Why I loved house sitting in Scotland
While working in London, I was shocked to find that few of my English colleagues had ever visited their neighboring country Scotland. Of those who had been, the majority only went to the major cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
This puzzled me since seeing movies like Harry Potter with its cinematic scenery of the Hogwart’s Express filmed in Scotland, and others with Scottish characters and stories like Braveheart and Outlander, made me really interested in visiting Scotland.
Therefore, I was determined to learn more about Scotland and that’s when a fantastic opportunity came about…house sitting in the Scottish Highlands.
House sitting in Scotland
In exchange for looking after a home and the cat Lucky, I was able to stay for free in the Highlands for one month! I found my house sitting assignment by applying to MindMyHouse, which connects homeowners from all over the world with house sitters. After a few email exchanges, I landed my very first house sitting assignment.
My assignment was based in a rural area called Kiltkalirty which was a 25-minute bicycle ride to the nearest town of Beauly.
Staying in the Highlands was a welcome retreat. After living in London for almost a year, I was ready for some fresh air and open space. Everything is so green, there are more sheep than people and even the water tastes better. The house was next to a small farm where I had sheep, goats and a couple horses as neighbors.
Tasks of house sitting
I started the assignment by arriving three days early while the homeowners’ were still there so that I could get acquainted with Lucky the cat and get an overview of what I was expected to do while the homeowners’ were away. They were very warm and welcoming and even picked me up from the airport. Even though I was a stranger (and it was a bit awkward to hold a conversation for a lengthy period), we got on well.
This was a third time for them inviting house sitters to stay, so it was a breeze walking through my tasks. My responsibilities consisted of:
- Feeding Lucky twice daily
- Letting Lucky out at night and inside when she started meowing in the morning
- Watering all the plants and garden when needed
- Keeping the place tidy
- Answering any phone calls and collecting the mail
- Mowing the lawn (which I happily gave to Jugo to do)
All of the tasks were easy to manage on a daily basis and left plenty of time for exploring the Highlands. While I was in a very rural area, there were still plenty of things to do.
Having fun in the Highlands
Trails are everywhere with large trees surrounding, endless fields, streams of fresh water, cows, horses, goats, sheep, and many raspberry bushes, elderflower and other plants for foraging. Because the sun wouldn’t go down until close to midnight, a little hike was perfect after dinner.
The Highlands are known for their cycle routes and some of the best cyclists in the world come to train here. Unfortunately, I was constantly huffing and puffing up the hills and not in shape.
A hauntingly beautiful sandstone ruin from 1230. It sits in the town of Beauly where it is said the name came from Mary Queen of Scott’s. When she visited in 1564 and she cried out “Quel beau lieu!” which means what a beautiful place!”
Glen Ord Distillery
A visit to Scotland isn’t complete without some scotch tasting!
Just a 45-minute cycle ride, Glen Ord Distillery founded in 1838, is located in the tiny town of Muir of Ord.
They offer a selection of great tours starting with a scotch newbie like myself all the way to the connoisseur. The tour I went on cost £6. It included learning about the process of making their scotch and a tasting of their 12-year-old single malt. Interesting enough, this distillery only sells their scotch in South East Asia.
Watching the Indigenous Scottish Game of Shinty
An ancient game said to predate Christianity, shinty is a team sport that Highlanders play and was previously used to help train boys for warfare.
It seems like a crazy game. It’s similar to ice hockey by playing with sticks and a ball but more brutal than American football. Most noteworthy, players wear just a cup for protection. The sport allows players to raise their sticks to hit the ball in mid air, use it for blocking, attacking, and even tackling is allowed.
Overlooking the city is Inverness castle with picturesque views. You’ll see a lot of old historic buildings around and men with bag pipes playing Celtic tunes.
There’s a lot of wildlife in the highlands which includes dolphins. There are many tour operators which can take you on a boat in the Moray Firth loch. If you aren’t up for a boat ride a popular site to catch them is at Chanonry Point.
Hunting for Nessie
Urquhart Castle overlooks Lochness with an opportunity to spot Nessie. This is the site of an ancient ruin castle from the 13th and 16 centuries. Also, it is one of the largest in Scotland. Tickets to visit cost £9 per adult.
Although I didn’t find the mythical sea monster I was able to catch the sun setting from the castle which was a magical view in itself.
Firstly, I think house sitting is a fantastic way to travel cheaply around the world.
Secondly, caring for the home and cat were easy to manage. I’d actually look for future house sits with cats since I think they require far less work than dogs (even though I am a crazy dog lover).
Through my experience, I was really able to explore Scotland and local life. I was only with the home owners for a few days but I learned so much about Scotland like shinty, cycling, and general things to do that’s often overlooked or not included in your travel guide books.
I loved my house sitting experience and look forward to doing it again.
*Just last week, Jugo and I accepted a house-sitting assignment in Kenya this fall and we can’t wait to share that experience with you!