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The Shepherd’s Hut at Inshriach

Before my wedding season kicks off, I usually like to take some time for myself.  This was the first year however, that I decided to actually go away totally on my own (but of course also with Olive, aka Adventure Dog) and test out my ability to totally disconnect with modern life.  (**Spoiler alert** –  I wasn’t totally able to disconnect.  It turns out that the pull of social media is far stronger than I anticipated – but I at least wasn’t glued to my phone or answering emails at 11pm.  So that at least was a win!)

My first glimpse of my home-away-from was tantalising.  My little Shepherd’s hut on wheels (but firmly planted, so it wasn’t going anywhere) was small and welcoming. It’s gently curved roof, designed to give height to the interior and protect you from the elements, was perfectly suited to its environment.  Brightly painted windows and a little covered porch completed the picture, and for me it was love at first sight.

Dog Olive, my one traveling companion for this trip was equally enamoured.  Keen to explore, she spent the next hour splitting her time between running around our new home like a crazy thing and chasing voles in the grass.  Which she never caught, thank goodness.

I was worried that I would be lonely or at a loose end being totally on my own, but actually – there was too much to do!  Between chopping wood for my stove and splitting kindling to boil water on my Kelly Kettle – and making sure Olive didn’t run off to chase down the sheep, I didn’t have time to think about being on my own.  I’m not someone who worries about being on their own generally – I really enjoy my own company.  But there’s something about being totally away from people without the distractions of TV and internet that can be a little unsettling at first.

The interior of my new home was perfectly equipped, everything that you needed and nothing that you didn’t.  The space is compact so it was lovely to see it not overwhelmed with “stuff”.  I wish I was more of a writer, or an illustrator so I could have taken better advantage of the sweet little desk in front of the window.  A raised double bed, a little wood burning stove and some shelves for all your kitchen implements rounded off the facilities.

The little wood burning stove was a power house – I think I was probably running it too hot because I was going through logs at a rate of knots, but I didn’t know how to get it to burn slower.  I think there is a magic fuel to air ratio that I wasn’t quite getting – but there were plenty of logs and I was in no danger of freezing to death!

I managed (after several failed attempts) to get the fire pit going and made myself some sausages, which I had with pita bread, olives and a hot cup of tea.  After a long day of driving and exploring, hot food was intensely restorative!  My only regret is that I’d forgotten to bring anything to drink – a glass of wine or cider by the fire would have gone down a treat.  Mental note for the next day to visit Tesco’s.

As the light faded, I got the tea lights out and they cast lovely patterns of light on the walls.  I read my book until there wasn’t enough daylight to see any longer and Olive and I settled in for an early night.

Fast forward to 2am when Olive woke up and needed a pee.  I was scared to let her out on her own in a strange place in case she ran off in the dark and then by this point, I needed to go as well.  The compost toilet was about a 1 minute walk down a little path away from the hut, but in the middle of the night when it’s drizzling out and cold, it might as well have been on the moon.  Wellies and coat went on, Olive on her long lead, and we ventured out into the night.

My one and only disappointment on this trip was that the nights weren’t clear.  I was imagining huge star-lit skies and photos of star trails… but the heavy cloud cover and light mist made it darker than dark – so thank goodness I remembered my torch!  Although it flickered on and off as we walked, we managed to find the compost loo and make our way back to bed without too much trouble.  I thought I would be scared on my own in the dark, but I was actually the opposite.  The air was fresh and clean and I didn’t even mind the rain. You could hear the owls and a few birds who were thinking about waking up.  Once my eyes adjusted a little, you could even just make out the light to the east, starting to seep into the sky.  I was almost sad to go back into the hut, the fresh air was wonderful.

Back in my hut, the fire had long died, but the residual heat in the stove meant that my little house was still warm.  I cracked the window open and Olive came up into my sleeping bag, and we fell asleep cuddled up together.  I woke once again at about 5am, the rain hammering on the tin roof of the hut, which quickly lulled me back to sleep.

Breakfast was more sausages, on the stove this time. (I’ve had my fill of sausages at this point…) I made plans to head out into Aviemore to explore it a little and pick up supplies at the local shop.  Unfortunately the rain had moved in and so it was pouring – not the best day to be wandering around the town centre.  Olive was starting to give me that look that said “I’m wet, cold and I’ve not had a biscuit in at least 20 minutes!” so we got in the car and went for a little drive.  We happened along Loch an Eilein, which despite the rain was a really pretty walk. There’s even as a castle in the middle of it, which you could probably explore if you had a little boat to take you there.  (Side note, don’t quote me on that – I have no idea if you’re allowed on the island or not!)  It’s £2 to park but if you have the time to do the whole walk, it’s absolutely worth it.  Plus, the sun came out for my last bit of our stroll, which helped dry us out a little.  We warmed ourselves up at the fantastic “Old Bridge Inn“,  a wonderful dog friendly pub with excellent food and a great atmosphere.

My last night in the hut was quiet and I was starting to get into the rhythm of life on the farm.  My trip into town now meant that I had some cider, and a pretty good steak so I was looking forward to firing up the fire pit/barbecue and tucking into dinner.   Getting the fire lit was easy this time (I’m learning) and Olive has now had her fill of sheep poop so has decided it’s not quite as yummy as she initially thought… (thank goodness)

I’m now getting used to the sound of the river Spey rushing past the hut, the sound of pheasants and the odd owl as twilight starts to descend. There’s something about walking/chopping wood/cooking food on a fire that’s exhausting, I can now see why people used to rise and sleep with the sun, and most farmers still do.  We were were early to bed with no middle of the night trips to the loo!  Progress.

The next morning we were up early with the birds.  Breakfast was some protein bars and a hot cup of tea (I’m done with cooking, clearly by this point!) and after getting our stuff packed and giving the hut a once-over, Olive and I went to explore the rest of the farm.  We came across the swimming hole at the bend in the river and the roving ‘horsebox-turned-sauna’ looking tempting but was something I left for next time.  I didn’t manage to see everything this trip, next time I’ll bring a friend a do a lot more exploring!

We eventually found ourselves back at the farm, where Walter kindly brought the truck over to help get my things to the car – I brought too much stuff as usual – and we said good-bye to Inshriach for now.   We will most certainly be back!

You can book your own Inshriach adventure over at Canopy & Stars!