Wellbeing & Nature in Scotland

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Whether it's wild swimming or a rural retreat, find ideas for the perfect wellbeing getaway.

Gathered are some of our favourite wellness experiences, ones that are all about taking time for yourself and getting away into nature.

Whether it's open water swimming, heading into the hills or enjoying a rural retreat, find some ideas for the perfect wellbeing getaway in Scotland.

Wellness and wellbeing have moved on from being an emerging trend to an established concept that people are looking to embrace in their personal and working lives. It's a notion that we feel everyone should be paying attention to, but it's hard to pin down what it exactly is. It’s subjective and means different things to different people!

Wellbeing is more than just being okay physically. Although we intrinsically know that eating well, making time for exercise, getting enough sleep and having a healthy work-life balance will make us feel better, these can be intimidating and difficult processes to stick to day in day out with busy lives.

Instead, we feel that wellness is about taking time out to focus on what makes you happy, even in small ways. It's about discovering what energises you whilst simultaneously knowing what brings you inner calm and making time for it. This can be as simple as going for a walk in nature or spending quality time with family. It can be enjoying a particularly stunning sunset with a glass of wine in hand, whilst equally, it can be heading out on your bike, blasting down woodland trails to ride away the stress of the day.

The wellness experiences we’ve included are all about taking time for yourself and getting away into nature. It doesn’t matter if you’re being active or not, just spending time outdoors is good for you. Even with grey weather, time spent outside means a natural intake of vitamin D which has various physical benefits and also acts as a mood booster. Exercise, even light exercise, releases hormones that are known to improve your mood and time spent outside is also associated with better sleep, self-esteem and confidence. So whether it's open water swimming, heading into the hills or enjoying a rural retreat, find some ideas here for the perfect wellbeing getaway in Scotland.

Wild Swimming

Who would have thought that those first hesitant steps into the water could be so rewarding? Wild swimming is a great way to meet new people, explore different areas and is said to have incredible physical and mental benefits.

If you look at it from a purely physical perspective it makes total sense, cold water immersion stimulates the release of serotonin and dopamine. Where dopamine stimulates a feeling of euphoria, serotonin balances our mood and a general feeling of well being. As you get out of the water and start that wonderfully awkward under the towel shimmy to get back into your clothing you'll find yourself giddy and completely energised. Regular exposure to cold water is also said to reduce stress, inflammation and depression. By teaching your body to adapt to cold water, pushing it way out of its normal comfort zone, you're also teaching it to handle other pains and stresses better. Additionally, Wild swimming can be very meditative. Submerging yourself underwater, blocking out the noise of the outside world and focussing on your breathing allows you to truly disconnect from your normal day to day.

For safety, it's important to remember that because you're heading into natural bodies of water you should always swim with others. Join an established wild swimming group or booking a one-off wild swimming experience. This will set you up with the network and skills to enjoy the water both year-round and anywhere. Wild Wimmin are based near Stirling and their activities are led by STA Level 2 qualified open water swimming coaches to safely introduce individuals and groups to swimming outdoors. Facilitating both coaching sessions and multi-day retreats, Wild Wimmin are all about women getting outdoors together in a supportive environment and not taking themselves too seriously.

A Farm Escape

What did you do last weekend? Well, wouldn't you just love to say that you escaped to a farm in the south of Argyll and embraced country living?

Call a charming 150-year-old farmhouse situated at the far end of the Kintyre peninsula your home for a couple of days. Book a weekend farm escape with Wilder Ways and tailor your time there to fit your needs. Looking for some adventure and to get stuck in and stretch your legs? You could choose to fill your day actively with horse riding, farm walks or trying your hand at farm life with animal care and gardening. Do you want to learn a new skill? Spend your time trying out different arts and crafts, fishing and foraging for food. Just in need of some rest and relaxation? Imagine days soaking up the gorgeous countryside and evenings spent gazing up at a countless number of stars at night from the warmth of an outdoor hot tub. The farm's remote location ensures very limited reception and also zero light and noise pollution. Enjoy a complete disconnect and the ability to just listen to the wind, crickets and the nearby stream at Glen Kerran Farmhouse.

Wellbeing Wanders

Walking has been connected to wellbeing for a long time, and there’s a reason that we all recognise the concept of going out for a walk to clear the head.

There are many physical health benefits associated with the aerobic exercise of walking, but there are countless mental health benefits too. Walking releases endorphins, which lighten your mood and spending time outside in nature has been proven time and time again to reduce stress and anxiety. Most interestingly, walking outdoors allows one to take proper time out of the normal routine in a way few other things do. Because humans are genetically programmed to find nature interesting, it allows us to focus on it, letting go of immaterial stresses. With walking being a slow activity compared to other outdoor activities, it gives us the time to take in our environment and appreciate it.

John Muir is famously quoted saying “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” It’s this premise that you’ll find on a wellbeing wander with Wild Roots Guiding.

Developed by mountain guide Anna Danby and life coach Shona Macpherson, these guided walks take people up into the hills, aiming to showcase the natural beauty, history and geology of the area as well as practising mindfulness. Participants will be asked to walk with a question and will be taught several mindfulness exercises along the way. Their journeys have nature and environment at their heart and you’ll be learning about the wild landscapes that surround you and how they’ve changed over time. The wellbeing wanders can be between 5-8 hours long, so as well as connecting with nature, there will be time to explore mountain confidence, Highland tales, local history and eat plenty of cake.

Wilderness Retreat

Retreats, as the name implies, is the process of stepping back from your normal life for a time to focus on different things.

