Dawn at the gate lodge

Guest Blog; The Secret Kingdom of Kingairloch

15 August 2018

The Shaw family recently got in touch requesting to add a post to our blog, needless to say, we were delighted to receive such an incredible article. The Shaw’s have been coming to Kingairloch since 2009, with each holiday creating special memories for them. For us, the testament of what we do at Kingairloch is the fact that we have such a high rate of returning visitors. We hope you enjoy reading why the Shaw family choose to return to Kingairloch year after year.

“The Secret Kingdom of Kingairloch”

 Our holidays to Kingairloch start early; very early.  We creep out the house around 4am, quiet as we can so not to wake the neighbours, carefully pulling the car doors shut and settling the dogs amongst all our luggage and supplies. Although still dark, and with a long journey ahead, the excitement is always palpable and the mood always high, with the trip up to Scotland from our home in Somerset becoming as much a part of the experience as the time spent in the Highlands itself.

We applaud as we cross over the border; stop at the same little spots en route for a cling-filmed sandwich and stretch of the legs; get serious and silent as we navigate around Glasgow and its hectic multi-lane motorway; sing along to the same atmospheric music that reminds us of previous visits, and gaze in silent wonder as we skirt round Loch Lomond and travel through surely the most spectacular scenery in the country.  And then, at last, we board the Corran Ferry – the marker that we are almost there. Corran Ferry

Crossing The Corran Ferry, it’s not long until you reach Kingairloch

As soon as we cross over to the Morvern Peninsula, the wildlife spotting officially begins.  On our very first trip to Kingairloch, as a couple in our twenties in an unusually warm June 2009, we pulled off into a lay-by on the A861 having spotted some seals basking on some rocks.  This has now become a ritual, repeated on every visit, with our binoculars stored within easy reach in the car for such a purpose. 

Basking seals ion Loch Linnhe

Seals are often seen basing on rocks in Loch Linnhe

I first found Kingairloch online and by chance when searching for a spot that would not only satisfy my wish for comfortable, attractive accommodation in amongst beautiful surroundings but also offer my (now) husband the seclusion he seeks and nature he loves.  We booked to stay in Seaview Cottage, a perfect, remote property for two on the edge of the loch. I remember craning my neck as we finally turned off into Kingairloch Estate trying to spot it after such a long journey.  I hadn’t appreciated just how much further there still was to travel, past fields and woods, steep-sided cliffs and rocky shorelines where the feral goats graze, along a single-track road adjacent to the water where you hold your breath and hope not to meet another car, past the pretty white cottages and Church that cling to the bay, up over the hill and then down past the Boathouse.  It is breath-taking.

The Kingairloch Church

Skirting up the hill behind Kingairloch Church

We were transported over to Seaview by 4×4 and had the most idyllic week in glorious weather exploring our new surroundings.  That first morning, we spotted a pair of otters swimming directly in front of the house and knew we’d found a little piece of heaven.  This became something of a trend, where we had a pattern of only seeing the otters on the first morning of our holiday and then spending countless hours searching for them again with little luck.

Swimming otterSeeing an otter swimming past the cottage was such a delight

A lot of things have changed since that first magical visit.  We got married, bought a house of our own, got a dog, secured promotions…and have returned to Kingairloch a further four times to date, bringing in-laws and their dog to join us in the magic in a larger property, The Gate Lodge. So now Kingairloch isn’t just a special place for us, but also for them too.  

The pet friendly Gate Lodge

Doggies enjoying the fire at The Gate Lodge

The four legged members of the family make the most of their holidays too!

And our traditions have become theirs – a half-day visit to Fort William just to pick up our provisions; at least one special dinner at The Boathouse restaurant per stay; long walks around the estate, climbing hills to get the best views; fussing over the beautiful white horse that grazes in the field and his miniature pony friend – constants over the years; dropping in to the beautiful Garbh Eilean Wildlife Hide to count the herons on the island, seals in Loch Sunart and sea eagles soaring in the distance; day-trippingto Mull where we’ll explore Calgary and grab some fish and chips in colourful Tobermory; journey to Fort Augustus in search of Nessie, perhaps a Distillery Tour to make my father-in-law’s day.  Whatever the weather, we are never short of things to do.

Niki having a paddle with her labradorGoing for a paddle in front of the Kingairloch Church with my labrador is always on the to-do list

Taking in the views of Kingairloch

Sometimes just sitting and watch the tide change is all you need to do to clear the head

On more recent trips we have ventured to Ardnamurchan Lighthouse on the most westerly point on the peninsula in gale force winds and journeyed to the stunning Sanna Bay with its white shell sand and turquoise waters for picnics on the beach.

Enjoying the Singing Sands

Another find, especially perfect for dog walkers, has been Kentra Bay, or the Singing Sands, emerging dramatically and in splendour after a long walk through dark, scented pine forests.

Walking through pine forests

Heavenly dog walks through the woods

Although we have enjoyed Kingairloch is almost all weathers, bar the snow, our favourite time to stay is the autumn when the colours dazzle, the wood burner is on, and the red deer rutting season is still in full swing.  In the early evenings, we’ll listen to the low bellows and grunts echo across the loch, and late at night have our sleep disturbed by an agitated stag and his little harem of hinds directly beneath our bedroom window in the long front garden of Gate Lodge, only just visible in the moonlight.

 A lone stag passing in front of The Gate Lodge

A lone stag passing in front of The Gate Lodge

Each time we head out of the estate, we go into ‘safari’ mode, seeing who will be the first to spot something of interest – red deer in the distance, an otter feeding by the loch edge, a seal darting in the water, a golden eagle or two soaring above us – and we are never disappointed. A highlight of a recent trip was my accidental disturbing of a large male otter whilst out walking the dogs very early one morning to the front of Gate Lodge – I suddenly heard this loud hissing sound from the calm water and, to my delight, had the otter preceded to spend quite some time keeping an eye on me (the dogs could not have been less interested), allowing me to get a few photos in the blue morning light.

A pair of otters seen at Kingairloch in front of The Gate Lodge.

Spotting a pair of otters is unbelievably lucky!

We have always loved to travel and have been fortunate enough to stay in some amazing places all around the world over our years together, but nowhere has that pull of Kingairloch and nowhere do we feel most at home.  Where else can you watch elusive pine martins feed from your kitchen window, wake up to the most spectacular sunrises, or have such vast, safe, glorious surroundings almost to yourself? It is a rare find, a secret kingdom, my favourite place, where you need not leave the estate at all to make memories that will last a lifetime.  

Sunrise from The Gate Lodge

A blissful sunrise seen from The Gate Lodge.

Niki Shaw, July 2018″

We are so very grateful for Niki’s kind words and images. Her description of getting into “safari” mode is such a great way to describe the sense of adventure and surprise that you will come across every day whilst staying at Kingairloch. We look forward to welcoming the Shaws back at Kingairloch in the near future.

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