Writing retreats in Scotland aren’t essential for writing a book, but they can be a way to make the writing process more enjoyable.
As I’m a UK writer, I knew I wanted to explore some scenic locations in the country as part of my first solo writing retreat, so I was over the moon when I was offered to stay in Fort William for a few nights at an Air BnB.
I was kindly gifted this stay at The Garage in Fort William but there was no obligation to post a review and all views are my own. Prices start around £80 a night depending on the time of year.
Here are some tips on how to plan your solo writing retreat in Scotland:
Pick a remote location
When planning solo writing retreats in Scotland it’s a good idea to pick somewhere that’s slightly out of town. Let me explain. This means that you can minimise distractions and the temptation to ‘nip out’ for a coffee, yet still have access to the supermarket and transport links. Smart, right?
Look at the accommodation photographs
Pick accommodation with good lighting and an inspiring view. This will make staying in a lot more enjoyable and you might even find your creativity is boosted as a result of the change of scenery. Creative flow, incoming!
Check the wifi connection
Make sure to ask ahead of time if the accommodation for your writing retreat has a wifi connection. For some, this might be a dealbreaker, especially if your writing project requires a lot of research or you’re submitting work via email. For others, the absence of a wifi connection might actually help you stay focused.
For me, I really wanted to have wifi for safety reasons and was glad that The Garage had a strong connection.
Set a goal
Don’t head off to your highland writing retreat with nothing more than a blank notebook. You’ll likely be totally overwhelmed with possibilities and feel unable to write anything at all.
Think about what you want to achieve. A book outline? The first few chapters? Character development? A non-fiction proposal? Redraft an existing manuscript?
Think big and then break it down into smaller chunks that can be tackled every day. Even better, write a list and check them off as you go. So satisfying.
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Take regular breaks
Short bursts of writing is a smart way to make sure you sustain your energy over the course of a week-long writing retreat. Set a timer for 25 mins and write (I like to turn the wifi off for this) uninterrupted and then stop for 5 minutes.
Take a break, get some fresh air, pop to the loo, do whatever you need to do and then get straight back to work for another 25 mins. Repeat this a few times and then take a longer break.
Solo writing retreat in Fort William
With 2022 in full swing and a writing deadline on the horizon, I hopped on the train from Glasgow to Fort William on a brisk Monday morning in March, just after 8am.
The journey up north takes just under four hours and the views are nothing short of spectacular. From start to finish, it’s rugged mountain tops, vast lochs, and barren landscapes that look like they’ve been plucked straight out of a Scottish Highlands tourist video.
Fort William Airbnb Accommodation
Once I arrived in Fort William, there was a 20-minute walk up a (very) steep hill to my accommodation.
The Garage is tacked on to the hosts’ home but comes with a private separate entrance and isn’t overlooked by the main house. As a solo female traveller, I actually liked knowing that there were people (and an adorable doggo called Dexter) in the house attached because there was always someone to call on if required making me way more relaxed during my writing retreat.
Beautiful writing room with a view
Lorna and Brian were around to show me the accommodation which is a converted garage (hence the name) and has been renovated with real care, attention to detail and high-quality fixtures and fittings.
It was easy to spend a good twenty minutes hypnotised by the view from the window. The mountains are so magnificent.
One morning I managed to catch sight of the clouds rolling in under blue skies, it really was something special.
Spacially, the studio is laid out open plan but with two distinct areas.
Naps are a must on the double bed which comes with space to store suitcases underneath and bedside lights, plug sockets and handy shelves for your phone on each side.
The living room area has a gorgeous brown leather sofa, a wall-mounted TV, tea and coffee making facilities and a mirror for getting ready.
Cupboards are well-stocked with a great selection of tea, coffee (decaf too), hot chocolate, green tea as well as porridge pots to make for breakfast.
For your convenience, there is even a minifridge with loads of milk on hand and Lorna and Brian said that they would supply dairy-free milk too, just send them a message ahead of time. A few biscuits (Tunnocks, of course, the lifeblood of Scotland) were stashed in the cupboard which I was grateful for.
Because I was using the break as a writing retreat, the hosts offered to put a desk and chair into the studio which was so kind and thoughtful! Feel free to message them ahead of time and they’ll do the same for you.
Meals for a writing retreat
With no cooking facilities in the space, I managed to get creative with the kettle and made some noodles, cuppa soups and couscous then stored some cooked chicken, yoghurts and fruit in the mini-fridge.
Plates and cutlery were available too which made it all very simple. Because this was a writing retreat, I was happy to forego cooking any elaborate meals in favour of lots of writing, staring out the window and early nights.
Shower room essentials are on hand; plenty of towels, facecloths, soap, toilet paper and loo cleaner. There was also cleaning supplies, a first aid kit, iron and ironing board, hairdryer, space to hang up clothes, extra blankets (you’re in Scotland, remember!) and bedding is provided.
This shower was SO powerful, I just wanted to mention that because it was honestly better than a lot of hotels I’ve stayed in and made me way more motivated to get up in the morning and start writing early.
Outside, there is a private seating area where I liked to drink my coffee in the morning. It has space to light a fire and all the tools required to get that going as well.
Essentials to pack
You’ll need to pack toothpaste and shower gel but other than that my rucksack was filled with a few bits of clothing, pyjamas, my Kindle, a notebook, laptop, headphones and some snacks to see me through the first few days of writing.
I popped down to the Tesco on the high street halfway through the week and stocked up on more food to keep me fuelled for the rest of my writing retreat.
Local cafes to eat
Whilst I was in Fort William town I visited Rain Bakery where I had an obscenely delicious toasted goat’s cheese mozzarella pesto grilled sandwich followed by the most beautiful apple streusel danish.
Washed down with a coffee the whole thing set me back about £12 total. I think this might be the best bakery in Scotland.
Next day I went back for another serving. I saw one person sitting with a laptop in the bakery but it is quite a small shop so I wouldn’t recommend going in there to write as I think they would need the tables back pretty quickly as it can get very busy around lunchtime.
Four nights spent at The Garage in Fort William and am genuinely so sad to leave! The good news is that I managed to write a lot, getting my book ready and into a solid second draft which I’m so happy with. I’m already thinking about booking a summer writing retreat later in 2022.
Hand on heart, I swear I did more writing in those four days than I’ve done in the four weeks leading up to the retreat. It just goes to show the power of a room of one’s own (especially when it has a breathtaking view.)
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