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Wild Rose Escapes – Revitalising Highland Holidays

Article on Wild Rose Escapes written by one of their guests. I’m sure that this will whet your appetite…

“We joined the Wild Rose Escapes Naturally Wild Week in late May in the beautiful landscapes near Ullapool in North West Scotland – a couple of country loving city dwellers of mature years … but definitely still wild and young at heart. The central theme of the week was the flora and fauna of the area.  In telling our story the question is where to start?  It was an outstanding escape from the realities of daily life and we went home revitalised but also with a great appreciation of all that the area has to offer.

“But perhaps first just to introduce Wild Rose Escapes.  It is basically a new concept in ethical and sustainable Highland Holidays.  Wild Rose’s mission is to make a positive impact on the people who stay with them and on the people, places and communities that they introduce them to. They certainly lived up to this claim.  It was founded last year by Rosie Hazleton – a country girl with a love of people and the great outdoors – who is driven by a passion for food and cookery.  

“We stayed at the Rhidorroch estate lodge which is set on an organic farm – some eight miles down a track and accessed via a foot bridge over a river which could change from a babbling stream into a gushing torrent in hours in response to the weather.  It is a place so wild and remote that golden eagles were seen from the garden. It is no surprise therefore that the lodge has to rely on its own resources – there is no mains electricity or water and it is beyond the reach of mobile phone or TV reception. However, with outstanding hospitality from our hosts and a convivial and like minded group of guests we can truly say that we did not miss such things at all – although the internet hotspots in Ullapool were much appreciated. The lodge only sleeps ten and the atmosphere which emerged from the first day was more like a house party.  We found the accommodation of a high standard for an activity based holiday in a remote area.

“Organic and wild food was a central theme of the week.  Whenever we were out and about the possibilities of foraging for wild food were never far from our minds. Seashore foraging was particularly rewarding.  The fresh greens collected from the beach were a welcome addition to Rosie’s delicious pies and mussels fresh from rocks near the harbour tasted superb. The seaweed however received mixed reviews!  We even built an oven with riverbank clay, straw and stones; a remarkable piece of teamwork for a group of people who were largely strangers when the week began – and the oven actually worked!  

“There are so many stories each of us could recount about what made the week special.  The first part of the week was lead by Julie Murray – an engaging environmentalist who works for the RSPB.  Here one highlight was our visit to the nature reserve of Handa Island.  The trip in a small boat was fun even if the weather was rather rough.  As we did a circuit of the island we saw sea birds galore – it was particularly good to see the puffins.  An obliging snipe put on a special display for the party; wading in its favourite pool and grooming itself whilst nine enchanted spectators captured its antics on film. Another highlight was archaeology in many guises.  We found a visit to a local community dig fascinating as was the subsequent walk up the mountain lead by archaeologist Alex to see the summer sheep pastures and ancient settlements.

“Fuelled by Rosie’s legendary picnics – her flapjacks full of dried fruit and nuts were superb – we surprised ourselves at our walking abilities.  However, since walking was central to the week a certain level of fitness was required.  Here, our regular Sunday walks of 7 / 8 miles stood us in good stead.  Yes, it did rain from time to time, but this did little to damp our spirits and made us appreciate the food even more.  

“Evenings flew by with a selection of talks; for example, on the geology of the area and home wine making the organic way.  There was simply not enough time to do everything we had hoped to do.  A real joy of the week was to meet so many like minded people – host, guests, experts and local folk.  It was most appropriate that the final evening was marked with a barbeque of local meats and produce to which many of those involved in the venture had also been invited.  It was a great privilege to have been able to join a Wild Rose Escape – sustainable and ethical tourism at its best.”

Further details of this and other Wild Rose Escapes, activities and travel, go to the Wild Rose Escapes website.

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