Many thanks to the team at Country Homes and Interiors Magazine, for whom Anna originally wrote this article.
As a child I remember being that Argyll, where I grew up, has a longer coastline than France. But I only really believed it when I first drove the length of the Kintyre Peninsula to Saddell Bay. Last year I did it in June, when the verges were dazzling purple and green with willowherb. As the radio signal died, I listen to Bridge Over Troubled Water on a loop while the miles skimmed past. That it should be possible to drive three hours south-west on Inveraray and still be on land seems absurd, but so it is. What you find when the road finally runs out is a sublime end-of-the-world place. And here is the glittering, dappled realm of Saddell.
This little estate was once part of the lands of a Cistercian Abbey. When the monks finally petered out in the late Middle Ages, it was granted to the Bishop of Argyll in the hope that he would help pacify this lawless fiefdom of the Lords of the Isles. Still standing proud on the water’s edge is Saddell Castle, the stronghold he built in 1508, with its incomparable view across Kilbrannan Sound to the Isle of Arran.
The castle stands right on the beach, with fine views from every window on each of its four floors. Best of all is the battlemented wall-walk around its roof. When Landmark took it on, large trees were growing from the parapets and all the windows had gone. Over the centuries, a series of other buildings joined the castle – two whitewashed, sash-windowed houses, a grand Georgian mansion and a tiny tin cottage.
Shore Cottage stands on a rocky point among trees that grow right down to the sea. Imaginative in design as well as situation, the door from the sitting room leads directly onto the foreshore. All these properties were in a ragged or ruinous condition when we bought the estate in 1978 but after careful restoration, and ever since, they have been available to rent for holidaying. The castle, which sleeps eight, is perfect for Christmas getaways. You can follow the Kintyre Way around the stunning peninsula and enjoy exploring its wealth of hidden coves and deserted beaches.
I seldom go to Argyll in high summer now, although I almost always make it for Christmas. Of my 40 Christmasses to date, only two have ever been spent anywhere else. At this time of year, the daylight lasts barely six hours and the winter sun streaks low across the sound. When night falls, you can pile on all your jerseys and clamber out onto the castle roof to marvel at the glittering firmament and hope for a glimpse of the northern lights.
We have several properties at Saddell Bay:
Saddell Castle (from £498)
Saddell Lodge (from £205)
Cul-na-Shee (from £222)
Ferryman's Cottage (from £277)
Shore Cottage (from £325)
Saddell House (from £715)
This article was first published in Country Homes and Interiors Magazine in December 2015