high­land fling

At Katharine Poo­ley’s strik­ing Scot­tish es­cape, his­toric de­tails, tra­di­tion and her­itage com­bine to cre­ate a ru­ral idyll


Deep in the Scot­tish coun­try­side, this stun­ning cas­tle is steeped in his­tory and tra­di­tion

Roar­ing log fires, flick­er­ing can­dle­light, sump­tu­ous dec­o­ra­tions and plenty of fo­liage for­aged from sur­round­ing wood­land: these are the mag­i­cal in­gre­di­ents that make the sea­son spe­cial at the home of in­te­rior de­signer Katharine Poo­ley.

A for­ti­fied house lo­cated in the Scot­tish High­lands, this is no or­di­nary es­cape. Built in 1560 to pro­tect the en­trance to the Balloch Pass to Glen­shee, the house was de­stroyed in a fire around a cen­tury later. The build­ing’s che­quered past stirred the imag­i­na­tion of Katharine’s fa­ther Robert, who bought it and be­gan a painstak­ing restora­tion in 1988, re­build­ing it brick by brick, be­fore pass­ing it on to his daugh­ter fif­teen years ago.

‘The cas­tle truly comes alive at Christ­mas, when the sit­ting room, known as the Great Hall, is dec­o­rated with swags of green­ery above the fire­place and tum­bling from the chan­de­liers,’ says Katharine. ‘There are six bed­rooms, but the ex­tended fam­ily stays for the fes­tiv­i­ties – my sib­lings and their chil­dren, my mother and fa­ther, my­self and my hus­band Daniel and our boys Jack and Char­lie – and we all squeeze in to­gether.’

The fam­ily re­turn to age-old tra­di­tions at this time of year. ‘There’s no phone sig­nal, in­ter­net or TV at the house, so we en­joy lis­ten­ing to mu­sic and play­ing board games,’ Katharine ex­plains. Ac­cents of red and green abound – from the cosy

FAVOURITE ROOM ‘The main bed­room, known as the Laird’s Room. It runs the length of the cas­tle and I used the space to its full ad­van­tage’

up­hol­stered arm­chairs to tac­tile linens and vel­vets through­out, mak­ing this a nat­u­rally fes­tive Christ­mas hide­away.

Ref­er­ences to its set­ting, in­clud­ing the din­ing chairs cov­ered in the Poo­ley fam­ily Gunn tar­tan, are mixed with con­tem­po­rary com­forts such as gen­er­ous show­ers and over­sized so­fas. ‘ When my fa­ther passed the house to me, my brief was to turn it into a home, while re­tain­ing its sense of his­tory,’ says Katharine. ‘So the mod­ern touches sit along­side an­tiques and my fa­ther’s oil paint­ings. I asked artist Jen­nifer Merre­dew to paint the mu­ral on the Great Hall’s ceil­ing. She spent eight weeks ly­ing on her back on scaf­fold­ing, work­ing on the de­sign based on the words of an old bal­lad that de­scribes the burn­ing of the orig­i­nal house.’

Dec­o­rat­ing for the fes­tiv­i­ties is a plea­sure – the Great Hall is home to an im­pres­sive tree, mak­ing it a mag­net for fam­ily gath­er­ings. In the bed­rooms, four-poster beds are jux­ta­posed with mod­ern check rugs, tar­tan screens and soft lamp­light. Pe­riod touches, in­clud­ing beamed ceil­ings, orig­i­nal fire­places and stained-glass win­dows, add plenty of char­ac­ter and charm.

‘It’s won­der­ful to be out in na­ture here, too,’ says Katharine of the stun­ning land­scape, part of Cairn­gorms Na­tional Park. There’s so much to do, in­clud­ing horse rid­ing, fish­ing, bik­ing, and even ski­ing, but we love to take a brac­ing walk on Christ­mas Day. It makes re­turn­ing to the house, with a large fire blaz­ing in the in­glenook fire­place, even more re­ward­ing.’

OUR CHRIST­MAS TRA­DI­TIONS ‘We en­joy long walks on the Cat­eran Trail and gath­er­ing round the fire in the Great Hall in the evening’

Forter Cas­tle is avail­able to rent through forter­cas­tle.co.uk

GUEST BED­ROOM The ad­di­tion of a sofa cre­ates a cosy cor­ner for guests to re­lax in. Browse City Plaids car­pets by Brin­tons to get this look. Canopy and head­board up­hol­stered in An­tique Pais­ley, £218.52m, De Le Cuona

BATH­ROOM Part of the mas­ter suite, this lux­u­ri­ous in­te­gral bath­room is dis­creetly screened. Severn free­stand­ing shower, from £22,740; Spey cast-iron bath tub with ball and claw feet, from £3,570, both Drum­monds

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