Now here is something a little different from our normal fare. Owner of the Tent Lodge Estate cottages, Richard Nelson, decided to expand his fine portfolio of Lake District based cottages by acquiring a delightful old mill house set in the Scottish Borders of Dumfries and Galloway. Having spent a weekend at the cottage ourselves, Clare and I could see why they fell so much in love with both the property and surrounding landscape, so much so we agreed to feature it on our website.
Mill House lies about a half mile from the little village of Crossmichael and three miles from the town of Castle Douglas. Crossmichael is a typical small Scottish village offering a small local shop and a friendly inn where the food is excellent. Castle Douglas has become a popular base for visitors who wish to explore the Scottish lowlands and has just about all you will need. From supermarkets to fashion, cafes, inns and restaurants this little town serves the local community well. Highly recommended, judging by the reviews, is Carlo's Italian restaurant on King Street.
The big attraction is the surrounding countryside. Crossmichael sits by the southern basin of Loch Ken, a nine mile body of fresh water which is fed by the Water of Ken and issues into the River Dee. The loch is used recreationally for water skiing, sailing and, noted as one of Scotland's most prolific Pike and coarse fishing waters, it is designated an important wetland site and waterfowl habitat. For sailing there is the Galloway Sailing Centre and for a bit of adrenaline rush there is the Loch Ken Water Ski and Wakeboard school.
For me the most memorable part of our trip was the landscape. To the north of Loch Ken lies the The Galloway Forest Park. Stretching from seashore to mountaintops, the park has an outstanding variety of wildlife and scenery. Red and Roe Deer are readily seen, along with Red Squirrels, Black Grouse and Otters, and above the locks and mountains soar large birds of prey, famously Red Kite over Loch Ken.
Managed by the Forestry Commission, this is Britain's largest forest park and offers spectacular views and a diversity of dramatic scenery. Set in some three hundred square miles of wild beauty it offers a mix of tranquil valleys, heather-clad hills, rugged rock faces, where along with burns cascading down magestic slopes and the grandeur of the mountains the whole is rightly known as the highlands of the lowlands.
Throughout the park there are visitor centres where you can obtain information on walks and trails, scenic car routes and activities, notably of which it is famous for its mountain bike trails.
If all this is not enough, south of Crossmichael lies the Solway Firth and the Irish Sea. All along this coast line are bays and beaches to explore, villages to sample local fare and views back across the water to Cumbria.
A final note about this area is that it has been designated as the first UK Dark Sky Park. This means that because of the profound lack of background light it makes the area worthy of recognition and such a spectacular place to look at nature. The area is so remote that on a cloudless night it offers an unrivalled view of the heavens: a rare chance to see shooting stars and the distant Andromeda galaxy, the aurora borealis and stellar nurseries - fantatsic.
Richard purchased the house, along with the old mill building opposite, back in 2008. He has completely renovated and modernised the cottage, which now offers superb accommodation for self catering holidays.
Approached by a narrow lane from Crossmichael, the cottage sits alone in spacious grounds and surrounded only by rolling hills and meadows. From the front entrance you step into a small hall. From here you enter the large sitting room with solid oak floors and comfortable sofas set around a log burning stove, perfect to tuck up and relax after a days exploration.
From the sitting room a few steps lead down into the large kitchen - dining room. Contemporary in style, it offers all mod cons to produce fine meals. French doors open out onto one of the patio terraces, where in summer you can spill out to enjoy a drink and dine alfresco.
Back to the hall and you have the master bedroom with doors opening out to small conservatory. There is a sleek shower room that can be either en-suite or shared by all. Finally downstairs is the master bathroom with bath, basin and wc.
Upstairs and you have the two other bedrooms. One a double the other a twin, they are both very comfortable and have lovely views from the windows set into the pitched ceilings.
The garden is a delight. Part terrace, part sloping lawn, there are shrubs and fruit trees offering plenty of places to relax with views over the meadow to distant hills and woodland. The peace is perfect, with a *beck that runs by the side of the garden and you are likely to see much wild life close up. Visitors to the garden may well include deer and badgers and, whilst we were there, a Red Kite sat on the wall happily eyeing us up.
All in all this is a place suited for both families to get away and relax, spending some time exploring, cooking, reading and talking, also for couples who want a romantic break, maybe doing just simply nothing but watching the wildlife and, on a clear night, sit out star gaze - perfect!
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