It is fair to say that over a lifetime of more decades than I would care to mention I have travelled Scotland extensively. I have laid my head to rest in everything from cheap tents, that were totally unsuitable for the vagaries of Scottish weather, to caravans and campervans where I would awaken to ice on the inside of the windows in winter. I have stayed in many bed and breakfast establishments and self-catering houses of varying quality, and I have also enjoyed some of the finest hotel accommodation that this country has to offer.
In a world where foreign travel is affordable for many, and where international comparisons can be made easily, the last thirty years has seen a huge shift in the type and quality of accommodation that today’s travellers look for in destinations like Scotland. Though not everyone has raised their game to meet those expectations, it comes as both a relief and a comfort to find an organization that has not only raised its game, but also delivers consistently.
When I travel around Scotland it is invariably with camera and fishing rod. If you asked my wife she would say that we don’t have holidays in Scotland – we have photography trips or fishing expeditions.
Going self-catering means that I am not restricted by meal times or the need to stay out at certain times of the day so that someone can service my room. I can go out early to photograph the sunrise or stay out late to catch the evening rise, or even stay out all night for a spot of sea-trout fishing without worrying that I have missed a mealtime or that I may be disturbing other guests by coming and going at unsociable hours. It is the flexibility of self-catering breaks that I enjoy. There is the added benefit that some self-catering properties are situated in spectacular locations, the kind of places where you won’t find a hotel – nor would you want to!
After a couple of mediocre experiences with self-catering accommodations, I stumbled across the website for LHH some years ago. Several months previously, I had fractured my foot and – given the inevitable restrictions that my recovery was imposing – my wife and I decided to book a leisurely break and to invite a couple of family members along with us. One was my elderly father-in-law who has problems with his sight. All of this necessitated making sure that the property was going to suit our needs while also being of high quality and in a good location. We narrowed our preference down to a Perthshire house that oozed character. I am long past the stage of being fooled by glossy images, so I telephoned LHH to discuss the finer details of the layout and location. I spoke with Wynne Bentley, the firm’s owner and Managing Director. LHH is the marketing agent for the properties in its portfolio, and I remember being impressed with both how well Bentley knew the particular property that we were interested in and her extensive knowledge of the local area. This had not been my experience of other letting agents in the past. Our stay in the property was excellent and the service from LHH was the best I had experienced to date. Since then I have used LHH many times and have stayed in some of the most amazing, unique, comfortable and luxurious properties across the Highlands of Scotland and on the Outer Hebrides. I have never been disappointed with the houses, their location or the services.
Bentley’s maternal great-grandmother hails from North Wales, and she was christened Winefride – after the Welsh Saint Winefride. Her father’s side of the family had Irish connections. She laughs as she recounts the story of her name, “I hated the name Winefride, and after seeing shops in Wales displaying the surname ‘Wynne’ I decided – at twelve years of age – that from then on Wynne would be my new forename!”
After graduating with a B.Sc. in geology from Manchester University in 1984, and later with a Masters degree in micropalaeontology from Aberystwyth University in 1986, Bentley married a Scot and moved to Ullapool where she worked for a spell in the fish farming industry with Wester Ross Salmon Ltd.
She had assumed that, after graduation, she would find work as a geologist in the oil or petrochemical fields. However, the late 1980s saw considerable cutbacks across the oil related industries, and so she embarked on a new career direction gaining diplomas from the Chartered Institute of Marketing and the Institute of Export and International Trade. After a spell as an export controller for a company in Lancashire, the family relocated to the Black Isle, north of Inverness. It was there that friends asked her if she could use her marketing skills to promote the letting of Poyntzfield House near Cromarty as a holiday home. It was a large, underused facility at the time, but following a successful marketing campaign, owners of other sizable properties approached her about her services. The result was the establishment in 1997 of Large Holiday Houses, dealing specifically with castles, mansions, lodges and big farmhouses that generally housed eight or more guests. The company acquired an excellent reputation from both property owners and holidaymakers. In 2003, Little Holiday Houses was formed, with a shift in emphasis towards equally high-end smaller cottages and houses catering for two to eight persons. Two years later, both these aspects of the business amalgamated to form LHH Ltd. Today, many people assume that LHH stands for Luxury Holiday Homes. It is no coincidence that this misnomer has arisen, and it is an accolade that Bentley is happy to accept.
Before any property makes it into LHH’s brochure it must be the equivalent of 4 or 5-star quality, and will be visited by at least one member of staff who will acquire first-hand knowledge of the site.
Awareness of the local area is also vital, as the company prides itself on assisting visitors when planning travel arrangements, and also offers first hand advice about what can be found in the vicinity – from regional attractions to quality restaurants.
LHH is very much a family business. Bentley’s daughter, Catherine, is her Personal Assistant, while another daughter, Robyn, works remotely as proof-reader and provides temporary staff relief for holiday cover, etc. Additionally, the company employs a Property and Contract Manager, Accounts Manager, Reservations Administrator, Website and IT administrator and an Accounts administrator.
Considering Bentley’s degrees in geology, it is perhaps fitting that LHH is based in a beautiful rural setting only a few miles from the Cromarty home and museum of Scotland’s eminent geologist and fossil-hunter, Hugh Miller. Given the stunning locations of many of the firm’s properties, she is determined that the office should remain based in a similar location.
“In the interests of quality of life, we have resisted vehemently all temptations to relocate to the city to take advantage of financial incentives,” she notes. That outstanding ‘quality of life’ is reflected in the company’s exceptional properties, and why I continue to visit them year after year.
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