Lockdown life at Big Sky

It’s been quite a while since I last posted. We’ve been busy with guests at Big Sky and we also have a new member of the team to keep us occupied. Baby Caitlin was born last November and has made our little family complete.

Due to the Coronaviris outbreak, Big Sky Lodges is currently closed. As a small family business it hasn’t been fun, our income stopped dead and like everyone else we don’t know when we might be able to re-open. Things are looking more positive now though and we are hopeful we may be able to open for at least part of the summer season.

I am however very thankful that we are all well and now have plenty of time to enjoy together as a family. I thought I’d use some of the time to update on here and show you how we’ve been keeping ourselves occupied at Big Sky HQ. We’ve always been isolated here on the Croft but with all the lodges empty it is extremely quiet at the moment. All we can hear is birdsong, coos munching and our own extremely loud children.

Although being at home constantly with children is tricky, Rosie is really missing her nursery buddies, we are enjoying having the Croft to ourselves and realising how truly lucky we are to have all this outdoor space. I really feel for those who and experiencing lockdown in a city with all the restrictions now in place.

We’re enjoying rediscovering a little wooded area behind the lodges that was planted by my Dad over 15 years ago. It’s grown up into a beautiful mature little wood with fir, birch, alder and rowan. We call it the wildflower wood for the bluebells and Red Campion flowers that appear every spring.

We noticed that a few of our younger guests have had a go at building dens in there and we just had to have a go too.

We selected a couple of well spaced trees and Jonny added a good sized cross branch to make a wee tent. Then we covered the whole thing with branches and sticks, leaving a space for the door. Our very own self isolation station.

Add some tree stump furniture and tea making facilities and it’s the perfect picnic spot.

We love it so much we’ve moved in for the rest of the week. It’s only a wee bit draughty.

The Big Sky den will be available for guests to try when they next visit or there is plenty of building materials in the Wildflower wood to have a go at making your own. We look forward to welcoming guests back to Big Sky soon.

Take care and stay safe.x

It’s festival time!

It’s festival time!

The Big Sky team have always been fans of musical festivals and here in the Highlands one of the very best is Belladrum Tartan Heart festival. The fantastic Lesley Strang event production team behind Belladrum book out our Lodges at Big Sky every year and were kind enough to give us tickets! Even better it’s just 20 minutes drive along the road.

img_90681.jpgSo, equipped with every piece of camping equipment ever made we headed on down for a fantastic weekend of music, fabulous local food, family fun and wacky sculptures. Belladrum estate has been hosting the festival for the past fourteen years and it’s probably one of the most family friendly festivals in the UK so it was perfect for our littlest team member to come too.

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We took along our trusty tent ‘le Chateau’ and pitched it in the family campsite which is set in a lovely meadow surrounded by ancient woodland . Unfortunately Le Chateau was showing it’s 15 plus years of use and half our tent poles snapped within 5 minutes. So with the help of some friendly campers in the next tent and several rolls of duct tape we managed to get the old girl up.

One of my favourite things about Bella is all the amazing sculptures and quirky stages dotted around the festival. The main garden stage is in a huge walled garden, one stage is in a potting shed, another in a circus tent, a wild west saloon and there’s even a Victorian style pub and theater.  The bars and food stands are stocked with local organic brews, drams and whisky cocktails, Highland game and shellfish and so many other treats.

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The heart stage at the Burke and Hare pub.
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The Belladrum chapel with a wee family of deer, just after a wedding!
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Team Big Sky HQ!

img_9125.jpgThis year’s line up was a cracker with performances by Sister Sledge, Franz Ferdinand, The pretenders, Feeder, KT Tunstall, First Aid Kit and many more.

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The Mighty Franz Ferdinand headlining on Saturday night.

If you ever find yourself in the Highlands at the beginning of August then Belladrum is a must! After a top weekend of tunes, far too much food and lots and lots of mud we headed back home to find this! Big Sky HQ has shed it’s scaffolding at last!IMG_9190
The exterior of the house is pretty much finished and the builders have been busy lining the inside with so much insulation it looks like a space ship!

