‘We howled like wolves’: a working break in Scotland’s wild west | Scotland holidays

At a viewpoint overlooking a sea of canary-yellow gorse and delicate blackthorn blossom tumbling right down to inky Loch Fyne, the six of us howl like wolves into a mild breeze. It’s an exhilarating second, including to the euphoria as we close to the top of the four-day retreat’s longest run.

It’s day three, and from our base at Auchgoyle Farm, a once-dilapidated dairy farm going by a rewilding transformation because of new house owners David and Katharine Lowrie, we’d spent the morning sloshing by peaty burns, scampering throughout dunes and scrambling over rockpools alongside the quieter aspect of the Cowal peninsula. Aptly named Argyll’s secret coast, we barely noticed one other soul however did spot roe deer hiding in thick bracken, osprey circling overhead and eider geese ushering their younger away from shore.


Although the farm gives self-catering lodging, in a two-bedroom eco-cabin handbuilt by David and a farmhouse newly refurbished by the couple, Auchgoyle Farm’s working retreats supply a extra immersive strategy to respect this less-visited space. Over 4 days, visitors of a variety of talents and expertise run between 5 and 10 miles a day, take pleasure in restorative yoga classes, go to a spa, study nature and rewilding on farm excursions, and bask in Katharine and David’s home-cooked meals and snacks. It’s a part of a rising pattern for lively retreats: in August, Go to England forecast that within the subsequent 12 months individuals will likely be extra prone to search time outside to take pleasure in sports activities or spare time activities.

It’s simple to lose your sense of course on this convoluted, claw-shaped peninsula, with views of distant mist-clad peaks and islands in all instructions. However led by Katharine, we enterprise deep into historic woodland and race the tide alongside hidden bays with out a map. On our third day, after howling into the wind, we heave our soggy our bodies round hilltop Asgog Loch for the ultimate push, admiring nature’s try and devour the ruined fortress on its shores earlier than descending into the hamlet of Millhouse and again to base.

View alongside woodland path overlooking Kyles of Bute and Arran. {Photograph}: Katherine Lowrie

The continually shifting terrain and wildlife recognizing alongside the best way preserve everybody’s minds off any mile counting. Nonetheless, this 10 miles is the furthest some within the group have ever run; for others, it’s a pleasant heat down from a latest marathon. Both method, endorphins are sky-high. Whereas stretching across the farm’s fireplace pit, all of us chatter excitedly, mimicking the swallows and home martins swooping overhead.

The Lowries purchased Auchgoyle Farm in 2019. “We didn’t even take a look at the buildings; for us, it was all in regards to the panorama,” David says over a welcome feast of domestically sourced venison and clapshot (a Scottish swede and potato dish). The fireplace’s lit and we’re cosy as may be within the farmhouse, the place working retreat visitors keep in 4 comfy double bedrooms. He continues: “From the stream tumbling down a gorge to the scrub, to the deciduous woodland and the meadows, we knew it was ripe for nature restoration, and that’s what we needed to do.”

Runners crossing a stream.
{Photograph}: Katherine Lowrie

It’s a plan the couple have been brewing for years. Later that night, we study David and Katharine’s environmental journeys throughout a chat within the farmhouse cosy. Since leaving the UK for South America on an outdated wood crusing boat in 2008, they’ve performed hen surveys within the Caribbean, met the famend environmentalists Kris and Doug Tompkins in Chile, and run the size of the continent (all 6,504 miles) whereas elevating cash for conservation charities and delivering talks for colleges alongside the best way.

Now settled right here with their two kids, they’re nonetheless guided by nature in all the things they do. Auchgoyle is an lively a part of a nationwide rewilding community referred to as Scotland: The Massive Image. As soon as they’d visitor rooms and the cabin able to hire out, retreats have been an apparent subsequent step. Katharine says: “We’ve all the time needed to host journeys that get individuals exterior regardless of the climate, experiencing the intricacies of this assorted panorama. David and I take advantage of working to loosen up and swap off, and from suggestions to date it’s clear an increasing number of individuals are doing the identical.” Over the course of a 12 months, Auchgolye hosts a variety of journeys for as much as six individuals, with some female-only and others blended, and a few retreats catering for newcomers.

