Beautiful scenes across Loch Lomond to Ben Lomond from the southern shore of the Loch. You can walk to this view point from the cottages, downhill through the village of Gartocharn, across the fields on the Aber Path and continue your stroll along a country lane to the shoreline footpaths leading to the Endrick Mouth, National Nature Reserve and RSPB Loch Lomond’s estate. A perfect way of exploring the local vicinity and leaving the car at home, you are likely to see deer, buzzards and geese en route but you might also be lucky to see osprey on their summer vacation. You walk through a mix of woodland and fields so there is plenty of bird life to enjoy as well as the range of flora and fauna. Last weekend our guests spent some time watching a stoat scamper in and out of the red sandstone garden wall, wildlife to enjoy form the comfort of the sofa!
We are so pleased to share the great news that we have won the Success Through Sustainability Award of the 2018 Working4Business Awards.
Great sadness to see a tree felled to the ground in an overnight storm on Christmas Eve, the branches scattered across the field, some sticking out of the soil spear-like, others disintegrated into ready made kindling for the fire. The tree was dead when we moved here 11 years ago, it has provided a home and habitat to all sort of birds and beasties, an excellent vantage point for owls and buzzards, the starting point for many a starling murmuration. However, there was never any real sense of continuing life of the trunk and branches of the tall tree at the junction of two fields. Some magnificent gothic fungi have grown on the trunk for years and, hopefully, these will continue to flourish as the tree lies prostrated on the ground. We shall tidy the strewn branches, create logs to fuel the wood burning stoves in the cottages and our own home, gather the kindling and build up wood stocks for the year ahead, but we shall also leave the larger part of the main trunk for the birds and beasties to enjoy, and for the children to play on, or just for any of us, adults and children, to sit on and watch the world go by. Sometimes we just need to stand and stare.
Earlier this year we commissioned local company Head for the Bed to create two upholstered headboards for one of the twin bedrooms in Curlew Cottage. We loved their work so much we offered to host the photoshoot for their new website. It is a really important consideration for us to support local business and we were able to work with them in selecting the perfect fabric for the bedroom in terms of colour, design and finish and, of course, the fabric has to comply with fire retardant standards. The finished products are first class and have received many positive comments from our guests.
We had the great pleasure to meet Tilly the Westie and her owners Richard & Angie Aspinall a few weeks ago. They stayed in Curlew Cottage and really enjoyed the 'wow' factor this cottage offers, they enjoyed their get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, were blown away by the style and size of the cottage and, very kindly, commented that 'it was like something from a glossy magazine on stylish living'.
Earlier this year, here at East Cambusmoon Holiday Cottages, we successfully retained our Gold Award from Green Tourism UK, their highest assessment standard. There are 60 rigorous criteria used to assess businesses in this international award scheme and Steve and I perused, studied and fretted over all of them!
The National Trust for Scotland's Geilston Gardens is about 8 miles away from us and there are many things I really like about this place. Essentially its a very small NTS property compared to many but there is such a wonderful variety of garden landscapes in a relatively small space that there is always a delight around the next corner.
Time flies by with all that sunshine keeping me outside rather than here by the laptop. Lots and lots of sunny days and the garden seems to be growing well after a slow start. Aside from the garden the sunshine has huge benefits; we've generated heaps of electricity via the solar panels and the hot water is abundant too and, to be honest, I've only just turned my mind to the veggie garden so a slow start to the season has been an inevitable consequence. One of the great things about living in Scotland is that while Spring comes more slowly than further south we do have fantastically long days through the Summer and there's plenty of time to catch up. We've planted out the rest of our potatoes (we're cultivating 3 varieties this year) as well as cauliflowers. We'll also sew some more salad leaves and quick crops, these will take a short while to come through but we've got pots of rocket and lambs lettuce to pick at which we established indoors. Away from our own patch we've been putting pots of herbs on the patios of the holiday cottages so guests can help themselves. Whilst we've popped a selection of dried herbs and spices in the kitchen of each of the cottages we know keen cooks will enjoy being able to pick their own. Plum trees have been planted at the edge of the patios so in time to come guests will be able to pick their own fruit, maybe for making a nice plum crumble for tea.
Here's an updated picture of the sitting and dining room of 4 bedroomed Curlew Cottage, there's heaps of room for families and groups to relax together and plenty of space so you don't have to be on top of each other. We've had a few guests in the cottages but there's an inevitable gap between the website being completed and the world realising we are available for bookings. So we've decided to run a great offer to encourage those who are thinking of booking a holiday to pick up the phone and make it real. More details very soon.
So here we are, two renovated holiday cottages. Sitting finely in the landscape of the southern part of Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park.
Its so very easy to forget how the buildings used to look before we started building work last May. After many months of design and feasibility work we took the plunge to renovate two very tired and long disused farm buildings and bring them back to life. When you're undertaking a renovation project its very easy, and very necessary, to be involved in the detail of how design and construction are going to work. Often there are unexpected problems, measurements on site which don't tally with drawings, work which needs doing that was never anticipated (so costing more money and more time) and so on. Sometimes you think back to what was there before but mainly, we find, that you just don't; as a function of renovations, working and family life you don't always take that step back to appreciate what is being created. Looking back at photos really reminds us of how it used to look, 12 months ago it all looked very differently. And we are happy with the outcome. Very happy and very proud.
One of the things which constantly changes in its detail but never changes in its power to soothe and calm, uplift and invigorate is the view to the north of Ben Lomond, the hills and the Loch.
