Situated in the Aberdeenshire village of Strathdon and only a 3.5 hour drive from Edinburgh, is the wonderfully quaint Sweet Donside Cabins. Nestled within the majestic Cairngorm National Park, it’s impossible not to be immediately swept up in the magic of this place. I instantly felt at home from the moment I opened their large wooden gates which revealed grounds filled with charming hens and ducks. Sweet Donside consists of numerous accommodations for couples including the endearing Sweetheart cottage along with a selection of four hand-made cabins located in their self-contained patch. The Wee Beehive, The Wee Love Nest, The Wee Bear’s Den and The Wee Fae Hideaway have been individually designed, exuding their very own quirky elements. A wooden laid path swayed with enchanting lights led us towards our chosen cabin; The Wee Bear’s Den. Even from the outside, The Wee Bears Den’s whimsical design instantly revealed my inner child, with a smile from ear to ear I couldn’t wait to explore every part of it. Surrounded by its own fence the outside area of The Bear’s Den was very spacious and private. To one side a gravel path led to a cosy corner with a BBQ fire pit and on the other was an impressive sitting area, wooden bench and the fantastic addition of a two-person jacuzzi.
As I turned the bear headed handle and wandered inside, I could immediately sense the love and dedication that’s gone into the place. Every part of the design has been intricately constructed with elements of bears wherever you look. At first, I thought I would be overwhelmed with such a theme, but somehow it all just seemed to work, bringing a touch of humour and childlike wonder to the space. What initially surprised me was that it was so much bigger than it looked from the outside (like a Tardis), it’s tented ceiling specifically adding to that spacious feel. A central hand-made four-poster bed commanded the room, with a scattering of cushions and comfortable bedding making it seem utterly alluring. The charm was further enhanced with the backing of an “I love your bear hugs” sign and elegant ropes of twinkling fairy lights. At the base of the bed, a large chaise longue was perfectly placed so you can lay back and take in the beautiful view from the large floor-to-ceiling window. It’s one of the only cabins to have this large window, and it was such a pleasure to sit there with a warming cup of hot chocolate absorbing the lush surroundings of this comfortable cabin. The natural wood, the chosen mellow colours and the atmospheric lighting all highlighted the cosiness of this den, so much so that I wanted to close the door and hibernate for the winter like a bear itself.
There is a conveniently compact kitchenette with everything that you need to prepare a small meal if you are looking to dine in the cabin. The impressive kitchenette includes a 2-hob cooker top, microwave, sink, small fridge, plates, cutlery and some condiments to help you along the way. A small table was the perfect nook to have dinner but if you prefer to dine alfresco and the Scottish weather is on your side, then there is a table and chairs located outside. If like me where you’d want to cook something more substantial, Sweet Donside has a fantastic shabby chic kitchen located just a short walk from the cabin. This fantastic little shared hub allows you to book a time slot where you can make full use of an oven, cooker and a vast range of equipment and condiments. This is also where you can purchase further supplies of food, snacks, firewood and of course the delicious GHQ spirits which are distilled nearby. If you wish to treat yourself, an afternoon tea can also be supplied for an additional cost, which includes an array of local produce. We were kindly provided one on our arrival and were very impressed with the selection of savoury and sweet treats (even our bear couldn’t resist it). For those looking to dine out, there is a nearby local pub called the Steading Bar or Goodbrand and Ross Tea Room which is located 10 minutes away by car. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the chance to dine at either this time (as i couldn’t peel myself away) but it only gives us an excuse to go back and try them out on our return.
After dinner was always a favourite moment for me at Sweet Donside as it was time to make full use of the cabin facilities. As the sun slipped behind the trees and the onsite lights began to twinkle, I grabbed the nearest wine glass (plastic of course) and headed straight for the Jacuzzi. Tucked away in a sheltered corner of the cabin’s exterior, the two-person Jacuzzi was such a pleasure after a day of exploring. What a joy it was to lay back in the warm bubbling water and stare up at a myriad of stars and the full moon casting its light across the dark sky. Thankfully Sweet Donside kindly provides some fluffy house coats (robes) and slippers so when it’s time to expose your body to the cold Scottish air you are instantly wrapped up and snug. Adjacent to the cabin’s bedroom was a spacious bathroom with the most amazing carved wooden sink and a large contemporary shower. It was so relaxing to have a warm shower after the jacuzzi and thankfully there was plenty of hot water and fantastic water pressure, which I’ve not often experienced in some parts of Scotland. Of course, there is nothing like a little campfire when you are in the countryside, therefore the BBQ fire pit was a great addition. Whether it’s to keep warm, make a delicious BBQ meal or just for the ambience it is always a great extra to have. As previously stated, firewood, firelighters and kindling were all available to purchase from the honesty cupboard where you could leave cash or transfer the money. Listening to some soft music, we sat around the fire toasting some marshmallows and drinking some wine as distant owls hooted in the background. Once I retired to bed it was as exquisite as I thought it would be with an extremely comfortable mattress and body-hugging duvet and even with a small road passing by, there wasn’t an ounce of sound at night.
This was only a very short trip so we didn’t get much chance to explore further afield but as Sweet Donside is located in the Cairngorms National Park there are an abundant of places and activities on offer. We did however manage a short exploration of the nearby quant Poldullie Bridge, located just a stone’s throw away from the cabins. This 300-year-old Jacobite Bridge straddling the cascading River Don was used in the filming of the most recent Mary Queen of Scots movie, with some of the crew even taking advantage of the superb facilities in Sweet Donside. Continuing, a small circular path weaved its way through the unspoilt countryside, passing rolling fields of grazing sheep and the impressive Strathdon Parish Church. Even on a cool autumn day, we witnessed brave cold-water swimmers tackling the chilly currents of the River Don, making an effort to even wave hello as we passed by. If you don’t want to stray far, Sweet Donside has an adorable adjoining forest on the hillside where you can enjoy an abundance of nature and calm. A swaying hammock and picnic table rest in the middle, allowing you to sit or lay back as trickles of sunlight seep through the trees. Beautifully painted toadstools protrude from the grass, marking the path back down to the cabins.
Sweet by name, sweet by nature, this place had me utterly charmed from the moment I set eyes on it. From the lovely owners, the extensive range of accommodations and the stunning surroundings, it was just such a pleasure to experience Sweet Donside Cabins. A fantastic feature is that each of the cabins is so different, allowing you to return again and again and yet have a whole new unique experience each time. I think you would all agree that we definitely need a little sparkle, joy and wonder in our life at the moment and thankfully Sweet Donside ticks all those boxes. Think of it as an enchanting couple’s retreat blending highland aesthetics with an injection of fairy-tale magic, once Sweet Donside has cast its spell on you, you just won’t be able to resist returning.
Blu Blazer Guy Rating:
Location – 4.5/5
Customer Service – 4.5/5
Accommodation – 4.5/5
Cleanliness – 4.5/5
Facilities – 4.5/5
Sweet Donside Cabins
Book at sweetdonsidecabins.com