For my fella’s birthday, I whisked him away for a few days R&R to an eco retreat in south-west Scotland. To counter the inordinate number of air miles I clocked up last year, I decided to keep it green and opt for an eco-oriented, staycation instead. It’d have been greener still had we used public transport… but I wimped out and drove instead. Good job I did too, as our accommodation was set in a quiet, out-of-the-way location.
It took approximately one hundredth of a second for us to unwind and, in the words of Prefab Sprout’s lyrical genius Paddy McAloon, ‘let the stars go free’.
Situated between Castle Douglas, the official Food Town of Dumfries & Galloway, the charming Artists’ Town of Kirkcudbright (pronounced ‘kir-coo-bree’), and beneath the officially designated Dark Skies of Dumfries and Galloway lies the secluded haven that is The Waterhouse.
For a long time, eco retreats and hotels have been somewhat ‘design-challenged’ sporting sorry looking, down-in-the-mouth features. But the good news is, with a fast increasing number of architecturally-stunning, environmentally-sympathetic properties, green no longer has to mean drab.
Hand-crafted by the owners and local craftsman using timber from local and/or sustainable sources, The Waterhouse is the most well-appointed, ecologically sustainable property I’ve yet had the pleasure of staying in. Basking naked (the retreat is also naturist friendly) in the outdoor hot tub with the Milky Way wending its way through the night sky and a bottle of red to keep us company, it took approximately one hundredth of a second for us to unwind and, in the words of Prefab Sprout’s lyrical genius Paddy McAloon, ‘let the stars go free’.
Relaxing doesn’t get better than this.
Attention to detail throughout the property is second-to-none. The eco geek in me squealed with delight at the fact they use Method cleaning products (sad I know, but Method’s floor cleaner in almond leaves floors smelling nigh on lickable). I drooled over the fair trade, lambswool bedspread by Nkuku, which my fella described as looking like a ‘cool looking, recycled cardigan’. And if that wasn’t enough, eagle eyes, here, also noticed the property was furnished throughout with Matlock-based Indigo Furniture’s distinctive creations whose eco-friendly pieces are favoured by TV presenters Kate Humble, George Clarke, and Charlie Dimmock and are the height of sustainable chic: not cheap, but built to last.
But perhaps my favourite feature was the wood pellet biomass stove, which now rides high on my wish list for my dream eco home. A lover of real wood burning fires, I spent the duration cosying up by this low emission, economically-efficient alternative. The shower was solar heated (with mains back up), with the water supply to the house pumped and filtered from a well. The roof is clad with natural sedum minimising the retreat’s visual impact on the landscape, while the walls are lined and insulated with Thermafleece — better known as good ole’ sheep’s wool. Très cosy.
Being mid-winter an’ all, The Waterhouse’s magnificent gardens were still very much asleep. But in the local vicinity, spring was stirring in the shape of snowdrops and blossoms. From what I saw, however, I’m not surprised the gardens have been featured on a BBC garden programme and captured the attention of multiple gardening magazines. During the flowering months, they must look spectacular. I later discovered they’ll be open to the public on 19 June 2011 as part of the Scottish Gardens Scheme.
Our delightful hosts, Martin and Sharon, invite guests to dine with them on an informal basis if they wish. We enjoyed homemade fishcakes followed by venison pie and lashings of red wine, which went down an absolute treat. In the spirit of sustainability, all vegetables are grown within the gardens while the rest of the ingredients are sourced locally. Martin also bakes a rather mean tasting loaf of bread. We made light work of their welcome hamper which, aside from the wine, was chock full of locally sourced goodies including handmade chocolates and duck eggs the size of golf balls.
On the subject of food, in nearby Castle Douglas we enjoyed a private tour of the award-winning Sulwath Brewery led by the impassioned and knowledgeable managing director, Allen Henderson. Although not a beer drinker, my ale dodging days finally came to an end when I sampled their full-bodied, citrus-laced, Solway Mist… promptly followed by a full pint of same said amber nectar. Infused with Seville oranges and New Zealand hops, this CAMRA award-winning Champion Speciality Beer of Scotland is a drink to be savoured in a chilled glass on a warm sunny day. Moreishly delicious. If you want to eat out in Kirkcudbright (less than three miles away), Kirkpatrick’s and The Selkirk Arms are highly recommended. Award-winning Polarbites, by the harbour, also does cracking fish and chips.
Less than four hour’s leisurely drive (and that included a lengthy stop for breakfast) from Manchester, Leeds or Liverpool and with no mobile phone reception or Internet access, The Waterhouse is the ideal romantic getaway for couples or harried urbanites wishing to disconnect from the hoi polloi and reconnect with one another and a sense of inner calm.
Open year round, The Waterhouse is a self-catering property with one double bedroom and a second bedroom with two bunk-beds. Address: 1 Stockarton Cottage, Kirkcudbright, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland, DG6 4XS. Tel: 01557 331266. For bookings and availability visit The Waterhouse website at waterhousekbt.co.ukSulwath Brewery, 209 King Street, Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway. Tel: 01556 504525. For information on tours visit sulwathbrewers.co.uk
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