Upper Tomnabrachd is a cottage so pretty it belongs on a postcard advertising Highland Perthshire.
The modest yet beautiful home sits on a gently sloping hillside a couple of miles south of Pitlochry.
Once part of the Atholl Estate, it has for the past three years been used as a successful holiday let, as well as a weekend bolthole for its owners.
John McNeil and his partner Scott got the keys to Upper Tomnabrachd in early 2020.
“We bought it during the first week of lockdown without ever having set foot inside it,” John explains.
“We were very lucky with the timing. It was all set to go to a closing date but then lockdown happened and none of the other parties put an offer on it, leaving the way clear for us.”
The cottage had been rented out for some years before it was put on sale. “I wouldn’t say it was falling apart or anything like that,” John continues. “But it was certainly quite tired and a bit grimy.”
John and Scott got their sleeves rolled up and mucked in with the renovation works.
“We lived in a caravan on the driveway for three or four months while we did the work,” John says.
“It was two men and our spaniel, and a lot of wine! A friend of mine is a builder and he did all of the skilled stuff – fitting kitchens and bathrooms and so on. We used a local company to install a new heating system.
“I laid the oak flooring downstairs and Scott did a lot of labouring. We worked together to cut back what was then a jungle on the hillside behind the house and put in some paths and a seating area.
“It’s a great place to sit and have breakfast or a glass of wine in the evening – the views are great.
“In an ideal world we’d put a summerhouse up there but that’s something the next owners can do.”
Upper Tomnabrachd sits on an elevated south-west facing site two miles from Pitlochry. With the A9 just a few hundred yards away it has excellent transport links. A single track country lane lifts you up from the busy main road and leads to a small cluster of homes.
Exploring Upper Tomnabrachd cottage
Upper Tomnabrachd has a driveway with space for several cars and a wooden garage. A timber front door opens into hallway with access to the semi-open plan downstairs accommodation.
The living room is a charming space that’s great for relaxing in. A low ceiling with exposed timber beams makes it a cosy and safe space. A modern woodburning stove sits in a fireplace with exposed stone surrounds.
It has a large glass window to enjoy watching the flickering flames through on a winter’s evening.
In one of many clever touches the living room lamps have been wired to a main light switch so you can turn them all on or off at the same time. Meanwhile, a large window frames views over the Perthshire hills.
On the other side of the ground floor is a spacious dining kitchen. This has integrated appliances, an induction hob and plenty of storage.
There’s a ground floor shower room and a rear vestibule with a door to the back garden.
The staircase is accessed from the kitchen and leads up to a landing that gets plenty of natural light thanks to a large Velux window. An upstairs shower room serves the two bedrooms.
Both bedrooms are doubles and sit on opposite sides of the landing. The main bedroom has a dormer window to the front and a rear-facing Velux.
The second bedroom has a front-facing dormer window that frames views across the valley to the hills on the far horizon.
John and Scott have done a beautiful job of renovating Upper Tomnabrachd. The bathrooms are fully tiled and have high end fixtures.
There’s attractive timber panelling and the windows all have bespoke roller blinds. A Nest system lets you turn the heating on and off remotely using your phone.
To the front of the house is a seating area that gets the sun all day long. The sloping rear garden has a section of lawn and fruit trees. The upper section is wooded and has a pathway and seating area that enjoys superb views.
For the past two summers John and Scott have let out Upper Tomnabrachd to holidaymakers. “We’ve averaged about 33 letting weeks a year and used it as much as we can ourselves,” John explains.
“The guest book is full of people saying lovely things about how much they enjoyed their stay.”
Their experience of owning Upper Tomnabrachd has helped John, 60, and Scott, 52, decide they want to live in the area permanently.
I speak to John the day before he and Scott’s Glasgow flat goes to a closing date.
“The cottage seems to have been a bit of a gateway drug to Highland Perthshire,” John laughs. “I always got such a thrill out of packing the car on a Thursday night ready to head up to the cottage straight after work on Friday.
“And it was such a downer setting off back to Glasgow on a Sunday night for work the next day.
“My parents are in Pitlochry and we’ve decided to sell up in Glasgow and move permanently to Highland Perthshire.
“We would love to move into the cottage but we need a wee bit more space so we’ve bought a big house in Pitnacree. It has an annex so we plan to use that as an Airbnb so we can continue hosting holidaymakers.”