Have you ever wondered about living in a tiny house? Debi Lander, My Itchy Travel Feet featured contributor, shares her tiny house experience on an off-the-beaten-path trip in Scotland. You’re going to love it!
Most of my friends say I live large, but I hold a fascination with small things: dollhouses filled with teensy furniture, appliances and faux food; an infant’s hand grasping an adult’s fingers; darling baby animals, even newborn honey badgers. I’m not alone in this seduction. Miniature collectibles attract hordes of hobbyists around the world.
Perhaps the infatuation with little things led to the rise of Tiny House Nation, a TV series depicting the lives of people adapting to 250-500 square foot houses. Having watched it, I was intrigued by the concept and decided to jump, or maybe the better word is squeeze, into a tiny house for a visit.
Searching for a Scottish tiny house
I envisioned a unit filled with hidden storage compartments, clever built-ins, and perhaps a pull-down Murphy bed. Researching lodging options for an extended European adventure uncovered a likely looking rental.
“Let’s spend two nights in a tiny house when we tour Scotland,” I said to Judy, my travel buddy. “The remote area is considered one the most beautiful in the country.”
I knew I was pushing the limit on rural jaunts, but Judy, a stanch urbanite, surprisingly agreed. We’d already explored big cities like Istanbul, Budapest, Rome and Paris, so allotting time for bucolic countryside seemed fair.
Plus, we needed a do-nothing getaway, time to relax and sleep. A retreat to the tiny house joined our itinerary.
After an unsuccessful quest to find the monster in Scotland’s Loch Ness, we headed northwest. Departing from Inverness, we allowed three hours, having been forewarned that the last seven miles covered a single-track road. Our goal: Clashnessie in Assynt, a place so remote that most Scots haven’t heard of it.
With trepidation, I spun the rental car up, down, and around the dual carriageway, a road sporting one lane in each direction. We passed through fog-shrouded mystical Scottish landscape in Cairngorms National Park.
Next, we tackled the most northerly stretch of NC500, ‘Scotland’s answer to Route 66’. The road, aptly described for “adrenaline junkies,” ranks as one of the six most scenic coastal roads in the world.
The scenery proved breathtaking in the literal sense of the word. Judy nearly turned blue, holding her breath as I snaked around blind curves and beside sheer cliffs lacking guardrails.
I zigzagged around crystal clear lochs or lakes, some with tiny islands sprouting a lone tree, drove by moors and crags, and occasionally spied the ruins of a castle.
Booking a little house rental was one thing, but getting to it caused big problems. Imagine a path-like narrow, one-lane road for cars traveling both ways: one that is not wide enough in most places for vehicles to pass one another.
We found ourselves begging the road gods, “Please, oh please don’t let cars approach from the opposite direction.”
“Passing Places” became saviors. The 6-12 inch wide gravel cutouts allowed drivers to scoot over for an oncoming car.
Whoever is closest to the passing place stops, and holds their breath while the other driver proceeds. Thankfully, in Scotland, everyone follows the rules. With an audible sigh, quick wave and a smile, the impossible occurs: two cars squeeze by each other only a fingernail apart.
These hair-raising moments continued until we reached Clashnessie, a small crofting village overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Here, lording over the grassy hill stood the garden shed-like Tiny House.
As we approached the wood-sided dwelling, the owner, Pamela, greeted us. She reminded me of a woman you would want with you if stranded on a desert isle—very self-sufficient, no nonsense and clever minded. She took us in and showed us the living space, which pretty much took less than 5 minutes, since it was, well…tiny.
Life in the tiny house
The kitchen consisted of a sink, with running water and a cabinet underneath. Counter space was minimal, so two shelves held kitchen items on a nearby wall.
The mini-refrigerator stood outside (yes, outside), beside the door, with fresh eggs, butter and bread provided. What appeared liked my old bread-making machine was a halogen oven, squeezed onto a ledge near the floor. It emits a strange glow that miraculously cooks food. We’d need to study the detailed instructions later.
Next, Pamela pointed out the upstairs bedroom, which consisted of a queen-sized mattress. To get to the bedroom, I quote the owner, “climb a stout wall-fixed ladder through a hole.”
I would add, “Then, perform a gymnastic maneuver to rotate your body from vertical to horizontal.” Standing is not possible, even a child needs to crawl up there.
I made it to the loft but Judy would not, citing her nightly 3:00 a.m. potty break where the risk of ladder missteps and bladder mishaps were inevitable. She opted to sleep in the sofa/futon bed below.
The bathroom contained a composting toilet, one that separates the liquid from the dry. Don’t ask.
A slim recessed tiled area for showering included a hand-held sprayer affixed to the wall beside the toilet. The shower also washed the potty, toilet paper, walls, and floor. Basically, the bathroom was the shower stall.
Our August stay avoided the need to fire-up the pot-bellied stove for added warmth. However, ventilation eventually became a problem. If we opened the dollhouse-sized screen-less windows, armies of midges, those dastardly no-see-um insects that bite with a vengeance, flew in.
Cooking in the tiny house
For dinner, a grocery store rotisserie chicken rescued us. All we needed to cook were sweet potatoes and open a much-anticipated bottle of wine.
Setting up the collapsible table and chairs, however, caused a struggle. Hinges wouldn’t stay open or snap into place. We looked as befuddled as new grandparents setting up a Pack N Play crib.
The bottle of wine was consumed while gazing up at the no light pollution, glorious black starry sky and we called it a night.
Experienced with the cooking technology, breakfast eggs sizzled and bread toasted in the halogen contraption. But, we feasted off plates on our lap while seated on the sofa; forget the table and chairs.
Checking out the neighborhood
Lazing in bed proved not very comfy, and with no Wi-Fi or TV for entertainment, we ventured out to explore the village. Rounding a corner brought an unexpected herd of friendly Highland cows. I swear one hairy cow posed as if he wanted to star in the annual Highland Cow calendar, a hot item in all the tourist shops.
Clashnessie records a mere 19 houses, 10 of which are original nineteenth-century crofters’ cottages. According to Wikipedia, “In the 1960’s the population was said to be as little as a dozen people although the village used to have a Post Office, a small shop and a local pub.”
Packing leftover chicken sandwiches, we strolled down toward the shimmering turquoise bay, looking out at the wavy Atlantic Ocean. No surprise, we were the only picnickers at the rocky inlet and wide, sandy beach. The water stung too cold for anything more than ankle-high wading.
Climbing the path back up the hill, a vast herd of Cheviot sheep created an almost insurmountable roadblock, Clashnessie’s community common grazing rule allows free range, so they had congregated at the red English telephone booth in a most unorthodox location.
The sheep appeared to be waiting in line to place a call to maaa. The incongruous scene remains one of my favorite memories, the essence of serendipitous travel.
In retrospect, the 16′ by 9’ or 154 square-foot habitat was simply too tiny to be comfortable for us. Even though most of our luggage remained in the car, the cramped space barely allotted room to store a change of clothes and my camera equipment,
To be fair, the guest book contained entries from some young honeymooners who found their stay romantic. For me, the adventure to this remote destination, with its wide-angle view, ranked as one of those stories I’d tell forever. But, I declare, “Judy and I were too large or too old for the Tiny House.”
If a tiny house isn’t for you, start your search for hotels in Scotland with us.