Something for the future

As some of my Facebook friends know, my wife Liz and I are moving to Scotland next year, specifically to the northern/northeastern coast – to the county of Caithness. We already have a piece of land in mind, a 2-acre plot in a village called Barrock, which is situated somewhere between Wick, Thurso and John O’Groats. We’re building our own little house, a Scandinavian Log Cabin to be precise (take a look at the picture here), and in addition we’ll be purchasing two other cabins, like these, one of which will be a writing den for me and the other one a place for Liz to do her sewing and whatnot. We will also be putting a yurt up on the land, too, which will serve as the guest accommodation. We’ll be as self-sufficient as it’s possible to be, growing our own vegetables and rearing chickens and goats. This is mostly because we’ll be fairly isolated and it just makes sense to have as much to hand as possible.

Now, apart from the prospect of moving to and living in such a beautiful part of the country, there’s also the fact that there’ll be inspiration aplenty up there. Barrock is a few miles from the most northerly point of the British mainland, which is Dunnet Head (not John O’Groats), and we’ll be within sight of the Pentland Firth and the Orkney Isles. West of it, on the road towards Durness, is some of the most spectacular scenery that anyone is ever likely to set eyes upon, composed of rolling muirs (with deer roaming across it), pristine lochs and mountains. The last time we were there, last October, the lovely landlords of the cottage we were staying at (John and Bev) drove us out to Melness, situated on the banks of Loch Eribol, with Benn Hope looming over it, and that’s where both Liz and I really fell in love with the place. I, for one, have never been so moved by the scenery as I was by Melness.

BUT, there’s more, and this is the main reason why I am writing this post. Liz and I have been thinking about the possibility of holding Writer’s Workshops on our land. Maybe once a month during the spring, summer and autumn seasons we will invite professional/semi-professional writers to come and hold court at our little retreat from civilisation, imparting their knowledge to five or six paying students. Meals will be included, all cooked by Liz, and made with the vegetables and produce of our land. Already, my good friend Simon Kurt Unsworth has offered his services as teacher (even down to the wearing of a brown corduroy jacket [his idea!]), which will be an added attraction. Plus there will be the chance for fireside festivities (readings/storytelling?) during the evening, as well as opportunities for walks and rambles on the coast and over the muirs. No doubt there’ll be some who will want to visit the Orkneys – ferries go from Scrabster (Thurso) to Stromness every day. And, in winter, we will be holding little ‘festivals’ for friends and family, where much good food and drink will be consumed.

We are also looking at writer’s retreats: an author renting another cabin on our land so that they can get away from it all to get that novel/story written. Meals, again, will be included. There’ll be peace and quiet in abundance, plus more time and space than anyone could wish for. The surrounding scenery will provide more than enough inspiration.

This, at least, is what we are currently planning. We both happen, however, to think that these plans will work. The isolation, plus the beauty of the landscape we’ll be in, have a great deal of appeal to the artist and writer in all of us. However it pans out, life, as it hard as it might be from a freehold standpoint, will be infinitely better than living in a city, at least from this writer’s perspective. Whatever, I would like to hear people’s thoughts on the subject, as to whether it’s a viable idea or not.

On a personal note, it’s been a dream of mine for over two decades to move to Scotland, ever since I first set foot there in 1988 or so. For some inexplicable reason, I always feel like I am coming home when I travel there. I never imagined that I would actually make the move, but things have been set in motion down here that will make the dream a reality. Liz had never been north of the border until I suggested we have a holiday there a couple of years ago. As soon as she got there, she knew it was exactly where she wanted to be. So now, we are more than following the dream, we’re making it happen.

Hope to see some of you come and join us up there!

(The photo above depicts the rocky arch of Thirle’s Door, Duncansby Stacks, Duncansby Head, Caithness. Although not seen in the photo, the Orkneyslie to the north, and to the west are Dunnet Head and John O’Groats. This is just the kind of spectacular coastal scenery that abounds in the north-east of the Scottish highlands.)

4 Responses to “Something for the future”

  1. Simon why does reading your description make me feel homesick when I’m already here?!?!

    Although I’m at the foot of the highlands and you guys will be most thoroughly at their head, you already know that I know what you mean by the emotional attachment to this landscape.

    I think any writer would be privileged to take ‘retreat’ up there, it’s an amazing plan and I can’t wait until you see it realised. In terms of viability, you’ve got the advantage of it being an incredible place to be all year round (although “differently” inspiring in the Winter!), it’s not so tricky to reach as people might think, and it just seems to me like the kind of thing that would generate loyal repeat business.

    And yurts are ACE.

  2. Oh my, I wish you both lots of luck with the move.

  3. Sefton Disney Says:

    I think both the retreat and workshop ideas are absolutely fantastic; I really hope you manage to make them work (I can’t think of any reason why they shouldn’t).

    Best of luck to you and Liz; I know how much you’re both looking forward to making the move.

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