Iron-Age Dreaming at The Brochs of Coigach

by Keith Savage · 4 comments

The Brochs of Coigach, Achiltibuie, Wester Ross, Scotland

The beauty of Scotland’s northern highlands is a beauty largely untrammeled by mankind: Hills slope into the sea, mountains rear up from the moor, and islands heave across the horizon. Humans have lived in these parts for millennia, however, and seeing their remarkable stewardship of the land in person fills one with a desire to honor their stunning landscape and history. Out here you won’t find strip malls, Wal-Marts, parking structures, or hideous billboards. You’ll find small homes, farmsteads, and even a surprise or two.

I’m certainly not the only person inspired by this gorgeous stretch of highland coastline. Following the coast northwest from Ullapool to the tiny village of Achiltibuie (pron. AK-il-tih-boo-ee) you’ll find The Brochs of Coigach, one the most amazing accommodations in Scotland. A “broch” is an Iron Age drystone dwelling found only in the northern highlands and islands of Scotland, and owners Reiner and Sheileagh Luyken have used these ancient structures as inspiration for a pair of luxury, eco-centric buildings. When I stumbled upon the Brochs in my pre-trip planning they immediately became a centerpiece around which I built the rest of the trip. There was no way I would miss out on experiencing these accommodations, and the best part was that I would be sharing the experience with Sarah and my parents.

After leaving the Torridon Inn we drove up to Ullapool and beyond, to the Coigach Peninsula, where solitary mountains reach for the skies. I’m a nerd, so it’s no wonder that Stac Pollaidh reminded me of the Lonely Mountain, and there was more of Middle Earth to this place for as we followed Reiner from Polbain to the Brochs my first impression of them was that they looked a bit like hobbit holes. I was thrilled. Reiner came to Scotland from Germany close to 40 years ago and met Sheileagh, who inherited the land on which the Brochs of Coigach were built. The land has such a compelling view of the Summer Isles that they decided to turn it into a destination, and with the help of some truly gifted architects, craftspeople, and their own imagination and design principles they built the Brochs of Coigach.

Honoring the ecology, flora, and fauna of Coigach drove their design. They wanted their brochs to exist in harmony with the landscape, just as the Iron Age brochs might have. All of the stones that form the walls were harvested from tumble-down walls and fences on their land and other local villagers’. The timber door lintels and posts were salvaged from an old Victorian pier. The window frames are made from reclaimed pitch pine that served as floorboards in a Glasgow warehouse in another life. The turf that covers the roof was harvested from in front of the Brochs and allowed to recover naturally for minimal disruption. There’s even an opening in the stone wall that leads to the Broch’s “void space” for bats and birds. All around the Brochs you’ll find whale bones and other flotsam and jetsam that give the place a grounded, connected feeling. This kind of intention and attention to detail warms my heart.

While the exterior of the Brochs has an attractive, eco-rustic appeal, the interior is all about comfort and luxury. Our Broch, Gille Buidhe’s Broch, is the larger of the two and upon walking inside you can’t help but fall under the spell of the massive wall of windows looking out to the Summer Isles. It is a spectacular view and we spent much of our time relaxing in this room just staring out to sea. The entire Broch has an open concept with high ceilings, modern art, and impeccable furnishings. On the dining table just inside the flagstone terrace door we found homemade carrot cake under a glass cloche and settings of local pottery. For a place that’s built into the earth it was surprisingly bright and airy inside. There are tall windows everywhere and even a couple small skylights that allow in filtered sunlight.

The U-shaped kitchen was stocked with every utensil and cooking implement you could imagine, and the glass range and stone countertops looked new as the day they were installed. We found it a great place to cook dinner because, as with so many really nice accommodations, the hell of it was we didn’t want to leave the place! The kitchen looks on to the main living area and that magnificent view. Leather furniture, footstools, lounging pillows, and a wood-burning stove make this the perfect place to gather with friends, perhaps if you’ve rented both of the Brochs. The small decanter of whisky on the table was a nice touch though it didn’t last long between my dad and me.

Two paths lead back to the bedrooms. A small sitting area with a door out to another small terrace buffers the living room from the second bedroom, and it was particularly nice to have this since my parents usually went to bed before us and it kept down some of our noise (the high ceilings did echo in places). The two bedrooms are very similar with the same bright, airy feel and modern artwork as the main living space. I liked the minimalist arrangement of furniture though some in my party wished there was more desk/dresser space. The beds were comfortable and loaded with pillows made locally in Achiltibuie. These small details began adding up, and by the end of our stay it really felt like The Brochs of Coigach were a community endeavor.

Gille Buidhe’s Broch comes with one and a half bathrooms, but the master bathroom, which is accessible to all off the hallway, is a work of art. Funky tiling and natural lighting brought the huge room to life, which held a dedicated shower, massive tub, and sauna. The pictures speak to the quality of the fixtures but suffice to say there’s an undeniable “wow” factor here. With four people it was convenient having a half bath, which stood just inside the main entrance.

Regarding that “void space” I mentioned earlier, Gille Buidhe’s Broch has a crescent-shaped pocket abutting the hillside where you’ll find loads of firewood, a washing machine, a drying line, and the Broch’s mechanicals. An owl or bat might keep you company back here, too, but don’t fret. This area was designed to improve the Broch’s insulation and it makes a nice home for some local fauna.

I love brochs and the period of history from which they hail, so to find a place like The Brochs of Coigach that marries together history, luxury, green principles, peace and quiet, and immense views is a bit like finding a unicorn. Perhaps that’s appropriate seeing as the unicorn is Scotland’s national animal. Beyond providing wifi, the Luykens kept the modern distractions to a minimum — there are no TVs anywhere in the building — and it serves as a reminder that this is a special place, a getaway from all the baggage of modernity, a chance to forget when you are.

I can’t speak highly enough about the Brochs of Coigach. They are among the best self-catered accommodations I’ve experienced, and though the price tag reflects this you won’t endure a shred of buyer’s remorse. A deep longing overcame me as we packed up and continued our North Coast 500 journey to Durness. A part of me wanted to stay and live out my days with that view in my eyes, but the memory will keep me going until I return.

Tony & Liz DharNo Gravatar April 22, 2017 at 12:20 PM

A fantastic article. I can assure readers it is accurate to the letter. We’ve left the Broch today and only wish we could have stayed longer. Reiner and Shelaigh have brought their vision to life for us to enjoy. To top off our stay, we were privileged to see twin Hebridean lambs born on the property this morning.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar April 22, 2017 at 1:07 PM

I want to return!

Gagan ChauhanNo Gravatar December 9, 2016 at 5:27 AM

Awesome blog post, Keith! The Brochs of Coigach holiday homes look amazing and they offer such breathtaking views. I look forward to reading your next post! Thanks and have a lovely weekend.

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