Bringing a bit of Scotland and creativity to your home

In these strange and difficult times where we are in lockdown and unable to travel or enjoy exhibitions and events, you may feel in need of a dose of Scotland and creative inspiration. I’ve started curating collections of resources you might be interested in. This page is a work in progress and I’ll add to them as I go along – if you know of an interesting resource Scotland-loving creatives might enjoy please drop me a line.

Online exhibitions

Explore the collections of the Scottish National Galleries – you can explore and search the collections of the Scottish National Gallery, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Modern One, Modern Two, Duff House, Paxton House, and even works that are in storage:

The Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) of Arts and Architecture‘s annual exhibition will soon be available online here:

Edinburgh University’s School of History, Classics and Archaeology offers an online exhibition: Artisans And Craft-Production In Nineteenth-Century Scotland. It is themed in five sections; Handmade and Design, Vernacular and Place, Portraits, Workshops, and Trades and Communities:

An Talla Solais Gallery in Ullapool has opened an exhibition Landscape of Place. The central theme of the exhibition is the discourse between the landscape of the north of Scotland and the experience of being both part of it and at one within it, giving rise to a sense of place within the world:

National Museums Scotland -Experience the treasures of four National Museums Scotland from your own home via the Google Arts and Culture programme, which offers you the chance to see more than 20,000 historic objects at National Museum of Scotland, National Museum of Flight, National War Museum and the National Museum of Rural Life:

Sounds of Scotland

Nevis Ensemble – Some of you might already have happened to enjoy impromptu performances by members of this energetic street orchestra on your travels in Scotland. The Nevis Ensemble have made it their mission to make music accessible for everyone, everywhere. They have several projects on the go to bring music to people in lockdown all over the world:

Edinburgh International Harp Festival – the festival was due to take place 3-8 April 2020. So everyone can enjoy harp music and tuition they’ll be making lots of resources available online:

Finding gigs via Twitter – there are some incredible online gigs going on. You can follow along with hashtags like #COVIDceilidh and #scotlandsbigsession on Twitter for details of many of them. /

Chamber Music Scotland did a series of #StreamingHomeConcerts which you can watch on their YouTube channel. Follow Chamber Music Scotland on Twitter for details of how to tune into future shows!

And, of course, Runrig’s Loch Lomond

Scottish textiles

Dovecot studio – you can take a virtual tour of this world-renowned tapestry studio in Edinburgh:

The making of Harris Tweed:

BBC Coast: Harris Tweed – excerpt from a programme on Harris Tweed:

Creativity in times of lockdown

Art in the Time of Self-Quarantine – A Sketch A Day. A few of our wonderful Wild at Art customers – and now friends – in the US and Canada have set up a Facebook group for sharing the artwork they’re producing during lockdown. The group is private but they welcome new members. You can join here:

Artist Louise Bourgeois on How Solitude Enriches Creative Work“You are born alone. You die alone. The value of the space in between is trust and love.”

Explore our beautiful locations

This is Scotland:

See Scotland’s islands from above:

A guide to the weather in Scotland:


Orkney – beautiful all year round:

Orkney visitor guide – a selection of visitor guides and information leaflets about the islands:

Discover Stromness, the base location for our Orkney art experiences:

Orkney archaeology – at the site of a colossal complex that predates Stonehenge, archaeologists have discovered Neolithic art, pottery, and several carved stones that are extremely rare:


The magical isle of Iona by drone:

Lewis Trilogy – if you are looking for reading material about Lewis & Harris in the Outer Hebrides check out Peter May’s crime novels set in the islands: Blackhouse / Lewis Man / Chessmen:

Another book we can recommend is Madeleine Bunting’s Love of Country. You can find a review here.

Scottish & Celtic heritage

Scottish Storytelling Centre – listen to some ancient tales. The page also includes a link to their YouTube channel:

CeltScot Videos – a YouTube channel where you can find music, storytelling , lectures and more related to Celtic and Scottish Studies:

Scottish Gaelic language explained:

How to wear an 18th century plaid properly 🙂

Have a peek inside

Look inside the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and see some of their staff’s favourite features:

Take a virtual tour of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland:

Snippet about Falkland Palace‘s sunken treasure:

So…dream about Scotland now and travel later 🙂

Scottish Islands Explorer magazine recommends Wild at Art

Scottish Islands Explorer magazine

“The creative aspects of travel and application of the skills of art lay the foundation for transformative experiences through visual sensations and that sense of place.”

We were delighted to learn that Scottish Islands Explorer was going to publish a full page article on our small group art holidays! It’s the only magazine devoted to exploring the islands of Scotland and serves a readership of Scotland-lovers across the globe. The article appeared in the November/ December issue so flagging it up here is long overdue!

