Runach Arainn Luxury Yurts.

What another exciting adventure, I was about to embark on visiting the Isle of Arran staying in a Yurt on the south part of the Island in a town called Kilmory for a few days.  

This is my first time staying in a yurt and something i have wanted to do for a very long time, plus I have always wanted to visit the Isle of Arran again, and get exploring some more of it.  Being from Scotland i find myself drawn back to some of the same parts of Scotland because there is a special tranquility there and always something new to be discovered.  

We often visit the same places over and over again in our lifetime wherever this may be because we like the weather, food, people, living conditions etc… or maybe there is a part of us that has changed giving us a different appreciation or perspective of the area. Something keeps calling us back there.

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Just incase you don’t know what a yurt is, a yurt just like a ger is traditionally one of the oldest portable forms of housing. A sturdy round tent with a crown, and separate sections called khanas made of wood and held together with ropes, then covered with skins or other materials. It is traditionally white with red detailing or some other coloured details, and is used as a dwelling, more commonly by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia.

Those used in Mongolia are called ger and there is only a slight construction difference. There are two types of yurt based on the shape of their roof and they would measure a yurt’s size based on wings of the lattice. You could have a six winged yurt or a thirty winged yurt. 

A yurt/ger is also an inheritable home, and even though magically simple, it is sturdy for even the terrain and weather of Central Asia and is decorated with heart and soul. They were perfect for herding communities and the designs on them are a mixture of personal taste, and important symbolism in honour of ancestors and also to protect the home, it’s inhabitants and their animals or any other livelihood. Many of the original inhabitants worked heavily with nature, so the designs were almost like written prayers to the elements in nature offering respect and asking for their protection and for them to treat them well. Some symbols were used for strength, some for health, others for good luck (often in agriculture). 

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You could see lucky colours painted across the doorways, creation stories painted on them and beautiful geometric patterns, strong animal symbols like the lion, tiger, dragon, reindeer, and even Garuda (who resembles a grand eagle) who is the vahana (vehicle) of the Hindu god Vishnu that Buddha was meant to be one of his incarnations.  As well as earthly elements such as fire, water, earth, metal and wood painted throughout. The yurt/ger would traditionally have a fire in the center, and an altar facing north. And one half was deemed the male part of the yurt where the man did his work, the other part the female as that was where the woman did most of her work. Ying and yang, balance in a beautiful home.

The yurt I’m staying in is a perfectly sized yurt, and don’t worry it can also withstand the Scottish weather. The symbol such as the Eagle really stands out within the structural design of the Yurt i stayed in, it was as if the wings of an eagle had wrapped itself around the inside of the yurt. 

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One part of the symbology that i find particularly interesting is the geometric patterns that are common in a traditional yurt, especially the Alkhan Khee symbol which has a huge similarity to some of the Celtic symbology. There is no surprise there given the strong connection between Celtic art Central Asian art. Infact the preserved mummies believed to be Celts were even found in Central Asia, and their burial spots were marked with standing stone structures and Celtic figures.  

It definitely got me thinking more about the connections us Scottish folk had, considering we are taught that Yurts are traditionally from a complete different part of the world yet a connection between cultures is seen through similar art design etc. Even though in parts of Scotland there are sites which were once homes to the Neolithic era that are thousands of years old made of stone in a similar shape, I do wonder did they also have some sort of yurt they would use when travelling the lands of Scotland? Scholars really don’t know much about the Celts as the culture was predominantly oral not down to lack of intelligence but out of protection, and what texts are out there is mostly known through the words of Romans. 

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I love the layout of the yurt inside, on the ceiling there is a beautiful yurt wheel, the crown which looks out onto the stars on a clear night, perfect, a comfortable double bed to enjoy those great views out the ceiling which added that extra dimension of sleeping under the stars and not having to worry about any sudden Scottish rainy weather you may get while camping, spacious interior that's very comfortable and easy to move with the options of changing the interior of the yurt to sleep six which is great for a family or a group of friends, a dining area which I found very cute as it was the perfect little dining area for a couple or a family having a meal and actually interacting whilst doing it.

My favourite though was the traditional log burning stove right bang in the centre, the heart of the yurt. The Log burner stove really does add that extra special feeling, it’s useful having the option of boiling water, cooking food only using the stove. It is something that l feel really does get you away from the modern life when we want to stay in someplace as cool as this. I mean nothing beats how delicious slow cooked food in a Log burner stove is along with the smell of burning wood and easy access from your front door directly out into nature, it’s bliss. Runach Arainn Yurts really do have the perfect setting here, inside and outside these yurts.

