Would you like to feel the freedom of doing your own thing outdoors, to be able to access nature therapy and fresh air in a way that suits you?
Are you someone who feels you don’t have the speed, fitness and power to just muscle through and endure pain when it comes to exercise?
Then join us for two mini “Yomp” training days. As featured in the Courier, Malcolm will be guiding people to discover their hidden potential, learn how to achieve more, grow in confidence and get more from the outdoors.
The Cateran Yomp takes place in June each year, conveniently near the days of longest daylight, as competitors will likely need every bit of the 24 hours to complete the challenge of walking 22, 36 or 54 miles in one go.
This is an exciting opportunity to get outdoors and learn some skills, thanks to ABF the Soldiers’ Charity that created the crazy but wonderful Cateran Yomp!
Our aim is to pass on our experience gained over a life time of walking in wild places, long distance walking in Iceland, Canada and the UK, without you having to go through the same pain and hardship.
Learn smart ways to increase your performance; how to walk better, when to drink and refuel, and what foods work best. Warm ups, stretches and techniques borrowed from yoga and reflexology to increase protection of feet, tendons and rest of your body.
Get tips in navigation, choosing the right equipment, stamina training and mental techniques and resilience.
This is about brains, not brawn; about doing things the smart way, not the hard way.
Also, in true Five Senses style, your day will include chocolate and finish with a high tea at Glenisla hotel. Plus, you will be raising some money for charity by participating!
Like the British cycling successes in Olympics and Tour de France as a result of marginal gains and attention to incremental improvement, I will show people what to eat, how and when to gain extra minutes and metres on the Trail, making life easier.
And to prove it works, I have signed up to do the Cateran Yomp Gold myself, a distance of 54 miles in under 24 hours! That’s never easy.
Who is this for?
Novice walkers. If you go walking with a group, take your dog or boyfriend for strolls and sometimes like getting out into nature but feel not fully prepared, if you wish you could do more but feel intimidated by those who seem super fit or if you struggle with pain /motivation /low energy /injury or depression, this is for you.
Whether you are in your 60’s or 20’s, single or with friends, you will find this a stepping stone to a more active, energising future outdoors.
How hard will it be?
This is not the Yomp! We are not looking to push ourselves hard physically but there will be about 3 hours of walking and activities and you will need to be dressed for the outdoors – but if you choose to come barefoot you will be rewarded!
What is a yomp?
The term was popularised by journalists following the 1982 war in the Falklands, and then meant a forced march over rough ground carrying heavy equipment. The Royal Marines and Parachute Regiment covered 56 miles in 3 days, carrying 36 Kg loads.
This is nothing new, as armies, often made up of clansmen and drafted labourers, marched across the length of England to defend against Viking and Norse invasions.
So, yomping is hard, extraordinary and against the clock!
However, it is no longer a macho military pursuit and is now part of fitness training and challenge walks, along with events like the 3 Peaks Challenge, Marathons or the Coast to Coast. These bring huge personal gain for participants and raise large amounts for charities.
Cateran Yomping is special though, in that is takes you through Cateran Country, rugged, beautiful countryside, heather moorland and grassland, on the edges of the Scottish Highlands, with a complete support network of feed and drink stations, foot massage, medical back up, cheering supporters (including my son who loves to see yompers pass our home) and the camaraderie and teamwork that can take you further than you ever imagined possible.
However, you can use this unique training for something other than preparing for the Yomp (though it’d be great if you did sign up and raise money for charity) – you can use it to gain self-confidence, skills and fitness and undertake walks at your own pace.
Perhaps you want to do the Cateran Trail over a number of weekends, or wish to explore the West Highland Way or Wainwright’s Coast to Coast? Maybe the Camino de Santiago is calling? Maybe those dogs need extra exercise, or you wish to show your family and friends what you can really do!
Guaranteed to get you ready for a season outdoors and if looking for a 2019 challenge you’ll gain crucial skills relating to the Cateran Yomp, set to take place on the trail over the weekend of 8-9 June 2019.
When: Saturday 16th March and Sunday 12th May 10.30 am – 2.30 pm
Price: Tickets £50 including High Tea with donation going to ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.
Where: Meet-up point The Glenisla Hotel, Kirkton of Glenisla, Blairgowrie, PH11 8PH
Perhaps it’s middle age (I’m 45). Maybe it’s the perimenopause. Or it’s that I’ve finally recovered from a debilitating illness that’s taken me years of daily work to heal and I’m ready to start LIVING. My life, my way.
All of that means that I’m fed up of bowing to convention, following the herd even the slightest bit, and failing to be the person I’ve always wanted to be.
So I’m searching for the place where I belong, where I feel accepted for who I am. And I’m hoping I can find that in Nature.
Many people, including Malcolm, talk about how they feel that Nature loves them. They feel that Nature is always there for them, always giving, always sharing its love, and so they do everything they can to give back.
