Hebridean Serenity at WildLuing – Review

By Margaret Hussey

8 months ago

Remote learning: you'll be thoroughly transformed after a stay in these cosy cabins

Recapturing the joys of living on a Hebridean island has been a labour of love for the Cadzow family. Margaret Hussey checks into their new holiday bolt-hole and finds island life is magical.

Hebridean Serenity at WildLuing – Review

Cabin at WildLuing with a bed, roll top bath and view of the island

When Jack Cadzow’s grandfather moved to the remote inner Hebridean island of Luing in the late 1940s, he and his brothers set about creating a new breed of cattle. The Luing, a mix of a Highland cow and Beef Shorthorn, is known for its calm temperament and hardiness – a must for the terrain of this island off Scotland’s beautiful West Coast.

Jack, his brother Archie and father Shane carried on the tradition of breeding Luings (pronounced Ling), and they still have a thriving farm on the island. And now the brothers, plus Jack’s wife Emily, have taken on a new beast which is equally as hardy and calming: they are the brains behind WildLuing, a set of eight self-contained cabins built on their land overlooking Torsa Bay, 18 miles from Oban.

For the family it has been a labour of love to showcase their beautiful childhood home, where Jack says he and Archie had the freedom to run wild and play outdoors. It’s one of the reasons he’s moved back here after years of working in London and Kenya: he wanted to start a family and build on what his forefathers started.

His passion for the area is infectious, and you can see why. We may have gone on walks where the weather on the island (which is just six miles long and one mile across) was absolutely dreich, as they say up here, but in half an hour rays of sunlight hit us and the sogginess of our shoes didn’t matter.

Views of the island from a cabin at WildLuing

The beauty here is the remoteness, tranquillity and views. Leaving my curtains open and walking up to natural daylight with an otter swimming by was one of many highlights.

Sustainability and local are keywords for the Cadzows. Jack helped build the suites himself using local materials and businesses, a huge feat of engineering when you think it all had to be schlepped across the water on a tiny ferry.  The suites are fully self-contained with a compact kitchen (and some with stand alone roll top baths), Highland Soap Company toiletries, furnishings sympathetic to the area, and a huge cosy bed with crisp cotton sheets, which led to the most wonderful night’s sleep.

It’s all part of the ethos of the Cadzow family: to inject life back into an island which has seen its population dwindle from more than 600 to about 175. For now, the primary school is mothballed as there are not enough children living here – they are ferried to nearby islands.

The small two-minute ferry from Seil to Luing takes cars and passengers (but always check the times in advance, there’s a limited service in winter). While you’re waiting you can have a drink at the historic Tigh an Truish pub, which means House of the Trousers. After the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, the Government banned the wearing of kilts. Islanders used to change into their trousers here before heading for the mainland. They would then cross over the 200-year-old Clachan bridge, known locally as the first bridge over the Atlantic, suited and booted appropriately.

Suitably dressed ourselves in waterproofs, Jack and Emily took us on a boat trip passing by the Corryvreckan whirlpool between Scarba and Jura, home to the famous whisky. The whirlpool, said to be the third most powerful in the world, has featured in the 1945 film I Know Where I’m Going!, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, as well as the 1963 James Bond classic From Russia with Love. Here we spotted the cutest grey seal, bobbing its head out of the water, just as curious about us as we were about them.

We were dropped off for a walk on the uninhabited island of Scarba, a specially protected area, where wild boar have done a great job of tidying up the land, snuffling and eating their way around it like porcine hoovers. On our walk we spotted them, red deer, fallow deer, wild goats and a sea eagle’s nest. The island is also home to golden eagles and hen harriers, but they were wisely keeping out of the rain.

With clothes slightly damp, we retired to the bothy on Scarba, an old house reminiscent of something from The Banshees of Inisherin, where a veritable feast awaited us.

Dining table with island views at WildLuing

Every suite at WildLuing is self-catered, but you can hire local chef Iain Jeromson, who rustles up the most incredible dishes. Our bothy lunch, preceded by a cosy fire, included homemade sausage rolls, frittata, tomato soup with chilli, guacamole, salsa, local Scottish cheeses and wine. It was finished off with a warming hot chocolate, tweaked with a shot of Baileys. Iain is passionate about local produce, and says when you have oysters, langoustines and squat lobster on your doorstep, it’s a no-brainer.

Jack, Archie and Emily will also provide a breakfast hamper if you want, as well as ready-made meals if you are likely to arrive late. They are also planning to have supper nights on Fridays and Saturdays in their very social Observatory, combining an open plan kitchen, dining and living area, which both locals and visitors can enjoy. With big squashy sofas and views over the bay, it is the ideal place for entertaining and you can hire WildLuing out in its entirety – perfect for a big celebration.

The Cadzow Luing beef is sold in the local village shop in Cullapool, which doubles up as a post office and is the hub of all island knowledge. The nearby Atlantic Islands Centre hosts open mic and music nights and also multi-tasks as a social hotspot as there is no pub on the island. And for a small island there are two village halls – one in Cullapool, the other in Toberonochy.

Luing is part of the Slate Islands and back in its heyday was known as the roof of the world for the amount of Dalradian slate it exported. Toberonochy is home to old whitewashed cottages for slate workers, some being lovingly restored. Although the quarries are long since closed, Jack says they are looking to bring quarrying back, even on a small scale, as a way of creating jobs. He’s also involved in nature restoration –  the diggers were out building a huge pond which will be surrounded by native and blossom trees, with the aim to create wildlife corridors to encourage birds like curlew and golden plover.

There are plans to add a kitchen garden, sauna and a hide to WildLuing where you can watch the wildlife. Jack will also be back in action building a pontoon over the water – ideal for yoga classes or jumping into the bay, which I did (or at least slid into tentatively, though I can confirm a bracing November swim in its waters was absolutely invigorating).

A trip here is invigorating on so many levels. With the main traffic being partridges and pheasants and Luing cattle gently roaming the island, and when your mind only has to concentrate on fresh air and nature – there are no TVs in the suites –  it’s a perfect place to reset and rebalance. Jack’s grandfather would be proud.

Cadzow family and their two spaniels

WildLuing suites sleep two people and are priced from £200 per night in low season. The Observatory is available for event hire and group bookings. Fees for dogs are £20 each and just one dog per suite. Exclusive use of the site including optional catering and full use of accommodation and the Observatory is also available by prior arrangement. For more information, visit www.wildluing.com