Cooking our own food is a core part of the Shieling Project. It provides a great opportunity to work together, learn about food and healthy eating, and make some very yummy meals. We strive to get all of our food from local or organic sources, and aim to provide a simple, and well balanced menu for the duration of your stay. We source the majority of our food from MacLeod Organics and Highland Wholefoods. All our meat, and some of our greens and other veggies are grown on site. Our menu includes seasonal and wild, foraged foods too.
We are particularly keen for you to learn more about where your dairy and meat products come from by getting involved in their production. Whilst we we do raise our own animals for consumption, there is no pressure to eat meat or diary, and discussions about the ethics of raising and eating meat are encouraged.
If you are on a fully catered course like a school residential or summer camp, this is what might be on offer. Our skills courses at Gartymore include lunch and snacks. When you book you can let us know your dietary requirements and we can work with you to shape the menu into what you need and like:
Breakfast: Porridge, a variety of cereals and bakery fresh toast, and occasionally some eggs and our beef sausages Lunch: Make your own packed lunch from a wide range of fillings including organic cheese from the Connage dairy, salads, veggies, and oatcakes. You can also choose some crisps, fruit, baked snacks like flapjacks and oat biscuits. Dinner: Classics like spaghetti bolognaise, pizza (in our pizza oven), hand made burgers, curries and stews.
The Shieling Project works from two locations. At our Struy site we offer accommodation with all our courses. If you book into a skills course at Gartymore, we will send you through a list of local accommodation and B&Bs.
In 2018 we completed a three year project to build our inspirational bothy accommodation at Struy. Designed, built and installed by Northwoods Construction from Ullapool, the six steel clad bothies each have three double bunks in them and offer a beautifully built simple shelter for your stay. All you need to do is bring a single bed sheet for the mattress, a pillow and a sleeping bag (see here for kit list).
The word ‘bothy’ comes from the Gaelic, and the bothan airigh – the shieling hut – is the start of the story of these buildings. The ‘tin’ bothies, houses, schools and churches around the Highlands of Scotland were also a big inspiration for our new accommodation. Bringing this story into the present and future, our bothies feature a huge south facing window for solar gain heating, local timber and a high quality finish. We hope you will enjoy them as much as we do!
What to Bring
We spend a lot of time outside: walking, drawing, talking, working, and we need to be comfortable. The basic equipment is a waterproof jacket and waterproof over-trousers and wellies. These are essential even for a short visit, and will help you keep on getting outside whatever the weather. When you book with the project you will receive a full kit list to help you prepare.
Where to find Us
How To Find The Shieling Project
The Shieling Project operates from two locations.
1. The Shieling Project, Struy
Based at Dunmaglass in Glen Strathfarrar. There are two ways of reaching us: from Beauly or from Drumnadrochit.
Coming from the north or east you will come via Beauly and turn off on the A831 signed to Struy and Cannich.
Coming from the west you will come off the A82 at Drumnadrochit and go via Cannich on the A831.
Either way you will drive into the little village of Struy and turn off opposite the Struy Inn where you will see our sign! 100 yards down the track that you turn onto is our parking area where you can either walk down to Dunmaglass,or carry on driving if your car is suitable. The walk takes fifteen to twenty minutes.
Our address is: The Shieling Project Dunmaglass Struy Beauly IV4 7JX
But don’t put the postcode into SatNav – it won’t help!
2. The Shieling Project, Gartymore
Based at 66 Gartymore. Just off the A9 south of Helmsdale, and north of Brora. When you are on the single track roads please drive slowly, this is a crofting community, and there will be people and livestock on the roads.
Coming from the north, after Helmsdale, follow the A9 south. Look out for the sign for Gartymore. Take the turn up the steep hill away from the sea. When you reach the cross roads, turn right. We are 200 yards down the road.
Coming from the south, drive through Brora on the A9, carry on through Port Gower. As you drive towards Helmsdale look out for the sign for Gartymore. Take the turn up the steep hill away from the sea. When you reach the cross roads, turn right. We are 200 yards down the road.
Our address is: The Shieling Project 66 Gartymore Helmsdale Sutherland KW8 6HJ
Any problems finding us please call 07584855846
Glen Strathfarrar, Struy
The Shieling Project, Struy, is 2km up a track from Struy village into the stunning Glen Strathfarrar. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for birds, dragonflies, lichens and of course it’s very significant piece of the ancient Caledonian Pine wood.
