Maybe it’s the darkening skies and browning leaves of autumn, or perhaps it’s the fact that London rents and mortgage rates are soaring, but the grass has never looked greener elsewhere.
One such idyll could be life on the grounds of a whisky distillery in Scotland where a Grade II-listed cottage has been listed for sale for half the price of the average first-time buyer home in London.
Located on the northern edge of the Cairngorms, the UK’s largest national park, the three-bedroom cottage sits adjacent to the Tormore Whisky Distillery in Aberdeenshire, and has a price tag of £225,000.
In comparison the average London first-time buyer spends over £450,000 on a home, while the average sold price of a London property is nearing £553,000 according to the Office of National Statistics.
The current owners of the Scottish cottage, Zoe and Nigel Bywater first visted the home in 2010. By then they had looked around several properties for sale as they knew they wanted to spend more time in Scotland and, as soon as they saw the cottage in Speyside, they knew it was for them.
“You come down the hill and you see this gorgeous-looking distillery and this row of houses. It’s just the wow factor of what it looks like,” says Zoe.
“You’ve got the Cromdale Hills in the distance, and there’s the wildlife you get in the garden – whenever you’re having a bad day and you look out the window, that takes your mind off it completely.”
For 10 years, the couple used the cottage as a holiday home, spending as much time as they could there. However, when the pandemic pulled them away for almost two years, they realised what they were missing. “The quality of life and pace of life – it’s a completely different thing,” says Zoe. “We sold our business; sold our house in Bedfordshire, and moved up here in March this year.”
Covering 1,073 square feet over two floors, the cottage has a hall, kitchen diner, lounge, pantry, and boiler room downstairs, and three bedrooms and a bathroom on the floor above.
Outside, there is a generous patio, with gardens to the front and rear, offering views of the rolling hills and moorland of Speyside.
The Bywaters’ house — and the 12 surrounding cottages — were originally built in the late 1950s as accommodation for the employees of the Tormore Distillery. Today, the former whisky-makers have all moved on and the cottages, refurbished in 2005, are largely occupied by “people that want that full, quiet lifestyle – most people have quit some kind of high-powered, stressful job,” says Zoe.
The distillery, a grand building with a greening copper roof at the end of the road, is still going strong. It opened in 1958 and, designed by British architect Sir Albert Richardson, gained listed building status in 1986.
Tormore specialises in single-malt whiskies: a fruity 14-year-old with a peppery finish, and the 16-year-old that features “dense fruit and vanilla notes”.
On the outside of the building is a clock, sitting under a copper dome. Every quarter-of-an-hour, it plays four different Scottish songs. “It plays a funny little tune, really – it’s nice,” says Zoe. “People actually stop across the road and take photos. It’s such a pretty distillery.”
Yet, for whisky fans, Tormore is just the tip of the iceberg. Dubbed “whisky heaven”, Speyside is home to 50 distilleries, including Strathisla and Glenfiddich. Aficionados can follow the famous Malt Whisky Trail, or participate in the annual Dramathon, a marathon that stops by several local distilleries.
For those who have had their fill of Scottish single malt, the surrounding countryside offers hiking and cycling trails aplenty. There is a purpose-built cycling trail in the Anagach Woods, for example, while the 65-mile Speyside Way almost passes the front door. And the Cairngorms, home to four of the UK’s highest mountains, are just a stone’s throw away.
For Zoe, Nigel, and their four Labradors, life in the cottage has whet their appetite for the wilderness. They plan to develop their campervan business, Advantures, by moving slightly closer to Inverness. “We’re not moving back down south,” says Zoe. “We’re moving more into the wild.”
According to Zoe and Nigel, the property would suit someone looking for a quieter pace of life, whether working remotely or winding down for retirement. “Anybody that really appreciates what we’ve got as a country,” she says.
Despite adventures ahead, Zoe will miss the cottage once they leave. “You look out the back while you’re washing up and you’ve got loads of bird life out there, pheasants, pine martens, owls, red squirrels – in Bedfordshire, you were lucky if you got a sparrow in the garden. It takes your mind off anything,” she says. “It’s beautiful, and I have to pinch myself every day.”
The property is listed with Yopa for £225,000.