Killiehuntly Farmhouse & Cottages, Near Kingussie, Scotland

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The entrance to the Farmhouse

When I stayed at Westside Woodshed and had tea with the property’s owners Michael Rummey and his wife Jenny Cowan, I had expressed some anxiety about heading to my next destination – Killiehuntly Farmhouse & Cottage – where I’d be dining nightly with other guests I didn’t know at a communal table.

“The people who come here are not your average travellers. Certainly not mass market. It’s quite out of the way, so if you make it to Killiehuntly, chances are you’ll have quite a lot in common with the other guests who have sought it out,” said Rummey, who had visited Killiehuntly when it first opened in 2016.

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A desk in The Alder Room

He was correct indeed. There is nothing mass market about this place, and the other guests I met here proved to be really special, warm, and interesting folks.

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An antique console in the hallway of the Farmhouse

If you’re a fan of secret, luxe escapes, evocative design, Victorian pastoral novels, Downton Abbey, Outlander or Agatha Christie mysteries (where intriguing characters gather at dinner parties in grand manor houses), then this historical holiday retreat has your name written all over it.

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The gravel path leading up to the Farmhouse

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The front living room in the Farmhouse

Owned by the richest man in Denmark –  billionaire and fashion magnate Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife Anne Storm Pedersen, Killiehuntly is a 17th century farmhouse estate nestled within the rugged and awe-inspiring Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands.

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A loch at the back of the Farmhouse

Between 2011 and 2019, Povlsen purchased large swathes of land within the Highlands with a long-term plan to rejuvenate the local flora and fauna, and bring jobs to the rural Highland communities. Today, he is the largest private landowner in Scotland, and through his company Wildland Ltd., he currently owns 13 estates, one of which is the regal and atmospheric Killiehuntly Farmhouse & Cottages.

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The Farmhouse seen from afar

Here, likeminded travellers – often creative, cosmopolitan individuals who love nature and thoughtful design – come together to experience the majesty of the scenic Cairngorms, and the soothing effects of impeccable interiors.

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A closer view of the Farmhouse

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The two bedroom, self-catering accommodation Geordie’s Cottage

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The Steadings, the Bothy, and Killiehuntly office and storage and parking areas.

Space: The property includes the main Farmhouse, two self-catering cottages – Geordie’s Cottage, which accommodates up to five guests, and The Bothy, which is ideal for two adults and two children – and The Hayloft – a new extension for two guests with a small kitchenette.

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A staircase leads up the to four guestrooms of the Farmhouse

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Skylights brighten the upper level of the Farmhouse

Within the upper level of the main Farmhouse are four guestrooms – The Alder Room and The Elm Room, which have their own private bathrooms, and The Birch Room and The Oak Room which share a bathroom  – and a communal kitchen, dining room, and two living rooms on the ground level for guests in all four rooms to use.

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Breakfast at the communal dining room

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The dining room

Guests staying in the Farmhouse and The Hayloft can enjoy breakfast, tea, and dinner daily in the communal dining area.

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A reading corner in The Oak Room

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The bed in The Oak Room

Previously owned by an eccentric widow named Mrs Sandison, the Farmhouse and cottages were renovated by Edinburgh architect Nicholas Groves-Raines who specialises in restoring historical buildings. Povlsen’s wife Pederson, who is passionate about interior design, collaborated with her Swiss friend, interior designer and hotelier Ruth Kramer on the interiors. Carefully blending masculine elements of Scottish décor with softer Danish aesthetics, and dusky and haunting modern art, they created a spellbinding and elegant style that’s been dubbed “Scandi-Scot”.

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An honesty bar in the front living room

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A fireplace in the front living room

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An honesty bar in the living room

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A plush sheepskin upholstered armchair in the front living room

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A desk in the front living room

A moody palette of grays, blues and browns from UK paint purveyors Farrow & Ball combined with traditional sash windows, modern lighting, brass fixtures, as well as midcentury and antique furniture (some of which belonged to Mrs. Sandison), work in harmony to create a sensual oasis that whisks you away from the present day to a time when the Highlands were steeped in myth and magic.

