Meet the paramedic who goes wild camping with her horses in the Scottish Highlands

The enthusiasm for wild camping and the outdoors has grown at an incredible rate since Covid robbed adventurers of their holidays abroad. But for one woman, sleeping under the stars in Scotland’s breathtaking scenery has been a hobby for more than a decade - and she does it with her two horses.

Claire and her horses have spent the last decade exploring Scotland's Highlands together picture: Claire Alldritt
Claire and her horses have spent the last decade exploring Scotland's Highlands together picture: Claire Alldritt

Claire Alldritt, from Keith, Moray, has spent the last ten years exploring the Scottish Highlands on horseback, venturing through glens and paths that were used by many in times gone by.

She sets off on an adventure with her two equine friends, Yogi and Swift, whenever her busy life as a full-time advanced paramedic practitioner gives her the time.

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Sometimes the trio can disappear into the country’s mountainous landscape for three weeks at a time.

Yogi and Swift kitted out and ready for a ride. Claire practices a form of natural horsemanship so neither wear metal bits or horse shoes. They are kitted with head collars and wear special socks to protect their feet on long rides picture: Claire Alldritt

Speaking to The Scotsman, the 46-year-old talks about the kicks she gets out of her hobby, one which is not widely practised in Scotland’s wilderness.

“It gives me a feeling like I am stepping back in time,” she said, reminiscing about her last trek with Yogi, an 18-year-old Highland pony cross thoroughbred and Swift, a 12-year-old Appaloosa and American Quarter Horse cross.

“When you’re out in the Highlands riding from glen to glen, you see the land in Scotland as it was hundreds of years ago.

“For years as a hillwalker I was doing what everyone else does, which is trying to tick off all the peaks.

Setting off again on another adventure through Scotland's peaks and glens picture: Claire Alldritt

“But now it’s about sitting on a horse at a steady pace not having to watch your step every five minutes and absorbing everything around you, studying the history of the landscape.”

Each trek Claire embarks on with her horses is a constant adventure. They don’t spend more than one night in the same place, unless there’s a need for a longer rest.

“We certainly reach some heights in the Highlands and when we’re ready to turn in for the night, we slowly descend down to beautiful glens where there’s running water and plenty of grass for the horses to eat.”

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It’s not often Claire sees people while living the life of a nomad, but on occasion, she will spend a night in one of Scotland’s bothies where she comes across company.

"People are often quite shocked to see a horse so high up,” she said, laughing, “especially two.

"It’s funny how a long time ago travelling by horse was the norm whereas now, it’s a novelty.

“Obviously there are other people who do what I do, but there’s just a small handful of us who make it up into the hills.”

Claire’s husband Dave is hugely supportive of her wild adventures.

Claire holding Yogi and Swift. The full-time paramedic has written a book about her adventures titled 'From East to West by Saddle is Best' picture: Claire Alldritt

While he does not join with her on the week-long treks, he leaves her food at pre-planned check points and picks the three up when another adventure is under their belts.

A location that sticks out for Claire?

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“Glen Tanar at the bottom of Mount Keen,” she said.

“Watching the sun go down with the stream sparkling in the sunset and the three of us together, it’s just magical. Nothing beats it.”

But Claire’s idyllic trips aren’t always without danger.

“Any animal can be unpredictable,” she said.

“I have had Yogi since he was seven and Swift since she was two, but I am not in total control of what they do.

“There’s every chance they could get spooked and act in a way that I am not prepared for.”

The intrepid traveller told the story of a moment she will never forget during a trek in Glen Feshie a few years ago where Yogi lost his footing and slipped off a steep edge.

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“It was frightening,” Claire said, still sounding affected by the heart-stopping moment.

“Yogi had fallen off the narrow path we were on and there was a big drop.

“Luckily Swift and I were able to break his fall with the ropes that we had attached, but it could have ended really badly.”

To avoid further terrifying moments, Claire maps out her trails days before embarking on them.

"I learnt some valuable lessons from that scare,” she added.

"I had a mobile with me, but now I always have a GPS tracking system as well so that I can let family know I am safe or to call for help.”

Staying true to her love of nature and the wilderness, the keen rider practices a form of natural horsemanship whenever she takes Yogi and Swift out.

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Neither of the horses wear metal bits in their mouths or horseshoes. They are fitted with head collars and treeless saddles - a soft saddle without a wooden frame.

To communicate with them, Claire uses voice commands when she wants them to slow down, stop or speed up. She prefers this method to kicking the horses, using a whip or pulling on reins.

“When I got Yogi he had been ridden with a bit so I had to train him out of needing one and get him to just listen to my voice,” she said.

“Whereas Swift has never had a bit and grown up with just responding to what I say...most of the time.”

With Covid even putting Claire’s outdoor expeditions on hold, the true adventurer has taken the time to complete a book about one of her treks in Scotland titled From East to West by Saddle is Best.

It has reached number one best seller on Amazon in the ‘Travel with Pets’ category six times since being published in October 2020.

When not venturing out on horseback or saving lives, Claire runs Outfit Moray, a charity set up to provide accessible, affordable outdoor learning and adventures for young people.

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She has also previously raised funds for Prince Fluffy Kareem, a charity in Egypt centred on helping horses, donkeys and camels in the Pyramid area of Cairo, Egypt.

If you wish to keep up with her adventures, you can also follow her blog Bear and Spottybum.

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