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Have you ever wanted to stay somewhere really different? How about a cottage attached to a lighthouse or in the grounds of one of Scotland's magnificent castles? Or a historic house or apartment in the heart of a fascinating old town or village?
You need look no further than the wide range of properties let as self catering holiday accommodation by the National Trust for Scotland, or NTS. All the above are included, and more. The NTS is a conservation charity that protects and promotes Scotland's natural and cultural heritage. Over the years it has become the owner of a very diverse portfolio of property ranging from castles and historic houses to mountain estates and entire islands. Many of its properties are open to the public and feature elsewhere on Undiscovered Scotland. Some of them come complete with flats, cottages or apartments which the NTS lets as self catering holiday accommodation. The income this provides helps support the NTS's conservation work, so by staying in their properties you not only enjoy a unique experience, you also contribute to their work.
In preparing this feature we stayed in an NTS property in the beautiful town of Kirkcudbright. This was a little unusual in not being part of a large estate or in the grounds of a castle. Instead, "Blue Door" is found down a fascinating close that runs under an arch off Kirkcudbright's High Street. Beyond the blue door leading into the property the close opens out into gardens and the situation and character of the property is completely charming.
"Blue Door" itself can accommodate up to 7 in a double room, two twin rooms and a single. The bedrooms are spread over the upper two floors of the house, with the double having an en-suite toilet, and there is a bathroom on the first floor and a walk in shower room on the ground floor. Also on the ground floor is a sitting room and a kitchen. Many rooms are dual aspect, with windows out onto the close at the front and onto gardens at the rear. Equipment levels are generally good, with nothing that was needed being unavailable in the kitchen: though we were grateful we'd thought to pack a hairdryer. The house had been beautifully cleaned and nicely prepared, and there was plenty of information to hand for new arrivals.
From our point of view, "Blue Door" was ideal accommodation in a very quiet location with friendly neighbours. And for anyone wanting to explore Dumfries and Galloway, it would be hard to find anywhere more centrally placed than Kirkcudbright.
But as already noted, "Blue Door" is a little atypical of NTS properties. In many ways their mainstream business is much more to do with lighthouses, estates and, especially, castles. Looking at lighthouses first, there are cottages available at the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse at the foot of the Kintyre peninsula, the Mull of Galloway lighthouse at Scotland's mouth southerly point, Stoer Head in Highland, and Covesea Skerries in Moray.
Meanwhile, there is even more choice when it comes to castles. Cottages are available in the grounds of a number of castles, including Culzean Castle in Ayrshire, Crathes Castle, Craigievar Castle and Leith Hall in Aberdeenshire. And at Brodie Castle in Moray and Fyvie Castle in Aberdeenshire there are apartments actually within the castles themselves. All the NTS properties illustrated on this page have letting accommodation of one sort or another, some of it quite large. Gunsgreen House, overlooking Eyemouth harbour, for example, can accommodate up to 10 guests.
There are also properties available to let in parts of the country you might not expect. Glastone's Flat, for example, forms part of Gladstone's Land on Edinburgh's Royal Mile just a stone's throw from Edinburgh Castle. And in Glasgow the coach house in the grounds of Holmwood House, the finest domestic work of the architect Alexander Greek Thomson, can sleep up to 5 people in three bedrooms. Or for something just a little quieter, the NTS also has available a restored traditional fisherman's cottage in the unique village of Crovie on the north Aberdeenshire coast and cottages on its estate in Torridon. There really is something for just about everyone: for more information check out the NTS Holidays website.