“Here is an organisation well aware that the personal touch matters when people gather to learn and holiday. “

scottish islands explorer article

Find out more about the magazine here.

Meet Islay, the latest addition to our team!

I’m very pleased to introduce you to the latest addition to the Wild at Art management team: Islay, a rescue dog from Bosnia. We don’t know much about the story so far other than she was rescued from a dog catcher kennel. She’s the most delightful, gentle and friendly dog and has settled extremely well in her new home in Scotland. Whenever possible,  Islay will accompany me on art experiences and she might even pose as a model for guests :).

Brexit – there’s no need to worry

Naturally, there has been a lot of media attention on Brexit and you might be wondering what it means for your travel planning. We’ve done our research and want to give you peace of mind regarding our art experiences in Scotland.

These are the main points: in summary:

No change in visa arrangments

Deal or no deal, you’ll be able to enter the UK without a visa if you’re a citizen of any other EU or EEA country, or Switzerland.

For US visitors to Scotland and the UK, there has been no change and there will be no change to the current no visa arrangement for UK citizens arriving for stays of less than 90 days. The important thing is that your passport is still valid for at least six months at the time of arrival.

For arrivals from other countries there won’t be any changes either – use the visa checker to find out if you need a visa.

Flights operate as usual

There is no talk of disruption to flights to the UK and the EU has specifically agreed that there would be no change to any flight rules until 2021 at the earliest. Even if there was a no-deal scenario, the European Commission has said that UK airlines will still be able to operate flights between the UK and the EU. The UK government has offered similar assurances for EU airlines.

Insurance protection

All payments you have made to Wild at Art are protected through our Travel Vault membership. In addition, it is important that you have adequate travel insurance which covers your specific needs, including any known medical conditions or activities you plan to do. It is also worth checking the detail of the policy around travel disruption including delays or cancellations as policies do vary.

Soak up Scotland’s history ~ the Declaration of Arbroath

When travelling in Scotland it’s almost impossible not to be touched by our rich history. Those with some historical knowledge may have heard of the Declaration of Arbroath*, which is one of Scotland’s most important historical documents, capturing a powerful call for the recognition of the Kingdom of Scotland’s sovereign independence.

The Declaration is a letter dated 6 April 1320, written by the barons and and freeholders of Scotland, on behalf of the Kingdom of Scotland, to Pope John XXII asking him to recognise Scotland’s independence and acknowledge Robert the Bruce as the country’s lawful king.

The letter also asks the Pontiff to persuade King Edward II of England to end hostilities against the Scots, so that their energy may be better used to secure other frontiers.

The Declaration was probably drawn up at Arbroath Abbey. Written in Latin, it was sealed by eight earls and about forty barons. It was authenticated by seals, as documents at that time were not signed. Only 19 seals now remain.

So, what has the Declaration of Arbroath got to do with an art experience?

We like to link up our creative experiences with local, real life things happening around us. Our Hidden Treasures Art Retreat with Arbroath-based Scottish painter Kate Cunningham and guest tutors will take place in Arbroath 3-10 April 2020 – not quite at Arbroath Abbey but nearby at the charming Rosely Country House.  So, we’ll have the opportunity to celebrate the Declaration’s 700th anniversary in its place of origin during our retreat – how cool is that! The anniversary will be marked with the Arbroath 2020 programme of events and activities to engage and inspire through the story of the Declaration. I’m curious to see how the festivities inspire the artistic interpretation of this historic location on the Scottish east coast.

Our retreat venue Rosely Country House Hotel
Our retreat venue Rosely Country House Hotel

Also, the declaration document will be displayed within the Scotland galleries of the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh from 27 March to 26 April 2020. Why not add a day in Edinburgh before or after the retreat to see the real thing? 🙂

Find out more about the retreat here.

* Image of declaration document copyright National Records Scotland

Best of Celtic Life 2019 – we’re in!

Travelling in general is a form of personal development. Creative travel takes the experience to another, and more enriching level.

We’re absolutely delighted that Wild at Art made it into the Best of Celtic Life International! Read the story here (you’ll find a link to the full version of the magazine at the bottom of the page):

Wild at Art in Celtic Life International

To read the magazine click here.

Rahoy Residency: Steve Bretel adds a creative dimension to wildlife conservation and biodiversity

Since October 2019, artist and Wild at Art tutor Steve Bretel is the Artist in Residence for an exciting initiative at the unique Rahoy Hills National Nature Reserve in Morven, Scotland. Wild and remote, it is the most biodiverse area owned and managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Ardtornish. The initiative aims to bring this unique area back into balance for the benefits of the plants and animals that use it as their home, and for the future generations of people who will increasingly come to understand its value and may wish to visit.

