They've made some changes along the way, putting in central heating in for a start – a biomass boiler and cosy wood-burning stoves. They've stripped the main 18th-century lodge back to its bones creating a bare boards and retro chic vibe with a smattering of family heirlooms. And added a giant woodland tipi. It was the tipi that swung it when BBC Springwatch scouts were scouring Scotland for a new base. They stayed for four seasons. There's a fire pit for toasting marshmallows, hammocks strung through the trees, forest walks from the door – and Bluebelle, the classic 1960s Humber Sceptre for secluded loch-side picnics. The magnificent Cairngorms and Aviemore await. The Dell is a family home and family business, evolving organically with a warm bear hug welcome. The fire is burning brightly when you arrive, the candles and tea-lights flickering.
- This is self-catering 'with benefits'. The menu of food options includes artisan hampers and DIY meal kits
- It's family friendly, pet-friendly, friends-friendly – it's just plain friendly
- We loved the quirky touches, shelves of well-thumbed books, the old record player and LPs
- The Tipi is magical at night. Book it for a celebration – Polly is also a chef
- Planning a family gathering? All six cottages spiral out from the lodge – some are connecting
- Craving complete solitude? This is the kind of place where you are likely to bump into other guests in the grounds
- The twin-bedded rooms are generally in the eaves – think sloping ceilings, 'cosy' and compact
- Allow plenty of time to get here and about
Best time to go
Winter might not seem like an obvious choice, but each cottage has a cosy woodburner – and it's just a half-hour drive to the Lecht, one of Scotland's main ski resorts.
Our top tips
- Boutique cottages
- 6 cottages for 2-8
- Self-catering (meals on request)
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Spa Treatments
- Beach Nearby
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Car recommended
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Daily Maid Service
- Towels & Bedlinen
- Laundry Service
- Bicycles or e-Bikes
- Electric car charger
There are 6 cottages sleeping from 2 to 9 people. Handsome Dell Lodge (sleeps 8-9) has 4 bedrooms. Two are on the first floor - think floor-length velvet drapes, wooden shutters, brass beds with good linen, a vintage rocking chair and mid-century sofa, fireplaces and dreamy views over sheep-pricked fields to the mountains; two are in the eaves. The staircase is lined with ancient keys, the bathroom has a painted floor and romantic clawfoot tub, the wet room sleek and timber-lined. We loved curling up in front of the fire on the retro leather sofas listening to Billie Holiday on the record player.
Moving down in size, West Dell (sleeps 6-7), with its axe-cut beams, was an old crofter's cottage. South Dell (sleeps 6) was once the lodge's original kitchen; it comes with its own piano. Both of these have a master double on the ground floor, and two cosy twin bedrooms in the eaves: ample for a family. East Dell (sleeps 4-5) is more secluded, with a pretty garden and a 'sit-ootery': a bench beneath an ancient oak. It would suit a couple or smaller family.
For a cute couple's hideaway, Dell Cottage and Little Dell - or the 'Packham Suite' as it's been nicknamed since Springwatch's Chris Packham bedded down here - are romantic 1-bedroom cottages with private gardens and cosy woodburners to cuddle up in front of.
- Washing machine
The hub of Dell Lodge is the lovely kitchen-diner: think soaring rafters, an old carpenter's bench (Grandpa John was an expert craftsman), long table and artfully mismatched chairs - but modern where it counts (fancy range cooker and Smeg fridge). In the cottages, smart new kitchens come with vintage Ercol tables and chairs. Utensils and pans are in good order. Tea, coffee, sugar, olive oil, salt & pepper are provided; breakfast items can be sourced from the Dell Grocer and the mountain cafe.
The Dell Grocer is their range of curated catering options from hampers of local artisan produce to homemade dishes to throw in the oven along with DIY meal kits and plenty of veggie options. We tucked into a heavenly Dell venison, juniper and gremolata pie and whipped up a smoked salmon and leek risotto following the fool-proof instructions. To wash it all down there's a cellar list featuring hand-picked wines, beers from artisan Black Isle Brewery, and Inshriach gin from their friend Walter down the road.
In the village (a 15-minute walk), the Balliefurth Farm Shop stocks beef and lamb from their own farm, venison from nearby estates, and pies and sausages made on site. There's pub grub at Nethy Bridge Hotel and light lunches at Nethy House café too.
- Coffee / tea making
- Dinner by arrangement
- Food blender
- Full kitchen
- Hob or stove
- Lunch by arrangement
- Vegetarian options
- There are 3 acres of communal gardens, hammocks to snooze in, picnics to plan, forest trails to tramp and riverside ambles to the village. Paddle or play Poohsticks in the River Nethy
- Cycle through the forest to Loch Garten – a good wild swimming and stone skimming spot; bikes can be hired and delivered
- The Dell has teamed up with local Instinct Guides for Springwatch-style wildlife safaris by 4x4, as well as guided nature walks from your door, and wilderness skills (don't you want to learn how to throw a tomahawk, or cook venison on an open fire?)
- For the DIY version, head to famed RSPB reserve at Loch Garten where breeding ospreys nest each spring
- Hop aboard the Strathspey Steam Railway for an old-fashioned journey to outdoors capital, Aviemore
- The Malt Whisky Trail is a bucolic route through Speyside's rolling hills linking eight distilleries (for tours and tastings) and the Speyside Cooperage
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Historical sites
- Mountain biking
- Plantlife / flora
- Private guided tours
The Dell is all about old-school adventure. There are 3 acres of gardens to explore, a Faery Wood, hammocks, and a zip line through the trees. It's the kind of place where kids can get mucky, roam free, climb trees and toast marshmallows over the fire. There's also a back-to-nature kids club (for children age 5-11), operational all year on demand.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Family friendly accommodation:
All of the cottages (bar one-bed romantic bolthole Little Dell) are geared towards families, with twin beds in the eaves.
Kids Activities on site:
- Three acres of gardens with hammocks
- Faery Wood with Harris's Den
- Kids DVDs
- Kids books / toys / board games in each cottage
- Woodland fire pit
- Zip lines
- Hobildigob Trail
- Airport: 40 mins (Inverness)
- Hospital: 40 mins (Inverness)
- Shops: 5 mins (Nethy Bridge)
The Dell is a few minutes down the lane from the sleepy little village of Nethy Bridge on the edge of Abernethy Forest in the heart of the Cairngorm National Park. It's a secluded spot surrounded by farmland and forest.
By Air: Inverness airport is an hour's drive north with flights from around the UK.
By Train: Aviemore station is 20 minutes away. The Caledonian Sleeper from London stops here.
By Car: It's easiest to arrive by car, and there's plenty of parking. Edinburgh and Glasgow are a 3-hour drive south; Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, is 1 hour north.
Detailed directions will be sent to you once you book through i-escape.
- Inverness 40.0 km INV
- Beach 48.0 km
- Shops 1.5 km
- Restaurant 1.5 km