Teetering along the aptly named River Glass, the glen before us exhibits a complex palette of auburn hues; reflections of the highlands shimmer in the coal-coloured waters. Pulling into the scenic grounds of our stay, my partner – who, by the way, is ever so proudly Scottish (have you ever met a Scot who’s not?) – spots a magnificent red stag standing before us. In a fleeting moment, lengthened by the excitement of witnessing one of Scotland’s most iconic mammals, it pauses and turns, fixing its beady black eyes upon us. I can’t help but deliberate if it somehow knew what we had planned for dinner.
I, of course, know all about the first bronze age cabins and how the Swedes took the idea to North America during the years of colonialism and such, but needed a refresher, so it was time to break out the internet. A log cabin is a simple form of shelter comprised of roughly-stacked tree-trunks, joined together with interlocking notches. I was intrigued to learn that the cabins at Eagle Brae adhere to the same basic principle. The cabin itself is constructed from western red cedar, which originates from British Columbia. The hallmark characteristics of this reddish-brown tree are its girth and natural durability, which led to Native Americans coining it ‘The Tree of Life’.
All the work has been carried out by the master log-smiths at Pioneer Log Homes, who you may recognise from the popular US TV show Timber Kings. Quite miraculously, each log is carved, fitted and tagged by hand before being internationally shipped and reassembled on-site. It’s hard to deny that Eagle Brae really does deliver an authentic experience. Strong cabin game.
Nestled on the hill, with unhindered views of the glen beneath, each lodge is named in Latin after a bird of prey. We had the pleasure of staying in ‘Butuo’ as I’m sure you know translates to buzzard. At less than an hour’s drive from Inverness Airport, there is a total of ten cabins to choose from, three of which are brand spanking new for 2019.
It certainly caters to the upmarket eco-trend, boasting impressive credentials like being completely carbon-free. As you crank up the underfloor heating, you’ll be relieved to hear it is at no cost to the environment, as all the energy is generated on-site by a hydroelectric dam. I recommend taking the half-hour trail to the top to see where your crystal-clear drinking water is coming from and to enjoy the picture-postcard view. Don’t forget snacks for the perfectly placed picnic table half-way up.
Inside the cabin awaits a handy boot room, which is a thoughtful addition to any outdoor retreat. The open-plan living-kitchen-dining area adjoins the first of two sizeable bedrooms; the same rustic charm continues throughout. Once opened, the westerly-facing French doors reveal a secluded decking area, ideal for al fresco dining in the warmer months. Given the right conditions, you may even be presented with the opportunity to spot the elusive Northern Lights.
I was equally impressive with the interior. It’s like a Scotsman, Canadian and an Indian walked into a distillery and had a long conversation that concluded in Eagle Brae. The bannisters of the staircase are adorned with ornate Himalayan hand-carvings influenced by both Celtic and Indian tradition. This audacious mix of styles is a recurring motif throughout.
A comfortable set of leather sofas surround the log burner, forming the crux of the room. We spent our evenings cooking up banquets worthy of Mary Queen of Scots herself, followed up with a dram and board games as we relished in our lodge’s unique ambience.
On the first floor, there is a multifunctioning living space comprised of a small office and three charming single beds hollowed out into the log walls. With individual privacy curtains, they should be a great hit with kids and grown-up kids alike. Then there is an additional bedroom with en-suite. The freestanding bath and sizeable walk-in shower are perfect for those pampering sessions after a long day out exploring the countryside. A handy feature after walking so many miles is the ability to book in-house spa, massage and therapeutic treatments. How could you resist Gerard’s Glycolic Acid Facial Peel?
The open-plan kitchen is well equipped with high quality appliances that will impress all but the most experienced chef. There was, however, one niggling problem: where was the coffee machine? A percolator? Even a lonely cafetiere would have been better than the sachets of gag-inducing powder left in the pot. When will people realise that small touches like this go a long way in today’s competitive market.
I absolutely recommend the online concierge service. It gave us both the opportunity to browse and pre-order a wonderful selection of produce from locally sourced game to scrumptious local blends of whisky, all available at the touch of a button. We ordered in succulent cuts of wild red venison to make a stew and washed it down with the complimentary Black Isle ales; completing the quintessential highland experience. Just don’t watch Bambi before, unless that’s your jam.
One morning, as I sat with a cup of tea looking out over Loch Affric, the serendipitous song of a tiny bird carried my thoughts to a place of contemplation. The vista stretched so far into the distance it fused itself with the morning sky. The appeal of Eagle Brae is not just in the quality of the hospitality, but in its proximity to vast quantities of natural splendour. Venture outside and you will be rewarded with a plethora of activities destined to fulfil the needs of even the most adventurous of us. For example, you might decide to give dog sledding or deer stalking a go. Once you’ve finished with your day and you’re sat with a cigar on the decking of your highland lodge, it’s easy to see why some consider Scotland to be the most beautiful country in the world.
To make a reservation:
T: 01463 761301