Glencoe Cottages

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

The magic of Scotland lies in its hills – and people. In finding one of the places we’ll stay in Scotland, I searched long and hard. I found the perfect place in Western Scotland, in Glencoe, called Glencoe Cottages (click for rates and availability). It’s quite an environmentally progressive place, and I am extremely impressed. It is located on Loch Torren and the River Coe, on very beautiful (and extensive) grounds. In fact, the scenes with Hagrid’s Hut in the Harry Potter movies were filmed here! Here's our review.

Hagrid's Hut, Harry Potter, near Glencoe Cottages

Hagrid's Hut, Harry Potter movies

Interested in the background of Glencoe cottages, I asked the owner, Victoria Sutherland, to share about the Glencoe Cottages, her extensive environmental work and awards, and more. Here’s what she had to say…

WE: Please tell us about the Cottages...

VS: I own and manage 3 Self-Catering Cottages in the heart of Glencoe called Glencoe Cottages.

Situated in a natural woodland glade overlooking the River Coe the Cottages have uninterupted views all round of the surrounding Glencoe Mountains and look directly up at the steep path that descends from the Aonach Ridge - the longest ridge walk in the British Isles.

These cottages are run on an environmentally friendly basis and all our marketing stresses this factor.

We provide short breaks and weekly hire for visitors from our native Scotland as well as from England. We also have a great many foreign visitors. All applaud our commitment to the environment and most choose to stay with us because of this.

Glencoe is extremely popular as a Tourist Area. However it is a small Glen with most of the Tousist Accommodation being concentrated in and around the Village of Glencoe.

We are able to offer peace and quiet 2 miles up into the Glen within our own 50 acres of natural woodlands with its 2 small trout lochs and a mile stretch of the River Coe over which the 3 cottages look. Our cottages are also very popular with climbers, walkers and skiiers in the winter months. Indeed we have a High Season in February/March. However this means that we have to provide good heating, lots of hot water for showers and a hot drying room for all the wet clothes. This is all achieved at an affordable cost (included in the price of the rental) through our central wood fuelled boiler which heats the water which flowes through our underfloor thermostatically controlled heating system.

Glencoe Cottages, Glencoe, Scotland

Glencoe Cottage West

WE: What is the history of the Cottage, and how did you come to own it?

VS: The Cottages were built in 1980. Already at that time we were committed to using local builders as well as local materials where ever possible. The new road to the Cottages was constructed using waste slate (which was at that time available to the locals) from the dissused Ballachulish Slate Quarry. The Cottages are of solid construction, rendered and with slate roofs. Each Cottage has a large Patio overlooking the river but otherwise the grounds have been left as natural and untouched as possible. No weedkillers or sprays have been used for years resulting in the flourishing of the abundant wildlife which lives in our 50 acres of woodland with 2 lochans which are filled with natural brown trout. No stocking of fish has been done. The fishing is excellent with trout up to 2 lbs being caught last year. The fishing is available free to our guests.

Torren Loch, site of Hagrid's Hut from the Harry Potter movies. Stay at Glencoe Cottages for a unique Scottish experience!

Torren Loch

The History of Torren:
Torren including An Torr was purchased at the sale of the Glencoe Estate on the death of Lord Strathcona in 1935 by Dr Alister Sutherland, the father of the present owner Alister Sutherland WS, at the same time as the National Trust for Scotland acquired its first foothold in Glencoe. Dr Sutherland immediately gifted the Signal Rock to the NTS and allowed a right of way through his woods for access.

Five generations of Sutherlands from Dr Sutherland’s mother, who was born Macdonald, to Alister Sutherland’s children and grandchildren have looked after and enjoyed this unique place.

In our woods you will find 100 year old species conifers brought over from Canada by Lord Strathcona (born John Smith from Elgin in Morayshire) of the Canadian Pacific Railway fame who owned the Glencoe Estate in the early 1900s. Lord Strathcona also created the 2 lochans at Torren. He had married a Red Indian Squaw and tried to recreate the environment from where she came so she would feel at home in Glencoe!  Torren House itself was built as a Keepers House. The whole 100 acres which made up Torren was fenced off by a galvanised steel deer fence.  Much of that original fence still exists.

By the side of the Torren Lochan you will see, if you look carefully, the remains of 2 small “black houses”. These houses would most probably have been in use at the time of the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692. There are also remains of another 2 houses from that same period by the side of the track from our Byre to the Signal Rock. Apart from some old ruins up Glen Leach na Muidh these are as far as we know the only remains of houses from that date in Glencoe.

Though the part of Torren called An Torr was sold to the Forestry Commission in 1958 who then sold it on to the NTS in 1975, the remaining 50 acres have been left for the most part undisturbed for the 70 years that Torren has been in the ownership of the Sutherland family. This has resulted in the rich mixture of flora and fauna which lives and flourishes at Torren.

We have made a list of which animals, birds and butterflies live here, however we acknowledge that the list is by no means complete. Please help us!  If you see anything that we have failed to add, let us know by adding it to the list of Birds and Butterflies which is in your Visitors Map in the Cottage. We would love to have a list of the wild flowers and moths so if you feel like helping us with our list and /or photographs we should be delighted. You can also add it yourself to our wildlife page on the website.

WE: How have you implemented ecological practices, with running the cottages?

VS: In the year 2000 we decided to undertake a big refurbishment of the cottages and to do this on eco-friendly lines.