My favourite though was the traditional log burning stove right bang in the centre, the heart of the yurt. The Log burner stove really does add that extra special feeling, it’s useful having the option of boiling water, cooking food only using the stove. It is something that l feel really does get you away from the modern life when we want to stay in someplace as cool as this. I mean nothing beats how delicious slow cooked food in a Log burner stove is along with the smell of burning wood and easy access from your front door directly out into nature, it’s bliss. Runach Arainn Yurts really do have the perfect setting here, inside and outside these yurts.

 

The outside of the yurt is definitely not to be ignored, there is campfire cooking outside all of the yurts with plenty of seating, a bathroom block assigned to each yurt so that you have privacy, and shared utility, which is fantastic options to have, especially if you’re not ready to go full off grid living. You have the beauty of living outside, with all the comforts. 

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What I love most about this land that the yurts are on, is that Pippa and Andrew who own Runach Arainn Yurts work hard keeping everything as natural as possible and have chickens, ducks, geese and bees they take care of, they help the land and environment thrive, which in return there is usually a fresh supply of eggs and honey if you are lucky at right time of the year. It is a permaculture site which I am absolutely 100% behind, anything that encourages the development of agricultural ecosystems is a big thumbs up for me. And lets be honest people who have bees on their property obviously understand the dynamics of how important they are for the greater good of humanity another huge thumbs up.  I think everyone should come and experience staying in an environment like this, not just because it’s fun and it’s relaxing, but you can also see how useful and important nature is and how much better we can make the planet we are on when we work with it, and when we get away from some of the trappings of modern life. 

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All within a close distance you have views of Kilmory woods, buzzards, swallows, bats and if willing to adventure outside of the area you will see Red Deer, Eurasian Otters, Red Squirrels, Bottlenose Dolphins, Seals, Golden Eagles, Hen Harrier and Peregrines. It is a haven for nature, and it doesn’t matter if you know a lot about these creatures or not, you’ll be in awe and find it all very relaxing. There’s something about being out within nature that our ancestors knew the importance of, it should be on prescription when stressed out. Infact this place would be one of the first places I’d suggest to visit. 

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There is so much to see regarding nature but there are also some really cool archaeological sites such as Machrie Moor Standing stones which will take you about 30 minutes from Runach Arainn Yurts. There are some beautiful waterfalls and also the infamous cave... yeah you know the one I mean, Kings Cave where Robert the Bruce took refuge and realised if at first you don’t succeed, try again, thanks to watching a little spider weave a web there. There is so much Scottish history and culture surrounding the area. 

Everything is super accessible when staying at these yurts, i find it very cool that these yurts are also open yearly as normally most are only seasonal. For anyone who wants to escape and stay in these beautiful yurts but needs the internet then that is also not a problem, free WiFi is part of whats included and is super handy if required, as much as I think the surroundings are so relaxing and there’s so much around to explore that you won’t have much need for the WiFi. 

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All in all my experience staying in the yurt here was remarkable. A very zen, great space for relaxing and allowing the creative mind to expand, very easy space to get into a yoga session (and spacious enough to do that) or meditate, and it feels a very safe and comfortable space.  Having the privilege to lie on the bed in a yurt, look up at the stars, fire on, candles lit is pretty much as chill as it gets in my books, it doesn’t matter if you’re solo, going as a couple, or with some friends or family, it’s quite unique and special staying in a yurt.  

There is no doubt I will be back visiting Andrew and Pippa at Runach Arainn soon. 

Click on Runach Arainn website if you want more details or fancy treating yourself to a few days away :) 

https://www.runacharainn.com/

Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa - Soak Your Senses.

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Being on the go all the time can become very demanding both physically and mentally, in the long run this can lead to problems such as frustration, anxiety, stress, poor concentration, poor sleeping patterns, and can affect our physical health just as much as our mood and mental health. Pretty much all the things we don’t want to happen can often happen when pushing ourselves in whatever scenario we are in, if we don’t take time to rebalance. If we go through life constantly juggling, at some point we will drop a ball. 