This week the joiners are starting to install the ceiling paneling and landscaping the garden so expect lots of pictures of diggers coming up!

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HOLIDAY SEASON AND UNDERFLOOR HEATING.

HOLIDAY SEASON AND UNDERFLOOR HEATING.

 

We’ve had a mini holiday too and set off to visit the Grandparents at a lovely little holiday cottage near Loch Morlich with multiple trips to the Nairn and Loch Morlich beaches for sand obsessed Rosie. It was great to get away from the building site for a bit and spend some family time together.

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In the meantime we have had some good progress in other areas. Our slate roof is complete and we finally have a wind and watertight house with loads of insulation. Our dormer windows have been clad with log profile timber and we have an electricity connection!

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Our windows also have some lovely new framing. It’s looking beautiful and it’s great to see the exterior nearing completion. All that’s left is the frames on the big glass wall, guttering and doors. I’ve been giving the windows their first coat of Osmo UV protection oil today. It’s pretty much non stop painting here at the moment!

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We have also had a visit from fantastic local heating company Black Isle Renewables who came by to install the pipes and manifold for our underfloor heating system. As a family who have lived in a caravan for six years with only a wood burning stove to keep it cosy, a central heating system was definitely one of the most important things to consider when building a house. Black Isle Renewables have been fantastic at offering advice and options and designing a heating system that works with our house and will keep us toasty all winter long.

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We have chosen an air source heat pump to supply us with hot water and power the underfloor heating. The air source heat pump works kind of like a fridge in reverse. It extracts energy from the air outside the house and the heat from the air is absorbed by a fluid which is pumped through a heat exchanger. This fluid passes through a compressor, and is concentrated into a higher temperature, capable of heating water for the underfloor heating and hot water circuits of the house. The pump can extract heat from the air even when the outside temperature is below freezing so it should work really efficiently  even in the depths of a Highland winter.

The heat pump won’t get installed for quite a few weeks but the pipes have to be in place so the floor can be built on top. The pipes are then covered with a dry screed mixture of sand and concrete which protects them and helps distribute the heat. This is then sealed under a chipboard floor and then eventually a lovely engineered oak floor.

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Below is a super nerdy video for anyone interested. It was really satisfying to watch the underfloor heating pipes being filled and tested. The liquid is a mixture of antifreeze and water and is coloured green so you can make sure there are no air bubbles.

This week our window framing will be finished off and I heard a rumour that the front and back door might be going in! As for me, I’ll be doing more painting and collecting a beautiful specially made slate hearth for our wood burning stove.

First week of the build.

First week of the build.

It’s been exactly a week since our house build started and I cannot believe how much our fantastic joiners Huw, Mark and Mark have achieved! We’ve had the added benefit that the weather has been really good so nothing has held them up. This also means that the beautiful polar pine logs won’t get dirty or damp.

Rosie and I have had a great time exploring Big Sky, watching the house build, checking out all the amazing spring sights, and of course taking heaps of photos.

Once the right packages are located and unwrapped, the logs are sorted according to their location. Each one is carefully and very precisely cut in the factory in Finland so that the whole kit fits together perfectly.  Even the holes for securing the logs together are pre-drilled exactly where they need to be. They also each have a number on the end so you know where to put it! You can see the location of all the windows and doors before the build begins.

The next step is to start assembling the logs. First, a damp proof membrane is laid on top of the concrete foundation so the timber stays dry and then the first logs are laid. This was very exciting! Once the joiners got started, the logs started to come together very quickly. Wooden dowels are hammered into the pre-drilled holes at intervals to hold the logs in place.

Day 1

The first logs are laid and measured up to make sure everything is square. Half logs start off the build and tie the opposite sides of the house together.

Day 2

The logs are pretty much already at the first floor level and the windows and doors are really taking shape. As you can see some of the logs along the back wall are super long and really heavy. It’s hard work for Huw and the two Marks to lift them into position. Going to need some scaffolding pretty soon!

