Sunday, September 24, 2006

Scottish Country Living

The little cottage which used to belong to my dear mother in law has just gone on the market, and there has been lots of interest in it. My sister in law is busy showing people round, all of whom say how much they like the place. Many of the potential purchasers have been middle aged or older women, or couples, looking to downsize, and settle in a village. The setting is positively idyllic, and there is a great deal to be said for village life, as you head for an active retirement. I'm not advocating moving miles away from family and friends, to a house in the middle of nowhere. But a cottage in a reasonably peaceful village (or on the picturesque edge of one, like this) can be a good move if you are planning to downsize. For a start, village life can be infinitely more sociable than town life. You will have lots of invitations, and there are all kinds of things going on if you want to get involved in the life of the place. The rhythm of the passing year is more noticeable in the countryside, and each season has its traditional events. But perhaps most of all you will probably find supportive neighbours. It's a truism, but people do tend to look out for each other more in villages. We still have a village shop which acts as a dispenser of information. The postman still says hello, and knows who lives where. There's a well attended church, and a caring minister, as well as a pub that serves good food if you don't feel like cooking - and the nearest town, with a small supermarket, an excellent deli, and rail and bus links to anywhere you might want to go, is a mere 10 minutes drive down the road. Add to that, a low crime rate (You can walk home from a friend's house at midnight without fearing that somebody will mug you) and there's a lot to be said for country living.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Scottish Home Website Coming Soon

I posted about our brand new Scottish Home website some time ago, but it won't be up and running for a few weeks yet. One of our problems is that The Scottish Home is intended to pull together the various aspects of our businesses - my creative writing, my husband's woodcarving, whether sculptures in wood, or restoration work, and our joint interest in Scottish antiques, interiors, arts and crafts, and everything else connected with Scottish homes, traditional and modern. Added to that, we both have websites which are desperately in need of updating. The task is to link all three sites, changing where necessary - no career in the arts stays the same for very long - and including a brand new Scottish retail idea, of which more in due course. It is no easy task, and we are currently working with a web design company to find the best solution to all our requirements. In the meantime, of course, The Scottish Home blog will be continuing - and will continue after the website is launched, because it is here that I can write longer and more informative pieces about various characteristically Scottish antiques, crafts and collectables, as well as Scottish interest posts of all kinds.
This year, September has been unbelievably wet, even here in rainy old Scotland. We usually have a soft, sunny spell about the middle of the month, but it hasn't arrived yet. Instead, I sit here with the rain coming down, and the washing machine full of old linens, which arrived with the marks of years on them. I never know, till they are finished, if the various whitening treatments are going to work or not. Sometimes it takes two or three washes and drying in the sun. But right now, there is no sun!
Last month the hydrangeas in the picture above were in full, astonishing bloom in the garden of a seaside restaurant where I often go for lunch. But there has been so much rain that the blooms are battered and beaten now. It's berry time - rowans, hawthorns, rosehips, elderberries and luscious blackberries - and it has been a spectacularly good year for them too - splashes of colour, scarlet and glossy black, are everywhere. But if the weather continues like this, they will rot on the bushes and shrubs. If the sun comes out for long enough, I'll take some photos and post them - along with some recipes - over the weekend.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Pictures of the Scottish Cottage

My last piece about this delightful little cottage which we are about to put on the market, wouldn't let me post pictures, but for some reason a new post doesn't have that problem, so here they are - You can see the front, which is quite deceptively small - like the Tardis, the cottage is much bigger once you get inside it, (two bedrooms, brand new kitchen, shower room, very large living/dining room) and all the best bits face this most wonderful view, looking across to the ancient woodlands of Kirkmichael House (and south facing, so there's plenty of warmth and sunshine to enjoy!) There is a feature staircase and a delightful hand built bridge across the small stream which is also a feature of the large garden. Most of the garden is down to grass, but if you wanted to grow your own vegetables, and live the good life, there would be plenty of room to do just that.
The whole place is so pretty, and with such a lovely atmosphere, that we would prefer not to sell it, but needs must. People keep asking us if we are going to become property developers, but I suspect not! This was very much a labour of love, and probably a one off. On the other hand, you should watch this space for lots more information about life in Scotland, urban and rural. I'll be featuring some very special gardens, just for the fun of exploring them, so watch out for future episodes.
PS If you like the fish carved newel post, they are a speciality of my woodcarver husband, Alan Lees. They can be customised to suit your particular tastes - he can carve whatever you want. He built the bridge as well, but don't think he wants to go into bridge construction just yet! Visit his website at to see more of his work.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Scottish Cottage (2)

Fay's Cottage - the house I was blogging about back in July, is almost finished, and about to go on the market. It has been a long haul, but worth it I think, and nobody who has been in the house has failed to say what a pretty place it has become. Not that it wasn't always a warm, pretty, welcoming cottage - just that now it is a brand new, warm, pretty, welcoming but infinitely bigger cottage, so subtly renovated and extended that it still has something of the character of the much older listed building that lies at the heart of it.
The work involved changing the layout of the original house, to give a bigger bedroom at the front of the house, a brand new shower room, and a small but pretty kitchen with fresh white units and a window (where the fireplace once stood) looking out over the open countryside on the edge of the village. The kitchen itself opens onto a very large sitting/dining room (so you could cook and talk to your guests at the same time) with double doors opening onto decking, and spectactularly beautiful views over the ancient woodlands of Kirkmichael house, just about to be tinged with their autumn colours at this time of year. A hand built staircase (complete with carved newel post) leads upwards from this living room to a light filled upstairs bedroom (though I think if it were mine, it would immediately become a study!) and there is plenty of storage space where a door opens onto the roof space of the old part of the cottage.
Although it retains the look of the original cottage, everything that you would want to be new (like the sewage pipes and the central heating) is completely new. There is a brand new combi boiler to provide oil fired central heating (there is no gas in our village). The interior is fresh and light and clean, carpeted throughout in neutral shades, the whole thing a pretty palate upon which you can impose your own personality.
Outside, there is a long back garden fringed by lush hedges, a big plot of land to one side with off road parking, and space for a garage and workshop. Ricketty old wooden garages once stood here, and although they have been demolished, and the ground turfed, there would be no problem with replacing them with a newer garage. The piece de resistance is the tiny, picturesque stream that runs through the garden, with its rustic wooden bridge (Like a willow pattern garden, as a neighbour remarked) constructed by my woodcarver husband. There are even new metal railings, courtesy of my brother in law. The garden is largely grass at the moment, but there would be plenty of room for a vegetable garden and a greenhouse, and even a summer house. These ancient cottage gardens are very fertile, and the garden and the house gets the sun all day long. At this time of the year the house martins are soaring over the garden, preparing for their long journey south - and sometimes from the upstairs window you will see the heron, from the heronry up at Kirkmichael House, flying lazily past, trailing his long legs behind him. In short the cottage, which is close to some of the best golf courses in the country, or indeed any country, is an idyll, a dream place, on the edge of one of the prettiest conservation villages in southern Scotland. As you can imagine, we can hardly bear to sell it, but the right person is out there, and we feel quite strongly that the house itself will surely find them. I would show you a picture, but at the moment, Blogger doesn't seem at all inclined to let me post one!