As I sit writing this, two Oyster Catchers fly low over my head, quickly disappearing into a mist that is sweeping its way up Loch Eriboll towards me. If there’s one thing that changes constantly and without warning on Scotland’s wild northern coast, it’s the weather – from sunshine to rain in what seems like minutes. It might be July but when the wind picks up it is suddenly very cold here and the stove and log pile in the corner of our cabin has begun to look very inviting. Luckily with magnificent views along the shoreline and down the Loch towards Ben Hope, it’s easy to find excuses not to leave the croft.
Croft 103 is an eco-house located in the most north westerly corner of the Scottish Highlands, close to Cape Wrath, and is the traditional home of the Mackay clan (the croft is owned by two of them – Robbie and Fiona). We came up here in search of wilderness, and the landscape does not disappoint with rugged mountains, glassy lochs, barren moorland, wind swept beaches and jagged cliffs to explore. Tightly wound single-track roads lead out from the croft in both directions, so it’s lucky that this is known to be the emptiest county in the UK – you’re more likely to pass a deer or a sheep than another human being up here.
Being an eco-house all Croft 103′s energy needs are met by wind and solar energy – the whirring of the small wind turbine on the hill is a comfort when the winds are howling. The buildings are designed to sit beautifully amongst the landscape, blending in rather than creating a statement like many of the nearby highland castles. Huge windows create a sweeping vista which stays with you from one end of the house to the other.
If you can be persuaded outside, there is even an outdoor bath and sofa with magnificent views to a lonely tree and the mountain-edged loch behind it. These isolated waters were once the site of the German U-boat surrenders in May 1945 but these days you’re more likely to spot fishing trawlers or sail boats coming in from the north to take shelter. Otters, Oyster Catchers, Dippers and Black Throated Divers swim up and down the shoreline, while sheep lie on kelpy banks against small shelters they’ve carved out of peat along the beach.
It’s easy to see why this landscape draws artists to it. Sculptor Lotte Glob has made her home a little further along the shoreline. She arrived on the Loch 16 years ago and has been planting trees (over 4,000 of them) and creating sculptures which she then places around her 14 acres of land, and in the landscape beyond. In her words, she has created a place ‘for discovering and contemplating and enjoying a point in the universe.’
She provides no map of the croft and no directions but invites you to explore the bogs, heather-clad hills, shorelines and peatland which are home to her growing sculpture collection – some have been reclaimed by the land, others by the creatures which inhabit it but it’s a fascinating place. As Lotte says – ‘it will keep growing on and on till I am no longer here’ – there’s something strangely comforting in that.