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Our Wilderness Retreat is a women-only wellness experience based in the Highlands. For a week, you can call a remote lodge that’s surrounded by gorgeous woodlands home. Our Wilderness Retreat offers adventurous women the unique opportunity to improve their outdoor confidence with navigation skills and hill hikes in an intimate and supportive environment. Guests also get to enjoy morning yoga sessions, try out wild swimming, learn about rewilding from a local expert or simply chill out at the stunningly located lodge.
Caroline Hart is an outdoor guide that specialises in wellness and is highly qualified with experience in mental health, coaching and wellbeing. She guided our first-ever women-only wilderness retreat. You can learn more about Caroline here as well as on her website. In this blog, Caroline shares some of her transformative experiences both guiding and participating in this retreat.
I have been a guide on several women-only trips in the outdoors. I have found these trips to be supportive and enriching experiences. There is often a lot of humour and a distinct lack of competitiveness.
It is as if the trappings of normal life have been stripped away. The objective of the time spent together is simply to make it as enjoyable and nurturing for each other as possible.
Encouragement, life stories and empathy abound and there is a sense of freedom to enjoy each other’s company and let nature do its best job of re-energising us and bonding us.
Being active outdoors is so good for our physical health, but as we are becoming increasingly aware, it is so good for our mental wellbeing too. Being active outdoors with other women is freeing, restorative and such good fun!
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
– Mary Oliver
This is a line from a Mary Oliver poem called ‘The Summer Day’. This poem resonates with me regularly and none more so than when I had the privilege of being part of a Wilderness Scotland Women’s Wilderness Retreat. It took place in Glen Feshie, a valley in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, which is both wild and precious as the glen has been rewilded over the past twenty years.
I found myself immersed in a very remote Scottish loch in cool, clear water, swimming towards a tiny island, inaccessible by both foot and car. I was surrounded by mountains and blue sky as well as a pair of kestrels nesting high up in the trees on the island. Immerse yourself in the sounds – the gentle lapping of the water, the delighted squeals of the group of women whom I was with and the kestrels who were keeping an eye on us in case we strayed near their nest.
After our swim, we came back to the shore, invigorated but cooling down quickly as we changed into the many layers that we had brought with us. Drinking coffee out of flasks and filling tiny hot water bottles to hold, we sat admiring the vista in front of us. Yes, a little chilly but otherwise exhilarated, refreshed and delighted to feel so alive.
I found myself walking around a different Scottish loch once hollowed out by retreating glaciers thousands of years ago. We walked through a forest of trees happily allowed to grow as nature intended as a red squirrel ran in front of us. We were in a rewilded valley, encouraging the natural habitat to recover and re-establish itself as it was without human interference and farming.
The lichen on the trees hung thick and yet beautifully fragile. In fact, the presence of lichen growing in this way is an indicator of clean air. What a magical place to be, in a place where nature is in charge. Humbling to know that without us, nature will not just survive, but thrive.
I found myself at the dinner table with a group of women I had only just met a few days before. We were all delighting in the locally sourced and produced food carefully prepared for us with an eye to taste as well as sustainability. After an active day, this delicious feast felt like such a treat, rewarding our physically active bodies with such healthy food.
We learned so much about the decisions we make every day regarding what we eat, and the impact these decisions make on our planet.
I found myself lying on a yoga mat in a beautifully restored and historic stone lodge. I had only to listen to my quiet and slow breathing, thinking of nothing but my soft and slow breathing.
Taking time out to just ‘be’ is often an overlooked and undervalued activity. But here in this wonderful building, it felt like the right thing to do. Slowing down can be as important as being active, and we felt ourselves feeling completely relaxed and yet also re-energised after our yoga experience.
I found myself at the top of a mountain with a group of women for whom this was a new summit, a new adventure, a new experience. These women came away from their wilderness retreat so proud of themselves and determined to push their bodies that little bit more in the future as they seek out adventurous life.
The more space we are surrounded by, it would seem the more space we find within ourselves.
I found myself walking in a forest with a bunch of loud and chatty women that it almost seems like I have known for all my life and yet have only just met. We shared stories of the activities and fun that we had experienced together so far, but we shared much more than that.
Sharing our life experiences, adventures we have already had but also adventures that are yet to happen as well as our hopes and dreams for the future. I went to bed feeling inspired and excited for my future.
I found myself overjoyed to have made connections with nature, connections with my body physically and emotionally as well as connections with other wild and precious women who were looking for more of themselves too.
I found more of myself on a Wilderness Retreat……