One of my favourite quotes that speaks to this is from the Jeshua Channelings:
“And imagine you have a place somewhere in nature that reflects the part of you which is an outsider. It can be a wild place in nature, or whatever place comes to mind. This is the place where you can make a connection with your soul..,
“Imagine that you can walk or sit in that wild place where there are few human influences and sense how “at home” you feel there…There is something or someone there that wants to greet you and to make you welcome. See what you find there. It can be a human or an animal or a guide, or perhaps a force or sense of something, and feel how you are received with gladness and joy.”
Jeshua Channelings, jeshua.net
Can you imagine what it would feel like to be received with gladness and joy, just for being yourself? I struggle. But I also hope.
Even if I’m not able to connect to Nature like that, I’m inspired by the idea that whether I find what I’m looking for, I’ll still be far closer to being the person I want to be.
So I asked Malcolm to start teaching me. Specifically, I asked him to teach me everything I need to know to be able to go into the Cairngorm mountains for a week on my own.
I have an outstandingly bad sense of direction, very little idea how to make a fire, and no clue how to set up a tent in the right place. I’m cold all the time and rely on central heating, hot water bottles AND a woodturning stove to keep me warm. Even in summer. I’m also scared of the dark, of being attacked, and of feeling lonely.
And yet, I want to do this. I need to go into the wild and not die in the process.
I need time to hear my soul’s calling, to connect in a far deeper way with the lochs, mountains and soil and see what they have to say.
I’ve set the date of August 24th as my Go Date, as it’s my 46th birthday. I’m taking all of Malcolm’s courses in firemaking, navigation, natural navigation, bushcraft and mindful walking. He always tailors everything to a person’s goals anyway, so all I’ve done is hand him my aspirations and challenges, and he’s set to work creating a programme just for me.
It’s something he can do for you too, should you also feel the call to the wild. And if you’re not in Scotland, he can work with you remotely — but only if you feel really, really passionate and dedicated about this. Othewise, just read the many great books about wilderness adventures and live vicariously.
Rewilding yourself is a calling and a challenge, involving you to fail many times before succeeding. It’s not for the dilettante or the “spiritual snacker” — that person who flits from class to class, never willing to put the work in because they want the magic bullet that will solve all their problems.
But if you too feel the pull to connect to Nature and find where you belong, to become who you’ve always wished and dreamed you could be, then perhaps it’s time to rewild yourself.
Cake and Compass is an 8-week course in February 2019 that’s intended for people who want to learn more about the map and compass to gain confidence but who don’t want to be standing out in a cold, wet field.
We all learn best when we’re enjoying themselves and are comfortable, so Cake and Compass offers you the chance to sit in comfort, enjoy some excellent cake and high quality coffee or tea and learn the navigation in a relaxed, informal way — rather than outdoors or in a classroom. There’s no Powerpoint presentation, slides or intimidating questions here!
Instead, find out answers to common problems like:
using a compass correctly
poor sense of direction
difficulty interpreting contours
not really understanding maps
OK with following footpaths but not really getting how maps are used in the wild
lack of confidence outdoors
Find out the answer to this favourite question: ‘Is it possible to be certain where you are in the wild with only a map and compass and not a GPS?’
If you’re someone who has allowed other people to do the navigating for them, or who hasn’t felt motivated enough to go out and practice on your own or book onto formal course, then this is for you.
A new health therapy known as ‘forest bathing’ is popping up all over Britain, with people paying to spend time in the trees. The benefits of forest bathing range from improving sleep and the ability to focus, to lowering blood pressure and stress levels.
So if you’re curious to try it, read on to find out how to forest bathe for free in your very own neighbourhood.
(Usually, Malcolm and I write posts jointly, but for this post, I thought I’d interview Malcolm to get this thoughts on the recent phenomenon. -Rachel)
So Malcolm, how would you describe forest bathing?
There’s a whole load of scientific research that’s been done that’s been trying to explain why being in nature is good, so it’s getting a lot of attention. I think it’s largely a response to the disconnect from the natural environment that comes from urban living.
Why do you think more and more people are trying forest bathing?
Well, people are under stress, and they’re looking for ways to improve the quality of their life. I also suspect there’s some deep DNA echo from our ancestral past, being in trees. Trees have offered us so much in the near past, from tools, fuel, shelter, food (food from the trees themselves but also in terms of animals who live amongst woods), so they’re habitats we’re profoundly drawn to.
If trees are growing somewhere, it also means there’s water there. So if you think about an oasis, you have water from underground and shelter from the sun.
It’s also the ability in the past to climb a tree, to be up in the branches, looking down on people, which was a very rare perspective. You could escape from an animal who might attack you, or maybe just sit up there and relax, to throw pinecones down at people!
