Get face to face with the rugged beauty of Scotland with a stay in this astonishing eco-lodge
Croft 103 delivers a very different kind of luxury lodging to the UK's most northern destination
At the UK's northern-most point, where the landscape is as ruthless as it is breath-taking, at this time of year remote villages are braced for minus temperatures and a meagre six hours of daylight. In these parts, human life is sparse, and its footprint minimal in the face of the towering, snow-capped mountains, vast lochs, wind-swept beaches and deer-strewn forests.
It is an untouched and magical land that I had the fortune of visiting, made even more spectacular by our stay at Croft 103: a luxury, low-impact self-catering lodge perched on the shores of Loch Eriboll in North West Sutherland, Scotland.
Our night-time arrival meant the unparalleled natural beauty of our surroundings was unknown to us until the following morning, as we pushed back the heavy wool curtains of our bedroom that faced out onto the water with floor-to-ceiling glass windows.
Our first morning was spent settling in, admiring the features of the Croft, where traditional craftsmanship meets luxe, contemporary design with standout features including poured concrete floors (complete with very welcome underfloor heating) and corrugated, wood-panelled aluminium ceiling. A design-forward, urban sensibility is evident not only in the statement furniture and state-of-the-art appliances, but in the smaller details: a Sweaty Betty yoga mat; Neal’s Yard hand soaps, Jo Malone diffusers and copies of Kinfolk thoughtfully provided for fireside reading. Equally prevalent was a sense of the local, found in the plush tartan rugs, locally made candles, and a handwritten welcome note directing us to the nearest fishmongers and grocery stores (which certainly came in handy for an ice-cream dash later that evening).
With only a few hours of daylight ahead of us, and blustery wet weather ruling out the hikes we’d hoped for, we took to the road, and explored the elemental landscape via a coastal route which is ranked among the most beautiful in Europe. A few hours were thus spent navigating unforgiving mountainous roads, and feeling increasingly grateful for the dry and warmth of the car as a dramatic weather front loomed.
Back at the Croft with the wood-burning stove lit, we prepared to settle in for a cosy evening of steaming bowls of bolognese, a glass or two of Chianti, and an episode (or four) of Planet Earth. With no risk of being spotted - the nearest human population is some miles away - we were free to roam the length of the glass-walled lodge in our plush towelled robes, and at liberty to bathe in the outdoor tub, perched just outside the Croft with magnificent, uninterrupted views of the lake and its surrounding peaks.
From empty beaches to historic cities, romantic getaways can take many forms yet it’s often believed that the further you travel, the more magnificent it gets. But after experiencing the wild, prehistoric landscape of northern Scotland from the ultra cosy and sophisticated refuge of Croft 103, nestled between sea loch and mountain, I’ll be looking no further when it comes to booking my next weekend escape for two.