October 19, 2013 Countryside No Comments

Last year, I wrote a review of the Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre café, and another piece on a celebratory meal we’d had there. Unsurprisingly, when the opportunity to revisit the place came up, I jumped at the chance.

This peacock came to say hello, as we ate scones

This peacock came to say hello, as we ate scones

This time, our focus was on sampling one of the newer services offered by the centre’s resident outdoorsman, Ian Macfarlane. This involved us building some shelters for an overnight sleepout, then spending time in a sweat lodge.

To start, regular guest quester Gary and I had delicious scones and jam at the café, before joining the rest of our party, Fiona, Heather, Susie and Tracey, at the campsite. Ian led us through the building of shelters, which involved us scything down some bracken as insulation for our little log shelters.

My soup is on fire!

My soup is on fire!

Once we’d worked up an appetite, we paused for some mushroom soup, which I’d prepared by my own fair hand. I’d like to claim it was made with foraged mushrooms, but that would be a wild exaggeration. We did have some lovely foraged chanterelles for breakfast the following day, though.

With this little starter having been supped to ward off hunger, we got down to business and entered the sweat lodge. A simple wooden frame of Ian’s construction was covered with blankets and tarpaulins to form a sealed tent, then massively hot stones, heated in a brazier, were shovelled into a little hollow at the centre of the tent. It created an initially warm glow, which built to a blasting heat, which had the sweat pouring out of me. It led to a broad swathe of literal and metaphorical outpourings from some us all, as the evening progressed.

Shelters

Shelters

Stepping back out into the chilly night air was rather a shock, but once we’d broken off our sweat icicles, we were soon sitting round the fire, tucking into a Strathearn venison sausage casserole, prepared by chef Andrew Scott. The sausages were outstandingly good, and the local veg and lovely chunks of apple came together to form a wonderful meal, ideally suited to an increasingly chilly night under the stars.

Our evening was graced by a spectacular visit from the aurora borealis, which arrived to a wonderfully competent rendition of “The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen”.

Venison sausage casserole

Venison sausage casserole

Our shelters beckoned, with sleep coming all too easily to me. My snoring was apparently rather more alarming that the sounds of rutting deer that emanated from all around, so I’m not sure others had quite such an enjoyable snooze as I did.

With an excellent breakfast of pancakes and bacon rolls, the next morning, we were on our way back to the city, having spent a really enjoyable evening in the Perthshire countryside.

Auchingarrich is fast becoming one of my favourite places to blow away the cobwebs. Ian’s expert tutelage and bright and breezy way of involving people in the outdoorsman activities is perfectly pitched, so that even those who aren’t really built for countryside living (a category to which I firmly belong) are constantly playing a part in all that’s going on. The sweat lodge worked brilliantly as the main focus of events, too. I daresay that more adventurous types could take advantage of the nearby trout fishery and local bounty to fish and forage for their meals, but it would seem a shame not to let Andrew Scott dazzle you with his excellent, seasonal cookery. I’d heartily recommend a visit, next time you’re looking to combine some great food with a back-to-nature adventure.

Written by BKR