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​Highest accolade for Hebridean hideaway

Press release   •   Sep 08, 2015 14:30 BST

A luxury Hebridean beach cottage which weaves the stunning Harris landscape throughout the house has achieved the highest Quality Assurance (QA) accolade from VisitScotland.

The national tourism organisation has presented owners of Òran na Mara, Paul and Helen Honeywell, with its 5* Quality Assurance self-catering award, in recognition of its exceptional standards.

After owning the land for 15 years and building for over 2 years, Paul and his family finally completed Òran na Maralast month. Paul and Helen fell in love with the islands after first visiting on their honeymoon in 1977.

The cottage, whose name translates into English as Song of the Sea, is an iconic building in a beautiful location, with a high specification and level of design, both internally and externally. It has a carefully-planned layout to provide a flowing space, with high domed ceilings, which is flooded with light in the day, with outstanding views from all directions, and cosy and warm at night.

Òran na Mara is a perfect fit for Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design next year, being architecturally innovative and with many unique design features. 2016 will shine a spotlight on Scotland’s achievements in innovation, architecture and design through a wide-ranging, variety of new and existing activity to boost tourism in every corner of Scotland. People often visit Scotland for its history, but they leave inspired by the contemporary. 2016 is tourism’s opportunity to showcase the country’s traditional and modern icons and our cutting-edge design to the world.

Òran na Mara’s kitchen flows into the living space, and is equipped with top-of-the-range facilities. The dining table is a creative work of art, reflecting the unique environment of Harris. The cottage’s interior designer, Jane Blanchard,felt that the house should reflect and be part of the wider environment, and should be organic to the point that interior walls should mostly curve and the space should open out and invite guests to explore.

At night, there are plenty of options, from the snug area with panoramic peat-burning stove to, a huge sitting and dining area with high-quality bespoke furniture. Every room has a theme based on the stunning vistas and the ‘boat’ bathroom is already a favourite with guests. A Sonos surround sound system is installed in the cottage and smart TVs with satellite, as well as satellite broadband wifi are available throughout the house.

Òran na Mara looks across the Harris Golf Course to the sea and cottage guests can play for free. The course is often referred to as the most spectacularly-situated golf course in the world. Paul can also arrange watersports, guided walks, fishing trips and other activities, including a visit to the incredible St Kilda.

Owner Paul Honeywell said:

“To be awarded a 5 star grading is an important part of building awareness and interest in our house, and confirms the standards that we strove for. We hope that our house will encourage discerning visitors from all the world to experience what Scotland and the Hebrides can uniquely offer.

“Creating Òran na Marafrom vision to reality has been a long and challenging journey. In such a spectacular location, we wanted to create an iconic building that blended traditional island techniques with the very latest in modern comfort.

“The location inspired us to break the mould and design a curved house, to optimise the views from different aspects, and everything has been created with island-based craftspeople..

“Right from the outset, before a single turf was cut, we involved our interior designer, Jane Blanchard. Her vision was to bring the incredible Harris landscape into the house and celebrate different aspects of it in each room. The result clearly delivers that vision.”

Alan Mackenzie, VisitScotland Islands Manager said:

“This stunning beachside cottage in Harris thoroughly deserves its five star recognition, as it offers visitors an exceptional standard of accommodation in a breathtaking location.

“It is also a perfect example of the use of both innovative modern design and traditions from thousands of years ago, which is what 2016’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design is all about.

“It is vital that everyone involved in tourism works together to offer visitors a fantastic experience when visiting and staying in the Outer Hebrides, to strengthen our tourism offering.Our Quality Assurance scheme helps businesses to reach their full potential and truly shine. The scheme is about more than just the ‘stars’ on the door - it’s about the entire visitor experience, about investing in your business and making it as economically sustainable as it can possibly be.”

Òran na Mara is situated in one of the world’s most stunning locations - the west coast of the Isle of Harris. The islands have been voted number one in Europe and number five in the world by Trip Advisor, and the beaches regularly appear in lists of the best in the world.

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