality; actually ALL the soft furnishings were, but this wasn’t a place you felt scared for your children to play. Everything was well-thought out, sturdy and practical. The decently-sized kitchen is fully equipped with all you’ll need, the porch is a brilliantly practical shedding-spot for wet clothes and muddy boots, and the large living/dining room will become the centre of your stay. We spent a LOT of time in that room. The soft, mildly battered old chairs are so comfy you will end up bribing a child to go make you another cup of tea as you just can’t be bothered to move away from the delicious log burner…We found that the children naturally drifted in to join us there too. They had their own rooms, and whilst there’s no wifi or phone signal in the cottage they all had their DS’s, tablets and toys/games with them.
But we found they invariably brought whatever it was into the sitting room, and we spent hours in the same room just… being together. The chairs are comfy enough for curling up with a book for an hour or two without moving, and the table is huge enough for big family meals.
We played cards, we read, we challenged each other to Angry Birds Go, we watched TV… and enjoyed the simple pleasure of each other’s company.
One memorably cold and overcast day we decided to stay close to home, and simply walked up the valley (there are some magnificent views and amazing finds just a 20 minute stroll up the track and round the bend) – by late afternoon we had dinner in the oven, we had all changed into pj’s and the husband had lit the fire. I was curled up in my now-favourite battered leather armchair, listening to the rain slap at the windows outside and the gentle noise of my family around me, drinking a large mug of tea and reading my favourite book of all time (Pride & Prejudice if you want to know)… I am not sure I ever remember feeling quite so perfectly content as I was in that moment. It was just a perfect, rare moment of absolute bliss that I know I will always treasure.
As a base, Fisherman’s Cottage is a great place to explore from. Right from your front door there are countless walks following the river and up into the forests and onto the moors surrounding the cottage – it’s a walkers paradise. But even though you’re deep into the private estate and feel like you’re in the wilds of nowhere, a mere 20 minutes in the car has you on the coast enjoying the amazing beaches of places like Nairn, and the city of Inverness is close enough to provide all the facilities you’ll possibly need. We had never visited this side of Scotland before, and we took the chance to really explore it. We headed south for an afternoons snowboarding – just over 45 minutes found us in the middle of Aviemore. Equally, we were only 40 minutes from Loch Ness, and less than 20 from Culloden (TOTALLY recommend a visit). Fort George was another brilliant visit we almost missed out – we intended to just stop for half an hour and ended up spending the whole morning. Dropping down the coast towards Elgin we spent a cheerful day in very windy Scottish weather being blown around ruined castles, rolling down Motte & Baileys and exploring old Abbeys.
Possibly the only thing I can suggest to improve Fisherman’s Cottage itself is a slight lack of books and games on the shelves. It’s always nice to have a selection of board games for a wet morning, and a small bookcase with a choice of books is always nice to have. There’s no wifi in the cottage at all (or mobile phone signal, but there is a payphone), but a short stroll around the neighbouring cottage, across the bridge and through the outbuildings of the main house (not lived in, also available for rental for the estate – they were all empty when we were there) into the Games Room where there’s a table tennis table and an internet hub. Make it there, and wifi is yours! Not as convenient as having it in the house, but a few minutes stroll is certainly accessible enough for checking emails and keeping up with things once a day or so. Plus, an early morning wifi visit gave me my first ever sighting of a red squirrel, which was a bit grumpy at me disturbing his breakfast!
We were genuinely, completely, peacefully happy at Fisherman’s Cottage – we entirely fell in love, and cannot wait to go back and stay for longer.
A week in Fisherman’s Cottage from October to April is £730 (high season is £1165), and everything is included in the price from linen to wood for the fire. But please don’t all rush to stay – we haven’t booked our next break ourselves yet.