We have 10 acres of ground here, with a fence to keep the deer out. Our site includes areas to run and play (the stream being a favourite), hay and traditional grain crop fields, a basket willow plantation, all our buildings and wilder areas where we have planted trees, as well as the larch hill where you can see up the glen.
The Shieling Project, Gartymore, is easily accessible in 5 minutes from the A9. Gartymore is a crofting township recently take into community ownership. Dolphins and whales are regularly sighted in the sea off Gartymore and eagles and other raptors are resident on the common grazings on the hills above.
We are building a classroom here, on one of our director’s crofts. This will be a lovely facility to host our skills courses, and provide a base to explore the croft and the green roads which run through the township.
At 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. We also milk our cattle and make cheese.
Shetland cattle are small and friendly, and we are keen for you to get involved in looking after them, from feeding and putting them out to pasture, to milking (in the right season) and making healthy and happy food products.
You can also help with our chickens, and walk the pigs up and down to their field in the morning and evening. Both the chickens and pigs do their bit to improve the ground and make it more fertile – removing ticks, digging it up, and even ploughing up big stones!
A visit to the project is a great opportunity to get hands on with crofting and farming of the past as well as looking to the future, where low carbon, local food and regenerative farming systems are key parts of a resilient rural landscape.
Let’s not forget Aspen the shieling dog, who is always a big feature of every a visit!
Sustainable Education Centres
We have two different sites: our original off-grid centre at Struy, near Beauly which can host folk overnight, and our second site at Gartymore, near Helmsdale, on which we are building a classroom and will run courses on a day basis.
Our different buildings
At Struy, we have 6 accommodation bothies - lovely, warm and simple cabins with 6 beds (3 bunks) in each. See more here (link to accommodation page)
The rest of the buildings at the Shieling Project have been built by school groups and volunteers and we are really proud of them. We have several compost toilet buildings spread over the site and lots of hand-washing stations.
Food is cooked in bothan bìdhe, which is a big space so everyone can join in. We have an talla, our classroom where we eat, do crafts or shelter from the weather if we need to. There is also our shower room with six cubicles where you can get hot water for a camp shower – a pressurised bag with a shower head so you can wash in comfort.
Down towards the staff accommodation we have our re-built byre, where the livestock live for some of the year, including the workshop, milking area and dairy. There is also a polytunnel and raised beds.
Our classroom at Gartymore will have cooking and washing facilities all within the same building, around a big warm meeting and working space. A deck will run down two sides of the building, giving a great area to work or craft outdoors no matter the weather.
The Shieling Project is off grid and trying to provide as low impact an experience as is possible. When you’re here you can learn about how much water our compost toilets save (and what happens to the compost!), as well as some of our building technologies both traditional and modern which demonstrate a variety of sustainable building practices.
We have solar photovoltaic panels which provide electricity for lighting, and a solid wood biomass boiler which uses local timber to give us our hot water. You can get stuck in using these and learning about how they work.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do people go to the toilet?
We have two very clean and pleasant compost toilet blocks. One is near the campfire area, the other right next to the cabins. They have four sit down toilets and two urinals, so there’s lots of space if everyone is desperate! Our compost toilets separate the urine from the solids, so they don’t smell, and they produce great compost. The toilets are not only new and interesting but great education too.
What food do people eat?
We try to be as sustainable and ethical in our food purchasing as possible. This means that the majority of our food is organic, local, and most of the meat is raised at the Shieling Project. We cook most things from scratch, giving simple wholesome meals, and great learning. We almost always have a pizza night using our pizza oven, burgers and spaghetti bolognaise are popular too. For breakfast we offer porridge, cereal, cornflakes or toast from bread we have made. For lunch we tend to make our own sandwiches from egg mayo, fish, cheese, humous, plus crisps, fruit and tray bakes. Healthy snacks are always available. We will discuss the full menu with you when you book. Please don’t send your child with lots of sweets, it goes against the message we are putting across about healthy eating, and also provides lots of energy for staying up all night and being grumpy the next day!
Where do people sleep?
