Croft 103

Sutherland, Scotland, United Kingdom Book from

MOST MAGICAL BATHTIME MOST MAGICAL BATHTIME
Reviewed by Tom Bell
Heaven at the top of Scotland: 2 seriously cool boltholes with walls of glass that drink in views of water, mountain and sky (self-catering, sleeping 2 apiece)
This is the very tip of Scotland, the left-hand corner of our small island, a land of infinite splendour - of soaring mountains, of aquamarine seas, of views that stretch for miles under a vast sky. It is one of the most beautiful places you will encounter on our planet, a majestic wilderness that offers the chance to sweep away the concrete and reconnect with the wonder of nature. Those who like the middle of nowhere, who enjoy long journeys into the wilds, who like to swap the bright lights for the end of the road - this is the place for you.

As for these spectacular cottages, well, they’re the stuff of dreams, every bit as breathtaking as the land they sit in. Completely private and set far apart, Shore Cottage is nearer the water, Hill Cottage has broader views. Both have walls of glass that run along the front, framing views of Loch Eriboll - imperious stuff. Inside, an open-plan wonderland waits: concrete resin floors, roughly hewn wooden walls, Caithness stone bathrooms, magnificent kitchens for all occasions. You get long dining tables, Sonos music systems, leather sofas in front of cool wood-burners. There are 2 clawfoot baths in each, one inside, one outside on your huge terrace so you can soak under a starry sky. Come in winter and you may see the Northern Lights. Out of this world.

Highs

  • This wildly beautiful landscape and the ever-changing light - you can sit for hours watching nothing at all, a strangely satisfying pastime. We especially loved watching storms pass; once you’ve seen one, you’ll want more!
  • Heaven for a romantic escape; bike and hike empty beaches and majestic mountains, then hunker down for candlelit evenings
  • You’re at the end of the world with little to do - this is a seriously relaxing spot, and the journey in is stunning, cutting through the middle of nowhere
  • Owners Robbie and Fiona are passionate about the environment and both cottages are carbon negative courtesy of wind turbines, solar panels and local sheep, whose wool insulates the roofs
  • Beautiful kitchens and you can arrange to have meals waiting for you in the freezer

Lows

  • A strict payment and cancellation policy, and stays must be a minimum of 7 nights, Sat-Sat (although shorter stays may be possible in Jan/Feb, just ask)
  • Extremely remote (2-3 hours' drive from Inverness) with unpredictable weather - not to everyone’s taste
  • If you come in low season local restaurants will be closed, but you have a fabulous kitchen so stock up in Inverness on your way up. There’s a supermarket in Durness, too (5km)
  • The beaches may be pure white sand but the water is icy cold, so bring a dry suit if you want to swim, then join the locals who like to bodyboard in good weather
  • There’s no nightlife - a couple of restaurants in high season and that’s about it; even pubs are 5km away in Durness

Best time to go

In summer there’s more to do and the days are longer - it’s light until 11pm. You can get across to Cape Wrath and the restaurants will be open. Midges come from June to August, but they’re much worse to the south. However, bring Jungle Formula with you. In winter, snow falls further south and you may not be able to get here, but most of the time you'll be fine - the west coast is wet, it’s the interior that gets the snow. We can’t think of a better place to hunker down for a week in midwinter and you may see the Northern Lights.

Remember the weather is entirely unpredictable all year round, so coming in high summer does not guarantee sun. Having said as much, on the first weekend in May, 2012, Britain was drowning from torrential rain. But not Durness. On the contrary, your intrepid reporter was playing some very bad golf and getting sunburnt in the process!

Our top tips

  • Drive all the way in, don’t fly. This is a wilderness and the sense of journey coming overland into the middle of nowhere is rather special. After the M6-M74 schlep, you take the A9 up to Perth, Pitlochry and Inverness, then swing left for Lairg, finally arriving in Durness.
  • From Inverness, expect single track roads with passing places. Locals drive quite fast, so stop to let them pass; and we advise driving with your headlights on full, as the land has the odd dip, so this helps drivers see other cars coming
  • When your petrol tank is half empty, fill it up at the first opportunity. And carry water, chocolate and blankets just in case you break down
  • Great for...

    Eco
    Great Outdoors
    Honeymoon
    • = Recommended
    • = Best in region
    • = World favourite
    • Boutique Cottages
    • 2 cottages for 2 people
    • Self-catering (restaurants a drive away)
    • Over 16s only
    • Open all year
    • Pool
    • Spa Treatments
    • WiFi
    • Pet Friendly
    • Disabled Access
    • Beach Nearby
    • Off-street Parking
    • Restaurants Nearby
    • Air Conditioning
    • Guest Lounge
    • Terrace
    • Garden
    • Gym
    • Daily Maid Service
    • Towels & Bedlinen
    • Laundry Service
    • Laundry facilities
    Room:

    Rooms

    One of the loveliest features of these pleasure domes is that while they’re huge, they’re only intended for 2 people apiece, and each has just 1 bedroom. They’ve also been built with privacy in mind, and as you’re completely invisible to the rest of the world, you can sleep with the curtains open and wake at dawn to see the first light of day creeping over the mountains before splashing down in the loch. OK, it might seem like an early start, but you can go back to sleep immediately and you won’t regret it for a moment.