And then it’s like being a child again in that the trunks of trees remind me of parents’ legs, and the trees are like giants, protective guardians. It kindles a feeling of being nurtured and safe.
I mean, trees are awesome, in the most literal sense of the word. They’re huge, like an elephant but they’re WAY bigger. They defy gravity and bend in the wind. They inspire deep admiration from us as we literally look up to them.
Finaly, they are our intimate allies by pumping out oxygen and breathing in carbon dioxide. Some people believe there’s a higher concentration of oxygen close to trees. The air inside the forest is different air from that’s in the open — certainly different from dusty deserts or polluted urban environments.
There’s a feeling that the more the air stays in the forest, the more it’s imbued with olfactory stimulus from the surrounding plants, like essential oils imbued with scent. Trees create their own humus soil, their own living ground with layers of smells.
How do you like to forest bathe?
I like to go for a slow, gentle walk amongst trees, to meander with no direct purpose of getting somewhere, and preferably barefoot. I would encourage being barefoot amongst the trees so that you’re touching the ground. It also forces you to go slowly.
As soon as you go barefoot, you’re connecting to the ground and it’s often more moist and I think the charge works better, the energy coming from the ground known as “grounding” or “earthing”.
When you move like this, it’s an immediate statement of slowing down. You can notice the changes of light and contrast, any subtle movements there might be like a squirrel running across the ground.
You start to see individual trees rather than just a forest, which is one of the reasons I’m far less attracted to plantation woods because they usually a monoculture, all of the same age, and the trees are orphans. They’re planted too close together to allow natural light and habitats on the ground.
Conversely, being in mixed woodland, with mixed species, because you arrive at a tree often before you realise what tree it is. So you’ve slowed down and you start to notice its size, bark, the leaves, its habitat where it’s growing and what’s growing underneath it. That tree becomes not just “a” tree in a forest, you start to have a relationship with this living thing that’s bigger than you.
That’s where this awesomeness comes back, to be standing looking up at something that’s older than you, maybe by hundreds of years. Like the Ents in the Lord of the Rings, these old trees hold memory and stories. You can’t help but wonder who’s been there before, who’s walked beneath that. It’s a cultural store of memories.
Once you start to think about what type of tree it is, you think about what that particular species of tree gives. Is it a reallly good source of firewood, such as beech, oak, elm? Is it particularly useful for tools, such as ash, lime, sycamore? Is it a good source of foods, like birch, cherry, spruce?
All of this is going on inside and it’s building up a powerful mental map, a narrative of the immediate habitat around you.
If you’re walking out in the open, your story of where you are can cover miles and therefore it’s very superficial. But within a forest, it’s very close and intimate. And all the time your other senses are being stimulated: the wind in the leaves, the sound your feet are making, the animals, the creaking of the tree, the smells, the feel under your feet and the bark and the leaves, of catepillar threads that dangle down from the leaves.
It’s the feel of the variability of the sun’s warmth as you go through dappled sun, the shelter and the calm of being away from the wind or the rain. Sheltering under a tree is a profound experience in the summer rain. That’s a lot of children’s introduction to a tree as shelter.
It’s all being stimulated by the exact local area you’re in.
What tips would you give to people wanting to do it in their own local area?
First, see if there are woods that are already promoted for leisure activities — whether that’s Woodland Trust or community woodland, arboretum or National Trust property.
In fact, one of my favourite places to forest bathe is at the National Trust property The Hermitage, near Dunkeld in Perthshire. The place gets a lot of visitors because the trees are over 200 years old and the stone bridge and buildings are picturesque. But you can easily get away from the crowds and off the beaten path.
The Forestry Commission woodlands are less exciting because they tend to have much younger trees of just a few species.
Find a place where the trees are accessible for leisure use which usually means there’s a car park or associated things like a castle or walks. Bear in mind that anywhere where there are trees now the landowner will be pretty precious about them in Britain. There isn’t any wild wood in Britain, so you have to check things like access. I would try to avoid having an experience where you come into conflict with a landowner when you’re starting out.
If there isn’t anywhere like that locally, then I’d encourage people to go out specifically looking for trees. Look for interesting canopies of leaves. When you’re on a high point in the countryside, you can spot canopies with a diversity of colour and textures coming from different trees. If I was in an urban environment, I’d go up a church steeple, a high window and scan around looking for a cluster of trees. Usually looking on a map would find something,
I’d make sure you take clothing that will enable you to stay a long time: i.e., waterproofs, warm clothing, food, drink. You’re hoping to find a tree to climb up into or to lean against and you want to be comfortable. If you’ve got children, taking things for them to play with. A great thing is to take some rope so you can make a swing. Passing a rope over a branch changes the whole experience.
Choose a day when the weather is not too windy so that the air in the forest has soaked up as much as it can from the trees. You don’t want it to be dangerous or unpleasant. Ideally, go in a forest when it’s waking up since trees go to sleep at night!
