Is a rural life in the Scottish Highlands for you?

I've always been a country girl at heart. My feet seem almost permanently attached to wellies. But its not always as idyllic as is appears....


My childhood started out pretty conventionally. Although we were a slightly larger family, as I am 1 or 4 children (3 younger brothers, yikes!), we lived in suburbia and both my parents worked in education. Then, when I was 9 years old, my family upped sticks and moved to the Isle of Arran in Scotland. My country lifestyle begun.

A local walk on the Isle of Arran

Since then, I've lived in some wild places. Much of this has been related to my job as a wildlife conservationist. This has taken me to the remote Forsinard Flows, located in the far north of Scotland, to the isolated Farne Islands, where I lived without heating or running water. Find out more about my conservation adventures here.


RSPB Forsinard Flows reserve - credit Paul Turner

My career is actually what led me to living in the Highlands. I now work as Capercaillie Advisory Officer for the RSPB and have been living in and around Inverness since 2018. Much of this time was spent in a static caravan on a farm surrounded by cows. So pretty rural!

My neighbours from my caravan home

Over this time, I've experienced all the highs and lows that come with living this type of lifestyle, so I thought I'd share the realities with you today, in case any of you were thinking of taking the plunge!


Lows


Travel time


When I first moved to the Highlands, I didn't have a car. I soon found out that this was going to make life very difficult.


In the Highlands, most journeys seem to take at least an hour. It is a vastly sprawling place, often with very limited public transport. This is made worse by the fact that, away from the A9, the roads can be very slow. With single track roads, hair pin bends and plenty of tractors, getting anywhere is slow going.


Not one for the impatient!


Weather


I couldn't write this list without mentioning the weather at least once. We all know that Scotland is famous for its rain. Now I'm on the east coast, it is a tad drier than my childhood growing up on Arran (west coast). But its cold. Very cold.


I experienced a 'proper' Highland winter this year. I've never seen so much snow! We reached record temperature lows, which I felt first hand living in a caravan with no insulation or central heating.


This of course makes travelling even more of a challenge. There are some areas of the Highlands that get completely cut off when in snows. I had to abandon my car more than once in an attempt to get it up a large hill on which my caravan was perched. Tractors came in useful here!


Lack of amenities


There is not much in the way of amenities in the Highlands. Now I am living an hour away from Inverness, I feel that keenly. If the Co op has run out of bread, you're buggered.


Although Inverness is better, it is still pretty tiny by city standards. If you crave a buzzing high-street and electric nightlife, you will likely be sorely disappointed. I've known more than one 'young' person retreat south, to return to large cities.


Even basic amenities can be a challenge in some areas. Phone signal can be interesting. I went on a 4 hour hike at the weekend and didn't have signal once. Of course, this means Wi-Fi is not guaranteed....


Highs


Space


I often go for rambles in the Highlands and never meet a soul. For me, this is living the dream.


It is not that I am completely antisocial. But living in the Highlands means that I can truly embrace my hermit tendencies. There is a peacefulness to this landscape. You don't have to venture much past your front door to become immersed in the wilderness.


The awe-inspiring Glen Affric

Away from the businesses of urban areas, there is room to breathe. My mental health is far stronger for it.


Wildlife


In my opinion, the Highlands cannot be matched for wildlife by anywhere else in the UK. The land is overflowing with life. From the rarities like the capercaillie, golden eagles and crested tits, to the abundant and iconic red deer. For a wildlife fanatic, this brings me such joy. You can't really help but fall in love with the species around you.


Inspiration


This landscape demands adventure and creativity. It provides the perfect playground of thrill-seekers and more gentle creative curators alike. This is ingrained in the place's culture and runs fluidly through the local communities. There is respect and deep understanding of nature here. The Highlands makes you feel alive.


Rural living the Highlands has provided the simple life I crave. Simple does not always mean easy. Living in a caravan and soon a tiny home has its challenges! But it means I am able to live fully rooted in nature, away from the distractions of urban drama.


I look forward to stomping around in muddy wellies for years to come. Perhaps you'll join me?