Because of wet weather & strong winds, we were deterred from visiting Iona, the island on the tip of the Isle of Mull in Scotland, and made a dash instead for the Drovers Inn at Inverarnan, which meant a ferry trip back to the mainland and about a one-hour drive from Oban towards Loch Lomond. What a treat we were in for. Built in 1705, one of the oldest pubs in Scotland, and in the middle of a national park, you travel down a picturesque road (perfectly timed for us at dusk) and see this beacon of warm light in the distance, making you think of comfort, soup and red wine. I’m sure that’s what comes to mind for most visitors, hikers exploring the surrounding mountains and lochs.
Inside there are boxes upon boxes upon boxes of taxidermy and mounted specimens are coming from the wall and ceiling and every which way. Many small rooms branch off the reception area – my favourite has a fox knocker on the door and opens to the bar which is dark and moody and candlelit with everyone chatty and talking about the day’s hike, where they’ve been to and where they are going next. I liked it so much I could have lived there. For this reason, I have harnessed those feelings in this setting (above), a not modern at all version of a studio apartment with everything you might need.
The small wooden discs above the fireplace are like books, an ever-useful tool for a mantel still-life. Use them to create different heights. I bought a scout leader’s hat in its holder when I was sourcing for a commercial space and loving all things campland. I saw Duart Castle from afar and navigated my way to its doors. I was not disappointed with its tartan-clad flooring nor to discover that its original owner was chief scout of the WORLD! We got a good dose of his achievements and past after climbing a stone spiral staircase with rope banisters.
I am not Scottish, but I love tartan and the history that it represents – its colour and pattern defining the clan you are from. I had two bespoke tartans made for me in my own colour palette from 21st Century Kilts.
I love that there are honesty systems that still happen, from bars in New York to country roadside stalls! Here is my very own. This is inspired by my non-visit to Tobermory whisky distillery. We had chosen this one out of hundreds of distilleries in Scotland, and on the day I went to explore it, it was all booked out. It will make me travel all the way back to the Isle of Mull just to see inside. For now, this is a homage to Tobermory.
This has elements from one of my favourite childhood books, The Magic Faraway Tree – in fact, it is what I picture it to look like at the very top! I went for a walk with my dad and we discovered wooden steps that climbed all the way up the highest pine I had ever seen. Up & up until they disappeared from view. If I had ascended, I know I would have found Dame Washalot and Moonface and everyone else.
Even if the vegetation of where you live isn’t like Scotland, you can re-create the overwhelming feeling of green and lushness by creating your own magical forest. If you don’t have access to these string balls, just cut foliage and put it in vases at all different heights. This achieves a feeling of being surrounded, and mimics mountains and lakes which are never at an even keel.
My homage to the night I spent with my dad at Bramble Bield.
Manners were very important in our household when I was growing up and I think there’s a lot to be said for table etiquette. You can take the formality, and then loosen it up. I took a very formal table setting and relaxed it by adding a leather machinery belt and strewn flowers.
The Gulf Stream is a powerful, warm and swift ocean current that starts at the tip of Florida and makes its way across the Atlantic Ocean to northern Scotland. It creates an unexpectedly warm climate in what is otherwise known for wet, rug-up kind of weather. The Highlands are typically mossy, scrubby and lush but at Inverewe Garden you discover plants that normally sit on a tropical island or in the desert! It was all so unexpected – to invoke this, make a decorative arrangement out of something unusual like prickly pear.
I have always been attracted to humble materials. Those that have a utilitarian purpose, such as a flour sack, are now used as upholstery on a sofa and as a window treatment. A defunct fireplace can add an extra layer onto a wall; stack it tightly with birch rounds or wood from other trees you love. Flat things are good souvenirs – I often buy paintings that can slip between my clothes in my suitcase for a safe return. This oil painting is from Unicorn Antiques in Edinburgh.
Tune in next week as I wrap-up my tour of Scotland, including final interior inspiration gleaned from my journey as well as my guide to fantastic spots to check out when you head out on your own Scottish jaunt.