One last thing…when I was 18, before I knew it was a derogatory term, I would wrap my arms around a tree and give them a hug. When I discovered the term “tree-hugger” at first I felt happy because there were others like me! Now I want to reclaim that name because you’re not doing any harm.
Come along with us on a virtual walk to one of our favourite places: Glamis Castle. Only unlike most visitors, you won’t be going through the main entrance. Instead we’re going to take a secret way that only locals know about!
Hidden Gem walks: A virtual tour of our favourite walks
This is the first post in a series of Hidden Gem Walks we’ll be sharing with you, all designed to give you a peek into the sensory delights of the outdoors.
We venture out into Perthshire and Angus regularly and are always astounded at the beauty, natural and in the form of castles, stately homes and cottages. So we thought we’d start sharing our adventures with you so you too could enjoy what we discover. Most the walks are hidden gems, meaning we usually see few people, if any, so there’s this sense of discovery every time, as if we are some of the first people to stumble into these magical places.
One of our main teaching goals is to help you learn to connect to nature through your senses and the very best way to do that is simply pay attention to what grabs your interest, what makes you smile.
So often, a walk can be about just getting to a destination, and whilst we like arriving at a cafe or mountaintop, we also like to savour the mini-experiences we have along the way. So see what part of this walk you most enjoy — what makes you smile? Where are you inclined to linger?
Now, let’s get going.
We’ve parked up the car in the village of Glamis, and there’s this unobtrusive entrance that beckons us in.
Once we step between the hedge, we’re onto a ‘core path’, which are walking routes throughout Scotland that are required by law to be accessible to the public. This route tends to be popular with local dog walkers, so may see one or two along the way.
One of the best parts of the walk is the pungent smell of the pine trees and the rich, earthy aroma of moss. The birds twitter away, their song accompanying the babble of the burn that runs alongside the whole path.
On another day, we’ll cross the bridge and visit the stone church and cemetery on the other side. It’s a charming spot, but today we want to get to Glamis Castle and its grounds. One last bridge to cross…
They’ve added something new since we were last here: a Macbeth sculpture trail, celebrating Shakespeare’s mentioning of Glamis in his play Macbeth. In the play, Macbeth is the ‘thane of Glamis’ — i.e., the ruler of the Glamis region.
Rachel has read the annotated version of the play, and what she likes is its magical aspects. Of course when it was written, magic was a deeply terrifying and unpleasant thing, to be avoided at all costs. Witches were creatures to be feared, without any of the charm or positive connotations of their modern day counterparts.
Look at how they’ve carved the fire with its swirls, and the witches themselves are surrounded by swirls of movement. This sculpture is at the beginning of the ‘Pinetum’, an area of pine and coniferous trees planted some two hundred years ago. It’s the most peaceful place on the grounds, and we like to have picnics here.
After inhaling as much of the delicious scent of pine as possible, we notice we’re getting thirsty. So, stomachs rumbling, we start to head towards the cafe. Malcolm lingers a bit longer in the trees.
We stroll past the beginnings of the formal gardens, getting a glimpse of the castle in the distance.
At last we arrive at one of Rachel’s favourite parts of any walk: eating and drinking. We’ve just managed to miss the coachloads of people who periodically descend on the cafe, so there’s plenty of room to sit down. We prefer the couches next to the woodburning stove on the left.
We settle down to people watch, admiring all the copper pots and pans bedecking the walls.
When we came here for the first time several years ago, Rachel felt a bit nervous, as if she should be dressed up to be sitting in such a grand place. Castles weren’t part of her everyday experience, being American, and there were some remnants of deference lying around from watching too many Downtown Abbey episodes. So she used to dress up, which is what many of the visitors here do.
Happily, we’ve been to castles hundreds of times over the years, and of course, we live in one. That changes your perspective. You start to realise that all of these were built with other people’s labour, and being an owner means that hundreds of years ago, your ancestor sucked up to the king and he gave you all this in return. And that one piece of luck has been bearing fruit for your family, generation after generation, for centuries since. It’s hardly something to be proud of since you had nothing to do with it.
Nevertheless, the castles and their gardens are beautiful creations, protected from development and so seemingly immune to change and we enjoy visiting. Inevitably, we get into philosophical discussions about class, entitlement and How the World Should Be, but it’s always a fun and lively discussion.
Now, our teas drunk and lively discussions drawn to a close, it’s time to start heading back. We’ll just walk in front of the castle to appreciate the stonework.
It’s beautiful, isn’t it?
The tour only takes you to 9 rooms or so, so we rarely do it. Not to mention, it’s costs £12.50/person. So it’s the grounds that draw our attention year after year.
You have to wonder: who lives here? Do they have tenants, like Bamff, or is it just one family occupying all those rooms? Do they live here all the time, or mostly in London or another country, as many estate owners do?
