I lead camps for young people at the Shieling Project - an off-grid learning centre based in Glen Strathfarrar, near Beauly in the Highlands of Scotland. 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 raised here. 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.
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.