The Hayloft: This property is located a short distance from the Farmhouse, and is ideal if you want more privacy and space. On the ground level is compact dining area, a small wooden kitchenette with an oven and fridge, and a small bathroom with a shower.

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Exterior of The Hayloft

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Entrance to The Hayloft

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A bench and dining area on the ground level of The Hayloft

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A kitchenette in The Hayloft

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Bathroom in The Hayloft

A wooden staircase leads up to a pitched-roof loft bedroom with a cute closet, a study, and a reading lounge which has its own separate entrance from the parking lot.

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Stairs lead up to the bedroom of The Hayloft

The windows in this stone cottage are small but they work well with the raw stone and exposed wooden beams to create a snug, den-like ambience. There are about a dozen beautiful art, design, and nature-themed coffee-table books on the shelves, including one about lynx, which the Wildland team hope to rewild in the Cairngorms. At the back of The Hayloft is a garden with a fireplace.

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Me happy as can be in The Hayloft

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A reading lounge in The Hayloft

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View from the upper level doorway into The Hayloft

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The bed in The Hayloft

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Artsy books and magazines in The Hayloft study area

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A discreet green closet, chair and bluetooth radio in The Hayloft

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Plenty of potted plants bring nature into The Hayloft

The Alder Room: The largest of the four rooms in the Farmhouse, The Alder Room where I stayed for one night, has a four-poster bed, an antique wardrobe, a large, bright bathroom, an armchair for reading in the corner, and a small study desk facing the front of the property with a window that looks out to misty mountain views. With its restored wooden floors and windows, and a number of carefully selected vintage furniture items, it’s easy to imagine you’ve stepped into the world of the Bronte sisters or Jane Austin when you’re inside.

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A four poster bed in The Alder Room

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A study desk in The Alder Room

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Entrance to The Alder Room

Amenities: The rooms all come with luxurious towels and bathrobes, hairdryer, and Aesop toiletries. In the Hayloft, there was milk in the fridge and complimentary Highland coffee, loose green tea, cutlery, and basic cooking utensils; near the entry vestibule were raincoats, an umbrella, electric lanterns, and a backpack that you can use. Guests staying in the Farmhouse have access to an honesty bar in one of the living rooms, and to coffee, a variety of teas, milk, water, and soft drinks in the kitchen.

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A bench by the kitchen window

On the property, there a spacious greenhouse, an outdoor heated wooden bathtub and a yurt sauna under the trees, and two outdoor fire pits that all guests can use. Parking is available, and there is also a communal laundry area with a washer and dryer.

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A greenhouse and herb and vegetable garden

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The greenhouse traps sunlight for warmth

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A yurt sauna and hot tub at the back of The Hayloft

Service: This place feels more like an affluent, esthete friend’s country home than a commercial hotel resort or B&B. There are usually two members of the knowledgable, friendly but unobtrusive Killiehuntly team in the Farmhouse. The staff usually retreat to their private quarters during the afternoons so guests have the Farmhouse to themselves. Your rooms are cleaned and freshened daily. The team is always happy to suggest walks and things to do, or just have a chat with you when you pop round the kitchen during meal times.

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Killiehuntly staff Lorraine preparing breakfast in the kitchen

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AGA cooker oven in the kitchen

Food: Between 8am to 10am, a sit-down breakfast is served in the communal dining room. This includes cheese and dried fruit, toast with butter and homemade jams, fresh juice, a sweet dish, usually muesli or granola with yogurt, fruit compote or berries, or porridge, followed by a hot, savoury dish of eggs and either grilled vegetables, bacon, salmon or sausage. You’ll be served a different fresh juice, sweet and savoury dish every morning.

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Raspberries, yogurt and granola

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Grilled sausage, mushroom and fried egg

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Blackberries, apple compote, dried figs, granola and yogurt

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Toast with Scottish smoked salmon, asparagus and poached egg

For lunch the chef prepares a sandwich and flapjack, wrapped in brown paper and tied in string that you can take outdoors for a picnic lunch.

