About the Shieling Project
The Shieling Project is an off-grid learning centre in the Highlands of Scotland. We have two sites – in Glen Strathfarrar near Beauly, and in Gartymore near Helmsdale. The project is all about outdoor living – from looking after our livestock to making real buildings, from weaving baskets to making burgers from the meat we have raised here. You can help with seasonal tasks like planting, moving the cattle, making hay, or harvesting the crops. The tradition of the shieling where folk lived outdoors all summer herding the cattle, gives us a window onto the past, but also helps us look forward to a sustainable future.
Alongside our schools provision, we offer lots of courses and events throughout the year from craft weeks to family camps.
There are so many parts to the Shieling Project but at our core is a belief that a more sustainable future is possible. We provide learning experiences that are hands on, that connect generations, that encourage resilience and strengthen community.
Meet The Team!
Dr Sam Harrison
Project ManagerDr Sam Harrison (Manager) is a specialist in place-based education. He has been leading outdoor learning in Scotland for ten years, and takes a lot of joy from going out into land with school groups. Sam has a wide variety of training and qualifications r (...)
Read all posts by Dr Sam Harrison
Dr Sam Harrison
Manager and Project DirectorDr Sam Harrison (Manager) is a specialist in place-based education. He has been leading outdoor learning in Scotland for ten years, and takes a lot of joy from going out into land with school groups. Sam has a wide variety of training and qualifications r (...)
Read all posts by Dr Sam Harrison
Timber Craft InstructrorJames Chitty is a designer, maker, carpenter, and artist based in Moray James trained in Furniture Design at Edinburgh College of Art and Rhode Island School of Design and has spent the last 20 years working on all kinds of projects, mostly in Scotland. H (...)
Read all posts by James Chitty
DirectorJean Langhorne has been involved in the Shieling Project, as a Director, since its inception in 2013. Although she is a Zoology graduate, she initially worked in the arts for about 8 years; in community dance and theatre-in-education. Eventually, she end (...)
Read all posts by Jean Langhorne
Advisory GroupPam Rodway has worked in organic farming and earth-based teaching since she left the University of Edinburgh in the early 1970s. On her journey she has met many very inspiring people, including Lady Eve Balfour, Wendell Berry, Carlo Petrini and Satish Kum (...)
Read all posts by Pam Rodway
DirectorJane is currently a Secondary school Teacher but has worked widely in Museum Education and Arts Administration since 1994. She has wide experience of creating placed-based content for the secondary curriculum and has encouraged schools to engage more wide (...)
Read all posts by Jane Summers
Project DirectorKat Lee is a former paediatric nurse and FE lecturer in health and social care. She grew up on the West Coast, near Balmacara; went to Hull University to do nurse training and then moved back to the Highlands with her husband and children in 2013. After (...)
Read all posts by Kat Lee
Supporting the Project
We are a social enterprise. The project is a not-for-profit organisation and our community impact is monitored on a yearly basis. That means we charge for our services but all that money goes into running the project. During our start-up phases we are relying also on funding and donations. We use the donation system ‘Stripe’.
There are lots of ways to volunteer at the Shieling Project. You can come during our volunteer days held during the week, or you can come to a volunteer weekend. If you really like it you can come and live at the project and support the staff delivering our residentials and holidays. The directors of the project are volunteers, as are our advisors. So if you feel like you have skills that could help us run the Shieling Project please get in touch.For more information on volunteering opportunities keep an eye on our socials.
Sister HenThe chicken is a domesticated junglefowl species, with attributes of wild species such as the grey and the Ceylon junglefowl that are originally from Southeastern Asia.
Sweet JaneAt the Shieling Project we have Shetland cattle, chickens and pigs. Shetland cattle have an amazing history as croft livestock giving milk and meat. If you eat meat, then you’ll be eating our own happy, well raised beef.
Outdoor LearningLearning around the campfire
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
When you think back to your stay, what do you remember?
“I remember having the time of my life and just feeling so alive and free. I though the compost toilets were a great idea and they should be at school”Family camp visitor 2022
We have been inspired to make changes to how we live
“Thanks again for the Family hol, it came at just the right time for us, it was really refreshing to be in such an environment with like-minded folk. We have been inspired to make changes to how we live and eat and hope to start keeping chickens/ducks.”Family camp visitor 2018
"My girls had the best time at the Shieling kids camp this summer. I can’t recommend it highly enough. They learned so much and I love that for a little while at least, they were ‘rewilded’, making willow walking sticks and baskets, making jam from foraged blaeberries, collecting eggs from the chickens, moving the cattle, paddling in the river, and making new friends. All the while gently being reminded of their place in nature and maybe even of their farming roots. The supervising adults were fantastic, so welcoming and calm and gentle that my girls have lasting memories of a place that was truly magical. Beware though, parents, your kids will want to have a chicken coop in the garden after this!"Parent, 2022 camp
What is a shieling?
The shieling is a traditional practice of moving up to the high ground or moorland with livestock to live there for the summer.
Young people had a fundamental role at the shieling: they took on new responsibilities, learning about themselves and the landscape beyond their homes. It was a time for making butter and cheese, stocking up on materials from the hills: dyes, peat, heather, and for revisiting the stories that defined the weave of people and place. Shieling life was well established for at least two thousand years in parts of Scotland, and is still a fairly recent memory for some in the Western Isles.
Social PurposeSocial PurposeSocial Purpose
Shieling Project featured in Visit ScotlandExperience the Highlands in a new way with the Shieling Project, an award-winning off-grid social enterprise. A week of craft, outdoor living and Gaelic song offers the chance to let the local culture get under your skin.See Full Article
Delving into the past at the project
The Shieling Project is dedicated to learning more about this rich tradition. We have undertaken an archaeological survey and dig of our nearest shieling at Allt Moraig. Here we discovered the ruins of 27 structures and during the dig we excavated two of these more fully. We are also gathering stories of shieling life from all over Scotland, with a focus on our local area. We hope to continue this archaeological and historical research and match it up with our experiences milking and grazing our cattle.
More on shielings
At the risk of over-simplifying the ‘Shieling’, it might be defined as:
- a grazing area in the hills, away from arable and cultivated ground and occupied seasonally in the months of summer
- as a summer dwelling, in the form of a small structure of stone and turf
- as a legal entity, included in grants and titles to land
- a way of life, recalled in the memories of older generations and in stories songs and oral tradition
A family’s main dwelling was in the ‘wintertown’ located in the low, arable ground and arable, and in the summertime they and their animals moved from ‘wintertown’ to summer pasture in the high ground. These ‘shielings’ were occupied for any time between six and fourteen weeks, perhaps more commonly nine to ten weeks. In May or early June, most inhabitants of the township made an organised and communal move to the shielings. Families carried all their necessities and tools, and the shieling huts were repaired for occupation.
The menfolk then returned to the wintertown to carry on the farming work of the summer months, repairing and thatching houses, and cutting and drying the peats for winter fuel. Women and children occupied the shieling for the weeks of summer, herding the animals to ensure they had the best of the summer grazing to put them into good shape, and milking and butter and cheese making. Personal accounts of life in the Shieling on the experience of being ‘on holiday’, of gaining a sense of wellbeing and renewal, and of a freedom otherwise unknown among the constraints of normal everyday life. Gaelic songs celebrate this freedom located within a strong sense of place.