A Dream Come True: Three Glens Luxury Eco House

by Keith Savage · 9 comments


Three Glens Luxury Eco House

I remember the moment I found Three Glens. It was an overcast January day, and I was searching for unique places to stay on my then upcoming trip to the south of Scotland. I try just about every word I can imagine in these searches, and some combination of “eco,” “luxury,” “new,” and “Dumfries & Galloway” spit out Three Glens. Not at the top of the page. In the middle, a place less obvious. I’d never heard of Three Glens, so I clicked over. You should do the same right now – but come back!

I had that feeling – that warm cascade of excitement – that I know to be a portent of a memorable future. I checked Three Glens’s location: Moniaive. I’d never heard of Moniaive, either. Google Maps told me it was smack in the center of no-man’s land, north of the Solway Coast but south of the central belt, east of the Galloway Forest Park but west of any major roads. My chair creaked as I leaned back. A gamble. Did travelers choose to visit this sparsely populated stretch of high uplands? I could be isolated in a span of Scotland perhaps largely unknown to outsiders for good reasons. All that glitters isn’t gold, after all.

But I was willing to find out. This is the story of my visit to Three Glens.

I departed for Three Glens after leaving Kirkcudbright and visiting Threave Castle, following the A713 north through several small villages and along beautiful Loch Ken where fly fishermen worked their beats. The drive skirts the eastern edge of the Galloway Forest Park before turning northeast at St. John’s Town of Dalry onto the snaking A702. The terrain steadily climbs up into sheep-studded hills where the high spring sun and classic Scottish winds dispersed whatever concerns I had about the location of Three Glens.

The town of Moniaive possesses an atmospheric feel of untainted lowland Scottish life. The streets harken back to older days – the town dates from the 10th century – and rising up on all sides are the hills that form the glens for which Three Glens is named. Unmistakable on one hill slope south of town stands the luxury eco house. I hopped back in my car and followed directions down a couple of back roads and up a steep, gravel path through a sheep farm to the impossibly modern and harmonious eco house.

Three Glens luxury eco house is not your average anything. I was immediately struck by the lines of the house. A massive, slanted roof supports a field of grass while balconies, patios, and decks surround its exterior. There are huge windows on all sides that simultaneously maximize light inside while providing incredible views of the glens and Moniaive. These were just the thoughts as I pulled into Three Glens’s tidy parking area.

There I met Neil Gourlay, and to understand Three Glens you must understand the man behind the project. Neil is a tall man with a farmer’s strong build and an ever-ready smile, and his good-natured spirit made me feel welcome here, at his pride and joy, immediately. This is an intangible quality that turns a good stay into an unforgettable one. Neil poured me a tea and we got to chatting like old friends. His background is in farming and ranching, but over the past decade he has pursued green energy and farming practices to bring his business into the 21st century. In 2011 he was named Green Energy Farmer of the Year. Neil’s land, on which Three Glens stands, holds two micro-hydropower systems and a wind turbine that not only generates power for the farm but also contributes to the Scottish energy grid. After many years, Neil will soon have his own wind farm – Moniaive is quite a windy place. Hearing Neil speak about his designs and seeing the sparkle in his eye, I got the sense that he’s not the kind of guy to let dogma and the status quo guide him.

But where did the idea of a luxury eco house come from?

Neil and his charming wife, Mary, always had the ambition to build a house. They just figured that if they were going to do it, then they were going to build a place that embodied their approach to sustainable living, a place that would encourage, teach, and inspire others to adopt a sustainable approach to all things. Three Glens is the Gourlay’s dream, and as Neil led me on a tour of the massive five-bedroom house I noticed that they had cut no corners, left no detail to chance.

As a whole, the house is a harmonious piece of the landscape. A drystone wall – the kind used to divide pastures and farms throughout Scotland – runs through the center of the house and continues on in both directions as functional elements of their farm. Expansive glass windows reduce the feeling of separation from the landscape and capture light and heat, which help keep the house warm in the winter and cool in the summer thanks to its passive solar alignment. Most of the materials used to build the house come from Neil’s land, from the stones in the wall to the exterior oak cladding to the treated sheep’s wool used as Three Glens’s insulation. Solar panels, wind turbines, and geo-thermal bore holes provide energy to Three Glens and give the house a negative carbon footprint. There’s even an Austrian Kachelöfen, a huge clay wood-fired oven, in the living room that radiates heat to nearly the whole house for hours on end just from a few logs.

Three Glen isn’t just an eco dream, it’s also a luxury accommodation hound’s fantasy. One entire wall is composed of glass panels that slide open by a switch for easy access to a huge balcony overlooking the valley. The glazed sunroom converts into a ventilated laundry drying area. The entire house – including each bedroom – is equipped with Sonos wireless music capabilities, and the wifi blazes at fiberoptic speeds. The interior decoration, which I believe is Mary’s handiwork, fits the space perfectly and I was impressed with all the small decorations that evoked the local countryside, from a massive set of bull’s horns to the oversized farmer’s flask in the kitchen.

A beautiful, open stairway divides Three Glens into upper and lower levels. The lower level comprises the luxurious bedrooms and bathrooms, which had been outfitted with vintage fixtures and unique features like the restored toilet cisterns and ultra-fast-drying slate showers. The beds were extremely comfortable – a fact I found particularly welcome as I was dealing with a bit of a travel bug at the time of my stay.

The luxury parade continued at Three Glens during dinner, which was included in the stay, at the hands of the skillful Mary Gourlay. Her skills as a chef put many high-end restaurants to shame as I enjoyed roasted red peppers with tomatoes, olive oil, and anchovies for a starter, then Lamb Rogen Josh for the main, while dessert was a rich, silky chocolate mouse with a meringue. Another night’s supper was baked chicken with local vegetables. My nights enjoying dinner with the Gourlays and their friends became one of the highlights of my stay at Three Glens. It meant a lot to be welcomed into their family – especially as a solo traveler – and nowhere was there the faintest hint of awkwardness or obligation.

Three Glens sleeps 10 people and rates start at £85/person/night. While Neil and Mary own Three Glens, they typically have a staff member oversee the daily running of the house. This place is so special that I recommend it as a base for exploring the south and even middle of Scotland. You could easily stay here and get to Ryder Cup events, for example.

I could say a lot more about Three Glens, but the photos speak for themselves and I think I’m raving (am I raving?). Suffice to say I would build a trip around staying at Three Glens. The house is itself a destination and I found myself simply wanting to stay in and read, to wander through the halls and soak in the surroundings of a place that feels like the perfect expression of a dream. You don’t have to be an eco nerd to appreciate Three Glens – for many visitors those are just details that make them feel good about the visit – it’s simply a fantastic place to stay.

In fact, I’d be surprised if there’s any better accommodation in all of Scotland.

Disclosure: I received a complementary stay at Three Glens. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.


Selma McGoramNo Gravatar October 17, 2014 at 1:50 AM

Hi Keith,
Thanks for sharing this with the world. I am enjoying reading of your travels around Scotland. My dream is to visit the country of my Father, some time next year.

Escape HunterNo Gravatar September 2, 2014 at 3:12 AM

What I like about this house is the bathroom. Whatever is vintage in it…

DarrenNo Gravatar August 25, 2014 at 10:28 PM

loved the pics and the info…seems like i saw Three Glens completely through this post.

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