Now we’ll stroll past the gate to the walled garden — no time to visit there today, so it will have to wait for another day — and over the bridge back towards the Pinetum.
We’ll stroll back the way we came, back up the core path into the village of Glamis. The sun is beating down, so the light plays on the water of the stream and we stop to relax by it for a few minutes. We’ll say goodbye to you here and look forward to seeing you on our next Hidden Gem Walk!
Ever wanted to take one of our courses but couldn’t come all the way to eastern Perthshire? Well now we’ll come to you!
If you would like to learn how to make fire, build shelters and navigate in the outdoors in your own backyard, then this might be the thing for you.
We’ve travelled to schools, activity centres and retreats throughout Britain for years. With the launch of the Adventure Club, we’ve been setting up outdoor activities for youth groups and schools which use their natural environment, from a patch of grass at a school to a local woodland. We felt this was important so that they became familiar with their local territory and could ask us questions that were specific to their location.
We also like the idea of lowering our environmental impact, especially as Malcolm frequently uses hitchhiking to travel! Though we still thinking coming to our location at the Bamff Estate in Perthshire is a magical experience, we hope this will allow more people to experience the self-confidence and delight that comes from learning outdoor skills like these.
Would you like your kids to play outside in the fresh air, learning how to be independent and self-reliant? Would you like your kids to learn maths and science without even realising it? Or perhaps you have a child with ADHD and need an experience which helps them relax and focus.
We set up the Adventure Club to meet all those needs, teaching outdoor skills in a fun yet challenging way to kids ages 7 and up (or under 7 with a parent attending). We’ll also be running a special Adventure Club week for teens in the first week of August.
Ranging from building shelters to making fire, learning how to navigate to staying safe in the outdoors, the Club also links strongly to the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence, particularly in developing maths and science skills.
During the school holidays, the Holiday Adventure Club runs all day from 9:30 – 5:00pm at the eco camp at Bamff Estate, near Alyth, Perthshire.
During the school term, the After School Adventure Club runs for 90 minutes, one day a week for 6 weeks and is currently running at Isla Primary School in Angus, but can be run at any school or group in the Perthshire or Angus area.
Each Adventure Club session is themed around:
Children earn badges upon completion of each day, starting with Level 1 and progressing through the Levels as skills are mastered. When a child has earned all 4 badges in a Level, a special ceremony takes place including a special cord for holding and displaying badges earned.
Dates for Holiday Adventure Club
Our first block of sessions of the Holiday Adventure Club begins the first week of July:
Monday July 2: Navigation Level 1
Tuesday July 3: Firemaking Level 1
Wednesday July 4: Shelter Building Level 1
Thursday July 5: Survival Skills Level 1
We will be running a second week of Level 1 sessions mid-July, offering a chance for children to continue learning the skills or for new children to take part.
Monday July 16: Navigation Level 1
Tuesday July 17: Firemaking Level 1
Wednesday July 18: Shelter Building Level 1
Thursday July 19: Survival Skills Level 1
In August, we will run Level 2 sessions aimed at teenagers or children who have completed Level 1 sessions. These sessions are:
One of the most radical suggestions I can make to a mother is to put herself first. But if you want to raise good kids, ones who are kind, independent, adaptable, then this is what you have to do.
Why you need to put yourself first
Here’s why: you are the model for your kids. They watch you, they mimic you unconsciously, and they are profoundly affected by how you feel. If you’re miserable and exhausted because you’ve been doing too much, trying too hard to do all the things you think you “should” do, then your kids will feel it. They will also learn subconsciously that being a parent is about endlessly doing things for your kids that your kids don’t even want you to be doing. All those lessons you drive them to, all that healthy food you insist they eat — they’d rather you just played a game and had fun with them, I guarantee.
Or how about this? Ever noticed how when you’re exhausted and cranky, your kids act up, causing even more problems than usual? How all sorts of things go wrong, from the dishwasher breaking to the car running out of petrol?
That’s because you’ve run out of steam and don’t have the energy to smooth things over and stop them from becoming catastrophes.
It’s my personal belief that mothers are the powerhouse of the family. If we go down, everything goes down. [That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if my husband Malcolm believes he’s the powerhouse of the family, and of course there are many families that have two mothers, or two fathers, or one mother or one grandmother and so on. Regardless, if you’re reading this, then you’re the powerhouse of the family because you’re the one who cares.]
And if you care, then your child or children know that and they look to you to lead the way. You can’t do that if you’re exhausted.
How to put yourself first
So how do you do it? For the sake of your kids if for no other reason, how can you learn to take care of yourself? If you’re like most women, you’re absolutely terrible at putting yourself first. You’ve been told all your life to do things for others, make other people happy and it’s a hard habit to break.
