A visit to the beautiful Knoydart House simply must be on your bucket list. Venture over viaducts and across lochs, cutting through the dramatic landscape of the Western Isles to Knoydart, Britain’s last wilderness. This far-off peninsula peppered with towering Munros and awash with thrilling sunsets holds a wilderness begging to be explored…and you’ll be surprised to find this spot of luxury at the foot of Ladhar Bheinn.
Perched above Loch Nevis, Knoydart House sits bathed in light reflected off the waters. Owners, Jackie and Ian, built this beautiful place to stay and were influenced by the surrounding landscape and environment. But being so marooned in the wilderness brought about issues – Jackie tells all about how they made their dream house a reality…
Knoydart House – Luxury in Knoydart’s wilderness
I moved to Knoydart 24 years ago after falling for Ian – I’d have moved to the ends of the world for him, and Knoydart is pretty close to it. He worked for the Knoydart Highland Estate so I got to settle on this gloriously isolated peninsular, shaped by wilderness. No roads lead to Knoydart; only boat or a long, arduous hike can get you to us, but we knew we wanted to build a beautiful place here. A piece of luxury in the wild. I finally found the perfect spot when I followed my children into their secret den in the woods – sitting quietly in a wooded spot overlooking the Loch, the views and light astounded me and I knew this was the space for us.
I patiently waited nine long years until we could buy that piece of land and once we had signed the contract, we got to work. Knoydart House took six months to build. It was six months of obstacles and challenges dealing with the remote nature of Knoydart, but our first building project was driven by our vision. We knew exactly how to breathe life into our dream.
The house absolutely had to frame the expansive nature and bring the outside in – we needed those who stayed to feel connected to the land. We kept all edges rounded – we used rounded plasterwork on the window frames so the eye continues out into the surrounding woodlands. We built a drystone fireplace with local Knoydart stone to mimic the rough edges outside in the landscape, and we put up a vast glass wall to welcome any Scottish sunlight and flood the living space with light. The expansive windows also give impeccable floor to ceiling views of the outside windswept world.
As we used only natural products, a local boat builder was our builder of choice. I knew how I wanted the structure of the roof – my design was influenced by a traditional Viking boat being burnt at a recent Shetland Viking Festival I attended. We planned for the beams to be splayed across the ceiling like the ribs of the upturned boat I had witnessed burn to cinders. Huge trunks of Canadian Fir were shipped in, but once they arrived… we ran into a problem. The wood was so large, no workshop in Knoydart was large enough to work this wood, so we ended up shaping the beams in the local boat yard.
Finding places large enough to shape our materials was an issue, but transport also proved very tricky. We couldn’t transport our materials by road (since there are none) and had to rely on the regular boats that cross Loch Nevis. Transporting the materials across from Mallaig required military precision and organisation (and a special military boat!) – a feat which could only be handled by a logistics expert: my husband. We made quite the team with undertaking this project, and the tight-knit community of Knoydart also helped in bringing this altogether. From local tradesmen that shaped the structures, to the extra hands who helped us get the huge eight-person hot tub to the house, the brilliant community helped make it possible.
From boat to pier, then tractor to the house; it was a feat getting the sunken hot tub to Knoydart House, but it was worth it. This luxurious addition has unparalleled views across Loch Nevis from its elevated position on the deck. After walking the trails on the peninsular, have a good soak under the stars with a glass of bubbles to truly unwind.
We soon built Knoydart Hide nearby – a glorious bolthole for two with a copper roof that’s slowly beginning to green from the weather (it will soon camouflage perfectly into the woodland), a field of wild flowers out the front and large windows to let in that bright light. We’re incredibly proud to have these two buildings on the Knoydart landscape – they’re a legacy for the land and a homage to the beautiful peninsular that we love so dearly.