A few years ago, you could have been forgiven for having never heard of the word ‘hygge’. But after being named the runner up for the Collins Dictionary word of the year in 2016 (‘Brexit’ came top) suddenly, hygge was everywhere.
Loosely translating as a Danish description of ‘cosiness’, hygge has been used to market everything from books to candles, as people try to bring some Scandinavian inspiration to their décor and lifestyles.
But beyond chucking up some fairy lights, how do you really achieve hygge? Winter is arguably the best time to visit Scandinavia and experience it properly, but the cost-of-living crisis makes a trip to the notoriously pricey north of Europe a stretch beyond many household budgets.
Fortunately, you can still experience authentic Scandi hygge without even leaving the central belt, with a trip to the Schenbothies on Brucefield Estate.
Made entirely from timber, the bothies were custom built by Victoria Bruce-Winkler after she inherited the estate, near Alloa, from her mother in 2012. Having worked in Copenhagen for seven years, she had a clear design of the kind of Danish design she wanted to bring to the project.
Each of the three bothies is essentially a ‘tiny home’, with minimalist interiors and impeccable design ensuring you have everything you need without feeling cluttered. A simple basket holds the kindling for the Danish Morso woodburning stove; a reupholstered Arne Jacobsen classic chair sits stylishly in the corner. Even the very fabric of the bothies has been created with hygge at their heart – with triple-glazed windows and an air-tightness membrane that envelops the structure to prevent draughts and aid heat retention.
There are no TVs in the bothies – instead you are encouraged to immerse yourself in the surrounding woodlands. The 1000-acre estate is a mosaic of habitats, including semi-ancient Scots pine, birch, and oak as well as heathery heath, wet meadows and fields. Guests can explore the estate on their own or take a guided walking tour from one of the estate staff, costing £25 per person.
We went with the delightful Graham, who carefully pointed out historic monuments (the estate has links to Queen Margaret of Scotland and Robert the Bruce) as well as unusual woodland fungi that makes the estate an important ecological site. Graham showed us a spot that will soon be turned into a red squirrel hide, part of a ten-year wildlife plan that aims to enhance Brucefield’s biodiversity.
Back at the bothy, Victoria and her team have thought of everything. As well as a large breakfast hamper with granola, eggs, sourdough and local jams, there’s a meal kit in the fridge with a recipe to make yourself dinner (roasted leg of lamb or, for vegetarians, gnocchi mozzarella). Jumbo marshmallows, in case you want to light up the firepit on the patio, are also included.
Snuggled up in the bothy with nothing to be seen out the window beyond the tops of the trees, I felt I was in the middle of the Highlands, or even Scandinavia – certainly not an hour or so from home. The whole experience is a truly Scandi-Scots union, with design elements of both countries seamlessly blended in the bothies.
Yet according to Victoria, we aren’t that different to our neighbours in the north.
“Scandinavian languages have a great many similarities to Scots,” she explains. “For example, in Danish: kirke is kirk (church); ‘barn’ is bairn (child); ‘hus’ is house; ‘flytte’ means to move house which is very similar to our ‘flittin’; and even the Polis (police) are the Polis in Sweden. The placename ending wik means bay in Danish, for example Lerwick and Berwick.”
With that in mind, perhaps there’s room to create a Scandi-Scots version of ‘hygge’. If so, Brucefield Estate are certainly leading the way.
Brucefield Estate still have availability for Christmas breaks in two of their three bothies. Book online, and find out more, at www.brucefieldestate.scot