So I suggest starting small. And here’s the magic approach: do what you want to do. Whenever you think of it, give yourself a choice and ask, “What do I want to do right now?” Like right now, do you even want to be reading this post or would you rather kick back with a book, a show, a cup of tea, some chocolate? Then go do that thing.
If you’re like me, a lot of the time your answer will be “I don’t want to do anything” or “I have no idea what I want to do.” You’ll be feeling so tired that when you stop and ask yourself that question, you go blank. That’s fine. Just sit with it. Literally just sit there until an answer bubbles up that feels appealing.
Malcolm will often find me staring out the window blankly for a several minutes while I wait to figure out what I really want to do. Not what I think I should do, not what I guess I want to do, but what eventually gives me a ping of energy, a little sunburst of positive feeling that says “Yes, this is what I want to do.”
A one-week experiment
You will almost certainly find it totally alien and difficult to start doing what you want to do, what brings you either comfort or happiness. But I urge you to try. Treat it as an experiment.
I first tried this approach for one week. I literally asked Malcolm if it was okay if I did what I wanted for a week. And contrary to what you might expect, I didn’t just run off for a holiday. But I did do a lot of reading, a lot of sleeping, a lot of eating. And that was just fine. Nothing collapsed.
And slowly I started to feel more energy. I started actually looking forward to seeing our six-year-old, Gilly, instead of dreading it. Then I noticed how it was affecting my husband and my son directly. They were more relaxed, calmer, happier. They liked this more playful, relaxed mum they were seeing.
What happens when you start doing what you want
The longer I’ve taken this approach, the more results I’ve seen. Frankly, I’m a much better parent — I’m more fun, more patient, calmer and more grounded. And sort of weirdly, I’m much better at discipline. I’m able to be much more consistent and steady because I have the reserves of energy to remember to be so.
And that consistency and calm is reflected in Gilly’s behaviour. In fact, I can always tell now when I haven’t been taking adequate care of myself because Gilly starts to be demanding and irritating and things start going downhill.
So give it a go and if you still don’t know where to start, come on one of our navigation courses or firemaking courses. We’ve begun incorporating this principle of doing what you want, which is otherwise known as “trusting your instincts” or “listening to your intuition”, in a hands-on way.
If you’re a caregiver — teacher, parent, grandparent, foster carer, auntie, etc — then I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What keeps you from doing what you want? How do you take care of yourself?
Think it’s difficult to have fun in the cold and damp of February? We’re willing to bet that at least one of the 5 activities of our Family Fun Outdoors Week will change your mind.
During the school holidays from the 14-18 February, come to the Bamff Estate near Alyth in Perthshire and learn valuable skills that will help you and your kids survive in the woods, concentrate better (especially if you have a child that finds it hard to sit still), lift your mood and even increase your metabolism — no bad thing this time of year.
Which activities most appeal to you?
Winter Walk to Boost Creativity, Health and Concentration – Wednesday, 14 February
We start the week with our Winter Walk to Boost Creativity, Health and Concentration.
On this half day walk, we’ll walk an almost unknown route through the Den of Alyth, continuing up to the Bamff estate where Five Senses is based, passing beaver dams and their homes. We’ll finish up by following the Cateran Trail onto Alyth Hill. Find out more or buy tickets >
Staying Safe in the Scottish Outdoors – Thursday, 15 February
On Thursday, we learn about Staying Safe in the Scottish Outdoors. Find out how to enjoy the amazing countryside of Scotland safely and comfortably. Get tips to increase your confidence — or even spark interest in a reluctant friend or family member — ranging from how to make an emergency shelter to your essential equipment checklist. Find out more or buy tickets >
Micronavigation and Natural Navigation – Friday, 16 February
Tired of worrying about getting lost? Then be sure to check out our Micro-navigation and Natural Navigation Day. In our morning session, learn to navigate with compass and map in our micro navigation course, also great for those interested in orienteering.
In the afternoon we’ll study natural navigation, learning to navigate by starlight, moon, wind and sun. You can choose either the full day session or opt for just the morning or afternoon session. Find out more or buy tickets >
Friction firemaking and Making the Perfect Campfire – Saturday, 17 February
On Saturday the 17th, you can try your hand at friction firemaking — making fire with a bow drill where you create fire without any matches or lighters. We promise there is nothing like producing that first burst of flame.
For the afternoon session, we’ll build a campfire! Learn how to make the perfect campfire depending on your needs — from warming yourself to preparing a drink to cooking food. Find out more or buy tickets >
Shelter Building – Sunday, 18 February
Finally on Sunday, it’s a family favourite: shelter building.
In the morning, build a den in the woods using all materials including plastic bags or other objects that you may have on you or find nearby. In the afternoon, learn from primitive peoples by building a shelter with all natural materials.This session will include some cordage (rope and cord) making. Find out more or buy tickets >
How much does it cost?