Steve’s role as artist in residence is to support this work and to add a creative dimension to developments. Find out more in the first instalment of his Rahoy Blog below. 

You can read more about Steve and his work on his profile page You can also enquire about a bespoke art and wilderness experience with Steve Bretel here.

RAHOY BLOG 1 Scottish Wildlife Trust Artist Residency in Morvern

By Steve Bretel

JOURNEY & ARRIVAL: Delighted at having been selected for this residency, I set to work developing the ideas set out in my proposal. This is an ideal opportunity where I’ll be able to combine my artistic work with a passion for wild natural environments developed through long experience in the mountains and wilderness.RAHOY-COMP-1web (1)

In mid October 2019, after a trip through the magnificent mountains of Glencoe, I arrived at the Corran Ferry (one of the last such crossings existing in Scotland), where I was greeted with a blast on the horn from the skipper – which was either to say hi, or telling me to get a move on (no doubt, the latter!).RAHOY-COMP-2web

After the calm 5 minute crossing at the Corran Narrows, I drove up the slipway at Ardgour, and on to Ard Daraich for a meeting with artist Anna Raven to discuss an outline of my residency where I also met with her husband Norrie Maclaren. I then made my way to Ferry Cottage, which they operate, set on a promontory on the eastern shore of Loch Aline.RAHOY-COMP-2

After an evening walk along the farm track to get to know the area, I returned for tea and toast. Settling in the glow of the wood stove, I went through some notes and sketched ideas for the planned exploratory walks for my first day on site. Wild and remote, the Rahoy Hills Nature Reserve on the Morvern peninsula is the most biodiverse area owned and managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Ardtornish. Today’s visual appearance, whilst being stunningly engaging artistically with endless opportunities for creative expression, has been influenced by a history of modification and management by people, at times in balance with the rest of nature, but at other times this has led to exploitation, where resources have been overused nearly to the point of exhaustion, depleting the land of vital nutrients, limiting the range of species that can live there. The dedicated people who now work at the reserve are bringing this unique area back into balance for the benefits of the plants and animals that use it as their home, and for the future generations of people who will increasingly come to understand its value and may wish to visit.

My role will be to support this work and to add a creative dimension to developments.

More information about the Scottish Wildlife Trust at the Rahoy Hills reserve.
My intention on this occasion was to get an overview of the site, develop ideas for future work and visits, and to meet with key people involved in the work of the reserve.

DAY 1: The first day of my residency began with some morning sketching at the cottage, after which I packed up my outdoor gear and art materials into the van. During research beforehand, I’d discovered there was a memorial on the reserve dedicated to naturalist Brian Brookes. I managed to buy a copy of his book, and this came with me (the memorial being one of the first things I sketched on site). I drove to Acharn, to meet with reserve ranger Steve Hardy. During a walk through the mature oak woods overlooking Loch Arienas, it soon became evident that Steve has a wealth of information gleaned from his many years spent working on the reserve, and I was only just scratching the surface of his experience. His role involves species monitoring, keeping invasive species in check, engaging with the public – even path maintenance.Steve Bretel 2

The reserve has several distinct areas, and internationally important sites for plants that exist both at altitude and low down in the gorges. He told me about some of the wildlife that live in the woods and also the migrant birds – redwings – that had recently arrived that flocked over our heads appearing like leaves in a stormy wind. He spoke about issues affecting the woods such as when trees topple and fall on to fencing, which, if several deer then managed to gain access, would eat the succulent ground vegetation and strip saplings, preventing new growth and inhibiting regeneration, and for this reason there are many control measures in place such as extensive fence enclosures which also keep out nearby cattle, and these are largely successful.Steve Bretel 1

With so much to see, I decided to start getting a feel for the area through taking photographs, rather than continually stopping to sketch which would have interrupted the flow of Steve’s informative tour.

The morning was mostly overcast, but this added to the dramatic Tolkienesque atmosphere, interrupted only by shafts of strong sunlight that shone through when breaks appeared in the clouds above.

