I’ve always loved my visits to Alladale Wilderness Reserve, a whopping great 23,000 acres of dramatic mountains, gorse-clad hills and icy black lochs. I and my friends have done yoga retreats, fitness escapes and private stays here, and I’m constantly in awe of how inspirational the landscape is and what the team continues to achieve.
Alladale is a world-leading re-wilding project where to date, 920,000 native trees have been planted and several flora, fauna and animal species have been reintroduced including the red squirrel and Scottish wild cat. Ambitious plans are afoot to create a South-African-style game reserve in which apex predators including the wolf are released into a controlled area. And it has a zero electricity footprint on account of its hydro-generator. Twelve full time local staffed are employed by the reserve to ensure eco-localism. Recycling of waste is extensive. And 2019 has seen them begin a new project whereby greenhouse aquaponics vegetable gardens are grown using water tanks fertilised by fish.
The Lodge at the centre of the reserve is a sturdily built Victorian stone house surrounded by woods and lawns on which the local stags come to graze – on one rather wild fitness retreat, I turned a blind eye to the fact that I was actually rolling in stag poo (I had my waterproofs on, naturally). Keep your eyes peeled for wilder species that pass through on occasion. Inside the lodge there’s a well proportioned sitting room with a log fire, enveloping sofas and sturdy armchairs and a large dining room appropriately lit by stag antler chandeliers and six traditional, comfortable ensuite rooms. As the elements rule up here, you’ll also find a drying room stuffed with wellies, walking boots, walking sticks and waterproofs in case you forget your own. At the back of the building is a less attractive modern extension with a sauna, small gym, snooker room and studio space for cooler or rainy days, and massage treatments can be arranged on site with local therapists.
Various wellbeing retreats are hosted throughout the year at the lodge, two high end self catering cottages or a more remote and recently refurbished bunkhouse, including extreme outdoor fitness programmes such as extraordinary Wim Hof Method retreats. Otherwise you can hire the property for a total digital detox with friends in dramatic natural surroundings.
Hiking, bird watching, mountain biking, fishing and more can be arranged with Alladale’s expert rangers, who will also offer you a tour around the amazing re-wilding project – seeing what was a barren landscape restored to its former glory can be both an inspirational and healing experience.
Find a remote picnic spot reachable only with a 4×4, and enjoy dishes cooked by head chef Natasha Buttigieg who uses local, seasonal, high-quality ingredients to create flavoursome dishes. Many guests are keen to try venison from the reserve – a lean meat as ethically sourced as it is possible to get.
Whatever the reason for your visit, remember the weather in the Highlands of Scotland is hugely unreliable – so you could get brilliant sunshine, but then again you could get hail, mist, drizzle and rain – sometimes all in one day. That said, Alladale has its own micro-climate, with above average (for Scotland) sunny, clear and rain-free days. Be sure to pack for all weathers.
Summer 2020 at Alladale Wilderness Reserve
After weeks of cooking at home (with maybe the odd takeaway), even the most enthusiastic home chefs are ready for a break. Thankfully, Alladale Wilderness Reserve is offering hassle-free holidays where cooking is off the menu. The fully-catered stays are available at Alladale’s four lodges and cottages in the Scottish highlands, which are ideal for exclusive use groups of between 2 – 20 guests.
Alladale Lodge reservations are all-inclusive, and week-long cottage stays come with a fully stocked kitchen and freshly prepared meals. Leaving guests more time to enjoy the dramatic glens, glistening rivers and native wildlife. Be inspired by multiple wildlife projects and native tree planting, or get hiking, foraging and fishing in this 23,000-acre utopia.
What is on the Menu?
Alladale’s chef Natasha Buttigieg prides herself on using the organic produce from the Reserve, as well as supporting local suppliers. Ethically culled wild venison is available together with local game, fresh and wild caught seafood and local trout.
Time your visit for late summer and enjoy the first harvests from Alladale’s new Aquaponics gardens. Natasha will be using the vegetables, salads, herbs and berries produced in the gardens throughout her dishes. Visit in August and enjoy freshly foraged Girolles.
The gardens will eventually feature three large greenhouses, 150 brown trout, 3 bee hives, and a variety of fruit trees that have been acclimated to the Highlands. The greenhouses will be powered by Alladale’s own hydro-generator, making it a zero waste and zero emissions, ethical food production scheme.
Larger families & group reunions: Alladale Lodge (exclusive use)
This Victorian lodge comes fully catered and serviced, with Natasha serving up three amazing daily meals in the large dining room. Extras include a sauna, gym and snooker room. Costs from £272 pp per night, full-board, based on a three-night stay for 12 guests.
Those staying in the cottages can have meals prepared and ready to put in the oven. Breakfast kits include ready-to-pour pancake mix, ingredients for a fully cooked, and healthy fruits, granola and yoghurts.
Couples and small families: Ghillie’s Rest
A two-bed cottage alongside the River Alladale. Costs from £1,990 per week (minimum 7 night stay). Daily catering with breakfast ingredients: £85 (children £50) per person per day
Multi-gen family trips or small groups: Eagle’s Crag
A three-bedroom cottage in the cradle of Glen Alladale. £2,990 per week. Daily catering with breakfast ingredients: £85 (children £50) per person per day.
Large Groups (sleeps up to 18): Deanich Lodge
If being off-grid is most important to you, then consider Deanich Lodge – one of the remotest lodges in Scotland. Hidden away in the heart of the Reserve, the rustic former hunting lodge has enviable views of the surrounding glens. Prices start from £2,750 per week for up to 8 guests (self-catering)