Step back in time...and into Downie’s Cottage

Thought to have once been the highest working farm in Scotland, Downie’s Cottage is a 19th century rural house nestled on the hillside overlooking the Braemar village.
Cast iron bed

Situated just ten miles away from the royal residence at Balmoral Castle, the Grade A listed cottage is steeped in heritage, lying within Cairngorms National Park in north east Scotland.

When Jackie and Calum Innes bought the house back in 2006, it had been uninhabited for almost 80 years, and was on the verge of ruin. The cottage was sold with planning permission to demolish it and build a new house, but once the couple stepped inside, they soon understood how significant the cottage was as a monument to a bygone era.

downie's cottage, which lies within Cairnorgms National Park

“It hadn’t been touched,” recalls Jackie.

“Box beds, furniture, beads and buttons, old boots and Victorian Christmas cards all just left. How could we destroy a cottage with such a strong sense of the past?”

The couple contacted Historic Environment Scotland (HES) which quickly awarded the Downie’s Cottage a Grade A listing, deeming it an ‘exceptionally rare’ type of building.

The cottage’s new protected status meant that Jackie and Calum couldn’t change any of the features or the internal fittings - everything had to be carefully restored, from the flagstone floor, to the corrugated iron roof. Of course, they were allowed to add modern concessions such as a bathroom, electricity, WiFi and television, but these were hidden away.

the bathroom in downie's cottage

Everything else in the property remained traditional and in keeping with the original style, which led Jackie and Calum to The Cornish Bed Company.

“We found The Cornish Bed Company online, and were immediately attracted by the quality and variety of traditional beds it offered,” says Jackie.

“Having looked at many alternatives, we chose the Billy because of its simplicity. We felt it was in keeping with the cottage’s restoration - modern day comfort whilst keeping a traditional and authentic feel.”

the master bedroom in downie's cottage

After six years worth of restoration of work, the completed cottage opened as a holiday let in September 2017. The kitchen was transformed into a cosy living area, with the box bed now doubling up as a comfy sofa. The porch has been renovated into a small kitchen, whilst the back room has been transformed into a bathroom featuring a traditional pine bath and hidden shower.

Technical research manager at Historic Environment Scotland, Roger Curtis, praised the completed restoration in his final report.

“Woven into this refurbishment has been an appreciation of the people who lived there and how such links connect us with a way of life that lies at some distance from our own.”

the converted box bed in downie's cottage

The cottage has been a labour of love for Jackie and Calum and, whilst it required a huge amount of money and effort to be spent by the couple, the end result is more than just a refurbished house - it’s a step back in time.