A 150-year-old cottage on Skye with dramatic, uninterrupted views over to the Trotternish Peninsula in the north of the island and to the Outer Hebrides, Abhaig has been a labour of love for Vivienne Roberts and Steve Bragginton. They tell Nik Hunter why it’s the perfect place to coorie down.

Life in the Skye countryside is a hectic one for Vivienne Roberts and her husband Steve Bragginton but they wouldn’t have it any other way.

The couple moved into their current home at Earlish on Skye, the largest of the Inner Hebrides, 11 years ago. “On paper we initially discounted this house but then we came to have a look,” Vivienne recalls. “We fell in love with it – not so much the bricks and mortar but the setting and the sea view.”

A fixer-upper, the couple’s plan for the 150-year-old cottage was to carry out its refurbishment gradually as and when they could afford them. However, after working in the NHS for 20 years, Vivienne got itchy feet which prompted her to embark on a new life of self-employment which she hoped would give her the freedom to focus on the house and do some of the things she loved.

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“It was one of those mad moments when you’re feeling brave,” she goes on. “I thought perhaps a return to hospitality was something to explore because I’d done that previously and knew I still wanted to work with people. So, we readied the house over the winter and started doing B&B from two of the bedrooms.”

After three successful seasons it made sense to expand their B&B business and the couple turned their attention to a dilapidated garage in the garden. “It had been a proper mechanic’s garage with its own pit. Now it was a wreck, and it was at the stage where we had to do something before it fell down.”

To complement their existing B&B rooms, Vivienne and Steve decided to convert the garage into a standalone, luxury, bedroom suite. “It was the biggest project we’d ever taken on and fortunately we had a really great local joinery firm (Altree Joinery) already working with us in the house renovating the kitchen and shed. We asked them to help us with the garage too.”

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With views over to Idrigill Point, the Ascrib Islands (where the puffins visit to have their young) and the Waternish Peninsula, the priority with the garage – renamed Am Bothan Dubh (The Black Bothy) – was to incorporate this fabulous vista.

“The original four walls are still actually here but we changed the window configuration as there was no window to take in the stunning outlook,” explains Vivienne. “Sean, our joiner, suggested we fit a floor-to-ceiling window at the front and I’m so glad we took his advice.”

Another tiny window at the side has been made into a long, narrow, slit of glazing to offer a glimpse of the adjacent countryside and the window closest to the main house was filled in so that guests have complete privacy.

The space is entered through a practical and stylish loggia, or porch, which was designed by one of the couple’s B&B guests, as Vivienne explains: “Massimo Frigerio is an architect in Milan, and he fell in love with this place and the location. When we told him we were going to embark on our adventure with the bothy, he asked if he could look at our ideas and when he returned to Milan, he produced an amazing mood board which he sent us.

“His vision was very similar to ours, but he suggested the little porch at the front door – we call it the loggia which is the Italian term for porch. As this can be a very wild spot, it’s a brilliant addition and it’s a lovely little storm shelter.”

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Once through the loggia, guests are assaulted by the view which dominates the space but when they turn round the aspect is equally interesting. The floating wall that separates the bedroom from the shower room was the inspiration for all the bothy’s décor.

“We had the wallpaper before the bothy was even built,” reveals Vivienne. “I knew it was going to have a floating wall and from that I found it easy to then tie the space together. The wallpaper is called The Island Botanist and came from Mairi Helena Design in Edinburgh.

“I found Mairi on Instagram. She’s very inspired by nature as are we and, in particular, the west coast of Scotland – and I liked that connection. And that blue shade … well, I just had to have it!”

Stars also appear prominently around the property and again were prompted by a social media find. “I first came across the star tiles which we laid in the bathroom online,” says Vivienne. “We have such amazing clear skies here which is great for star-gazing, so it was another link with the island and our location. And then I added a few star accessories as well.”

The overall feel inside is pleasantly understated. It’s stylish in a way that’s not trying too hard. “I don’t think we’re on the path of one style, but we do tend to go a little bit mid-century – and then I’ll find a piece I like in an antique shop. Fortunately, Steve and I happen to share similar tastes.”

A piece that Vivienne had been coveting during the build was a Tom Raffield light fitting but that would have to wait for several successful seasons, or so she thought. “I think we first encountered Tom Raffield’s work on Grand Designs,” she says. “I’d told Steve’s sister about this thing of beauty that I wanted to buy and then as the project was progressing a large box arrived for us. It was the light fitting – a gift from Steve’s sister Clare. It was so lovely.”

Now complete, Am Bothan Dubh is full of lovely things but Vivienne admits their house is still a work in progress: “Once the bothy was finished Steve gave up his bike shop and semi-retired. Now we’re super busy and it’s very much a team effort with renovations usually taking place bit by bit each winter.

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“We run a dog walking and boarding business alongside the B&B and we’re really big on our food which has become almost another arm to the business.”

Naturally hospitable, the couple like to spoil their guests and at Abhaig you certainly won’t go hungry. “When we started the B&B, there was always going to be a big emphasis on the breakfast and Hebridean specialities,” Vivienne points out. “We like to give people a good breakfast and after it, you don’t usually need to have lunch.

“We already kept hens out in the back yard, so we have a ready supply of delicious fresh eggs. My mum makes homemade tablet which is a sweet treat we supply in the rooms along with a wee nightcap and then, more recently, we’ve started offering gourmet picnic hampers which have proved really popular.”

It seems that Vivienne and Steve are still on the go – the Garden View room has just been refurbished and the dining room is next for a makeover.

This is a couple who certainly aren’t resting on their laurels. “Nothing feels like work,” says Vivienne. “We spend our days with happy animals, waggy tails, and B&B guests who are here to explore our lovely island. It’s very rewarding and we feel very lucky.” 

To arrange a stay visit abhaigskye.co.uk