We have six cabins on site, each holding six people, with one specially adapted for disabled access. We work with school groups to group pupils for each cabin. If it’s a summer camp, we work out the best groupings for that camp. The cabins are warm, comfortable, have space for storage and contain three bunk beds. The beds have simple mattresses, but we recommend you bring a single bed sheet (for hygiene and comfort) and everyone needs to bring a sleeping bag and pillow.
Is there any unsupervised time?
For most groups of young people we will have ‘free time’ during the day, where adults are present but not hanging over the children, and they are left to find things to do, and games to play. The rest of the time we are doing structured and supervised activities. Older groups will have some unsupervised time.
Are there male and female staff?
There are always male and female staff present during a trip to the Shieling Project.
Can I call my child when they are at the Shieling Project?
We talk with the school for school trips, to see if they have a communication policy. During summer camps, if you would like to you can send a phone with your child which we will keep and hand out during the evening. However, in our experience, it is best not to phone too much, if at all – the young people are developing their resilience and independence during their visit, and this is sometimes helped by a supportive and trusting holding back on the phone calls!
Is there provision for allergies and dietary needs?
We make every effort to meet people’s dietary needs, with non-milk alternatives, meat and dairy free options, and low or gluten free options. But we aren’t able to provide a large range of choices, because we are focused on high quality (and higher cost) food. There is no pressure to eat the meat produced here at the Shieling Project, but everyone has the chance to look after the animals and participate in the debates about food and livestock.
What are the staff ratios?
As per recommended guidelines, we have at least 1 member of staff to 10 visitors, but most of the time the ratio is much higher around 1:5.
Are there lots of ticks and midgies?
We are in an average area for the Highlands. We have a fair number of midgies during the summer, but definitely not as bad as places like Skye! We have built two really great spaces (kitchen and hall) which are midge-proof where we can spend lots of time. We also supply extra midge nets if you don’t have one.
There are ticks present here, just as there are all over the Highlands. We have been taking various measures to combat them, from putting on livestock which have been treated for ticks (which attract the ticks and kill them), to reducing the height of the foliage, to fencing out the deer. However, there will always be ticks, and we suggest that children don’t roll on the ground, and to tuck trousers into socks. Shorts aren’t a good idea. We also provide a space and guidance for removing ticks, with regular checks. You should check your child when they return home too. This is all part of enjoying our amazing landscape, and a small price to pay for health and well-being (imagine if we were in Australia and had to deal with sharks, crocodiles, snakes, and spiders!).
Where can people clean themselves?
We have sinks for hand-washing and teeth-cleaning all over the site. We spend a lot of time cleaning hands as we are mixing with livestock, mud and food! We have a wash tent, which provides cubicles with a simple camp shower for body washing. The best way to do this is a ‘flannel wash’ – a good skill to learn for wild camping and festivals, as well as saving huge amounts of water.
Can I come and visit before a trip?
You are very welcome to visit before booking, or booking your children on. We are happy to show you round and answer any questions you have. We can also discuss visits during your children’s stay if appropriate.
What safety procedures do you have in place?
We are insured for all our activities, we have extensive risk assessment and policy and procedure documents which all staff follow, and review often. We complete updates in training and best practice and have external advisors to help us maintain high standards of care and safety. All of our documents can be viewed on request.
What happens to photographs of my child?
We take photographs during visits to the Shieling Project. They are mostly to document and illustrate learning. We also use these photos to share with our wider community the story of the Shieling Project. If you do not want your child to be in photographs, please let us know, and we can arrange that.
How do you deal with risk at the Shieling Project?
Being outside, around fires, making things with saws and hammers – these are things which carry small risks. At the project we aim to manage these risks as safely as we can, but also to help people who come here to judge the risks and benefits for themselves. This makes them safer people. This also means that there will be inevitable slips and falls and small cuts. We believe this is a part of learning, and to try to prevent them would be to stop the learning for the young person (and in fact make them less safe in the future). We hope you understand where we are coming from, but are happy to discuss this further with you.
What happens if my child wants to come home?
We will phone you immediately if we, or the child, feel that they need to come home. We will discuss the situation with you, try to take in everyone’s opinions and needs and then make an action plan.
What animals do you have at the Shieling Project?
We have pigs, cattle, chickens and two dogs. There are also sheep and a lot of deer present too. If you or your child is allergic to any of these animals please let us know and we will minimise contact with them.