Your first family home is one you’ll never forget. A statement that is definitely true for Shona Morrison who showed the Gazette round her house, a beautiful three bedroomed cottage in the village of Knockaird, Ness, writes Jenny Kane.
The cottage itself has a warm, homely feeling as soon as you walk in the door and enter the porch, with pairs of wellies of all sizes neatly lined up next to the pram. But it really strikes as you enter the kitchen, with the stove to one side and the a large family dinning table, and lots of surface space, a proper family kitchen, topped off with two large windows on either side, showing country and sea views.
In fact the kitchen is the one room the young couple, Duncan and Shona, haven’t done much to. But that only adds to the feel. It is both cosy and spacious, traditional and practical and instantly takes you back to the days of home baking and childhood family meals.
It’s also a kitchen that Shona remembers from her childhood. The house was owned by her mother’s friend, and having grown up just down the road she has fond memories of it.
“My mum’s friend used to live here,” she explained. “She was really into her cooking and baking – when I used to visit her there was always cakes.
“I’ve always liked the house because of the sea views that the house is named after. It’s ideal, just a wee cottage by the sea.”
With her family still living near by, and Shona and her husband looking to build on croftland close to the cottage, the village of Knockaird and Ness itself is a dream location for her and her young family with baby Fraser and three year old Bethany (and not forgetting Mitch the dog).
For many the thought of living in Lewis, in a village more than a ten minutes drive from Stornoway with a young family, seems like a challenge. But Ness offers so much more than first meets the eye.
In a time of rural island villages feeling more remote than ever, local shops closing and communities becoming more dependent on the towns, the opposite appears to be happening in Ness.
The local shops are able to provide you with the majority of what you need, there is a sports centre, a gym, the Eoropie Dunes Park, four beaches close to hand, a social club, the bowling alley and talk of a new restaurant/café opening by Port of Ness beach. There is also a strong community spirit, and projects such as the Comunn Eachdraidh Nis museum have become a great success.
The community itself is one of the main reasons why they decided to bring up their family in Ness. “Everyone pulls together really well,” Shona said. “It’s perfect for young families, it’s so safe. I can let Bethany go out and play when she’s a bit older and not have to worry.
“In the last couple of years we have also spotted quite a lot of wildlife, including dolphins, whales and basking sharks from the kitchen window making their way north towards the Butt. One time we actually drove to the lighthouse and managed to get a close up view of a group of killer whales making their way north.”
Yet another reason why Ness is ideal for first time buyers and young families is how far your money will go further out from Stornoway. The original part of the house is more than 100 years old, and the work the couple have done to house is to a very high standard.
“We renovated every room in the house, bar the kitchen,” Shona explained. “The house had lots of wood chip wall paper so we spent ages getting it off. Thankfully we had lots of friends and family to help. I love old houses, love the character and feel, it’s very cosy.”
One of the features she is most proud of is the fireplace in the lounge. “My uncle who is a joiner, put in the fireplace and multi fuel stove for us. We got the mantle made from a piece of wood from the sawmill in Stornoway and the hearth came from old slate flagstones that were taken out of a shop in Stornoway. Using these local materials gave us the traditional rustic look that we were looking for.”
The end result is a fantastic focal point in the lounge, that also warms up most of the house. That, and the several feet wide walls in the old sections of the house, make for a cosy cottage all year round.
The same attention to detail has been shown to all the other rooms in the house, and the project has give Shona plenty of ideas for there new build.
“We’re going to definitely go for the croft style for the next house,” Shona said. “And we will definitely have a porch/boot room as this is great for dirty wellies and boots, especially with young kids.”