They come in all shapes and sizes, the most popular types are spiritual, detoxing, couples, yoga and fitness retreats. Wilderness Scotland launched a slightly different women-only retreat in 2019, a nature focussed getaway in the Highlands. No full-body massages, fruit smoothies and thermal springs here! Unlike your typical retreat, the Wilderness Retreat is about spending active time in nature with like-minded adventurers.

Based in a beautiful yet rustic Highland lodge, this week-long experience offers its guests the opportunity to improve their outdoor confidence with navigation skills and hill hikes. Time not spent in the forest or on the hill is spent enjoying morning yoga sessions, trying out wild swimming, learning about rewilding from a local expert or simply chilling out at the stunningly located lodge. Whilst some might associate going on a retreat with a week of healthy eating and detox smoothies, guests travelling with Wilderness Scotland will dine on delicious home-cooked meals and tasty bakes.

Beach Clean

Helping others is a proven way to help yourself. Boost your self-confidence and skill set by spending time volunteering. It's a great activity for making new social connections, breaking your normal routine, learning new things and giving back to your community or the environment.

There is a range of outdoor volunteering opportunities available across the country and it's just a case of finding the right one for you. Secretly enjoy putting your back into it and some hard graft? Try path-building or tree cutting for conservation purposes! A little less intensive but still satisfying and important is litter picking, wildlife counting and community gardening for example. A couple of hours spent volunteering outside can leave you feeling very content and accomplished, not only have you achieved something tangible but you've also spent quality time outdoors.

Cullen Sea School organise frequent local beach cleans, which help preserve the area for everyone to enjoy. These beach cleans are not just great for environmental protection, but also do their bit for educating people on the importance of taking care of our natural surroundings. Organised litter picking sessions are bookable but free of charge, taking place weekday evenings or at the weekends. Litter pickers, bags and gloves will be provided but remember to dress appropriately for the weather!

Glamping Pods & Hot Tubs

Often described as luxury camping, glamping makes camping accessible to everyone. Do you love spending time outdoors, watching the sun go down and enjoying the quiet of the countryside, but you don’t love tents, camp cooking and outdoor toileting? With glamping, there’s no need to forgo daily comforts. Wellbeing is all about doing what’s right for you, and sometimes that’s admitting you like a comfy chair and running water whilst you immerse yourself in beautiful surroundings.

 

Staying at the wigwams on the Montrave Estate promises an almost luxurious experience, with fully equipped pods containing a kitchen, bathroom, electricity, plush beds, outdoor decking and some of the pods even come with their own private hot tub or Swedish bath.

The estate is a great place to get away with friends or family and to just relax into a different routine. Off-site, you could spend your days exploring the nearby fishing villages, golden sand beaches and fascinating historical sites. On-site there are plenty of family-friendly activities as well as ways to kick back and unwind. Toast marshmallows over a firepit or steep tired muscles in a wood-fired outdoor Swedish bathtub.

Fly Fishing in Assynt

With the omnipresence of social media, dual screening and desk-based work, don’t you find yourself wondering when the last time was that you just sat still without a piece of technology at your fingertips? Substitute your smartphone for a fishing rod, and decompress outdoors with the comfort that your mind and hands are still kept occupied.

 

Like many outdoor activities, fishing comes with various physical and mental health benefits. As an activity, it requires a significant amount of focus and awareness, both of oneself and of your environment. Compared frequently to meditation, your temporary focus on the act of fishing removes you from your internal conflicts. The beauty of fishing is also that it can be as active as you want it to be, even though you might not immediately associate it with an active sport. Once you’ve included all the casting, reeling and wading, you’ve actually given a range of your muscles a low-impact cardio workout!

Assynt Fly Fishing is more than just a day of fishing. It’s the opportunity to unplug and immerse yourself in some of the most majestic scenery Scotland has to offer. Stewart Yates, a qualified mountain guide and UKCC licensed angling coach, grew up in Assynt and knows the area like no other. Get taken out into the wilds of Scotland's northwest and have Stewart help you connect with your surroundings. Learn about the amazing geology, flora and fauna of the area, and if you're lucky Stewart will also treat you to a bit of foraging whilst finding the best places to go fishing. The ancient landscapes are fantastic for losing yourself in. As you fish, observe the natural drama unfold before your eyes. Watch clouds roll over the rugged mountains, the waves crashing onto white-sand beaches and the comings and goings of the wildlife that live on these rocky shores and heathery hills.

A Forest Getaway

There can’t be many better ways to unwind than admiring panoramic views of forests, beaches and blue skies. The luxury self-catering treehouse cabins of Uist Forest Retreats are the ultimate ‘get away from it all’ experience. Combine the higher vantage point with floor to ceiling windows looking out over some of the best Hebridean scenery there is and you can soak up the untamed landscapes, the wild weather and the local wildlife in comfort.

If the weather is being particularly Scottish you can even watch the trees battle the winds and watch waves crashing in the distance from a warm bubbly bath or wrapped up all nice and cosy on the sofa, toasting cold toes next to the woodburning stove. If the weather is a bit friendlier you’ve got it all right there on your doorstep, ready to explore. Stretch your toes into the sand on a quiet beach, enjoy the salty sea breeze on your face or try and count the different flowers and insects you see whilst strolling through the machair.

The cabins are perfectly situated in a unique National Scenic Area. There are few places like it where forest meets long stretches of white sandy beach, rocky coastline and gorgeous wildflower meadows. You’re far removed from normal clusters of civilisation, with your closest neighbours being a nesting pair of sea eagles and curious red deer. The area is excellent for stargazing and the 3 cabins all come with small balconies with wooden seating, ideal for looking out over the landscapes and up at the skies. Life is at a different pace here and with a minimum stay of 7 days in the summer months, it’s a solid block of time to properly switch off and simply enjoy Hebridean island life.