Pushing ourselves is great on so many levels, but ultimately we need a balance, and to have time to ourselves to recharge. Trying to ensure I regain some balance and keep a peace of mind plays a huge part in my life on a daily basis.  When I’m in my space of relaxation its that place that i find my personal growth and my creativity really thrives, things flow easier and I am much more at ease with everything. I surprisingly feel much more in tune with the self development of where i see my future going too, as weird as that sounds, but I think taking time out for yourself to relax helps you filter out all the noise, demands and expectations of modern life and everything you’re juggling. It’s like hitting a pause button to just be, and you can see where you’re going better, clearer vision, and then you can hit play again and get back to doing what you do feeling more confident and content in what you’re doing next.

Coming from a professional sports background i am aware of how important taking care of and relaxing the body is and how you also have to take care of your mental health and well-being. Being a keen photographer and mountaineer i get to travel alot for work and I may undertake many adventures, but at the same time being a mountaineer which I love, I tend to put my body and mind into intense situations which are extremely demanding on the body/mind as much as you have to be comfortable and trust yourself in those moments. Every day you are learning also, so you need to be able to keep that balance and find things that help you unwind in other ways too.

I was approached by Edinburgh Grand Hotel & Spa for the launch of the Soak Your Senses in room bath experience. I didn’t quite know what to think of this at first and let’s be honest there are plenty people who are not so keen when they hear spa day or spa experience as they visualise the stereotypical spa experience that is great for some but just not right for others, then it clicked, this isn’t just like visiting the spa after a busy day trying to fit it in during certain hours etc, instead i could enjoy the comfort of a spa like experience in my room and this could be pretty cool to check out to see what it is like.  This could be the kind of thing myself and plenty of others would be into and it can fit into our busy schedules.

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The Soak Your Senses bath experience is a package that consists of specially chosen ESPA bath oils, freshly brewed tea and an exfoliating wash glove, with the addition of some mood lighting which is an option in the hotel bathrooms. For those unsure about the mood lighting benefits, there are various studies on the effects of colours and coloured lights, sensory lighting is also therapeutic for many. It is optional, but worth considering and experimenting with the different colours to see what you think. The mood light comes alongside paired music for the specific ESPA bath oil package that you have chosen, and is played through the built-in bathroom speakers that is recommended by the Spa. It is an all round sensory experience!

I was pretty zonked after my day in Edinburgh, I had a few meetings in the morning then had a full day to myself. The sun was shining so I walked about 20 miles around the city, visiting Edinburgh Castle, Scotts Monument, Calton Hill, Arthurs Seat, National Museum and trying to discover as many new hidden alleyways in the city as I could.  If you haven’t been to Edinburgh before and when you do, you will understand what i mean by trying to discover new hidden alleyways, the cobbled streets of Edinburgh are the thing that makes it very fun to explore.  

I made it back to the Sheraton for around 7pm, it started with a delicious dinner at One Square, then it was straight to my room. I chilled out for an hour, read a book, letting the food settle then i called Guest Services to order my Soak Your Senses package.  I went for the Calm & Centred package, as for me remaining calm and centered in every situation is very important,  and i believe and feel that nothing can thrive if it doesn’t have a solid foundation at the core of everything.

I had a few choices to choose from though and it’s dependent on what you yourself feel you require or what you’re curious to try. The options were Relaxed, Energised, Focused, Inspired or Revived. Each package comes with paired teas, which i think adds a cool vibe to the whole experience and of course the mood lighting.

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About 20 minutes later guest services arrived at my room with the complete package that Soak Your Senses offers.  I also had the option of adding a glass of champagne or any other add-ons from the in-room service menu, if that’s your kind of thing they’re more than happy to add that, but I felt the original package was perfect for me at that time. 

The experience definitely didn’t disappoint, unlike being in a spa you have full control over everything, music, lighting, when to get out the bath, complete privacy and its available 24/7. 

So if you’re someone who is put off by the traditional spa experience and visions the mind concocts of a typical spa, then this is a great alternative for you. I really enjoyed this, it was all in my control and it did help ease into the mindset to relax and just take time out for a while and effortlessly. i thought it would be hard to get in the mindframe of relaxing, it’s funny how we think about how to relax rather than just doing it right? but I didn’t have to think about it, I just found myself relaxing and found all the elements really nice added touches, especially enjoying Simply Sencha which was the tea paired with Calm & Centered.

