Thank Mark & Melanie for sharing your beautiful home and especially for your amazing Scottish Family hospitality!!
We arrived at the Houston airport where we first met this amazing couple. They had driven special, all the way in from North London to greet us at the Glasgow Airport. They then proceeded to show us the short winding beautiful drive to the most magical and picture perfect estate. The Maitland Estate and Summer Cottage.
The massive lush grounds literally took my breath away. There are endless rolling grass fields lined with wondrous woods and streams and a cross country equestrian runs. I got to experience many days of the strength of the equines as they beautifully cleared each obstacle jump with power and grace. The meticulously maintained large 17th century white cottage villa is adorned beautifully, including a great chef’s kitchen that houses the most wonderful large iron stove and oven you could ever imagine! A Chef’s dream!!! Because of their desire to treat you as family and their generosity to make you feel at home, they had the refrigerator stocked with amazing local foods. They offered us to drink as we needed from their nice selection of wines and of course their award winning scotches. The large, comfy oversized Sun room that looked out forever across the magical valley was my favorite place for tea and a good Historical Scottish book (which their library is full of). The rooms and beds were like staying in a storybook. All of them were clean, comfortable and best of all; relaxing.
My husband, I, my sister, and our two best friends, loved this special sunny-bright home so much it was hard sometimes to even leave and go exploring the countryside. We we’re on a 5 month trip around the world including the London Olympics, Italian Alps, Cannes, Barcelona, Amalfi, African Safaris, Deserted Fijian Islands and South Pacific Islands. 12 countries and 21 stops. Since our return, there has never been any question - The Maitland Estate, its Owners and the magical surroundings which gave us so many wondrous times, was our favorite stop of the entire trip!
Mr. Maitland had learned through our pre-trip conversations, that my family estate and lands, the “Craigends Castle” Estate, of the Cunninghame Clan, butted up to his property and he had even roamed and played there as a child in the old haunted castle His family ancestors had known my family ancestors. When we first negotiated the exchange, neither of us knew of this connection. We were searching for our Family roots in Scotland, never knowing where they were, or exactly where to look, and magically, our Home Exchange adventure with Mark and Melanie, landed us unknowingly right next door to the subject of our quest!
After Mark discovered that this was a special trip for us, he took the time and effort to retrieve from his family’s Vault the incredibly preserved and original, and actual documents that my family signed on land deals way back when – 1500’s-1600’s and 1700’s, and original maps and drawings of the castle and it’s grounds. Incredible!!! It was an act of overwhelming kindness for him to allow us, complete strangers, to freely browse these irreplaceable old treasures. My sister and I got to spend days exploring our family’s now abandoned grounds which lay across the river which legend has it and which we discovered, the oldest Yew Tree in the entire country of Scotland!!. All of this meant the world to us. Mark supplied my Husband and his friend with Fly rods and the boys had a blast fishing the banks of the river on their own. WE even borrowed some of his family ceremonial swords and reenacted a “storming of the old castle’ where we found its ruins on the river bank nearby!
I will forever be grateful for the warm hospitality and treasured memories that this family has given us.
There is so much to do in the area and Mark helped suggest or arrange a lot of our special times. -Horseback riding, fishing, the hounds, a world class Equestrian facility which we visited and rode at was one of the most perfect and idyllic stables for jumpers which I had ever visited. The local people are super friendly and the local restaurants are fun with great food. And what a Perfect location for Day trips! We explored the nearby Loch Lomond and Loch Fine by ferry and auto (the Maitland’s auto provided for us). It is merely a short 1 hour trip by train to Edinburg for a day of local shopping and exploring plus amazing day trips to gardens and Botanical parks….all of it was incredible and so much fun. We can’t wait until I can make it back to Houston, Scotland, which has captured my dreams’ and my heart, become a special part of my life. We have done 6 exchanges and this was definitely the top one we have experienced! The following spring we met Mark, Melanie, and their 5 children at our Exchange Beach House located in South Padre Island, Texas and enjoyed trying in our small way to repay the adventure and kindness they had given us. What a great Family and what a great vacation. Thank you Mark and Melanie!!