Simple but Sweet, camping at the Hirsel

 

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View from the ‘simple but sweet’ campsite at the Hirsel.
In the summer of 2018, we’ll start offering camping at the Hirsel: Thursdays through Saturdays, August 23rd – October 21st, at our ‘Simple but Sweet’ campsite. The site is a work-in-progress, while we see if the project fits in with our busy farm schedule, and if it’s a success, we’ll expand our dates and amenities next year.

Situated just outside of Ardgay, off the A836 – a popular alternative cycle and motorbike route for the picturesque North Coast 500 – we are convenient to many events and things to do in East Sutherland. The beauty of our area is nicely highlighted in videos such as this one by Host – Heart of Sutherland Tourism.  And if you’re traveling by train, the local station is less than a mile away, and we can arrange pickups.

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Our “Simple but Sweet” campsite lives up to its name: just what you need for a restful stop on your journey through the Highlands.
The campsite

The ‘Simple but Sweet’ site is located in a quiet corner of a small field, just beside the farmyard, with a view over the fields to the Dornoch firth. It sleeps two in a double bed (we supply bedding), in a 5 meter round tent.  Lighting is battery and solar powered. Under a gazebo next to the tent, you’ll find a cook-stove, water, and cooking gear, in case you wish to prepare simple camp meals. There are tables and chairs for two, inside and out. If you are more than two persons, we have two single mattresses available for a small fee (you supply sleeping bags/bedding for these). There is room for them in the tent. Or talk to us, if you wish to pitch a small second tent.

Children are welcome, so long as they are supervised at all times, and you are welcome to explore the farm while you are here, on your own or guided by one of us. You may even get to meet some of our heritage breed Hebridean sheep, up close and personal, if they aren’t feeling too shy that day!

If you want to experience a real, working Highland hill farm, or just wake up to a spectacular view, the Hirsel is the place to do it – we promise not to start the tractor too early!

Grub

We supply dishes, utensils, and simple cooking equipment, so you can leave your own gear packed while you’re with us.

Or you can find breakfast, lunch, and groceries at the Ardgay Cafe, a 1 kilometer drive or pleasant hike away. This classic country shop also boasts some fabulous local products and Scottish whiskies. We recommend their lattes! You can eat there, or take-away.

The award winning Crannag Bistro, located in Bonar Bridge, is just across the water less than 2 kilometers away.  It’s a comfortable, welcoming restaurant, with a slightly upscale feel, which also does themed take-aways on Friday and Saturday nights. There is also a butcher and grocery in Bonar Bridge, where you can stock up on picnic supplies for here, or for your onward journey.

Further afield, but well worth the drive, is Mac & Wild at the Falls of Shin, serving lunch everyday (include it in your trek to see the salmon jumping), and dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. More area eats can be found here.

 

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The tent at the ‘simple but sweet’ site, a cozy getaway for two. But also a work in progress: simple is the keyword.
Things to do while at the Hirsel

Of course, you don’t have to do anything – the site is a great place to get off the road and simply chill out while admiring the view. But if you have a little energy…

You are welcome to explore the farm – we ask that you walk carefully – it is a hill farm, and the roads/paths reflect that fact. Please close gates behind you, and don’t force attentions on any of the animals who are feeling shy. You can:

  • Climb the gentle slope of Cnoc na Cuaiche (hill of the drinking cup), from where you can see the entire glen, the Eastern End of the Kyle of Sutherland with Carbisdale Castle nestled in the distant hills, the Western End of the Dornoch Firth, and the hill of Dun Creich, an ancient Pictist fort. The mound of Cnoc na Cuaiche hides a mysterious ancient structure – is it a twin to Dun Creich, a burial mound, or something else? Let your imagination be inspired by the vistas before you.
  • Follow the sheep trails through the ancient woodlands, where the drovers passed for many centuries. See if you can identify the old drover road passing through our northernmost meadow and the woodlands.
  • Meet Agnes and the rest of the Hebridean ewes and lambs in the fields and meadows. If you are calm and quiet, they may come to you. And if you are with us, and we have sheep treats with us (please don’t feed them anything else), they certainly will!
  • We will usually be busy with sundry farm chores, but we will meet you and settle you in, and depending on our availability, we are happy to arrange a tour of the farm, if you like, and introduce you to our beloved Hebrideans, if they are in the mood. Donna can tell you much about the farm, and what we’re doing/planning here, and Donald can do that as well, but can also tell you much about the history of the area and the ancient drovers that used to pass through. If you’d like to be sure of a tour (especially if you want Donald to lead it), let us know when you book your dates, and we’ll make one of us available.
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Hirsel Agnes as a lamb. Now a grown ewe, she had her first lambs, twin boys, in 2018, sired by Cairnmorrie Aidan. Her dam’s progeny are always easily recognizable by the reddish tint of their wool.

If you want to get off the farm for the day,

  • The local post office in Bonar Bridge is also a cycle shop, where you can hire a bicycle to explore the area.
  • Follow the road past our farm, and hike into the common grazing area, where you’ll see the abandoned crofts of a once thriving community.
  • Go Wild Highlands offers open canoe trips down the Kyle of Sutherland.
  • Try your hand at clay target shooting or deer stalking at the Highland Shooting Centre.
  • We’re a short drive from the Falls of Shin, the historic Croick church, and many other must-see stops on your Highland adventure. Check out Host’s ‘things to do’ page.

Practical issues:

As camping is a new, work-in-progress project for the Hirsel, the facilities (and cost!) reflect the moment: we supply washing and drinking water to the campsite, and there is a private hot shower and compost toilet about 80 meters away across the farmyard. You’ll also find electricity there, for charging phones, etc. Next season, we’ll be going full lux, and installing a connected facility to the campsite.

Dogs etc.

We are sorry, but due to the sheep and our own dog, we cannot allow your dogs on the farm. Also, please keep in mind that the Hirsel is a working farm, rough around the edges – well, rough everywhere, really – so we ask that you wear appropriate footwear for uneven and possibly muddy or otherwise mucky ground. We have cordoned off the ‘Simple but Sweet’ site, so it stays free of …errr…animal leavings… and the tent is set up on a bed of well-draining gravel, with the seating area covered with indoor-outdoor carpeting, so you will be able to relax in comfortable shoes there.

Cost & booking

The Simple but Sweet site is available at the introductory cost of £35 per night for two persons. Extra single air mattresses cost £5/night per mattress. Payment is on arrival. Check in is after 3pm (If you will arrive early or late, please let us know, luggage drop off is possible). Check out is 11am.

Book your 1-3 night stay with us by email: info@thehirsel.com. Telephone inquiries are welcome (0798.566.1682), but, as you might catch us in the field when you call, must be followed up by a booking email to ensure your stay.

Location

Our postcode is IV24 3DJ. We are on the left fork of Kincardine Hill road, on the edge of Ardgay. If you key our postcode into your satnav, you’ll see a few choices – choose The Hirsel, and you’ll be lead to our front gate. We are also easy to find via Google and Bing maps.

When you’re planning your Highland holidays… plan to spend a day or two at the Hirsel, relaxing on a working farm in a stunningly beautiful part of the world.  Or just get a good night’s sleep, and wake up to an amazing view, on your way to a busy day exploring the NC500. You’re welcome at the Hirsel!

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Handy links for planning your trip:

http://www.northcoast500.com/

https://www.visitscotland.com/

https://www.scotrail.co.uk/scotland-by-rail/great-scenic-rail-journeys

http://scotlandwelcomesyou.com/scottish-highland-games/

https://sutherlandshow.com/