It made my stay in the Sheraton that much more enjoyable, a stay with a cherry on top! I woke up feeling great, refreshed and tackle the day ahead. It doesn’t matter if you just want time out to go away for a relaxing weekend city break, or if you are like me running around all the time and needing some chill time after that or a busy meeting, I’d highly recommend it as you’ll find it worth it. Maybe next time I’ll try a different package. 

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Thank you Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa, l look forward to staying with you again. 

http://www.sheratonedinburgh.co.uk/bath-menu

Talisker Whisky Thames Challenge.

What a cracking start to the day. The sun was shining, the wind was calm, the whole buzz throughout London was vibrant, it was the perfect atmosphere and time to start the Talisker Whisky Thames challenge. I had never ever thought I would of had the opportunity to kayak down the river Thames in one of the most happening cities in the world on a perfect sunny day.

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Today a dream of exploring London in a unique way couldn’t have came to reality any better. It came together when I was asked by Talisker Whisky from the Isle of Skye if I would accept the challenge of taking part in this adventure around the city to experience the elements with an exclusive adventure curated by urban adventure experts Secret Adventures. This was an easy yes, as it was a once in a lifetime opportunity i don’t think I would ever get again. 

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The kayak down the Thames started at St Mary’s Church, Battersea at 4pm. Myself and Lizzie Carr my tandem kayak partner, who currently holds the world record for paddle boarding across the English Channel, met with the other two groups who were taking part in the tandem kayak.

I was a little nervous at first as we were competing against some fellow champions who had rowed across the Atlantic, Angus Collins and Lauren Morton who both had such experience and a good feel for being in the water... But on the other hand, Sophie Radcliffe a keen sportswoman, plus James Thompson a well travelled food blogger were both in the same position as me. First thing James jokingly said to me which i found quite funny was that he had no idea why he got asked to do the challenge at first as he’s not sporty at all, he’s a food man, but I’m pretty sure he had his eyes set on making it to the finish line for some fresh oysters being served by the Oystermen.

It was time to start, first we got a Health and Safety Briefing from Moo Canoes showing us the basics of what to avoid when in the water, when to stop, what line to follow and overall how to feel fully confident in the kayak. This was not my first time kayaking so i was already familiar with being in a kayak at least, but it was very useful to get a clear insight on how to kayak down one of the busiest rivers in the UK.

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The finish line was at The Mayflower Pub, Rotherhithe street around 5 miles from St Mary’s Church, the start point. This was estimated to take us around two hours including all the stops we had to make along the Thames due to boats etc, I wanted to get there fast, then start enjoying some well earned Talisker Cocktails afterwards.

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Kayaking down the Thames really was an amazing experience, not only because i got to kayak but also because of all the amazing places we kayaked by, such as the Palace of Westminster, Big Ben, the London eye and under Tower Bridge to name just a few. Another great part of doing this is that i was expecting it to be really physically demanding but it actually wasn’t that bad at all, purely because we were going with the water current and we lucked out with a beautiful sunny day and not too much Thames traffic.

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After roughly two hours kayaking we finally made it to The Mayflower Pub with a warming champions welcome served with oysters and a great tasting Talisker Whisky Cocktail, I went for the Talisker 10 Highball, a refreshing serve with ginger ale and fresh lime, or the Talisker Thames Adventurer, with Talisker Skye, ginger wine and orange bitters. Each sip is designed to transport participants to Talisker’s remote and rugged environment, where the distillery is battered by the elements and the storm-tossed sea on Skye every day. This drink is included in the ticket purchase (Link Below).

My day was made and to top it off the sunset along the Thames made it that much more magical on the Mayflower terrace.

But that wasn’t the end of the evening, we were fortunate enough to also have some guest speakers. Lauren Morton who took part in the kayak challenge gave us a lovely talk on her experience rowing the Atlantic not just once but twice, as the first time didn’t exactly go to plan but she made up for it and conquered it the second time with flying colours. Good inspiration for people not to give up on a first try when it comes to something they want to achieve. We were also treated to a chat from the Four Oarsmen who gave an in-depth talk on finishing first and setting a new world record for rowing the Atlantic taking them 29 days, 14 hours and 34 minutes, What an achievement. 

Now I leave you with the question, what are you made by? Raise a glass, embrace the elements and discover what it means to be Made By The Sea, as you embark on your own unique adventure

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Hope you enjoy the video below, and get outside, live life to the fullest and keep striving.