Alexander House, Auchterarder, Perthshire
Two converted horseboxes, Thistle and Juniper, have been added to the collection of self-catering and glamping accommodation at the Alexander House estate in Perthshire. The whole place, which sleeps 25, is often rented for weddings and events, but each component – including the wings of the main house and two yurts – is available individually too, plus there’s a heated indoor pool, play areas and a trampoline. The horseboxes have their own hot tubs and are tucked away among stands of scots pine trees in the grounds, which have compelling views of the Highlands and Sidlaw Hills. Kayaking and fishing trips can be arranged, along with visits to the fancy Gleneagles Hotel for meals, golf and spa days if you’re feeling flash. One of many great local hikes leads to Glen Devon, with a stop, and an ale or two, at the Tormaukin Inn, a tartan-bedecked, fire-warmed 18th-century retreat in the Ochil Hills.
• Each sleeps 2 adults and 2 children, from £300 for 2 nights, alexanderhousescotland.com
Kilmartin Castle, Lochgilphead, Argyll and Bute
Surely one of the coolest castle conversions ever, Kilmartin dates from 1550, when Mary, Queen of Scots was on the throne, but features the sort of design touches you’d find in a sceney bar in Leeds or Shoreditch – modern art, industrial lighting, copper fittings and wild fabrics. This formidable tower house may look austere from the outside, but inside it’s all warmth and fun. Low lighting and exposed stone walls and passages create a moody atmosphere, livened up by wood-burners and colourful rugs, and cosseting luxuries such as walk-in rain showers, deep copper bathtubs and posh Stag EKG kettles. It might be hard to drag yourself away, but this unspoiled stretch of the west coast is packed with seafood shacks, pubs, sailing lochs, castles, amazing hiking trails and ancient standing stones to explore.
• The castle usually operates as a B&B (doubles from £190) but is available for exclusive use too, with space for 10 people in 5 rooms from £580-£880 a night (£1,480 at Christmas), hostunusual.com
Peanmeanach Bothy, Ardnish peninsula, Highlands
So remote is this bothy that it takes two hours of kayaking or trekking to reach it, in a gobsmacking location on the west coast’s Ardnish peninsula, a few strides from the water’s edge. After pulling your vessel up the pale sands, unload your provisions into the century-old, green-roofed cottage, formerly the schoolhouse of a now deserted settlement. Simple antique and upcycled furniture and camp beds bring just enough comfort for a few cosy nights in the wilderness, warmed by the logburner and the odd tot under the stars. With 3,500 acres to roam unfettered, no neighbours nearby and free trout fishing in the hill lochs, a stay here gives a thrilling feeling of freedom, where you might spy deer and white-tailed eagles as you run about the hills. There’s no electricity or running water, and you have to bring your own bedding and supplies, but that’s part of the magic. Water comes from a stream and has to be boiled before use; Loch Ailort, a sea loch, is the bath; and even the accommodation website admits that “midges can be a pain in July and August on a damp day” – but what an adventure.
• Sleeps six, from £310 for 7 nights or £80 for 2 nights, available May-October, details of how to get there provided on booking, independentcottages.co.uk
The Five Turrets, Selkirk, Scottish Borders
A pair of fairytale castle turrets top off this Scottish baronial-style house, built in 1870. Unusual features at the Five Turrets continue inside, with a mezzanine library stacked with hundreds of books above the vast open living space (pictured), and a piano room, perfect for an evening belting out a few tunes. A new decked garden area overlooks the hills and the Ettrick valley, which is veined by hiking, biking and horse riding trails. Also on the doorstep, as well as the pubs and bars of Selkirk, are the Yarrow valley’s fabulous hiking country, Bowhill House – a regal Georgian mansion with woodlands and an adventure playground – and Saint Mary’s loch, which is the largest in the Borders.
• Sleeps 8, from £136-£243 a night, stayonedegree.com
East Gatehouse Lodge, Crieff, Perthshire
Renting a whole stately home or castle might be a stretch – both for your legally allowed group size and for your pocket – but the next best thing is the gatehouse to a grand pile. East Gatehouse Lodge, which has guarded Monzie Castle and its 400-acre estate since the 19th century, has been reincarnated as a neat and quietly well-decorated holiday rental. Beneath the imposing turrets of this gothic lodge, octagonal rooms with pale pink walls and white woodwork are made cosy with Middle Eastern rugs and sheepskins. The bathroom features an original Edwardian slipper bath nabbed from the castle, and there’s a spiral stone staircase through the middle to remind you where you are. Through the bedroom windows, views of sheep fields and hills beckon you to explore and hike, and those staying for a week get an exclusive tour of the castle. Crieff has drawn holidaymakers since Victorian times, when the country’s early wellness obsessives came for hydropathic treatments at the spa, which is still going as the Crieff Hydro Hotel. These days they’re more likely to come for the art galleries and growing crop of interesting restaurants and food stores in town.