We installed a wood-chip fired boiler to heat both the water in the pipes that made up the new underfloor heating system as well as all the domestic hot water. We did away with the electricl showers and installed showers which draw the water direct from the new double skinned hotwater tanks the water in which is heated by our central eco-friendly wood-fuelled boiler. We installed toilets with very small cisterns and have a waterbutt attached to the down pipe. We use this water for a dog bowl as well as watering plants and washing cars. We installed saverplugs on all the fridges which cut the el used by the fridge by up to 12.5%. All our el appliances are A grade. We upgraded our insulation to 400m thickness using recycled newspaper.

The water for the cottages comes direct from a spring in the wood and is piped into underground tanks. We installed a filter and ultra-violet treatment plant to avoid using any chemicals. The new boiler house houses a  drying room, office and games room is constructed of wood and recycled telegraph poles and has also got underfloor heating. Every room in the cottages have their own thermostats and a note is given to each guest to explain how to operate the system to obtain maximum comfort at minimum cost. We set the temperature at 21 in the living area and 16 in the bedrooms. The customers can change this if they wish. We find however that if the cottages are comfortable when they arrive they tend to leave the temperature as set. All heating and electricity is included in the price. All areas in the service shed are also thermostatically controlled.

We supply the Cottages with Ecover cleaning materials and ask our customers only to use these products while staying with us.

All office stationary used is recycled paper.

Our brochures are also printed on recycled paper using environmentally friendly inks. These are printed in Findhorn in Morayshire.

We commissioned a small family run joinery firm to make our furniture out of Douglas Fir from sustainablly run woodlands. This furniture is all constructed with mitred joints and dowls and oiled to finish off. Maintnence on the furniture has been minimal except for a new coat of oil from time to time.

We have recycling bins for glass, cans, paper and plastic as well as a composting bin. We use fully compostable bio-bags.  Each cottage is supplied with a separate composting bin which they empty into the central composting bin when needed. We find our customers very good at recycling. This has resulted in being ble to reduce the size of the wheelie bin supplied for each cottage from 360 litres to 240 litres. This is a cost saving of £116.36 per annum.

They are also very interested in all we do for the environment and often ask to see inside our wood fired boiler.

The visitors books are full of remarks like "keep up the good work".

WE: How can we learn about local businesses and markets, and promoting sustainable tourism?

VS: The cottages all have a note of where to buy local food with dates of the local farmers market. We encourage our guests to visit the local Restaurants which we know use fresh local food to and we ourselves use local suppliers wherever possible.

We have a local shop selling local shell fish. They have recently opened a Restaurant which we promote. The Loch Leven Seafood Café was last year written up as one of the 10 best places to eat in Scotland.

The dates for the Farmers market are posted in the Cottages as is the name and telephone number of the local butcher who sells Lochaber lamb and Venison..

The Coffee Shop in the village makes lovely home made meals and we point our visitors in that direction as well as to any other establishment in the area which we know has local food on the menu.

Lochaber is famous for its lamb, beef and venison all which we promote. However there is little in the way of locally grown fruit and vegatables. I wish there was more.

The benefits of our commitment to Sustainable Tourism have been many.

The cost of heating the cottages went down by approx 1/3 in the first year we installed our wood fuelled system. Our electricity bill was also much reduced. Each cottage uses approx 35,000 kwh per year which is about 2,800 kwh per cottage per month. You get 2,500 - 3,000 kwh per dry ton of chips. It cost us approx 3.75pence per kwh. Compare this with todays electricity prices at anything between 11 - 13p per kwh

This means that we are able to include electricity and heating in the total price of the holiday. Even in mid winter our cottages are always warm and cosy for our guests and they really appreciate the warmth and the unlimited supply of hot water which we provide them with. In the winter our customrs are mainly climbers and walkers, in the summer more families come to visit. We have a return visit rate of approx 70%. Many have come year after year. If they have visited us for 10 years (and many have) we give them a free weeks holiday!.

The booking pattern has changed over the 30 years since we built our self-catering cottages. Many people book over the internet and we have gone over to providing short breaks of a minimum of 2 nights which has proved popular. The emphasis that we place on the warmth & cosiness of the cottages as well as the wildlife on the doorstep and the ruggedness of the outside fits in well with the short break holiday often taken by Scots from the cities.

Our foreign visitors - mainly from Holland and Germany  and America - are very into the environment and frequently comment favourably on our approach.

In 2001 we were awarded one of the first of the Green Tourism Scheme's Gold Awards for self-catering

In 2003 we won the Scottish Power Energy Award.

In 2004 we were chosen as one of 10 case studies for the Green Tourism Scheme pamphlite.

In January 2005 we were featured in the Scotsman Magazine under "Looking for an eco-friendly spell away".

In September 2006 we were featured in The Times Saturday Holiday supplement under the heading of Environmentally Place to Holiday

In 2008 we were chosen as one of the case studies for Envirowise on our recycling.

I was one of the Speakers at the Tourism and Environment Forum organised  for small businesses in Inverness in March last year. My presentation was on Biomass heating.

I have for the last 3 years worked for the Green Tourism Business Scheme as one of their assessors. This work keeps me up-to-date with  the latest eco-friendly developments as well as in constant touch with likeminded people.


WE: Thanks so VERY much, Victoria! We can’t wait to come stay at Glencoe Cottages. Your environmental work is extremely impressive.  Readers, check back in October – we’ll be sharing our stay there!


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