Sessions range from £10/person to £45. Book tickets online or find out more on our Events page.
How to put into words the magic and wonder that you can experience on our Orkney tour? From the Stone Age sites, to the interaction with local people, to the stunning views — there’s so much you will discover.
– Visit major sites like Skara Brae and Ring of Brodgar whilst avoiding the crowds
– Explore unknown treasures on Orkney’s other islands, Westray, Hoy and Papa Westray
– Cater to all dietary needs with self-catering kitchens in every accommodation
– Learn ancient skills like firemaking, foraging and natural navigation
– Leave behind all the worry of complicated travel logistics on remote islands
– Stay at local family owned self-catering guesthouses
– Enjoy profound peace and tranquility of the islands
Here are the five ways the Orkney Tour experience can change your life:
Orkney’s ancient magic will rub off on you
Whether it’s the creating of massive stone temples 5,000 years ago, or wave turbines for electricity today, Orkney’s magic springs from its location and its occupation for millennia.
The ancient temple at the Ness of Brodgar and its nearby standing stones are older than Stonehenge and the pyramids. They are likely also the original model for Stonehenge and other British stone circles like Avebury.
Due to its remote location, Orkney is unusual in that you are actually allowed to touch artefacts from the ancient past, go right up to the standing stones and walk amongst the Neolithic Village. We design our tours specifically so as to miss the crowds of tourists, allowing you to have an intimate experience with the place.
The past feels alive here in a way that few other places can match.
Standing Stones of Stenness
Pottery made here also predates and influenced designs throughout ancient Britain.
In other words, 5,000 years ago, Orkney was an epicentre of culture, innovation and influence. A knowledge of science, art, music and how to be self-sufficient whilst also being connected to a tight community has been passed down from generation to generation. This ancient knowledge of science and self-sufficiency is reflected in modern times by the Folk Festival, St Magnus Festival and Science Festival and major wind and wave energy firms locating here from around the world.
During the tour, you’ll see for yourself how the uniquely mild climate, thanks to the Gulf Stream, means there have always been ample natural resources. Its far north location, on the same latitude as Siberia, meant comparatively little competition — but just enough challenges to demand self-sufficiency and problem-solving. Right through the ages, it has been a major transport hub.
The Vikings ruled here for 600 years, sailing between Iceland and Denmark, Ireland and France. Today most people also come by boat, via the ferry from Thurso. If you take the ferry, you’ll sail past the Old Man of Hoy into the picturesque village of Stromness, where we begin our tour and are based for 4 nights.
With its windy lanes and one-off shops, this is where you begin stepping back in time.
You’ll actually enjoy being ‘mindful’
How many times have you heard being mindful is good for your health? That you’ll be happier, healthier, think more clearly and generally enjoy life more if you’re mindful?
The problem is, when we think of mindful, many of us imagine sitting painfully upright in a meditation posture or savouring a bite of food for an agonisingly long few minutes. In the modern world, it often feels, well, boring to be mindful.
Luckily, we discovered a while ago that being mindful is great fun when you actually enjoy what you’re doing. So we made it a mission to seek out as many experiences as possible that will make it effortless for you to slow down and savour the moment, whether that’s beach combing on the otherworldly beach of Rackwick or watching the seals play.
Being mindful is easy when the present moment is so beautiful
You’ll never have to worry about how to get where you’re going, when things are open, or any other travel logistics
How many hours do you usually spend planning your holiday? How many hours do you then spend on the actual holiday trying to figure out where to go, how to get there, frustrated that the internet isn’t working right or your phone keeps dropping signals, or that the place you thought was open has closed?
On a remote place like Orkney, logistics can be incredibly challenging: ferries get cancelled, shops close unexpectedly, public transport timetables change.
We worry about all the details so you can focus your attention on actually being on Orkney.
Relax in the heather
Every tour is different, as we adapt each day to best meet your needs.
You’ll connect to your ancestors and bring the past to life with ancient firemaking, natural navigation and crafts
As part of your tour, you’ll have the opportunity to live in some of the same ways your ancestors did 5,000 years ago.
You’ll learn how to make fire with a wooden bow drill, create knives out of a beach stones, and string for a necklace out of plant fibres. Rather than just looking at artefacts of the ancient past, you’ll time travel, connecting to the ways your ancestors did things.
So much of tourism is based on only looking at things — you go into a castle but you’re not allowed to sit in the chairs or beds or touch the objects. The kitchens don’t have fires burning and food isn’t being cooked.
When you make fire outside in the elements, you understand that fire is life, it’s the centre of the home for a good reason. When you walk outside at night without any lights — which is actually possible on Orkney owing to its extraordinary lack of light pollution — you relate to the stars and moon above you as guides, just as your ancestors did.
We tend to think of life in the past as one of hardship and lack of luxury. But the fact is, these people had more leisure time than we do now: they didn’t have taxes, mortgages, debt — or wars.