The Old Dairy (sleeps 4 in two bedrooms) and Curlew Cottage (sleeps 8 in four bedrooms).
I keep saying 'yes, we're nearly there' to friends and family who enquire after the holiday cottages progress and it is true we are. We've tested the showers, the kitchens and the sofas. We know the heating and hot water system works, as its been operational for months now and it really feels very pleasant in our two holiday cottages. We know the solar panels are producing electricity and hot water and in the past few weeks of fine early Spring we're very pleased with their contribution of renewable energy to the cottages; on some days we have been exporting power to the national grid, and that is terrific.By the end of the week we'll have a website to launch and I'm very excited about that too, as well as being desperate to share it with the world.In the meantime I'm chasing my tail getting the pile of rubble near the gate cleared away, the driveway finished and checking we've got everything to make our holiday guests happy. That's why I keep saying 'nearly there'. The cottages are ready to welcome guests and even have beds ready to sleep in, the external areas are less kempt but give me a week, plus a tractor and trailer it'll all look much better. We are hoping to take bookings for Easter and the April school holidays and the website will give all the relevant information. For anyone considering an early booking please feel free to give me a call on 0790 509 3997 and I shall be happy to chat through your requirements. We have had some guests staying on an informal let in Curlew Cottage, which very comfortably sleeps 8, and today I received a testimonial comment which was so so nice to receive (unsolicited!) and which I would like to share with you......
"Stayed in the lovely Curlew cottage recently with friends and had a lovely time. The views were incredible from all the living areas and with the wood burning stove, comfy sofas and flow through the great kitchen and dining area, I was hard pushed to want to leave. Helpful hosts, a well thought out kitchen, access to fresh laid eggs and enough bathrooms to lounge around having a soak for hours – what more could one need!
A flurry of snow, beautifully clear skies, sunshine and a hurricane all in 24 hours. Work on site with the two holiday cottages has progressed well and we're pleased to dust off the blog to show you some updated photos.
The view here of the cottages from the east shows the two bedroomed stone building on the left of the photo and the four bedroomed one on the right. The larger cottage is finished partly in white render and will also have larch clad areas on the unfinished section you can see. The brown material visible is Pavatherm which is a compressed wood fibre board used as an external insulation material. That area will be larch clad which will age fairly quickly to a mellow silvery grey. The materials used fit very well with the local vernacular and have also been used on our own house. The red sandstone is well over 150 years old and is typically 2feet thick. The official naming of the two bedroomed cottage...
Last evening I had a lovely walk up Conic Hill on the eastern side of Loch Lomond. A quick midweek blast of exercise, some fresh air and a good opportunity to catch up on chat with friends. As summer winds down it is now getting dark around 9 o'clock but the trip up Conic is short steep hike from the Balmaha car park, ideal if you've got a spare hour or two. Last week we walked up as a family in glorious sunshine with a picnic so took ages longer and spent a decent amount of time enjoying the immense views in every direction. On the way down yesterday we met a few local coos, lovely large bulky Highland Cattle, a perfect Scottish scene.
A whole week ago now my friend and I were joined by another keen soul and enjoyed a splendid day on the West Highland Way. As we are walking this long distance footpath in stages day 3 was undertaken as a day trip - luckily its close enough to home for easy transport either end. The final four days of the walk to Fort William are planned for September when we are hoping for fine weather! Unfortunately we in the west of Scotland have had a wet May and June but last Monday's walk up the east side of Loch Lomond was blessed with warmth and a dry day. As we set off from Rowardennan the views were typically wonderful of the Loch and the hills, such a great vista. Familiar territory but changing views and different perspectives gave me such a great feeling.
The monster concrete pump pouring the floor slabs for the two adjacent cottages, this covers the underfloor heating which is attached to the steel mesh. With the heating encased in the concrete slab this provides a high level of thermal mass to stabilise the internal temperature of the properties. We used the same principle on the main house which we built 3 1/2 years ago and it really works well, alongwith the high levels of insulation and air-tightness.
So here we are starting a new and exciting adventure at East Cambusmoon. Three years ago we moved into our house, beautifully designed and immensely energy efficient, see here. We adopted a very low energy approach to the design and the construction detailing which focussed on significant levels of insulation, a high standard of air-tightness, strong passive solar design and a ground source heat pump for the heating and hot water, supported by a small PV array and mechanical heat recovery and ventilation. When we were at the design stage 4 years ago this approach was not widely taken but, even in the short time since we moved in, more people and architects are looking more broadly at how homes and buildings are managed environmentally. We joined the AECB and adopted their Silver Standard for energy use and carbon emissions. In truth the house has far out-performed this standard and even in the last particularly cold winter was warm all day every day at very low cost.
Today we joined the M74 Bike n hike ride along the new link road joining the M74 to the south side of the Kingston Bridge section of the M8. The contractors opened up a stretch of the new road to cyclists, runners, wheelchair users and families with kids on scooters, in buggies and in trailers to raise funds for a combination of 8 charities. Good PR on their part, nice bit of fundraising and good fun for us.
Day 2 (yesterday, Sunday) - an earlyish start of 8am for us, not because we're awfully diligent but Kath's husband's offer of a lift to where we ended day1 fitted with tee-off time at Strathendrick golf course. The forecast for the afternoon was heavy rain so it seemed like an ideal chance to get a few miles under our belts before the rain set in. Weak sunshine and very light showers barely penetrated the Garabhan Forest, the first section of today's walk, but it was lovely to be amongst the silence and calm of the trees and clearly hear bird song as we warmed up the muscles for the 15 mile section to Rowardennan.
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