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A Killiehuntly “piece” for an outdoor lunch

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Rocket, ham and pickle in a poppyseed roll, homemade flapjack, and a crunchy apple for lunch

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Cheese, rocket and chutney with multigrain bread

Around 3:30pm, freshly baked treats such as scones or bakewell tarts are set out for tea.

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Freshly baked scones dusted with icing sugar for tea

Dinner is the grand event where you’ll get to meet other guests at the communal dining table at 8pm and enjoy a starter, main course and vegetables, and dessert along with wine pairings, and coffee or fresh mint tea after.

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The communal dining area in the Farmhouse

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Broiled salmon, brocolini and potatoes with Hollandaise sauce

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Herefordshire beef steak with chimichurri

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Cod with cauliflower and cabbage in a mild curry sauce

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Roast pork belly with cabbage and rhubarb and apple sauce

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Beetroot tart

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Venison lasagna with rocket and carrots

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Homemade ice-cream with toasted nuts and rhubarb compote

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Me on a backcountry trail through the woods

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The River Tromie

Location: The landscape of the Cairngorms with its Caledonian forests, snowcapped mountains, heather glens, moss-covered rocks, enigmatic lochs, and bubbling brooks is like something right out of a fairytale. The estate is surrounded by a grand mountain range and woodlands. There’s a lake close by, and plenty of greenery and peaceful quietude.

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The Caledonian forests and snow capped mountains of the Cairngorms – the largest national park in the United Kingdom.

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Ancient pinewood forests

Most guest drive to the estate, but I took the train from Edinburgh to the town of Kingussie and was picked up by the estate’s manager. Killiehuntly is about a five-minute drive from Kingussie and the nearest village to it is Drumguish.

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The Cairngorms is the most arduous area in the United Kingdom in terms of mountain heights, trail distances, and the severity and changeable of weather.

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The Allt Chomhraig River

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Baileguish farmstead to the East of Killiehuntly

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The path back from the wilderness to Killiehuntly

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Birdsong, sunshine, and not a soul in sight on a forest trail near the Allt Chomhraig River.

Things to do while here: Killiehuntly offers activities such as deer stalking, pony picnics, wild swimming, fishing, and guided bike or 4WD tours to the nearby estate of Glenfeshie where Polvsen owns another property. Activities need to be booked at least a week before your arrival. There are also mountain bikes available for free usage, and e-bikes for rental at £30 per hour.

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The river flowing through Baileguish

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A bothy in Baileguish

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Exterior of the bothy in Baileguish

But if you’re in good shape, you’ll do just fine walking along the many paths and trails that will take you through dense woodlands, lakes, rivers, valleys and even to a bothy – a traditional Scottish hut built for crofters that campers can now use free-of-charge. You can also visit the Ruthven Barracks, one of the best preserved British barracks built during the Jacobite uprising, or Speyside whiskey distillery, which are not too far from the property.

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The communal dining room in the Farmhouse

Dinners are often convivial gatherings where strangers meet and swap travel tales, share jokes or ghost stories, or discuss culture, design, sociology or current affairs over food and wine, becoming much friendlier before the night is over. One couple – a Swiss architect and his Japanese-Swiss art teacher wife – described dinners at Killiehuntly as “backpacking for grown-ups”, mostly very sophisticated and accomplished grown-ups I should add. Not a big extrovert, I wasn’t sure I’d be comfortable with nightly “dinner parties” with people I didn’t know, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had much in common with many of the good folks I met. Indeed the marriage of nature and solitude in the day and camaraderie and feasting in the evenings proved to be a wonderful way to enjoy this remote, wild, and ethereal destination.

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A fireplace in the second living room nearer the back of the Farmhouse

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The stairs leading up the the guestrooms in the Farmhouse

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The steadings and cottages on the estate

Room rate at time of review: £395 per night for The Hayloft, and £415 for The Alder Room.

Address: Killiehuntly Farmhouse & Cottage. By Kingussie, Highland PH21 1NZ, Scotland.

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