    As for the bedrooms themselves, they’re deliciously uncluttered. You have concrete resin floors, wood-clad walls, then a couple of armchairs and a vast 7ft feather bed dressed in crisp white linen. You don’t get wardrobes, but there's uncovered hanging space on each side of the bed, and acres of tartan curtain in case you want to shut out the light. The huge ensuite bathrooms are a thing of great beauty, with Caithness stone walk-in power showers and clawfoot baths for a good soak. There’s also a bath outside on your terrace, and cosy bathrobes to whisk back and forth in.

    The rest of your cottage is an open-plan space: a lounge with a wood-burner, comfy chairs and that fabulous view, then a kitchen/dining area. Tucked away, you'll find a laundry room (with a washing machine and tumble dryer).

    Features include:

    • Barbeque
    • Bathrobes
    • Central heating
    • Coffee maker
    • Coffee tea making
    • Dishwasher
    • Dvd player
    • Fan
    • Food blender
    • Fridge
    • Full kitchen
    • Hairdryer
    • Hob stove
    • Ipod dock
    • Iron
    • Microwave
    • Oven
    • Satellite tv
    • Sonos music system
    • Toaster
    • Toiletries
    • Tumble dryer
    • Washing machine
    • WiFi
    • Wood-burner

    Eating

    Croft 103's kitchens are divine - there is little in this world that's going to make you want to cook more than being here; even the washing-up is a dream. The Sonos system plays in every room, so you can cook local shellfish with cool tunes floating around you, and you’ve got all the kit: huge aluminium fridge/freezer, gorgeous oven and hob, coffee maker, built-in microwave, even a barbecue on the terrace. Ceramics come from Lotte Glob, and you get stunning surfaces, beautifully polished black Caithness stone that you’ll want in your kitchen at home. There's an electric handwhisk, champagne flutes, kitchen scales. In short, no excuses!

    You can eat inside or outside on your enormous terrace with views of sea and mountain. You’ll need to bring most of your food with you (although basic ingredients are provided) and that will mean a supermarket stop en route. If you fly into Inverness, you’ll find all the big supermarkets in town. If you come up the west coast, Oban and Fort William also have big supermarkets, but after that (ie the final 200km) there’s really nothing bigger than a village shop to harvest from. Your hosts Fiona and Robbie own the small supermarket in Durness; it’s not Waitrose on the King's Road, but it’s got lots of the little things you might forget. Finally, a fish and meat van passes through once a week and you can order great local produce in advance.

    You can arrange for homemade meals to be waiting in your freezer in case you want a night off, and there are restaurants a drive away - not least Mackay’s, Fiona and Robbie’s small hotel, which serves the best food in town. Note that most shut in mid-October and don’t open until mid-March. In season, you can also try Smoo Cave for a pizza or Sango Sands for pub grub. Finally, if you want to splash out, head 55km south to The Albannach at Lochinver for the best food in the North (it recently gained a Michelin star).

    Features include:

    • Coffee maker
    • Coffee tea making
    • Food blender
    • Fridge
    • Full kitchen
    • Hob stove
    • Meal delivery service
    • Microwave
    • Oven
    • Toaster
    Eating:
    Activity:

    Activities

    • Both cottages are utterly divine and hanging about at home is likely to be your chief pleasure of choice. So bring loads of books, a pack of cards, a box of games and a stash of CDs and DVDs, and simply chill out in the lap of contemporary luxury
    • In summer you can visit Cape Wrath, the top-left corner of Britain. You take a ferry across the kyle (May-September), then you either walk, jump on a minibus or spin off on your mountain bike. Craggy 200-foot cliffs covered in seabirds plunge into the sea, the lighthouse was built by Robert Stevenson, and there’s a beautiful beach at Kearvaig. Unmissable. Puffin season is late-May to mid-July
    • Head to Durness Golf Course - it’s not Gleneagles, but it’s looked after well and provides a good test of golf. Don’t expect a par 3 pitch and putt, it’s actually quite long. The 18th, a par 3, requires a shot over - or more likely into - the Atlantic! Keep your eyes peeled for killer whales hunting seals in the bay
    • Local hiking is sensational, anything from a 30-minute stroll along the coast to a 7-hour ascent of a local mountain. Ben Hope - you see it from both houses - is the most northerly munro in Scotland
    • Believe it or not people surf up here. The best spot is Sango Bay and its beautiful sandy beach. But remember, the water is ice-cold, so you’ll need a good dry suit
    • Visit Smoo Cave, in town. A well-maintained, decked path leads down. It’s 65m deep, 40m wide and 20m high with a small stream flowing out of it
    • On a good day head to the beaches at Oldshoremore for vast expanses of wild sand. You can drive as far as Sheigra, then walk up to Sandwood Bay, one of the most beautiful spots on the wild west coast. You’re only about 10km south of Cape Wrath, so you can walk in during summer
    • Take the wildest drive in Britain - east to Tongue, south to Lairg, then back up to Durness via Laxford Bridge. There’s a pub in Lairg for lunch
    • The Highland Games in Durness take place on the last weekend in July. It’s the biggest day in the town’s calendar and the odd dram is drunk in the evening

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Birdwatching
    • Boat trips
    • Golf
    • Hiking
    • Historical sites
    • Horse-riding
    • Mountain biking
    • Plantlife / flora
    • Surfing
    • Swimming
    • Whalewatching
    • Wildlife

    Kids

    Croft 103 does not allow children, and has a maximum occupancy of 2 adults per house.

    Kid Friendly:

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