"Stay in a world where time stands still in a magical part of Central Scotland"
The word sounds to me like you’re trying to say ‘house’ with a mouthful of haggis so it’s no surprise that this old Scottish word is about shelter and enclosed spaces.
It’s like a favourite haunt, a place you think of fondly, a special retreat. And Ian and Heather have certainly created some special retreats, dotting handcrafted glamping accommodation around their rather large gardens. Woods, fields, natural gardens and something called a ‘lochan’ await with views for miles and plenty of privacy so you can hideaway in a howf for a few days and reset your mindset.
They have something called a Muckle Howf, or Big Meeting Place – a luxury holiday cottage with hot tub, sauna and whisky lounge which sounds like a great place to stay but of course I’m more interested in the weird and wonderful, not just the wonderful.
The first to catch my attention is the Tree Howf – a fairytale treehouse with wood-tiled towers and suspended walkway, wrapped around an enormous Ash tree. The setting is glorious, the design unique and the need to stay, strong. It’s got elements of a fancy dovecot, the solidity of a house, the imagination of an Enid Blyton book, set high up to see out across the farmland and joyfully watch the really photogenic animals roaming around; highland cattle (‘heelin coos’!) worthy of painted portraits, fluffy little goats (‘wee goots’!), birds and wildlife galore. But there’s plenty to be seen on the inside, too, if you’re a fan of the Arts and Crafts movement, as the emphasis is on quality craftsmanship.
Along the road and over the hill from Tree Howf you’ll happen across a hidden-in-the-hillside pair of…Hobbit Howfs! LOTR fans rejoice! (Although I’m not sure how I’d actually react if one of my favourite orcs tried to knock down the door.)
"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the end of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort"
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
They’ve handcrafted The Burrow and Bagend, next door to each other but privately apart. It’s so beautifully done, from the big round doorways to the exposed beams and woodwork and, of course, being tucked under the blanket of grass, peeking out from the hillside like it has been there forever.
The Burrow has a red round door, Bagend is green, both with fenced off outside spaces for barbecues and sitting in the sun while whittling sticks like I imagine hobbits do.
Hidden away by the ‘lochan’ (a small inland loch/lake) is a more romantic affair, a lovely little cabin where two of you can get back to basics and stargaze to your heart’s content. Wee Howf is wee in size but big in impact. There is no electricity, no TV, no phone chargers. It’s just you and nature, candles and a barbecue, nothing to distract from the sound of silence and stars reflecting in the lake. Oh but there is also that natty little ‘burn fridge’ for the beer…
Lastly, down at the bottom of the garden, among the birds and the bees (little 80s tv reference for those in the know) is a lovely little garden house by the duck pond. What better way to appreciate a garden than to stay in one? It’s not available in the winter but does feature a wood-burner for when you’ve finished lazing by the fire-pit. This one doesn’t have its own en suite facilities, so we wouldn’t usually look twice, but they’re only 50m away and as part of Craighead, I didn’t like to leave it out as I do love a good garden stay. And this one looks particularly pretty.
So which of these unique offerings is your favourite? If you can’t choose between them, you could wait for the new offering; starting this year the owners decided they didn’t want to stop creating so are building a Cruck frame to support a super quirky Stone Howf… watch this space!