Dreaming of saying ‘I do’ overlooking the water on an island escape? Amy Shearer finds romance, history and drama at a stylish venue on Arran
There’s no two ways about it: I’m a city girl. I relish the hustle and bustle. I love being able to decide on a whim that I quite fancy sushi for dinner, and knowing that I am only a stone’s throw from pretty much anything I could possibly need at any hour of the day. So, when I was offered the chance to spend two nights on a far-flung Scottish island, I did panic slightly. Could I cope with being completely cut off from the fast pace and rammed diary of my normal everyday life?
When I say ‘far-flung’, I am exaggerating a teensy bit. I was off to Arran, which you can reach in just two hours by train and ferry from Glasgow Central. But still. It’s quite a change of scene for me, and even more so as I was heading to Dougarie Estate on the wilder west side of the island.
“Built in 1885 for the Dukes of Hamilton to host fishing trips and ceilidhs, the Boathouse has get-togethers and parties in its DNA”
But if you really want to switch off and reset, Arran is the place to do it. With that in mind, my friend Alison and I swapped our usual city cocktails and pizza deliveries for the island’s freshly caught coley and hand-crafted cheeses as we settled into the Laundry Cottage, a stunning two-bedroom hideaway on the estate with a fabulous open fire and everything you could need in a home away from home.
We were not the first to appreciate the place, of course. The estate is a magnet not just for holidaymakers but for wedding parties. There are five separate residential properties here, along with the waterside venue Dougarie Boathouse, and as we explored I could feel how easy it is to get swept up in the gorgeousness of it all.
Having been built in 1885 for the Dukes of Hamilton to host fishing trips and ceilidhs, the Boathouse has get-togethers and parties in its DNA. It has been beautifully restored, and events coordinators Malin Stewart and Joyce Rooney proudly showed us around the striking interiors, explaining how couples can put their own stamp on the venue to personalise their celebrations. With chandeliers and exposed beams already in place, you really won’t need to add much.
The in-house bar was very reasonably priced, and I was disappointed I wasn’t there during an actual wedding so I could sample a Dougarie Bay Breeze cocktail or the delectable offerings such as a hog roast or canapés made from local ingredients.
Of course, the star of the show is the view. Getting married looking out to sea must be incredible, and there is a handsome outdoor terrace with steps leading down to the rocky beach from which to drink in the Atlantic vistas.
Back at our cottage, sipping a coffee and hearing nothing but birdsong, I could see what a great place this would be for a bridal party. It can sleep four guests in comfort and has a big open-plan kitchen-living room, with ample space for getting ready in the morning. Natural light fills every corner, giving a calm vibe that would definitely ease any nerves before you headed down the winding hill to the Boathouse.
As I explored the estate and strolled the sunlit sands, I felt I was in one of those Hallmark movies where the protagonist escapes to ‘find herself.’ When I confided this to Malin and Joyce, they just nodded and laughed. “Once Arran is in you, it’s in you,” said Joyce.
They’re not kidding – both have moved here permanently. After spending time here on Dougarie Estate, it is easy to see why so many tourists become locals!
Need to know
Here’s the lowdown on this stunning island venue which offers luxury in a tranquil setting
There are five holiday homes on Dougarie Estate, sleeping a total of 35 guests, and each offering something different. Among them is House of Machrie, the largest property, a substantial Victorian country house set in beautiful surroundings. The Laundry Cottage offers uninterrupted views and sleeps four. The Bothy, a newly refurbished farmhouse, also sleeps up to four.
THE DOUGARIE BOATHOUSE
Set right on the coast, the Boathouse is a beautiful place to tie the knot – and you can have your ceremony indoors or out. If you’re inviting more than 80 guests, a marquee can be added to give you more space for dancing.
THE FOOD AND DRINK
There are several packages for catering, such as a three-course meal served as sharing boards or as a buffet. There’s a paid-for bar too, which you are welcome to use. If you’d rather supply your own drinks or bring in external caterers, chat to the events managers – they are happy to work with you to make this happen.
The Iorsa package includes a celebrant, a professional photographer, a traditional Scottish piper and a delicious three-course meal served sharing-style, with a starting price of £10,900 for 40 guests. The Hamilton package includes the above but has waiting staff to serve food at the tables. This starts at £13,500 for 40 guests. The Boathouse can also be hired on a venue-only basis, starting at £3,600.