Photography and back-to-nature retreats on a remote and wild reserve at Ardgay
Best for: A total digital detox in dramatic natural surroundings
Not for: Urbanites in need of lots of creature comfort
Takes up to 26 guests
Alladale Wilderness Lodge sits in isolated splendour in a whopping great 23,000 acres of dramatic mountains, gorse-clad hills and icy black lochs. It hosts various retreats throughout the year, including a three night photography retreat open to budding and experienced photographers led by photographer Max Milligan, an energetic soul with a cracking sense of humour who has 25 years experience in his field. You can also hire the house or one of two lodges with family or friends for a DIY retreat.
The remoteness of the lodge, the passion, enthusiasm and kindness of the staff, and its re-wilding programme that aims to bring back ancient flora and fauna that have all but disappeared.
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.
Keen on photography and want to learn more on Alladale’s stunning reserve? Book now for Max Milligan’s 3 night photography retreat
Dates: 18-21 or 21-24 September 2017
Attend a photography retreat with Max Milligan, or hire a lodge or the house create your own retreat with outdoors activities and indoor treatments.
Led by Max Milligan a couple of times of year and built around his bestselling ‘Soul of Scotland’ book, this is a three night retreat open to budding and experienced photographers alike. You’ll cover all kinds of subject matter including landscape, wildlife, portrait and abstractions.
Max is an energetic soul with a sense of humour, and you are bound to have a truly inspiring time. With 25 years of experience and unstoppable energy, Max will give talks and one-to-one sessions as well as taking you out into the field with the group to get the perfect shots.
Max is willing to share his knowledge of exhibiting and publishing for those who wish to explore these aspects of the industry, and will go through your portfolio and shots taken during the course to give you tips on improvements and highlight the best elements of your work.
He’ll also work with you on the technicals, discussing composition, lighting and lens choice, and explaining how to overcome issues in every type of light – from the harshness of the middle of the day to exposures by full moonlight.
You’ll want to spend a lot of your time exploring the great outdoors whatever retreat you’re on, for Alladale occupies 100 square kilometres of private estate made up of mountains, forests, rivers and lochs, totally immersing you in rugged, dramatic nature. Be brave and try some activities you haven’t done before – with the in-house rangers a wealth of local knowledge and new experiences are available to you.
Alladale has two expert rangers – Innes and Ryan – who are on hand to ensure guests can have the experience that are seeking on the wilderness reserve. This can include hiking, bird watching, mountain cycling, quad biking, 4×4 off road experiences, fishing, stalking and more.
You can also take a tour around the reserve and see their amazing re-wilding project to restore native forestry and wildlife – seeing what was a barren landscape restored to its former glory can be both an inspirational and profoundly healing experience.
Inside the lodge is a sauna, small gym and studio space for cooler or rainy days, and local treatments can be arranged with therapists from Aspen Spa in the local town of Dornoch. Treatments on offer include massage and facials, but you can also get your haircut and your nails done. Or just pamper yourself with Alladale’s range of natural body and bath products made with wild thistle found on the estate.
Pack for every conceivable season, from swimsuit to layers to fleece to waterproofs. Don’t skimp on the insect repellent – midges can be plentiful depending on when you visit. Bring hiking boots, though wellies are provided. Mountain bikes are also available.
When to Go
Year-round you can easily experience four seasons in one day, and Alladale is a fantastic place to explore in all weathers as long as you have the right kit. Spring and Summer are the best times for being outside, but many people also love Alladale in the snow.
If you stay here on retreat you’ll usually eat in the grand, traditional dining room. If you’re hiring the house, it’s fully catered and serviced. They also can take you to remote picnic spots reachable only with a 4×4.
If you’re hiring one of the lodges on the estate, you can pre-book meals at the house with the onsite chef, or self cater – both have their own kitchens.
Thomas Park is Head Chef at Alladale – his meals use 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. Cooking lessons and whisky tastings can also be arranged.
Alladale Wilderness Reserve is a world-leading re-wilding project. To date, 800,000 trees have been planted and several species 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 and bear are reintroduced.
Ardgay, Inverness, IV24 3BS
Transfer Time: 1 Hour 30 mins