• Sleeps 4, from £145-£250 a night, coolstays.com
The Dairy at Denend, Aberdeenshire
As glamping themes go, “1920s mobile milking system” is probably not one you’ve seen before. But it is done with aplomb in the newest two-bedroom wooden cabin at Boutique Farm Bothies, on a working farm near Huntly in Aberdeenshire. A sign that says “moo” hung on a stone farm building is the introduction, and inside are seats made from milk churns, a collection-jar chandelier, lots of corrugated metal wall and roof panels, and a hot tub designed to look like a milk tank on the wraparound sun deck. Among the dairy-free details are hammocks, a copper bathtub and a snazzy vintage larder cocktail bar. Spend days exploring the beaches of the Aberdeenshire and Moray coast, the distilleries and tasting rooms of the Whisky Trail, fishing rivers, biking trails and castles, then head back to chew the cud.
• Sleeps 4, from £420 for 2 nights, canopyandstars.co.uk
Lanrick Treehouses, near Doune, Perthshire
For a bit of a treat, perhaps after a basic stay in a bothy or on a campsite, you could put yourself up – way up – between the branches in a luxury wooden cabin at Lanrick Treehouses, which opened last autumn north-west of Stirling. Five high-spec hideaways – each with a super king bed (plus fold-out sofa bed for kids, £80 extra a night) and a woodburner – are raised on stilts with sun decks built around the trunk. It’s a bit like staying in a particularly comfortable bird hide – treecreepers, nuthatches and willow warblers are frequently spotted among the branches. The cabins each have their own kitchen, but there’s also a riverside barbecue hut for visitors to borrow, or you can order in meals from a local farm shop in advance. Fly-fishing for trout and salmon is available between February and October, and the mountains and lochs of the Trossachs are close by for other adventures.
• Sleep 2, from £480-£640 for 2 nights, lanricktreehouses.co.uk
Milovaig House, Isle of Skye
Even for universally glorious Skye, the location of Milovaig House is a good one. This newly spruced-up 19th-century crofter’s place on the eastern edge of the island looks across Loch Pooltiel to the island’s mammoth sea cliffs, and the Outer Hebrides are just visible on the horizon. Other exciting things to spot here while relaxing by the fire pit include whales, dolphins and white-tailed eagles; on clear winter’s nights, you could see the swirling northern lights, perhaps from the wood-burning hot tub. Somebody with taste has clearly taken charge of the Nordic-influenced interiors: a high-ceilinged white sun room, pictured, has floor-to-ceiling windows and a telescope and is hung with black and white photography. Sheepskin rugs and bundles of dried flowers complement designer wooden furniture, and there’s a sleek black kitchen and posh bathrooms with roll-top baths. You’ll have to walk a couple of miles to the nearest shop and cafe in Glendale, but why bother when you can buy fish from local boat owners at Meanish Pier, a five-minute walk away?
• Sleeps 6, from £150 a night, sandandstoneescapes.com
Highlands Cabin, near Ullapool, Ross-shire
With its slanted roof and black timber frame, the new sleek Highlands Cabin, near Ullapool on the west coast, really stands out. Inside, a contemporary blonde wood kitchen has a little bar seating area and everything you need to fix meals. From the curvy wooden chairs on the decking area, guests can look out for dolphin pods and seals playing in Loch Broom, whose name, I’m afraid, means “loch of rain showers” in Scottish Gaelic – nae matter, the decking is covered. It’s a homely haven amid the rampant wilderness of Wester Ross, and local attractions include Inverpolly national nature reserve, home to pine martens, buzzards and wildcats; dramatic Corrieshalloch Gorge; and tropical-looking Inverewe Garden, overlooking stunning Loch Ewe.
• Sleeps 4, from £141-£182 a night, kiphideaways.com
Argaty Cottage, Perthshire
A large number of red kites swoop over the Argaty Estate, thanks to work done by the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage to reintroduce them to this part of Stirlingshire. The owners of this working farm have been involved in the programme, providing Central Scotland’s only red kite feeding station here on their land for the past 20 years. Visitors to the farm can observe the once-rare birds by booking ranger-led visits to a hide at feeding time (£7 adult, £3 child). Other wildlife experiences include watching red squirrels from another hide, summer pond-dipping sessions and dragonfly walks, and ATV buggy rides across the farm land. Now visitors can sleep over too, at a new self-catering pad on the estate, Argaty Cottage, which has a logburner, neat grey interiors and its own garden. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park is 17 miles away, and medieval Doune Castle, with a courtyard and a great hall (featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Game of Thrones and Outlander) is just a mile away, in the historic village of Doune.
• Sleeps 6, from £110 a night (there is a current offer of £660 for 7 nights), argatycottage.com