Home Away From Home
Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? I can tell you, that this description in no way conveys the true beauty and tranquility of Shingle Lodge.
We stayed in the cottage last year, with the dogs, and had a glorious week of sunshine, walks, mountain biking, delicious food, peace, tranquility, star-gazing and watching the ever-changing sea views. We couldn’t wait to head back this year, for another week’s stay.
I won’t lie, the journey, from London, seems to go on forever and ever, especially with the additional stops to let the dogs stretch their legs. As we turned off the M74, at Gretna Green onto the A75 we thought, “great, we’re nearly there” but no, it’s another two-hour drive away, and this seems to go on forever and ever too!
When we finally turn off the main road onto the single track lane leading down to Knockinaam, I started to feel a sense of calm. Looking down the hill into the grounds, I spied the greenest lawn and the sparkling sea and (if you are lucky like us) blue, blue sky. We parked up, got out of the car, I breathed in the salty sea air and let out a big sigh, it felt like we had arrive home.
A Warm Welcome
Both times we have been to Knockinaam we were greeted by the owner, David. He took us down to Shingle Lodge to show us where everything was, how it all worked and make sure we had everything we needed. A really lovely touch is the ‘welcome basket’ which includes, milk, eggs, butter, bread, home-made jam and marmalade (if you are anything like us, this will be finished before you leave!) and home-made shortbread, which is delicious! There is also complimentary tea, coffee and sugar in the kitchen, along with cleaning products etc too.
All staff are very welcoming and friendly with nothing being too much trouble for them. If you are lucky, you might get a special hello from Winnie, the owners’ border terrier, she’s a cutie pie and is often spotted wandering around the grounds, she may even pop into the Lodge to check you are settling in well.
If you didn’t meet the owners when you arrived, then you will at some point during your stay, as they are often around the house or gardens during the day, or in the evening at dinner (if you go to the main house for dinner, which we highly recommend you do, and for breakfast too!). They will help you with any questions you have, ideas for places to visit and organise activities for you, they really do want you to enjoy your stay with them.
This contemporary, recently built cottage is a juxtaposition to its neighbour, Knockinaam Lodge, a Victorian, small boutique country house hotel. However, the cottage is not lacking in any way, it gives the perfect choice of being self-catering or enjoying the luxury of the main house and all it has to offer. You can sit in the living area of the Lodge, or out on the terrace, stare out to sea and feel like you are the only people there.
Shingle Lodge has a spacious open plan living room/kitchen/dining area, with a flat screen tv, a dvd player, games and books, as well as a log burner for those chillier Scottish nights. The kitchen is a good size, modern, stylish and very well equipped, with everything you could need; dishwasher, microwave, oven/hob and a Nespresso coffee maker amongst the usual kitchen paraphernalia. The living area has a comfy, tweed covered sofa and two brown leather chairs, the whole interior design has a Scandinavian/Scottish feel, it’s calming, cosy, comfortable and chic.
The bedrooms carry on this feel, with a super-king bed in one and the other can be made up as two twin beds or a double bed. Both have en suite bathrooms, with soft, fluffy towels and bathrobes. The bed linen is luxurious Egyptian cotton, crisp and white. Should you be brave enough to venture into the Irish Sea there are beach towels available too!
The house and cottage are set in a natural bay with cliffs and woods behind them and the sea to the front. The gardens are lush and green, even though the rabbits do their best to destroy all the gardener’s hard work from dusk to dawn! I was surprised to see so many tropical plants, and we were told that this part of Scotland enjoys a milder climate because of the gulf stream. I’m not sure whether this is true, but the range of plants and the weather we have experienced, would seem to suggest that it is!
On the private beach, when the tide is out there are rocks to clamber over, little pools to explore, or you can just sit and watch the oyster-catchers and sea ducks pecking around on the beach and listen to the sound of the calming sea.
There’s a children’s play area and a large vegetable garden, often the chefs can be spied picking from the garden or heading off to forage for something to add into that evening’s dinner menu.
Around the boat house there are places to sit and indulge in a pre-dinner G&T (or two!), as you enjoy the fresh sea air and the setting sun.
Plenty To See and Do
Dumfries and Galloway is an often missed part of lowland Scotland, as people tend to head on upwards towards the big cities, or further on to the lochs and highlands. However, if you turn left at Gretna Green you will find glorious, green countryside with rolling hills, stunning beaches, friendly towns and people, all waiting to be discovered. It is known for its vibrant arts and cultural scene, its many castles and distilleries, walks and nature reserves, botanical gardens, great cycle trails and the Galloway Forest Park.
The Galloway Forest Park is Britain’s largest forest park spanning 777km2 and is the UK’s first dark sky park. The perfect spot for eager star-gazers, as it experiences particularly low or non-existent levels of light pollution. That’s not all the forest offers, there are stunning forest trails, three visitor centres, tea rooms, two scenic forest drives and great walks where you may come across, red squirrels, red deers and wild goats and much more! Not only that, there are easy family cycle trails to exhilarating mountain bike trails, enough to keep all the family happy!
You do, however, need a car to get round Dumfries and Galloway in order to visit all that this beautiful part of Scotland has to offer. There are a couple walks which start directly from the Knockinaam, one which takes you along the coastal path to Port Patrick and gives amazing views, in places it’s not for the faint hearted! You can find maps and directions, at reception, with lots of other suggested walks in the area covering all abilities and durations.
Shingle Lodge is very dog friendly, the website does say for one dog, however we called to ask whether two dogs would be OK. They are free to roam the gardens and beach area (as long as you have control of them), the staff love to see the dogs around although the resident young deer (3 of them) and rabbits aren’t so keen!
There are also three rooms in Knockinaam Lodge which you can book to stay in, with dogs, so you have the choice. We loved the flexibility and ease of Shingle Lodge for the dogs and they loved it all too!
In Love With Shingle Lodge Yet?
I’m sure you can tell that we fell in love with Dumfries and Galloway and all it has to offer. If you are looking for somewhere to get away from it all, where you can switch off completely and get back to nature’s peace and tranquility, then I think you can’t go far wrong. We spied a well known movie star at Knockinaam doing just that!
Shingle Lodge is definitely worth the long drive from the South East of England and even better if you live closer, so why haven’t you stayed there yet? We are planning our next visit, I’d love to go in December for the Star Gazing Weekend, now I bet that will be spectacular!
Knockinaam Lodge ~ www.knockinaamlodge.com
Shingle Lodge ~ www.knockinaamluxurycottages.com
Dumfries & Galloway ~ www.visitscotland.com
Galloway Forest Park ~ www.scotland.forestry.gov.uk