In our twenties, various of us who had been at university together frequently barrelled up to the very, very north west of the Scottish Highlands to a beautiful coastal village called Scourie, where we would set up camp in the tiny stalking cottage which had been left to our partners in crime Nick & Susie by their father.
(Arkle seen from Scourie Beach)
There was lots of fly fishing (or, if you were me, lots of watching fly fishing, sitting disconsolate in a damp boat in the August drizzle, smoking pot to ward off the midges & watching the rain on the loch); mountain goat activity of the running up hills before breakfast kind (or, if you were me, cooking of gargantuan breakfasts), and long walks through the heather (or, if you were me, ceaseless whinging about the mud, the midges & the rain).
I was at my happiest when the others were playing at being mountain goats, & I was left to my own devices. I would cook huge meals for their return, and then curl up in a faded floral armchair in the sitting room next to the fire and the oak bookcase, working my way through old paperbacked Agatha Christie & Georgette Heyers, with the aid of a packet of Garibaldi biscuits and endless cups of tea. I do so love the great outdoors when I have to wipe the fug off a window to see it.
I spent Millenium New Year in Scourie with five of my closest friends, having stipulated I would only go if we dressed up properly. (My silver & green 50’s brocade & tulle number from Cornucopia cost £15 & was so poofy it had to have its own seat on the plane up to Inverness.) On the night we pulled layers of fleece & Gore Tex over our Black Tie and climbed a mountain to set off exhibition fireworks & drink Champagne at midnight, before rolling back down the mountain to the village cèilidh. (If you happen to have architects as friends, then you’ll know that this combination of outdoors & insanity is perfectly normal in their eyes.)
It was on the drive back down to England from one of these trips that we stopped off to pick up our friend Walter from his grandmother’s extraordinary – & enormous – Edwardian country house set in 200 glorious acres near the banks of the River Spey, in the Cairngorms National Park just outside Aviemore.
Untouched by the hand of post-modernism, Inshriach still has open fires, panelled rooms, lots of faded chintz, antlers aplenty, claw footed baths, and shooting prints in the loos. The house has always stuck in my memory as a wonderful escaping place, just as Scourie is, where you can fish, walk, stalk & mountain goat, or do as I do and curl up by the fire to read, so I was particularly pleased when Walter wrote to say that he & his mother Lucy had turned Inshriach into an extremely reasonably priceda fully functioning rental property for groups & location shoots. (It’s just been reviewed (well) by The Guardian.)
This summer, Walter had planned to run the bars, food & a stage at The Outsider Festival in Aviemore. After he had built most of the stage & bar, struck deals with brewers & distilleries, made friends with lots of musicians and invited lots of friends, The Outsider was cancelled. Not being one to give up, he decided to hold an alternative festival in the grounds at Inshriach, catering for a maximum of 400 people.
So, The Insider was born.
It promises to be a magical weekend, not least because it’s the Summer Solstice. There’s a fabulous musical line-up including Lau, twice named ‘Group of the Year’ at the BBC Radio2 Folk Awards, burlesque performances and children’s workshops. There are yurts for rental for sleeping in, & the catering by Ord Ban restaurant is reason alone to turn up, with Walter promising local beef and venison, trout, scallops, curry, stews & cakes. As he says, ‘That’s what happens when you organise a festival with a lot of foodies.’
There are still a few tickets left, so do go to www.insiderweekend.co.uk (All tickets are advance sales only.) There are a BARGAIN £40 each, a fraction of what festivals usually cost.
In addition to yurt rental, there’s plenty of camping space, but if that’s not your thing, then Suie Hotel in Kincraig (about 4 miles away) have offered 10% off their already very reasonable £35 a night rate for anyone who doesn’t fancy camping.