In many ways, their lives were far more luxurious than ours. Thanks to a bounty of food and a relatively mild climate, they had plenty of time to be creative, to carve things, to build giant stone structures.
Enjoy that luxury of time and creative relaxation yourself.
Firemaking at the Fishermans Huts
You’ll connect to the local community and nature in a profound way
For a time, become part of the community on Orkney’s islands.
When you use the same shops and services local people do, you not only get to chat with people, you help to sustain these lifelines that can be under threat of closure. Local families run all the accommodation we stay at — we don’t do generic hotels or B&Bs.
Thanks to the self-catering kitchens, you’ll be able to buy fresh, local food in the small shops. You can cater to virtually any diet when you’re able to purchase healthy local food and prepare it yourself in the kitchen, just the way you like it. Or you can easily eat out at a range of restaurants and cafes.
Meet a puffin
By walking and exploring places on foot, you connect to nature with all your senses.
There’s the smell of the salt of the sea, the taste of fresh scallops, the sound of waves pounding against the cliffs and the silence as you enter an underground cairn.
Being outside in the evenings, watching the sunset or seeing the stars, you get to to see the seals that only emerge when all the people have gone.
Who comes on our tours?
Our guests are often global travellers, seeking knowledge that you can’t get through the internet or on TV. They want firsthand experience that teach them new skills.
After the tour, guests seem to become more open to possibilities and ideas. More than a few have come to Orkney and realised they’ve become stuck in a rut, or need to make major changes in their relationships, career or lifestyle.
Going to Orkney gives them the time and peace needed to see the right way forward, calmly and confidently.
Our guests have a more can do attitude after they’ve been there. They’re energised by their time on Orkney and forge a new path in life. The energy and inspiration they receive means guests frequently come back.
Evening stroll around Stromness with stone houses, seals on the shore, bars and locals going about their lives
Introduction to natural navigation.
Various options for evening meal.
Day 2 Sunday – Neolithic World Heritage Site
Stenness Standing Stones
Ring of Brodgar
Ness of Brodgar
Unstan Chambered Cairn
Barnhouse Neolithic Settlement
Today you will be introduced to Orkney, its environmental changes and what life was like 5,000 years ago. We’ll also look at modern day living, and innovations happening on Orkney. Finally, we’ll begin learning the basics of living with nature, fire and foraging.
Day 3 Monday – Skara Brae
Skara Brae Neolithic Village
Dramatic clifftop walk and the Outrun
Birsay, Earl’s Palace
Brough of Birsay or Kirbuster Farm Museum
Barony Water Mill
Day 4 Tuesday – Island of Hoy
Ferry to Hoy
North Hoy Nature Reserve
Walk to Rackwick village
Return to Stromness
Friction fire making lesson
Day 5 Wednesday – Kirkwall, Island of Westray
Kirkwall morning (options incl Tankerness House Museum,
St Magnus Cathedral)
Ferry to Westray
Bus transfer to accommodation, settle in
Short walk to Noutland Castle and beach
(archaeological dig and amazing storm battered beaches)
Option of fish & chips (a highlight of the tour every year).
Evening relaxing in the lounge or watching seals in the bay
Day 6 Thursday – Island of Papa Westray (Papay)
ferry to Papa Westray
walk east side to accommodation (luggage transfer arranged)
Knap of Howar Neolithic site
St Boniface Kirk
Wild food foraging
Evening twilight walk to Knap of Howar and West side rocky coastline
You will have plenty of time to relax and explore the island or visiting the Heritage Centre. Optional boat out to Holm of Papay by arrangement.
Day 7 Friday – Papa Westray and Kirkwall
Explore Isle of Papa Westray
Browse in the Bothy Museum, the community shop and local crafts
St Magnus Cathedral
Highland Park distillery (optional)
Scapa Flow, Italian Chapel (optional)
Arrival in Kirkwall may be delayed up to an hour, if there are cattle of goods to be loaded onto the ferry (by crane. Luckily we walk on board)
Guests may choose to walk more on the coastal path or get a lift to the ferry with your luggage.
Arrive back in Kirkwall, where your bags will be looked after so you have another hour or two to explore Kirkwall (the main town), gather souvenirs or a cup of coffee!
Tour officially ends 17.00 / 5pm but this is flexible.
Post tour accommodation and onward travel
The tour is designed to allow flexibility for means of arrival and departure because, after years of running these tours there is no one preferred route and we wish to encourage guests to explore further and fit the week into other travel plans.
For these reasons, guests should either plan accommodation, in Orkney for the Friday night, or transfer to the airport for flights direct off Orkney that evening, or book a cabin on the Northlink Ferry northbound to Shetland (departs 23.30 and arrives in Lerwick, Shetland 07.00 Saturday morning).