Sometimes in life you just have to take a chance – go with your instincts and move forward. Such was the case with my very first Airbnb booking.
And that’s what led me to Sula, a holiday cottage on a secluded beach in rural Argyll in the Scottish Highlands.
The new-build two-storey home is located at Cuil Bay in the small hamlet of Duror which is equidistant between the seaside town of Oban on the West Coast of Scotland and the outdoor capital of the Highlands at Fort William and has some absolutely spectacular views across the beach on which there is easy access for both walking and fishing.
My daughter and I were looking for somewhere to stay for a week in early November, but wanted more freedom than a hotel would provide. So, following a quick look at Airbnb’s website, we added in a few filters and up popped Sula.
Located off the main A828 route which branches off the A82 at Ballachulish Bridge the secluded cove known as Cuil Bay is reached via a singletrack road.
Now, my first caveat – it’s quiet – as in there’s nothing there other than a few houses, some sheep, the odd free-ranging cow, some geese and of course the beach. Don’t expect to arrive here and find pubs, restaurants and shops – you won’t!
However, if you’re looking for a peaceful, calm and tranquil location in which to unwind completely, watching the galaxy unfold as the dark of night envelops you and the only interruption is the call of some local owls – then Sula is the place for you – it really is.
My initial and subsequent enquiries with the owner Kat were dealt with professionally and promptly. The home actually has its own website/blog which you can review by clicking on this link, This details the trials and tribulations of building in the Scottish Highlands due to the vagaries of both weather and local tradespeople.
Now I have an admission to make. I know the area well having been born and brought up in the village of Ballachulish some 9 miles away. and a 15-minute car journey, so had no difficulty in making a booking, knowing exactly what I would get.
The property has ramped access from the two/three-vehicle car park to the main door but potential guests should be aware that the three bedrooms are all located on the first floor of this house, and can only be accessed via stairs.
Sula also features an outdoor dining area which are reached via patio doors in the living room or the kitchen/diner, which in turn also gives access to the raised fire pit area.
Guests should be aware that this is a property in the countryside if I haven’t yet made myself clear. There is livestock, some of which occasionally make a bid for freedom so please ensure you keep the gates to the property closed at all times.
On entering the house, the first thing you’ll notice is the heat. It was built in 2016 as an eco-build sealed home with a heat recovery system. No, like you, I know little of such matters and I have no great burning desire to learn either.
The entry hallway has a drying room and an area in which to remove outdoor clothing or boots as well as featuring a downstairs toilet and shower room. Through the next sliding door and you enter the lounge area. Fitted out with two three-seater settees and a single armchair, coffee table and sideboard unit which holds the telephone and Wi-Fi hub as well as a mix of board games and books.
You may well wonder why you’d need such an archaic thing like a board game, but when you have no television to watch, then Scrabble or Monopoly it is.
However, do what we did, novel as it may appear, and talk to each other! You’d be surprised at what you might learn.
The lounge is a very bright and airy room with two sides made of glass, one of which contains patio doors to the fire pit and extended sitting/dining area outside.
There is also a wood burner in this room and the cottage supplies an initial stock of logs with extras being purchased and paid for via an honesty box. Handily, firelighters and matches are supplied along with some paper and outside in the woodshed, there’s a small axe for chopping your own kindling. We only used it for one evening just to take some pictures for this review, as there’s plenty of heat.
Located off the lounge is the kitchen/diner. It’s a large space, easily able to accommodate six people around a solid farmhouse style wooden table. There’s also another bookcase in the dining area containing a selection of maps to help walkers find their way around the countryside. Like the lounge, this also has two walls of floor-to-ceiling glass and a further set of patio doors leading to the outside dining area.
The dining area sits back to back with the handbuilt kitchen. This contains slate-topped work surfaces, a deep Belfast sink, a large range unit with plenty of oven, grill and hob surfaces for a full home of six persons who are cooking and eating..
As you might expect, the kitchen is fitted out with all the usual white goods and accessories, including, fridge, freezer, dishwasher, toaster, kettle, coffee maker etc. In fact, once you start opening the various cupboards and drawers you’ll find enough pots, pans, china and cutlery to open up a soup kitchen for a small country, so you’ll not run out of anything anytime soon.
We found the cottage had been stocked with tea, coffee, sugar, some milk in the fridge, a full cupboard of spices, condiments and pastas, plus ample storage space for those who are fully self-catering. Also included was tea towels, cleaning materials, kitchen roll and hand towels. Rather than carry all this stuff with you on holiday, I’d suggest you wait until you arrive, see what you might well need and then purchase anything missing locally. The nearest supermarket is the co-operative which is located in Ballachulish village nine miles away.
As mentioned earlier, one of the things you will notice is the heat inside the house. We couldn’t work out how to turn it down and, given the complex nature of the type of property, would have been reluctant to in any event, in case we upset the overall balance of the pre-set temperatures. So, you’ll never be cold. I can confirm that the upper floor containing the bedrooms have radiators which have separate thermostatic control heads.
But, for a cold winter in the Western Highlands, which believe me, are bitterly cold, you will be very grateful for a heating system such as this.
The three bedrooms sleep six in two double rooms and a twin-bedded room. They contain an eclectic mix of old and new and I suspect upcycled storage units in addition – but you know what, it works! In fact, given the pedigree of this home, I wouldn’t expect anything less.
The master bedroom at the front of the house has a king-size bed and an ensuite bathroom. It’s also got a rather odd curtain arrangement which any mountaineer would be at home with. Ropes, pulleys and carabiner clips all come together in a “Heath Robinson” approved blind system.
The remaining two rooms are served by a family -sized bathroom on the landing which has a bath and a shower over, and there’s also the bathroom and shower on the ground floor level for extra use. All the shower units have twin heads and provide a good powerful head of water with ample hot water supplied.
The house was spotlessly clean on arrival but given the owners are not living on-site, key access is made via a lockbox outside. Once final payment has been made then the keycode will be provided to you by email or text from Kat.
We had no problems other than a blind which wouldn’t retract in one of the bedrooms so it’s quite obvious that a good deal of care is given to ongoing repairs and maintenance at Sula. Like all such rental units, unfortunately, not everyone is as careful with a home which is not their own and repairs will always be an ongoing issue. The note on the ensuite bathroom door attests to such, which was waiting for repairs to be carried out. When I mention this it’s not as any form of criticism, merely an observation. And perhaps a desire that those who rent properties take a little more care. Repairs in the rural highlands are not cheap, and those seeking a tradesman can be forced to wait for weeks! Everything else we used worked fully as it was expected to.
So, the big question, would we return to Sula – It’s a no-brainer, absolutely. I’d be back tomorrow given half a chance and some extra annual leave from work. It’s the perfect property, in a superlative location, in what I would say, although I could be blamed for being biased, the absolute best part of Scotland to holiday in.
Finally, for all the snappers out there, here’s a slideshow selection of images taken during this stay – all of which are within a 45-minute drive of Sula.