For those with wanderlust wanting more from a holiday than just the usual pursuits, now is the time to book a holiday to Scotland to learn a new skill, go on a spiritual journey, or even ‘work’ and gain valuable experience in a local community.
From volunteering to look after birds in Orkney, to learning to chop wood in the Highland woodlands, to waking-up – phone signal free - near a deserted beach in Fife, or chilling out at a Tibetan monastery in Dumfries, there are many ways to experience a little bit more of Scotland this summer and feel the better off for it.
The view from Conic Hill part of the West Highland Way toward Ben Lomond
Work, learn, or feel transformed
Volunteering on Orkney and Shetland
North Ronaldsay is the northernmost island in the Orkney archipelago. Although comparatively isolated (accessible by plane), wild types looking for an adventure might like to make the trip to the island, which lies further north than the southern tip of Norway. There is evidence of Iron Age settlements and visitors will find themselves in the flight path of migrating birds. There is also the possibility of seeing porpoises and dolphins. The North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory has two volunteer vacancies at its base throughout the year. These are ideally suited to keen birdwatchers looking at a future in conservation or simply help out at the observatory while enjoying the island lifestyle.
More information is available here: www.facebook.com/northronaldsaybirdobservatory.
Alternatively, volunteers are needed at the North Ronaldsay Sheep Festival to help rebuild a historic structure which is essential to the conservation of the rare, seaweed-eating North Ronaldsay sheep. The festival runs from 29 July – 10 August 2018. Full details are available from www.nrsheepfestival.com.
Famous for its knitwear, the Fair Isle, near to Shetland, is a magnet for new settlers looking to experience the island’s way of life, rich as it is in community spirit. Those looking to spend more than just a few days’ visit might like to volunteer at the Bird Observatory on the island. Visit www.fairislebirdobs.co.uk/opportunities for more information.
Helping to restore woodland sites and heritage trails
The National Trust for Scotland offers a series of volunteering opportunities throughout the year, including opportunities for young people at their Thistle Camps, which offer valuable skills and work experience. These are incredibly popular and fill up quickly; however there is still availability at the following places:
Ben Lomond Trailblazer camp, Loch Lomond (suitable for people aged 16- 17 years)
7 – 13 July 2018
The magnificent Ben Lomond towers 974m (3,196ft) over the eastern shore of Loch Lomond and offers spectacular views across the loch and the Trossachs National Park. Volunteers at this camp will do a mixture of repair work and estate management work, acquiring vital skills and also enjoying a day off of for a water-based activity. Accommodation is provided and a level of fitness is expected.
Cost: £270. See www.nts.org.uk/ThistleCamps for full details and to apply.
Brodick Female Trailblazer, Isle of Arran (suitable for young women only aged 16-17 years)
21 – 27 July 2018
Anyone travelling to the Isle of Arran will catch a glimpse of Brodick Castle on arrival, over Brodick Bay where it has stood for centuries. The National Trust for Scotland is working hard to save Arran's hills from erosion and work at this camp will include upland footpath work on Goatfell, invasive rhododendron clearance in the Country Park and lowland footpath work on the estate which will all help considerably, as well as providing valuable experience for volunteers. Fun activities will also be included, along with accommodation. A level of fitness will also be expected as long walks uphill will be involved.
Cost: £270. See www.nts.org.uk/ThistleCamps for full details and to apply.
Detox and chill
Wake up at the beach:
Catchpenny Safari Lodges, Elie, Fife ***New for 2018
Catchpenny Safari Lodges is a completely new holiday experience on the east coast of Scotland. The canvas lodges are located overlooking the beach in Elie, and what’s more they are completely off the grid. Guests wake up with the best views of the sea and at one with the local wildlife. Visitors can enjoy the simple things from rock pooling and seal spotting to enjoying a walk along the Fife Coastal Path. www.catchpennyelie.co.uk.
Find inner peace:
Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre, Langholm, Dumfries and Galloway
Founded in 1967 the centre is located in a peaceful valley on the banks of the river Esk. Kagyu Samye Ling was the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre to have been established in the West.
There are a range of courses available, from learning mindfulness to Tai Chi and meditation, with accommodation available. Day visitors are also welcome free of charge and the temple is open daily from 6am until 9pm.
Accommodation costs from £29 per night. Course fees vary. Please see www.samyeling.org for more information.
Escape the modern world:
Summer retreat for the soul in the Scottish Highlands (women only)
Dell at Abernethy, Nethy Bridge
25 – 30 June 2018
Set over six days, guests will relax in company of like-minded women in the peace of the Scottish landscape. This course will include a selection of “embodied practices” including: Yoni Yoga; Cacao Ceremonies; Soul Journalingl; Mandala Art; doTERRA Essential Oils; Strawberry Moon Fire Ceremony; and Yoga Nidra. Guests will also be shown how these tools and resources can continue to support and be integrated into daily life.
Cost: From £865, to include accommodation and food. Go to www.ohmyyogini.com/summer-retreat-for-the-soul/ for more information and to book.
Learn a new skill
Chopping wood in the Cairngorms:
Green Woodworking courses ***New for 2018
Aaron Sterritt Woodwork, Logie Steading, Cairngorm National Park
Visitors to Scotland looking to get their hands dirty and learn some fun skills can try this new course from Aaron Skerritt who creates his own unique pieces of art and furniture from fallen trees. Aaron is offering this new course in woodwork using techniques that have been developed over hundreds of years that are in harmony with the nature and qualities of the wood itself. No prior wood working experience is necessary as courses are for all abilities.
Prices start from £150 for a one-day course. See www.aaronsterrittwoodwork.co.uk for more details and to book.
Tree climbing in the Scottish Borders:
Wild Tree Adventures ***New for 2018
Bowhill House and Estate, Selkirk
Saturday, 23 June 2018
A brand-new experience for 2018 for anyone with a head for heights who can come have the chance to climb a 100-year-old Scots pine or oak with ropes and expert tuition. This is suitable for ages 6+ with no upper age limit.
Price: £20 for a one-hour session. See www.bowhillhouse.co.uk/events/tree-climbing/ for more information.
Cook like Scottish folk:
Cookery with Chef Marcello Tully
Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye
Marcello hosts a range of bespoke cookery classes in the kitchens, tailored to specific interests. Choose from: pastry and bread; butchery and fileting; soups, sauces and mousses; fish and seafood; or entertaining specials. An express 45-minute cookery course will show how to make Kinloch’s famous savoury and sweet scones (and eat them too, of course). Alternatively, Marcello hosts bespoke classes that last two and a half hours and will leave you armed with inspiration, knowledge and confidence.
Prices: From £25 per person. See https://kinloch-lodge.co.uk for more information.
Learn a Scottish dance
There are a number of organisations across Scotland that run drop-in classes to learn traditional Highland dance as well as traditional ceilidh dancing. Dance Base in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket has an August programme including drop-in classes for all ages and abilities (www.dancebase.co.uk) In addition, there are regular ceilidhs at St Andrew’s in the Square in Glasgow for all to attend to learn the traditional Scottish dance steps for the ultimate knees-up! (See http://cafesource.co.uk/ceilidh-dance-classes/ for more information).
For more information on holidays in Scotland, go to www.visitscotland.com