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West Port & Company

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West Port & Company - The Big Bothy, Isle of Skye

West Port & Company

The Big Bothy is the nickname given to our design for the 400sqm hub building, forming a central part of a wider boutique hotel development on the outskirts of the town of Portree, Isle of Skye.

The term ‘Bothy’ is a traditional Scottish word, historically used to describe the small cottages found dotted across the rocky landscapes of the Highlands which served as both stores for farm labourers and short-term refuges for travellers seeking respite from the harsh winter climate of Northern Scotland.

The project hopes to be a timely answer to rising tourism in the area, with aspirations to provide a uniquely luxurious experience, borne from the qualities of its context and catering to both visitors and residents. The project was submitted to the Highland Council for planning in February 2018.

The development is set upon a hillside west of Portree. The site is graced with expansive views back to the town centre, Portree Harbour, Loch Portree and the Sound of Raasay. The overall design of the development is a novel take on what a 4* hotel experience is and looks like. Rather than containing all elements within a singular building, the development is instead formed of three primary components - one communal hub (The Big Bothy), a spa centre with an outdoor pool and 25 prefabricated cabins which serve as the guest rooms. All these elements are set amidst the rugged landscape in a manner that ensures a respectful and symbiotic relationship is achieved between the man-made and the picturesque landscape of the island.

The project is conceptualised as a mass of stone gabions incorporating a curved green roof. The building’s form is directly inspired by the undulations of the landscape and the arched shape of the cabins, while its materiality stems from the very makeup of the surrounding environment, Isle of Skye’s stone rubbles and its wild grass. The overall mass is split into three connected fractions, each representing one of three primary visitor experiences the building seeks emphasise: the sense of arrival, the enjoyment of food and the feeling of relaxation. The expression of these experiences is directly translated into the form of the building.

The south-wing which houses the restaurant, is imagined an airy space with high ceilings that allow dinners to fully appreciate the sinusoidal form of the buildings glulam structure and timber finished ceiling.

Centred between the north and south wings is the entrance and true hearth of the building. Upon entry you find yourselves within a triple height space, fully glazed on its east to frame a view back towards Portree and its Harbour. This space is bookended by 2 unadorned bronze clad walls (blades). These blades serve a dual purpose, providing relief from the ‘massive’ north and south wings and acting as the chimney flues for the fireplaces that serve the restaurant and the lounge.

The north-wing (the lounge) is an intimate space. The ceiling heights here are the lowest of the building, with fenestration more carefully curated. The lounge’s windows are in themselves special places to dwell and relax with each window opening used to reveal the depth of the buildings fabric, adding to the sense of security one feels in the space.

Designing this project so that the primary building elements can be prefabricated, is what we hope to be one of the true successes of it. It is where we have sought to demonstrate that ‘buildability’ on a site with the extreme constraints and harsh weather conditions does not stem creativity.

Photographs by

West Port & Company