By Lindsey Hanlon

IN just under three hours from Glasgow I am transported, through falling snow and icy air, up a winding tree-lined track to another world entirely, to the snow-filled realm of the imagination – the Scottish Highlands. My destination is Killiehuntly Farmhouse, by Kingussie in the Cairngorms National Park. Built as a farmhouse in 1603, it was completely refurbished last year as an intimate hotel. As I park the car and begin to unload bags bulging under the weight of several sheeps’ worth of woollens (I have come prepared) I am met by Hans-Ole Freudenberg, Killiehuntly’s German chef and host. Warm and affable, Freudenberg immediately sets the tone for Killiehuntly’s understated hospitality – he takes my bags and ushers me through the heavy front door and into the elegant hallway. I feel like I have walked onto the set of a Scandinavian drama.

It’s no surprise, as Killiehuntly is one of several estates owned by Danish clothing billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen. Over the last 10 years Povlson has acquired swathes of Scotland’s countryside, accumulating land and lodges as others do fast cars. He now owns 250,000 acres of Scottish land. Killiehuntly is his bijoux farm addition. The house hosts four double bedrooms, two of which are ensuite. It’s an intimate boutique bolthole, with cosy living spaces, a roaring open fire, convivial dining room and open kitchen. This is farmhouse living for the 21st century. The property also boasts three cottages, ranging from the Hayloft which sleeps two to a larger three-bedroom cottage.

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Freudenberg shows me round the house and encourages me to feel completely at home, I am to help myself to coffee in the kitchen, to local gins from the bar, to the dozens of design magazines which line the handsome oak bookcases and to the hazelnut and orange biscuits which are baked for late afternoon tea. The scene feels wholly festive, indulgent and extremely pleasing. It’s the accumulation of these details that suggests Killiehuntly knows a thing or two about hospitality.

I stay in the Birch room –which alludes to the owner’s love of woodland. Softly lit, it’s a comfortable and peaceful space with pure linen sheets and Harris Tweed throws. The shared bathroom is just down the hall.

Killiehuntly has been designed by interiors guru Ruth Kramer, who worked closely with Anne Storm Pederson, Povlson’s wife. The aesthetic is self-declared Scandi-Scot – a proud fusion of candlelight, sheepskin, Danish design, Scottish architecture and Highland Hygge. The palette is a love letter to Farrow & Ball – with a dozen subtle greys and greens. I am told that the whole house is repainted from top to bottom every January – in order to remain as perfect as possible. This is no budget travel lodge.

The pace at Killiehuntly is entirely as you dictate, save for set mealtimes; food is served at the long dining table where guests are invited to sit together. Dinner provides a chance to meet my fellow guests who include a Belgian lawyer whose love affair with Scotland began aged 18. His passion for this northern wilderness reinvigorates my own sense of Scottishness. Over a carefully prepared meal of fresh Scottish salmon we reflect on the beauty of the food and our surroundings.

The next day, after a hearty breakfast of eggs so yellow they could only have been collected that very morning, I embark on a guided walk with Ronan Dugan, Killiehuntly’s ranger. I am keen to explore the landscape that dances tantalisingly before the kitchen window. Dugan leads me through the snowy wilderness, pointing out native Scots pine, birch, willow and rowan trees. In just two years, 1.5 million native trees have been planted on Killiehuntly’s land in an attempt to conserve its natural wild habitat. It’s a subject about which Anders Povlson is passionate. Through his company, Wildland Ltd, Povlson hopes to reverse the trend of land management that has seen land being cultivated purely for sporting and financial ends. Rather than see the natural resources depleted, Povlson believes that by investing money, he will rehabilitate these landscapes for man and beast alike. It’s a bold and ambitious 200-year vision. Dugan casts his binoculars upwards and points out two black grouse flying low overhead. Out here there is no sound apart from our own breath and the crunch of snow underfoot. The hills extend for miles each way I turn. The sunlight passes to and fro and I’m left in no doubt as to why this land has sparked such passion.

We walk on past a lone cross-country skier as we try to find a capercaillie – apparently there are 20 or so here, precious given their endangered status. Sadly I’m not introduced to this handsome grouse. They are all in hiding this morning.

They might well choose to take cover in Ruig Aiteachain, our next stop, a newly restored bothy on Povlson’s next-door Glenfeshie estate. A short drive across rivers, over paths and through woodland in Dugan’s sturdy Landrover Defender and we arrive at a clearing. The bothy squats in the woodland, awaiting its first inhabitants. For those in need of a silent retreat, this is your destination. And, like all of Scotland’s bothies, it is free to use. Whether you are a billionaire or a pauper, you can still awake to this picture postcard view.

Back in Killiehuntly, invigorated from the crisp air, I warm myself in the hand-crafted sauna – built in a yurt in the woods. At 60 degrees and rising, the setting feels more like Scandinavia than Scotland. I don’t quite muster enough bravery for the plunge pool; the walk back to the farmhouse is as cold as I am prepared to get.

That evening, Hans-Ole Freudenberg invites me to watch him preparing his sourdough loaves. Fresh bread is a signature of all the meals here and the key to the "Killie piece", the sturdy sandwich I am given for a picnic lunch. The smell of fresh bread wafts through the house, a call to table if ever there was one. Freudenberg’s cooking is honest and comes from a knowledge and appreciation of local produce and seasonal crops.

On my last day at Killiehuntly, with the sun shining overhead, I explore the Gaik estate a few miles from the farmhouse and not yet as replanted as Glenfeshie and Killiehuntly. It’s astonishingly beautiful. Reaching up around me on all sides, its snowy hills recline against the snow-laden sky, white on white. It is totally silent. My only companions are three Shetland ponies hastily demolishing their lunch. Overhead I spot a golden eagle, seeking out its prey. I feel that I have finally reached the wild land of the Cairngorms.

As I walk back to Killiehuntly and begin thinking about my eventual return to civilisation, I am aware not just of the replenishment of the land that I walk upon, but of the replenishment of body and mind that comes through being in this special place. I recall the words of Nan Shepherd, whose book The Living Mountain captured the ineffable nature of these mountains: “Knowing another is endless. The thing to be known grows with the knowing.” I feel my journey into the Cairngorms has only just begun, but oh, what a place to begin.

Lindsey Hanlon was a guest of was a guest of Killiehuntly Farmhouse http://killiehuntly.scot/Killiehuntly_Home.html