Day 3

It’s exciting to see what your views are going to be like!

Day 4

It’s the weekend and the boys are away home for a well earned rest. We couldn’t resist hanging out in our new house and imagining what life will be like with all that space!

Phase 2

The scaffolding has now arrived which allows easy access to all the hard to reach places like the gables which are now complete. All the logs are in position and we’re ready for a floor. We will have a suspended joisted floor, which will create a strong base for the underfloor heating system and some load bearing pillars which will help support the roof.

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Daredevil Jonny climbed up to get some high up shots. I would have gone too but would probably have tripped and fallen off, or worse, broken the camera, again..

This is the view through our bedroom window.

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This big opening will be an amazing glass wall! Might need to move a few trees to improve the view.DSC02726

The black membrane is a damp proof course which will create a protective layer between the logs and the insulated thermo wall.

So that’s all for the moment but more soon!

An exciting delivery!

An exciting delivery!
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Since I took over Big Sky in 2010 we have been planning some long term improvements to make life and work a bit easier. First up is the new Big Sky HQ which will be a home for us to live in with a fantastic much needed new office. It will be a log home in keeping with the rest of Big Sky lodges and it arrived from Finland last week! It’s been a pretty long process from getting planning permission from the local council to the house arriving at last!

For the last few years we have been living on site in a cosy caravan but now with the arrival of Rosie and the accompanying enormous amounts of baby stuff we are ready for a bigger space.

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The caravan is a lovely place in a sunny woodland dell and was great when there was only two of us but is now bursting at the seams with toys and office stuff. We’ve already worked quite hard to make it a nice place to live, so once the new HQ is finished it will receive a little bit of extra attention and we hope to rent it out as a holiday hideaway so other people can enjoy it as much as we have.

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Once we had planning permission in place and our building warrant was approved it was time to order our house! Working with our sister company Mountain Lodge Homes we chose a design that fitted our style and budget and adapted the layout to suit our needs. The completed house should look something like this!

The house is made by Artichouse, a fantastic log house manufacturer in Finland. It arrives in kit form made up of  interlocking square planed logs which are produced from extremely strong Finnish pine, grown in sustainable forests north of the Arctic Circle. The timber is then shaped into square logs, precisely cut to size and carefully packaged at the Artichouse factory. They then fit each package, like a game of giant jenga, onto a huge lorry which is then driven all the way from Finland to our site on the Black Isle. The whole process, from manufacture to delivery only takes about 6 weeks!

Before the house arrived our builder had to prepare and clear the site and build a foundation for the kit to sit on to ensure it has a strong and stable base. We’ve hired a local joinery company to handle the build and we’ve all loved watching the process. our daughter Rosie is just 20 months and isn’t sure what’s happening but she loves to watch whats going on and have a go on the big diggers!

The next step will be to get the logs sorted according to their location and start building which will begin tomorrow. Once the build gets going it should progress pretty quickly and if all goes according to plan should be wind and water tight in around five weeks. More updates to follow!

Welcome to Big Sky HQ

Welcome to Big Sky HQ

Hello and welcome to Big Sky HQ!

My name is Ailsa and I run Big Sky Lodges, a collection of six beautiful luxury Scandinavian holiday log cabins in the heart of the Scottish Highlands.

I have decided to start at blog as we are just about to add to Big Sky Lodges with a new Big Sky HQ! The new HQ will also be a log home from Finland and will be a new base for the Big Sky team which consist of myself, my Husband Jonny and our little girl Rosie and of course my lovely parents, Chrissie and Angus who already live next door.

Big Sky lodges was built by my parents, Angus and Chrissie in the early 2000’s on their 17 acres of idyllic traditional croft land on the edge of the beautiful Black Isle, where I grew up. They wanted to create a place where families could come for affordable Scottish holidays and experience all the Highland’s has to offer in comfort and luxurious Scandinavian Style. They retired in 2010 when I took over the running of Big Sky and I have had 7 happy years here with many more to follow!