Caithness and Coorie – Embracing the Seasons in The UK’s Most Northerly County

Over the years, I’ve embraced just about every geographical lifestyle trend imaginable. Hygge – the Danish art of cosiness and contentment: on it. Lagom – the Swedish philosophy of ‘not too little, not too much, just right’: yep, count me in. Ikigai – the Japanese secret to a long and happy life: been there, done that, bought the t-shirt (okay, everything except the t-shirt part).

You get the picture: if there’s a new lifestyle trend on offer, I’m likely to be in the background, ready and willing to jump on the bandwagon as soon as it rolls in.

This winter, though, I discovered the pièce de résistance, as far as geographical lifestyle trends go. Or at least, one that fits perfectly with my own way of thinking, as well as my remote geographical location in the UK’s most northerly county – also known as beautiful Caithness.

A manifesto for life that requires very little effort, because to all intents and purposes, I’m already living it.

What is this wondrous thing I speak of?

‘Coorie.’

So, what is Coorie? And more to the point, how can it help us cope with winter in Caithness?

The Art of Coorie book

COORIE BASICS

According to Gabriella Bennett’s The Art of Coorie (the go-to guide on all things coorie), coorie is defined as ‘the Scottish art of deriving comfort, wellbeing and energy from wild landscapes and convivial interiors.’ In other words, it’s the perfect ying/yang blending of pairing the outside and in. This sense of finding contentment in the outdoors, juxtaposed with a cosy indoor experience will appeal to many Caithnesians (as well as visitors to the far north), and indeed anyone who finds themselves in locations where weather conditions might be described as ‘challenging.’ Think wind-battered walks along the beach followed by hot chocolate and card games. Mornings spent out wild swimming, followed by warm baths and stacks of well-thumbed books. Dog walks in the rain, followed by a visit to a local dog friendly cafe. All great examples of the coorie lifestyle.

A day in bed going nowhere and watching all three seasons of The Crown back-to-back on Netflix? Not quite coorie – but still fine, if that’s the way you roll 😉 .

Winter Sea Caithness

EMBRACING COORIE (AND CAITHNESS)

Coorie isn’t just limited, though, to enjoying life outside and inside. It’s also about lifestyle choices and adding as many home-spun elements as possible to the mix. Buying local wherever possible, and supporting home-grown enterprise. Being mindful about our food choices and buying locally-sourced ingredients where we can. Foraging on walks for craft materials, and then going home to make something pretty with your treasure trove. Here in Caithness, a great example of a family coorie activity might be a hunt for Groatie Buckies – the tiny, revered cowrie shells that wash up along the Caithness coast.

A dreamcatcher, made with natural treasures foraged at Forse of Nature near Latheron
Groatie Buckies collected along the Caithness shore

Caithness also abounds with businesses embracing the coorie ethos – whether consciously or by happy accident. Local eateries like Stacks Bistro embrace a sense of community – as well as an opportunity for wind-blown customers to ‘coorie in’ with steaming mugs of coffee around their blazing log-fuelled stove. At Forse of Nature near Latheron, visitors can curl up in one of the peaceful lounges and watch a blanket of haar roll in over the 24-acre gardens. For art lovers, local creators like Lisa Poulsen and Lisa Weller offer artwork inspired by untamed local landscapes, while local maker Lindsey Gallacher offers bespoke jewellery-making workshops and design inspired by Caithness stone. Accommodation providers like the Highland Haven near Mey blend stunning location and design to create authentic travel experiences for North Coast 500 visitors. And if you feel the need of a full-on retreat devoted to coorie, mindfulness or yoga, you’ll find a range of themed residential retreats (plus much more), available through Vitality, based in Wick, throughout the year.

Coffee pictured on table at Stacks Bistro, John O' Groats
Coffee and coorie at Stacks Bistro
Forse of Nature’s tranquil grounds

Not so long ago, someone jokingly asked me why anyone in their right mind would want to live in Caithness. ‘The weather’s bad, and it’s dark all the time in winter,’ they argued. It’s certainly not the first time in my 40-odd years I’ve encountered this viewpoint, and I’m reasonably sure it won’t be the last. True, our weather isn’t always favourable, and we do only get about 6 hours of daily light in winter. But for many of us, there’s beauty to be found in those unforgiving moments – in the sound of the wind howling around the windows or the raw power of the waves as they lash against the shore. It’s there in the cliffs that rear up like ancient, waiting warriors, and the sky that explodes into a fiery winter sunrise.

Beach in Winter, Caithness

All things that make Caithness the perfect place for coorie.

Just bring your sense of adventure, a positive mindset – and a coat.

Gx

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