If you ask most people to shut their eyes and go somewhere peaceful in their mind, it’s not going to be Piccadilly Circus – it’s a beach, a mountain; many will say a forest. We feel complete, whole, much better when we find ourselves in nature. When you go out into the wilderness, really away from your devices, you are aware of being a part of something much bigger than yourself.
For me, there’s a consciousness that if I’m not disciplined about it, I can lose my relationship with it. We’re being geared to have this passive relationship with the natural world – via TV, via Instagram. We find ourselves feeling sort of part of it, but then there follows a sense of not being part of it. It can end up creating a void rather than filling one. With technology there’s no empathy, there’s no physicality; the interaction isn’t authentic interaction. We need real connection, to each other and nature. We can’t predict what the world’s going to look like in five years, much less 50, but I’m pretty sure we’re still going to need to understand those basics of emotional intelligence. That space and balance are needed.
So, while anywhere in the middle of nowhere is usually my idea of bliss, Scotland is where I go. It has become a sort of ritual. I stay at Kinloch Lodge, near the village of Tongue, in the far, far northwest – an incredibly remote, incredibly beautiful spot. Kinloch was a private lodge originally owned by the Duke of Sutherland. It was sold on in the 20th century and then bought in 2011 by a Danish guy called Anders Holch Povlsen; he’s now the largest landowner in Scotland, and a committed wilderness conservationist – all of his Scottish estates and holdings form what he’s called the Wildland project. Kinloch is just one part of it. I usually take over the lodge with a group of friends, though they’ve recently added a one-bedroom cottage that I’m eyeing up for next time.
The estate is vast; it goes from the North Sea all the way up – 3,000ft – to Ben Hope, the most northerly of the Munros. You head out and just walk and walk; once I did a two-week walk with no phone – there’s very little service anyway in this part of the country. There’s very little interaction at all, in fact, except with amazing scenery. Sometimes it’s sunny, sometimes it’s galeing. Along the coast of the Kyle of Tongue there are oyster farmers and fishermen, and you wouldn’t believe the beauty of the tides and the colours of the water – in the summer it’s crystal-clear and blue, with white-sand beaches.
It’s quite interesting how long it takes to shake off the anxiety of not being connected. But then you realise how much free time you actually have, and how much an email is usually someone else’s agenda. You can equilibrate and relax, and create these little islands of reprieve. It really does feel like a detoxification. Nature resets you.