A Highland holiday with neither rain nor midges sounds like a pipe dream, but that’s often the experience at Balnagown Estate near Invergordon.

While dry weather cannot be guaranteed – after all, this is Scotland – the fact remains that the nearby seaside village of Portmahomack is one of the driest places in the whole of the British Isles and sees even less rainfall than London. The result? Very few midges.
That is just one of the bonuses of a holiday on the estate which boasts nine historic properties renovated for self-catering guests all set in a tranquil estate setting within easy reach of Dornoch, Tain and Inverness.

The estate is around 39,000 acres with all but one of the holiday properties situated near Balnagown Castle, formerly the seat of Clan Ross.
The core part of the estate is gated, meaning children can roam free without parents worrying about traffic as there are no public roads. There is much to explore and it is possible to spend the entire holiday on the estate as there are so many activities provided free, from mountain biking, to archery, fishing, swimming, paddle boarding and wildlife watching.

There are plenty of scenic spots to picnic or walk and as there are almost four miles of tarmac roads, where wheelchair users and pram pushers can also enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Runners have the choice of well-marked trails around the estate or the surfaced 400 metre track near to the recently installed outdoor gym.
On the rare occasions that the weather does put a dampener on things a well-equipped Sports Hall is ready for use whenever desired and boasts a selection of gym equipment as well as space for indoor football, table tennis, basketball and badminton or, for the less energetic, table football and pool. 


The estate takes pride in the work they been doing for the environment and wildlife watchers can climb the Observation Tower to take advantage of its powerful telescope or check out the newly installed viewing screen showing a live feed from a nearby kestrel’s nest. “Fingers crossed we will be able to see both kestrels and barn owls nesting from there this year.  We try to do as much as we can for wildlife and have around 20 barn owl boxes, three tawny owl boxes, three kestrel nesting boxes and many small bird boxes across the estate,” said Estate Manager Callum Paterson.

Balnagown have also been working with Butterfly Conservation Scotland to improve the habitat for the rare Small Blue and Dingy Skipper butterflies, with funds contributed by the Highland Council’s Nature Restoration Fund as well as the estate and Butterfly Conservation Scotland. For those with the patience there are two wildlife hides where pine martins, badgers and red squirrels can be seen and the three lochs are a haven for birdlife such as little grebes and the pair of resident swans – Mr and Mrs Grumpy!

The largest of the lochs, Loch Larrack, is stocked with rainbow trout and there are rods, a rowing boat and life jackets for anyone who wants to fish. A BBQ hut is thoughtfully provided so guests can cook their freshly caught trout straight away. If any fruit or vegetables are required, these can be picked in season from the walled garden which also has a summerhouse, complete with kettle, and is a restful spot to relax with a good book and a cup of tea. The second loch is perfect for wild swimming with its own manmade beach, jetty and pergola, with paddle boards and life jackets provided. The third loch is left wild for nature.

The Balnagown River which flows through the estate can be fished for salmon. These tend to be extremely elusive but even if the fish are scarce, the rock pools are fantastic for paddling and along with the newly installed summer house makes for another peaceful picnic spot. As well as the ten miles of footpaths and tracks through the core estate for bikers, walkers and runners, Balnagown is this year introducing guided vehicle tours to help guests learn about the history of the estate. The wider estate stretches almost as far as the west coast and as far north as Ben More Assynt and includes nearly 40 crofts, several farm tenancies, residential and commercial let property.

On the estate’s in-hand farm, they have recently entered into an Agri-Environment Climate Change Scheme to promote bio-diverstity, sustainability and regenerative farming. “Our aim is to create a living estate that benefits local communities and the environment while being economically sustainable,” said Mr Paterson.

Book your stay at www.balnagown.com or call 01862 843601. Book before July 31 with code QW0OD to get 10% off your stay.