Alexandra Henton finds this pocket-sized sustainable sporting estate deep in Ancient Argyllshire provides the perfect bolthole for a sporting holiday
THERE are some reasons to turn left when you get to Glasgow, and eschew the well-trodden A9 north. Keep driving west, skirt Loch Fyne and keep the coast in sight, up and over the old bridge at Inveraray, and you finally reach a corner of Argyllshire that can lay claim to being one of the most ancient in the country. Kirnan Estate, which sits in Kilmichael Glassary by Kilmartin Glen, is enough to turn the best-pleased slightly green-eyed.
Originally a Victorian shooting lodge, this 400-acre Scottish estate boasts its own stretch of the River Add, two hill lochs, walked-up shooting and stalking. This is all a stone’s throw from the rugged Argyll coastline and five minutes from Dunadd, where ancient Scottish kings were crowned. It is brimming with sport and history, and suffused with quiet charm. The perfect place for a sporting holiday.
It is brimming with sport, history and quiet charm
Robert Evans and Gemma Roberts bought Kirnan 18 months ago. “We’d been shooting in the Borders and saw the place on Rightmove – made the four-hour journey to look at it, and fell in love at the gate,” says Gemma. It is easy to see why – acres of lawned garden running to wild, with walks, wildlife and peace in plentiful supply.
The couple renovated the two holiday cottages that sit behind the main house, and have created wonderfully stylish havens – whether it’s a two-night stay on a trip further north, or a little longer exploring this magical bit of Scotland.
Torrnalaich where we stayed is perfect for a couple, and made an ideal stopover on a journey to the north-west. Chapel cottage will sleep eight – or hire both for a party. Kitchens are fitted out by Neptune, the bathrooms are Burlington and the beds so comfortable we both overslept. A log burner in the sitting room and local gin made perfect bedfellows.
We breakfasted like kings on our sporting holiday
The welcome hamper of eggs, smoked trout, local bread, Orkney butter and coffee allowed us to breakfast like kings. There is also Kirnan Beg, a wooden cabin set away from the main house for those keen to immerse themselves in their surroundings.
The estate boasts natural broadleaf woodlands harbouring cherry, rowan and oak, and more will be planted. “We will also plant four species of spruce, not just sitka spruce, as maintaining diversity in the woodland is crucial,” says Rob, who is a keen conservationist and is looking to a sustainable future for the estate.
Walk, fish or simply wallow in the beauty of the place
Once you are in situ then you are at liberty to walk, fish, use the barbecue hut or simply wallow in the beauty of the place. Gemma is a yoga teacher and classes can be arranged. She has also produced a useful guide for guests. We plumped for supper at the Crinan Hotel, eating langoustines hauled from the bay in front of the hotel, and were greeted like old friends.
To stay at Kirnan is to relax in the most welcoming of boltholes, with charming hosts and a dabbling of sport if you wish. Rob stalks for the larder and is happy to distribute venison to guests – we left with a delicious chunk. A sustainable sporting estate run by an enthusiastic couple who embody both the sport and relaxation side of what Kirnan has to offer. Look them up, and say hello from me
BESPOKE, WITH FISHING INCLUDED
A stay at Kirnan is bespoke – either keep-to-yourself or a whole party can be accommodated. Although both cottages are well equipped for self catering, Kiran can offer food if both cottages are taken as it can be trickier finding places to eat on your sporting holiday if taken in winter.
Each overnight stay comes with fishing on the Add or hill lochs included. The Add is a rare coastal spate river: 2.5 miles of double-bank fly fishing that is hardly ever fished where you can catch salmon, sea trout and wild brownies, too, when the weather is right.
The stalking takes in red, roe and sika deer and is private at present. In season, stalking and potential rough shooting can sometimes be arranged for experienced guests.
Instagram @kirnanestate. Cottages from £200 per night, minimum two-night stay