George Orwell wrote “1984” in Barnhill Farmhouse in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides. Ian Fleming brought Bond to life at his Goldeneye Estate in Jamaica. Virginia Wolf took us “To the Lighthouse” from her writing hut in Sussex, England, while Henry David Thoreau “went into the woods” to “live deliberately” in a humble cabin along the shore of Concord, Massachusetts’ Walden pond.With co-working spaces and cool cafes available for nomad-writers in cities across the world, perhaps the idea of the “writer’s retreat” seems archaic and unnecessary. Not so for those in need of less chatter and a slower pace to hear their creative callings. For writers and artists who toil at their respective crafts, a haven to escape the quotidian and recharge can make a big impact on creative output.Finding the perfect retreat – one that provides solitude, comfort, easy access to nature, and aesthetic pleasure – is like finding the Holy Grail. As a writer who’s also obsessed with evocative interior design, I believe I just found mine at Westside Woodshed – a gorgeous, modern Scandinavian style cottage that invites you to “coorie” (the Scottish equivalent of hygge) in the rugged Scottish hills.Space: Tucked away at the end of a long farm track in the heart of the Pentland Hills, the Westside Woodshed is a peaceful and uplifting Scandi-inspired, gabled roof cottage that’s stylishly decked out with all the mod cons needed for effortless, self-catering.Its owners, graphic designer Jenny Cowan and photographer Michael Rummey, who also help run the family’s Eastside Farm – the estate where the cottage is located – collaborated with Edinburgh-based Roxburgh McEwan Architects to ensure this incredibly cosy holiday rental does justice to its stunning location within Scotland’s breathtaking Pentland Hills Regional Park.“We wanted to move away from the solidity and introversion of traditional stone-built farm buildings to something with a lighter touch, but still as sturdy. This meant views out to the hills, and an awareness of the outside when within. It also meant one main double-height space rather than the more traditional approach of compartmentalising into smaller spaces,” says Cowan, a descendent of Penicuik papermaker and philanthropist Alexander Cowan, whose family has owned Eastside estate for generations.Because it was important to Cowan and Rummey that the cottage compliments its rural, hilly environment, the existing trees on the site were preserved, and Kebony wood, now weathered to a natural silver that compliments surrounding trees, was used for exterior cladding.“Like the interior, we were keen to keep the essential exterior forms uncomplicated and clean—but with enough of a twist to keep the architecture lively and interesting,” says Rummey who trained in architecture. The 350-square-foot ground level of the 544-square-foot cottage opens to an entryway with a wall of unobtrusive coat racks, and a bench where you can get kitted out for your hikes. At the end of the entryway is a spacious bathroom with a black slate stall and rain shower. Turning to the right one enters a double-height, open-plan living, dining, and kitchen where a restrained palette of natural materials – walls and ceilings of cross-laminated timber, white cabinetry, and polished concrete floors with a cowhide rug – give the interiors a fuss-free but confident allure.A sleek AGA Hadley wood stove fireplace brings additional warmth on colder nights, when one can spend hours reading on the chunky, light grey, HK Living canvas sofa complete with sheepskin throw, and Morar watercolour print down cushions by Glaswegian artisanal brand Bluebellgray.From the living area, a sky-lit staircase leads up to a 194-square-foot lofted bedroom with floors of engineered oak lightly glossed with whitening oil, an antique dresser and wardrobe, a dreamy king-sized bed, and yellow Angelpoise 1227 lamps.By the bedroom window, a relaxing Made Krestal Grey Kolton armchair works wonderfully for morning meditations to birdsong.Fully glazed birch plywood doors on the ground floor, a loft window, and a large remote control operated skylight draw in plenty of natural light and fresh air so you can remain connected to the outdoors from within, and enjoy views of the rolling hills on both levels.Muted greys and splashes of sunflower yellow together with the light oak and white walls open up the interiors so the Woodshed feels much more voluminous than its compact size might suggest. The well-considered lighting scheme ensures comfortable but effective illumination for a variety of activities. The overall mood is bright, joyful and serene.Amenities: Equipped with a Neff mini fridge and freezer, a smart AEG oven, cooktop, and dishwasher, a Sharp microwave, a spiffy matching Breville kettle and toaster, and clean, new pots, pans, cutlery and utensils, cooking in the kitchen is thoroughly pleasurable. Doing the dishes was a breeze with the deep, double sinks that keep water from splashing onto the counter. I had Tesco deliver groceries to the cottage for the day of my arrival, and also ordered some frozen meals and treats from local caterer COOK Morningside, which did not disappoint.For entertainment there is a Samsung television with satellite TV and Netflix, and a SONY Sound Bar with Bluetooth pairing. The custom-made folding dining table can be retracted into the wall if you want more floor space.Along the entranceway is a closet with two neat garbage bins and baskets for recycling plastic, metal and paper. You’ll also find laundry detergent, extra toilet rolls and kindling, and instruction manuals for all the appliances in here. There is also a Beko washing machine and dryer in the kitchen, and a heated drying rack in the bathroom.The water pressure and temperature in the shower is perfect for a nice warm wash after a sweaty hike, but if you prefer a soak, there’s also a wood-fire hot tub outdoors where you can soak and soothe tired limbs after sunset, as you gaze up at a canopy of stars.The cottage has underfloor heating and excellent Wi-Fi connection. There are also maps of the park, and a few interesting coffee table books available to you.Location: Surrounded by the 3,000-acre Eastside estate, the Woodshed is perfectly located for short or long explorations of the Pentland Hills – a 20-mile long, 30-square-mile range of hills that stretches across the Scottish counties of South Lanarkshire, Midlothian, and the Scottish Borders. If you’re looking to go “over the hills and far away” then this is the place to be. Though just less than a 30-minute drive or taxi ride from both central Edinburgh and Edinburgh Airport, you’ll certainly feel far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life when you’re here.Things to do while here: From the cottage, you can easily get to West Kip, East Kip and Scald Law, three of the nine major peaks, or the gentler rises of Cap and Green Law. There was something mildly addictive about walking the Pentlands as each day I found myself increasingly eager to head out in seek of new trails. If like myself, you do not have a car, expect to leave the world as you know it behind for a full immersion into green hills and glens, sheep meadows, bird-filled heather moorlands, Scot Pine and Larch forests, waterfalls, and reservoirs, and wake up each morning to the splendor of nature, and a mind ready for creative pursuits.Room rate at time of review: £650-£900 per week depending on the time of year.
Address: Westside Woodshed. Eastside Farm, Penicuik EH26 9LN, Scotland, United Kingdom.
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