Have you ever wanted to dive into the copper-coloured, peaty waters of your own private loch; or fish alone, on the banks of a crystal-clear trout river? Or simply practise your downward dog surrounded by nothing but wild beauty? Argyll’s Kirnan Estate is a place that has it all: natural beauty, country pursuits and stylish interiors.
Words by Joseph Fitzgerald
You can do all this, and more, at the Kirnan Estate in Argyll, on the west coast of Scotland. The property is under the stewardship of Rob Evans and Gemma Rogers, an enterprising couple from Cambridge who fell in love with the estate during lockdown and promptly bought it. They moved in last year and, during the past 18 months, have clearly been busy, renovating guest accommodation for discerning clients seeking to walk, swim and fish in this spectacular corner of Britain.
Kirnan Estate comprises 400 acres of farmland, moorland and woodland in the Argyll countryside, about two hours west of Glasgow; the area may be less well-known than the Highlands but is every bit as compelling. In place of the raw grandeur further north, you’ll find a softer landscape, one of muted forest palettes and switchback drives that reveal lochs and inlets, gleaming in the sunshine.
Kirnan offers three accommodation options: Kirnan Beg, a Scandi-style romantic bolthole for two, hidden in the woods; Torrnalaich Cottage, also ideal for a couple and attached to the main house; and finally Chapel Cottage, a versatile space for one family (or two), with capacity for eight. We stayed at Chapel Cottage, driving up from a sweltering London into the welcome cool, clean air of Argyll. To say Rob and Gemma have been busy since taking over is something of an understatement – all three cottages have been completely refurbished and spruced to the nines. Gemma has a passionate interest in interior design and Chapel Cottage shows off her keen eye.
Like all the accommodation at Kirnan, Chapel Cottage has been restored with high-end flair, every space curated with a luxurious, design-led aesthetic. While everything in Chapel Cottage has been designed for a comfortable stay, you don’t really visit Kirnan to stay inside – there’s far too much on offer outdoors. On our first day, we walked across the estate through deciduous woodland to Torrnalaich Loch, one of two on the estate. A small bothy stands on the edge of water; inside you’ll find enough kit to host a small dinner party, including a chimneyed barbecue.
Bordered by lily pads and surrounded by hills, the russet-brown water is accessed by a small jetty. Blissful to swim in, the place is nirvana for anyone who enjoys wild swimming. We spent the day lounging in the sun and eating delicious local-smoked salmon (the nearby village of Lochgilphead boasts its own smokery), as iridescent dragonflies danced on the breeze. And we didn’t see another soul, all day. Just us, the sun, the sky and loch.
In Lochgilphead, just a few miles away, you can also buy fantastic fresh fish and seafood and the famous Argyll town of Inverary is just a 40-minute drive. An hour’s drive takes you to West Port Beach, a stunning six-mile strip further down the peninsula. Crinan, meanwhile, is a great base for cycling, paddle boarding or kayaking. You can even head out on a boat to see the famous Corryvreckan Whirlpool (note: do not wild swim here), which occurs between the islands of Jura and Scarba, which lie to the west.
Argyll offers a wealth of surprises. Stunning and quiet in equal measure – the main crowds head further north, to the Highlands – the sea offers a constant echo, lending a meditative aspect to the hills and glens. And Kirnan Estate is the perfect base from which to explore.