Learn Bushcraft Skills in the Scottish Highlands

Learn Bushcraft Skills in the Scottish Highlands

Surviving the Wilds of Scotland

Have you ever wondered what you’d do if you found yourself in a true survival situation? I sure have. The thought of being stranded in the rugged Scottish Highlands, with nothing but the clothes on my back, is enough to make my palms sweat. But you know what they say – knowledge is power. And that’s exactly why I jumped at the chance to join Primal Bushcraft & Survival for a one-day course to learn the art of bushcraft in Scotland.

As I discovered, the Scottish Highlands can be a notoriously inhospitable place, with sudden changes in weather and the relentless power of the elements. If you find yourself in an emergency situation out there, having the right survival skills could make all the difference. So how did I fare, and what did I learn? Read on to find out!

The Difference Between Bushcraft and Survival

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s clear up the distinction between bushcraft and survival. Bushcraft is all about thriving in nature without modern amenities – it’s a planned activity where you relish the challenge of solving nature’s puzzles. Survival, on the other hand, is a whole different ballgame. Survival situations are rarely planned or enjoyable – they’re life-threatening, and the goal is to get rescued as soon as possible.

But here’s the thing – knowing bushcraft skills will equip you with everything you need to cope in a survival situation. Once those skills become second nature, you’ll feel a lot more confident and calm if you ever find yourself in an emergency.

The Primal Approach to Outdoor Learning

Primal Bushcraft & Survival is part of Primal, an outdoor and adventure company owned by Matt Smith. After spending years in the military and leading expeditions around the world, Matt started Primal to help more people step out of their comfort zone and into the wilderness.

Primal Bushcraft & Survival is all about outdoor learning, skill sharing, and survival training. Their approach is guided by the “Rule of 3s” – the basic elements you need to know in order to survive in the great outdoors:

  • 3 minutes without oxygen
  • 3 hours without shelter (in harsh conditions)
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without a consistent food source
  • 3 months without… well, Wi-Fi and companionship, of course!

Depending on your experience level, Primal’s activities can be as gentle or as extreme as you can handle. Beginners might prefer a bite-sized introduction like the skills day I did, while advanced bushcraft enthusiasts can try their hand at a real survival situation on a “Castaway” weekend.

A Day of Bushcraft in the Scottish Highlands

The primary site for Primal’s bushcraft courses is Duncarron Medieval Village, located just an hour from Edinburgh or Glasgow. As I pulled up to the scenic Carron Valley Reservoir, I knew I was in for a treat.

Our group of 13 was split into two smaller teams, each with at least two experienced instructors to guide us. The day was structured into four main lessons, with additional knowledge and information shared throughout.


Remember that scene in the movies where the lone survivor rubs two sticks together for hours, desperately trying to get a spark? Well, that’s not as easy as it looks. I learned the traditional bow-drill method, which involves using a wooden bow to spin a wooden spindle against a base to create friction and ignite a tinder nest. After a few tries, I was thrilled to see those first wisps of smoke rise – a true bushcraft triumph!

Shelter Building

In the Highlands, shelter is crucial for survival. We learned how to construct a simple debris hut, using natural materials like branches, leaves, and moss to create a cozy, weatherproof refuge. It was amazing to see how quickly we could throw together a sturdy structure, just by working with what the land provided.

Water Purification

Finding clean drinking water is one of the biggest challenges in a survival situation. We practiced various techniques for purifying water, from boiling and filtering to using water purification tablets. Knowing these methods could quite literally mean the difference between life and death in an emergency.

Foraging and Foraging

Before lunch, we embarked on a foraging walk, learning to identify edible (and highly poisonous) plants in the Scottish wilderness. I was amazed to discover how much nourishment the land can provide, from juicy blueberries to peppery wild garlic. And let me tell you, that soup cooked over the campfire never tasted so good!

A Newfound Appreciation for the Outdoors

The bushcraft course with Primal was a true eye-opener for me. Being outdoors, putting my phone away, and immersing myself in hands-on learning was an absolute joy – especially after the lockdowns of the past year. I left with a newfound appreciation for the resilience and resourcefulness of our ancestors, and a deeper understanding of how to thrive in the natural world.

Sure, a single day can only scratch the surface of true bushcraft mastery. But the skills and knowledge I gained have already come in handy, and I know they’ll continue to serve me well in the future. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a wilderness lover, or simply looking for a fun day in the fresh air, I can’t recommend this experience enough.

So, what are you waiting for? Head over to Loch Ness Shores and book your spot on Primal’s next Bushcraft Survival Skills Day. Who knows, you might just discover your inner Highlander!

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