Look inside the new hotel aiming to shake up Skye's tourism market
It all sounds great in principle. You arrive at your scenic, secluded cabin in a remote corner of Scotland ready to get away from it all…until the rain starts pouring and you realise you are paying to be stuck in what is essentially a glamorous shed– with absolutely nothing to do.
It is precisely this kind of tourism model that is being shaken up by the owners of Skye’s newest hotel, the Bracken Hide.
At first glimpse, the hotel’s timber cabins that cover the hillside might look like the kind of glamping pods we’ve all seen before. But despite offering breath-taking views across the Sound of Raasay and the privacy of a personal terrace, the comparisons to traditional pods end there. For at the Bracken Hide, you can also enjoy all the amenities of a luxury hotel; including a high-end restaurant, whisky/cocktail bar, cinema room, gaming area, wild plunge pool and Estonian sauna.
The facilities are housed in a central, architecturally striking hub that is just a few steps away from the cabins. It is also only 900 metres (or a ten-minute walk) to the centre of Portree, Skye’s largest town and capital. This gives guests the option of a much wider itinerary for the evenings – or daytimes when the weather is poor– without being reliant on a car.
The aim, according to owner Charlie Garton-Jones, was to give Bracken Hide guests “the best of both worlds”.
“People say they want a wilderness hotel,” he explains, “but they kind of don’t want to be in the wilderness. Our hotel is surrounded by rugged nature, but you are still connected into the town. People want wilderness, but they still want underfloor heating and an espresso machine and good wifi.”
Charlie and his wife Miranda also own the Cowshed boutique hostel on the island, so have a sense of the phenomenal demand that exists for tourist accommodation in Skye. The Bracken Hide doesn’t officially open until April 7, but several dates are already full during the peak summer season.
“There’s already quite a lot of dates that are sold out,” Charlie says. “I think Skye has been missing a product like this.”
One unique draw is the sauna and plunge pool, a perfect way to introduce yourself to the benefits of cold-water therapy with a safety net of being able to warm up instantly afterwards.
“It’s a really good therapy for your blood pressure, your skin, your mood,” says Miranda, “to go from the ice-cold water to the extreme heat of the Estonian sauna. You go in the sauna for five minutes, jump in the water, back to the sauna and repeat. It is extraordinary the benefits it gives you, you feel it straight away.”
“Scotland is the only northern European country that isn’t obsessed with this sauna culture,” adds Charlie, “it is an outlier in that respect. I think sauna culture is something that should be embraced in the Highlands and Islands.”
Oban caravan and camping park bought by Highland Holidays
Glasgow nightclubs owner Donald MacLeod takes on Rowardennan campsite
Offering something for those who live and work in Skye, rather than those just passing through, was a key consideration for Charlie and Miranda. They have created a large dining section within the new Bracken Hide restaurant aimed not at those staying in the pods, but locals who might be looking to celebrate a special occasion.
“I know of restaurants on the island that won’t take bookings of more than six or eight people during the main season,” explains Miranda. “That’s something that is lacking on Skye, it is difficult to find places where you can get everyone together for a meal. So we deliberately made sure that we have a table that is slightly set aside from the main restaurant, that could accommodate 20 or so people and give them a space to celebrate as a big group.”
There’s one kind of guest that will always be welcome at the Bracken Hide – those with four legs. Unlike hotels that allow dogs in the rooms but not in the communal areas, Charlie and Miranda have strived to ensure that furry guests are welcomed throughout the entirety of the hotel.
“We are massively dog friendly, and making a real point of it,” Charlie enthuses. “Partly because we have dogs and we love dogs, and partly because Skye is such a great holiday for dogs, it’s like a doggy heaven.”
“We made sure that every single person we are employing loves dogs,” adds Miranda. “There’s no point being dog friendly but then having staff working for you who are allergic to dogs or who don’t like dogs. Any dog that arrives here will be a much-loved guest.”
For dogs and humans alike then, it seems the Bracken Hide will be well worth a visit.
Find out more, and book online at www.brackenhide.co.uk