In this exceptional Scottish example of atlantic rain forest, dense moss matting covers most of the oak trees here, indicating the present cleanliness and humidity of the air, contrasting with times centuries ago when these trees were coppiced for use in the numerous charcoal burning sites, over ninety of which have been discovered through work largely carried out by archaeologist Jennie Robertson. Pioneering birches, share the area with holly and rowan, and the whole area is home to a vast array of species, both plant and animal – even, as I was told – the elusive badger and pine marten. This was in marked contrast to the change in ground cover with the lack of significant trees, encountered on our walk back over the hillside above the enclosures. Although, as Steve explained, this is in marked contrast to the summer months where the area displays an abundance of plants with the associated insect life, that provide food for the birds and mammals further up the food chain.Steve Bretel 5

Later in the day, I walked out again through the woods, but this time from the east and to Arienas point, sketching and making colour references for future work with charcoal, ink, a few watercolours and oil pastels on cartridge paper size 14cm X 13cm.Steve Bretel 6

Steve Bretel7On the shore, I was greeted with a cluster of empty drinks bottles. It’s disheartening to see that even in a place such as this, human detritus still manages to find a way in.Steve Bretel 8

I then spent time drawing with oil pastels and ink in the dramatic gorge above the enclosure at Arienas Burn.RAHOY-COMP-6

In the dimming light, I made my way back, on the way startling a large stag I’d interrupted while eating with head down behind a boulder only a couple of metres away, which fled as soon as it saw me. I then continued on to the van watched by a pair of curious cows. My first day of the residency came to a close at the cottage where I went through my photographs, did some painting and planned the next day from the cosy comfort of my sleeping bag with a large mug of tea.

DAY 2: The following day began in glorious sunshine, and while getting things together for a trip, I decided to start work at the cottage on some painting ideas of fallen ‘phoenix’ trees, common in many places I’d seen on the reserve, but which still grew vigorously from a horizontal position. Watercolour and oil pastel on Arches paper 75cm X 35cm.Steve Bretel 9

However, while facing the window overlooking the loch by the side of the easel, I was increasingly aware of movement in the mirror-calm water. Through binoculars I could see this to be an otter repeatedly diving and coming up with an eel it supported in its paws to chew. This went on for some time and was a complete – but welcome – distraction from my work. After a while, it purposefully swam to shore and I crept outside to be fortunate enough to see it come up onto the steps only three metres away from me, where it appeared to scent mark a mooring ring, before calmly slipping once more into the water. What a lucky close encounter – unfortunately though, I didn’t get a photo. It wasn’t easy to get back to painting indoors again, so I went out sketching in the afternoon to the woods instead.Steve Bretel 10

DAY 3: In the third day of October sunshine, I walked the access track north, where I was joined for lunch at the ruined steading by a palmate newt that allowed me to hold it in my hand to photograph, before it crept back into the undergrowth. I then continued on to the bothy owned by Ardtornish estate. Although the building itself – once a farm steading – needs to be kept locked, this is a superb vantage point from which to view the surrounding hills outside the reserve itself. After more sketching and photos, I made my way through rough terrain, awkward underfoot, needing to be alert for numerous deep potholes which were concealed by the long grass and bracken, managing to miss stepping on several fox moth caterpillars.RAHOY-COMP-7

I continued up to the high point of Monadh Meadhoin where I had excellent views of the two main hills of Beinn na h-Uamha and Beinn Ladain, which will be the focus of further trips, then carried on further west down to the lochan.Steve Bretel 11

Steve Bretel 12I went back to rejoin the track and walked down to the car park at Acharn for a meet up with Alasdair Firth, now employed by the Woodland Trust. As with Steve, he has a depth of knowledge that results from his passion for the natural world and concern for the issues that affect it. On the way down to the gorge at Black Water, he showed me small stumps of oak which are some of the last remnants of coppicing for charcoal which ended 150 years ago. He pointed out examples of internationally significant mosses and liverworts – bryophytes – which exist in the damp micro climate contained between the rock walls which bound the burn, and spoke about some of the factors that contribute to depletion of natural resources such as carbon. These were less of an issue when people lived out their lives on the land in one area. Alasdair’s informative tour gave me more themes to explore in my ongoing work. I later collected some deer trampled bracken, the ends of which looked like brushes dipped in ink, which I may decide to be incorporated into an artwork.

DAY 4: I was able to stay in Morvern for another day where I was able to visit the gorge again, this time sketching and painting the boulders using the naturally occurring pigments in the mud from the burn.

I also produced a long concertina fold piece in the oak woods. By placing leaves on the pages I was able to make a close match of the vibrant autumn colours. Both a bee and a grasshopper came and settled on the work as I painted. I was careful to brush them off before I closed the book to prevent them being immortalised within the pages – even though I may have received comments about how realistically I’d painted the insects!RAHOY-COMP-9web

This was a fantastic start to my residency. There will be regular posts covering my next visits, and dates of displays and gallery exhibitions as they come up. Welcome back soon!

You can read more about Steve and his work on his profile page You can also enquire about a bespoke art and wilderness experience with Steve Bretel here.

For more information on the Scottish Wildlife Trust at the Rahoy Hills reserve visit their website.