Captain’s Rest, a luxury, woodland bolthole built by the enterprising Campbell family, nestles unobtrusively at the foot of the Campsie Hills just 10 miles from Glasgow, and is about as ‘off-grid’ as you can get, discovers Beverley Brown.
HEAVEN is being able to step away from everyday stress, unwind, and connect with nature in a rural setting safe in the knowledge you won’t be disturbed by people, phones, texts, emails or television, yet still enjoy home comforts and a few luxuries. While this rules out wild camping in a remote area ironically that was the catalyst for Captain’s Rest, an off-grid, luxury, woodland bolthole at the foot of the Campsie Hills in Campsie Glen, just 10 miles from Glasgow.
Captain’s Rest is a homegrown initiative undertaken by the Campbell family – Sabrina and Douglas Campbell have been welcoming bed and breakfast guests to their home, Finglen House, since 2005. Set in nine acres of wild garden and woodland on the banks of Finglen Burn, the off-the-beaten-track location is idyllic.
“We had always intended to build a cabin hidden away in the grounds one day,” says Sabrina.
“Then our son Jack, a former army officer, returned home having survived a year living off-grid in the Ardnamurchan peninsula as part of Channel 4’s reality TV series Eden, and announced he wanted to build an off-grid glamping cabin.”
Jack Campbell, then aged 31, was more than up to the task. When he left the army in 2015 after serving five years, he lived in a campervan and climbed all 282 munros in Scotland within 16 weeks to raise funds for the Household Cavalry Foundation and Parkinson’s UK.
When Channel 4 announced it was looking for 23 people to spend a year in a remote part of Scotland and build a self-sufficient community, he signed up – and was one of the few to last the entire duration.
Sabrina designed the cabin using a free 3D online programme, and everyone pitched in for the build. “Douglas was the unskilled labourer and Jack was joined by friends, plumber Titch, another Eden survivor, and master carpenter Raff, while I kept the workforce fed and watered in between planning the interior finishes. It was mayhem for the eight weeks it took to complete, not helped by heavy snow, storms, and dogs and chickens constantly trying to get in on the act,” she recalls.
“The winter weather was a drawback and made it extra difficult, but it was the only time the boys had free to do it. At 5am one morning it was snowing so heavily we had to get everyone up to brush snow off the newly-installed roof and sandbag it to stop it flying off in the gale-force wind.”
Spanning just 30 metres in total, Captain’s Rest is a blissful couple’s retreat, a spacious open-plan room housing a double bed and fitted kitchen/dining area adjacent to a cosy wood-burning cooker, plus separate shower, washbasin and compost toilet. Outside on the covered full-width verandah is a chiminea, table and chairs, and a freestanding double-size bath. There is also a fire pit in the grounds and another seating area down by the river.
Inside, the warmth of wood is complemented by ethnic-patterned rugs, a slouchy brown leather sofa, wall lights, and a big bed dressed with cushions and fake fur throws, while the shower room reveals white robes and high-end toiletries. “I wanted the interior to be natural and rustic but in an elegant way, warm and mellow,” says Sabrina. “My late father was a miner and always dreamed of having a cabin in the woods – and as I inherited a lot of his old equipment, some of it now lends character to our cabin. My dad’s gold pan sits on the verandah and guests often put candles in it – but if they knew what it was they could go down to the river and pan for gold.”
Magical at night with twinkling fairy lights and flickering firelight, the cabin’s external lighting is supplemented by two old carriage lights Sabrina bought on eBay, which were rewired and fitted by a local electrician. Other purely decorative props include old skis, an Aga kettle dating from the 1920s, and some of Sabrina’s paintings. Sitting on the verandah, the only sounds come from nature and roe deer, squirrels, woodpeckers and other birds – including the Campbells’ free-range hens – that make regular appearances in this blissfully peaceful setting.
The cabin was ready to receive guests by June 2019 and the initial response far exceeded expectations – then along came Covid. As Finglen House was at full capacity with children, spouses and grandchildren come the first lockdown, Douglas and Sabrina moved into the cabin and stayed there for six months.
“We loved it and were completely happy with our 30 square metres,” says Sabrina. “It was quite an eye-opener to realise we don’t really need big houses.”
Since then many guests have come and gone, all having fallen in love with the cabin. “The testimonials are amazing – and many comment on the joy of being able to indulge in the simple pleasures in life, heightened by the sense of freedom from not having WiFi and television.”
The Campbells are now mulling their next Finglen project: a shepherd’s hut. “But we are most definitely not building this one ourselves,” says Sabrina.
Captain’s Rest and Finglen House can be booked through Coolstays and Airbnb. For more information visit www.finglen.com
FIVE MORE OFF-GRID GETAWAY OPTIONS
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