In Search of No Civilisation

Privacy is priceless, and Scotland does it best. THE RAKE travelled north, hoping to experience that blissful moment of solitude and tranquillity (washed down with wine)...

In Search of No Civilisation

Self-catering isn’t a sexy word. Perhaps it’s the ‘catering’ part that brings to mind school dinners and slops of mashed potato. But what self-catering means, if you read between the lines, is privacy. In this world of fast-paced consumerism, you can’t put a price on privacy, and I have found, after thorough trialling and very little tribulation, that the best place for privacy is Scotland. You can be well looked after in Scotland, very well indeed, and if you are travelling from abroad, I’d start by making room in your luggage for a bottle of wine or three. 

If you want the full monty of privacy
Do you like to cook (and wash up)? That is what it comes down to: are you an aficionado in the kitchen? I am. Particularly with venison and a thoroughly good fishmonger’s on hand. My need for good food comes from a desire to pair a delicious wine with it; in fact, I’m never sure which need comes first. 

Glen Dye Cottages and Cabins are located in a dip on the Old Military Road in Aberdeenshire. They are part of a 15,000-acre estate, and the cottages and cabins sit at the centre. I don’t want to mislead you into thinking you won’t see another soul, as the cabins are set among each other. But, for instance, we were there for a week and I probably saw just one other couple. Our cottage also had the most beautiful private outdoor wood-fired hot tub in the middle of a forest. Let me tell you, a bottle of good whisky, a cigar and an outdoor bath is one of life’s greatest pleasures. By the final day we were so at home in our surroundings, we went for a swim in the Water of Dye in the nude. There’s something about the brightly coloured, playful interiors of the Glen Dye escape that invokes a kind of childhood curiosity, so no matter how long you stay for, whether you are fishing nearby, hiking, stalking or shooting, it feels like a real adventure. 

The details 
• Glen Dye isn’t too far from Fish Shop in Ballater, the successful new restaurant by Hauser & Wirth, and therefore from Chief Executive Ewan Venter’s attention to detail and finely applied expertise. Fish Shop is a 35-minute drive from the cottages, and worth the trip. Fresh fish every day, exciting menu, exciting wines, charming service — I’d go back in a heartbeat. There is also a cigar and whisky shop in Ballater, so you can stock up for the hot tub if you didn’t come prepared. 
• There is a shop at the Glen Dye main office selling pre-cooked meals such as venison ragu, fish pie and beef lasagne, so you could arrive and never leave. They also sell a host of fresh produce if you are more inclined to make your own creations. 
• If you would like to try salmon fishing, get in touch with TwinPeakes Fly Fishing ( I have fished with them several times, and they are the best in the business. They can kit you out with all the gear, and whether you are a beginner or experienced, they will take good care of you. The open season for salmon fishing on the River Dee runs from February 1 through September 30 each year, and it is all catch and release.
• I took eight bottles of wine with me, and for four drinkers this was plenty, but judge your group accordingly. 

If you want to be looked after 
While cooking for oneself in the middle of nowhere is an adventure for some, it isn’t for everyone. I have been fortunate to stay in two hotels in Scotland that you should visit at least once in your life. But how do you choose between these two greats? My advice is to go to both — they are in separate, beautiful parts of Scotland, and you owe it to yourself to wake up to both views. 

The Fife Arms, Braemar 
Rumour has it that Iwan and Manuela Wirth stopped for a coffee at The Fife Arms and asked to buy it on the spot. A few years later, this hotel is somehow so full of renewed character and charm it feels as though it has been home to Picassos and taxidermy all along. Bertie’s Bar was a highlight for me. Inspired by Queen Victoria’s eldest son, King Edward VII, who was affectionately known as Bertie, this is no ordinary bar. It has a perfect balance of luxury and intimacy. Ladders line shelves full of rare whiskies displayed in such a way as to make them look like medicines, which I suppose to some they are. There are 390 whiskies in total, with something for everyone and the perfect opportunity to try something new. The rooms range from quirky and fabulous, such as the Queen Victoria suite, to slightly more modern, if Queen Victoria’s stockings aren’t your bag. The Fife Arms is a place to immerse yourself in great traditions, art and fine whiskies — a step back in time that in this climate is very much needed.

Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye
Oh, Kinloch, how I miss thee. It is surprisingly easy to get to the Isle of Skye, and dare I say it, the bridge was a bit of a disappointment — much shorter than I imagined, I think. But once you hasten your way over, what magic there is on Skye! I think about Kinloch all the time. The welcome and warmth we received from the owner, Isabella Macdonald (Isabella’s parents launched Kinloch as a hotel in 1972), was like meeting a long-lost legendary aunty. Kinloch overlooks the Loch na Dal, and I could have sat in the bar, a whisky sour like no other in my hand and watching the wildlife, for the rest of my days. The menu changes daily, and if you wish to be adventurous there is plenty to do — the hotel will be more than happy to help you out. Personally, as someone who doesn’t very often stop, I’d just take a good book and settle into the delicious local whisky.


Chablis: Domaine de L’Enclos, Burgundy, France, 2021. £75 at Fish Shop, Ballater. One from the list at Fish Shop, and an exceptional accompaniment to lobster however they are serving it. The perfectly elegant yet steely Chablis. 

Pingus, Ribera Del Duero, Spain, 1999 . From the extensive cellar at The Fife Arms, this wine is a must-try. It is opulent and at the very peak of its aging potential, so you are in for a real treat. 

Pol Roger, Sir Winston Churchill, 2013, £215 from The Champagne Company. One to shove in your suitcase for outdoor baths — or perhaps breakfast in bed would be suitably Churchillian. One of the greatest Pol Roger bottlings available. 

Whisky sour, Kinloch Lodge. After extensive tastings I can confirm that Kinloch Lodge produces the best whisky sour in all of Scotland. Make sure yours is made with the Torabhaig 12-year-old Allt Gleann batch- strength whisky. It is subtly peaty and delicious in a whisky sour. 

Ashes & Diamonds, cabernet sauvignon, Red Hen Vineyard, Napa Valley, No.2, 2018. £110 from Nekter Wines. Another one for the suitcase, this is your venison ragu pairing upon arriving at Glen Dye. It is broody and like silky liquorice and dark fruits, and I just about fell in love with it.