DURING the pandemic lockdowns, many of us talked about changing our lifestyles and overhauling the day-to-day.

Gemma and Rob Rogers actually did it, taking a leap of faith with Gemma’s mother Stephanie and moving their lives lock, stock and barrel from Cambridge in the south of England to Argyll on the west coast of Scotland.

“We had always wanted to live in Scotland and run holiday cottages, and during the pandemic when we both worked from home, we realised we could work from anywhere,” explains Gemma.

“And that meant we could live where we wanted to live, without the miserable daily commute into London.”

She adds: “My mum had been widowed recently, so she decided to come with us on our adventure.”

The adventure is Kirnan Estate, more than 400 acres of stunning countryside, deciduous woodland and two lochs near Kilmichael Glassary in stunning Argyll.

Gemma says she and Rob were “overwhelmed by the beauty of the place,” and even on a damp and dreich afternoon, it is easy to see why.

Kirnan Estate is located around five miles from Lochgilphead, a small town situated at the apex of Loch Gilp, about two hours west of Glasgow.

The drive takes in some of Scotland’s prettiest scenery and on the final stretch, rolling hills, farmland and dense forests stretch as far as the eye can see. As the season turns, this part of the country will soon be ablaze with autumn colour.

Past smallholdings and stone cottages, and the odd standing stone – a reminder of this area’s links to ancient history – eventually, the turning for Kirnan appears and the main house and cottages come into view.

(A word for history buffs – this area is packed with it. You can barely walk a few steps without encountering cairns, standing stones, carved rock, stone circles, forts and castles and nearby Kilmartin Glen is considered to have one of the most important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland. It is a fascinating place.)

Unfortunately, the Kilmartin Museum is currently closed due to a £6 million refurbishment, but you can still book a guided tour of the monuments, or go on a self-guided tour via the museum’s website.

Our first few hours at Kirnan are spent unwinding, and discovering more about the history of the place. There has been a building at Kirnan since the 13th century and located within the grounds are a medieval fort and cup rings. Sometime in the 15th century, it is believed the place was abandoned and ruined, but the main house as it stands today was rebuilt in the 19th century using much of the original stone.

It was built as a shooting lodge for the Campbell family. One famous member of the family, Thomas Campbell the poet, is buried in Westminster Abbey. At the turn of the last century, the gardens at Kirnan attracted the famous botanist, Robert Heber Macaulay. He bought the estate and restored the gardens, bringing many plants from his trips abroad. Macaulay had a special interest in rock gardens, which are in abundance.

Our home for two nights is Chapel Cottage, which originally served, as the name suggests, as the estate chapel in the 19th century. Beautifully restored, this is self-catering accommodation on another level – luxurious but comfortable, with spectacular attention to detail. The 18-year-old and 14-year-old loved relaxing in the main living area (despite the rural location, the wifi signal is strong, families with teenagers can note with relief); while we appreciated the clever and thoughtful touches that will appeal to parents with children of all ages - the kid-sized cutlery and plates, the underfloor heating in the porch to help wet wellies dry out quickly, the pretty attic room with four cosy single beds, a stack of books, toys and games and even a charming porthole window: everything, in fact, that younger children need for their own adventure.

Grown-ups have everything they need too – an inviting fireplace for chillier evenings, two king-size double bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, fully-equipped kitchen and dining area, soaker bathtub, double rain shower…Chapel Cottage is a gorgeous family holiday home, ideal for special occasion get-togethers, or a relaxing break with extended family (the house sleeps up to eight).

It shares an enclosed BBQ cabin with Torrnalaich Cottage, a magical little hideaway of a place suitable for couples or solo travellers, and the third accommodation option on the estate is Kirnan Beg, a Scandi-inspired wood cabin with one double bedroom.

For a proper, get-away-from-it-all short break, Kirnan offers plenty of opportunity to relax, unwind and get close to nature. There are lovely walks and trails through the forest (it’s a bit boggy in places, so pack your wellies); wildlife is all around you – look out for owls and pipistrelle bats in particular in the evenings, and roaming red deer; and there are opportunities for wild swimming. Shoots take place on the estate and in season, guests can enjoy catch-and-release fishing on the River Add. Visitors can also book a round of clay shooting, supervised by Rob, who is passionate about shooting and conservation, and a yoga session with Gemma, a qualified teacher who runs classes for guests and the community.

If you decide to venture off the estate, there is plenty to see and do in the local area. We spent a day at nearby Crinan, strolling along the towpaths, watching boats navigate the locks and enjoying delicious toasties and cakes from the magnificent canalside café run by nearby Crinan Hotel. We also took a stroll around Lochgilphead and we enjoyed a hearty dinner at the Kilmartin Hotel, where the portions are huge and the welcome is warm. For fish and chips, the Argyll in Lochgilphead is ideal – it was queued out when we visited, always a good sign. And Lucy’s, a delightful-looking café in Ardfern came highly recommended, but make sure you book ahead, even for tea and cake. The frosty welcome from unsmiling staff who sent us off with the advice that even hot drinks and cakes could not be accommodated for “at least an hour” despite empty tables and no queue, put us off, somewhat.

At Kirnan, peacefulness and nature meet high-end interior design and comfort to great effect. With this stylish holiday estate, Gemma and Rob have created something a little bit special. Enough to make you want to change your life and head for the hills, in fact….



A stay at Chapel Cottage on the Kirnan Estate costs from £425 per night (two night minimum stay). Torrnalaich Cottage costs from £200 per night and Kirnan Beg, from £220 per night (both also two night minimum). A one-hour yoga class costs £50. Clay pigeon shooting (25 clays) costs £50 per person

Website: kirnanestate.com Email: contact@kirnanestate.com Instagram: @Kirnanestate

Kilmartin Museum is closed until 2023 but guided tours can be booked online at kilmartin.org/

Discover more about the Crinan Canal at scottishcanals.co.uk

The Crinan Coffee Shop sells toastes, filled rolls, cake and hot and cold drinks – discover more at crinanhotel.com

Kilmartin Hotel kilmartin-hotel.com

Lucy’s lucys-ardfern.co.uk/

Ann Fotheringham

Senior features writer

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