Cosy cabin accommodation on Auchgoyle Farm.
Cosy cabin lodging on Auchgoyle Farm. {Photograph}: Katherine Lowrie

On day two we head out for a birdsong and farm stroll, to see and listen to the rewilding efforts. With over 20 years of ecology expertise, Katharine is as enthusiastic as she is knowledgable. “The birds give me hope. We’ve received a lot extra to survey, however the enhance in variety of so many hen species proves we’re doing one thing proper,” Katharine says, mentioning totally different calls. We tune into the reeling of grasshopper warblers, the alarm name of a redstart, the descending scales of willow warblers, and watch sand martins dart out and in of the sandy cliffs fashioned throughout wetland recreation.

“We wish to let nature lead in restoring land, however we want some assist. So come and commune with the cows,” Katharine continues as we method eight sturdy Shetland cattle, a uncommon breed chosen for “mob grazing” – naturally fertilising, turning and bettering the soil as they transfer across the farm. Finally, this small herd can even present revenue for the farm by meat and milk.

Auchgoyle Farmhouse.
Auchgoyle Farmhouse. {Photograph}: James Shooter

Provenance and supporting native producers are prioritised through the totally catered retreat. Apart from mountains of selfmade items (together with yoghurt, granola, chocolate protein balls and fruit-puree cookies), contemporary bread is delivered from native baker Botanica on the Barn every morning, and milk is available in refillable glass bottles from the Wee Isle Dairy throughout the peninsula. At lunch, neighbouring permaculture farmer Nicola Sowerby pops by to speak in regards to the contents of our flower-filled, flavour-popping salads and natural teas. She says a lot of this neighborhood nonetheless enjoys a “present financial system” – exchanging eggs for piano classes or herbs for heavy lifting. It’s all very healthful and idyllic, and we discover ourselves scribbling down recipes.

In the future we hop on the 478 bus to get to the beginning of the subsequent run – an eight-mile scramble alongside the lichen-laden, moss-lathered boulders and temperate rainforest that line Loch Ruel on the Loch Lomond and Cowal Means. Studying as we go, we take pleasure in slightly guerrilla conservation work – plucking up saplings of invasive rhododendrons – admire an natural tea plantation and marvel at seals bobbing within the loch.

On the highest level of the run, the location of a powerful ark set up constructed by Tighnabruaich’s Extinction Revolt chapter to boost consciousness of the local weather disaster, we make a welcome pitstop for espresso and selfmade lemonade. Award-winning Argyll Espresso Roasters’ Eve MacFarlane joins us to speak about moral espresso manufacturing. It’s simply the gasoline wanted to finish the route and take a breath-snatching dip within the loch earlier than heading again to the farm to heat up.

Five wild swimmers in Loch Riddon
A bracing dip in Loch Riddon finishes on eight-mile run. {Photograph}: Katherine Lowrie

On two evenings, yoga classes with native instructor Kate Grey complement the working; light classes tailor-made to the group’s wants help deep sleep.

By day 4 we really feel like locals, waving and chatting to individuals we’ve met as we embark on our closing seven-mile run to Portavadie Spa, to appease aching muscular tissues in steamy swimming pools and saunas. The heavens open for the final 20 minutes, however nobody appears to thoughts, revelling within the legendary surroundings of Glenan Wooden – a waterside patch of historic oak woodland managed by and for the local people. We take pleasure in a second’s silence earlier than plopping into the spa. It’s an indulgent finale earlier than returning to actuality, however nature steals the present even right here. From the bath-like out of doors pool, we spy oystercatchers prancing on the rocky shore, gannets dive-bombing and harbour porpoises gracefully breaching offshore.

The spectacle is an apt finish earlier than we take trains and ferries again to Glasgow and past. A profound love for nature is the silver thread that units this working retreat apart from others – a pared-back tackle well being and wellbeing that leaves the pores and skin glowing, the muscular tissues aching and the guts full.

Auchgoyle Farm wild working retreats value £550, with a ten% low cost for these arriving by public transport. The creator travelled by practice and ferry because of Go toScotland