The Utterly Inessential Shopping List: A city girl’s guide to surviving the Scottish Highlands

Much of this year, Utterly Inessential has focused on things to make staying in your own home for months on end a more pleasant experience. This week, though, we've handed over the keys to Country Life's luxury editor, Hetty Lintell, who went up to Scotland over the summer — and made these notes on how to make it through in one piece.

I love a ramble as much as the next Londoner… so long as the weather is fine and there’s a long drink and a warm fire at the end of it. It was with mild trepidation I accepted an invitation to stay with some friends in Scotland on the Rottal estate, north of Dundee and on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park. It was August, surely that would mean summer? Summer, it turns out, is stunning in Scotland, but a very different beast to the sweaty, still moments we’ve ‘enjoyed’ in town during lockdown. ‘Pack midge repellent, big time,’ instructed Country Life’s editor, Mark Hedges when I told him of my plans; I pretended not to notice him hiding a smirk of disbelief that, yes, I was going north of the border.

In all honesty, thoughts of what to pack came before accepting the invitation. A notorious over-packer — this time I was determined to get it right. Luckily I was brought up in the sticks, so get the basics (Le Chameau make the best wellies, never wear lipstick etc), but when a discussion about gaiters came up on Whatsapp, I was nervous. I packed accordingly after doing my research — perfectly placed for it after all, with Mr Hedges in one ear, and Patrick Galbraith, Editor of Shooting Times, in the other. And here, to smooth the way of other city girls who follow my path, is what worked.

Rottal Lodge, pictured between rainstorms.

How to get there

Planes are fast, trains are simple, but if you’re heading into the middle of nowhere you invariably need a car at the other end so my other half and I decided that we needed a trusty set of wheels to take us safely there. A clapped out Citroen hatchback from the normal outlets seemed a bit of a risk when heading into the wild, so we turned to The Out, the car rental service run in partnership with Jaguar Land Rover. I chose a Velar, thinking mostly of the pure comfort, but it turned out that she was quite the demon when it came to navigating the rougher terrain on the estate too.

See? Nine hours driving and not a scratch on it… The Out’s Range Rover Velar did a fine job in city and country.

An utterly charming member of staff from The Out dropped off the car at my front door, ran me through where everything is (massage seats? check) and off you go, as easy as that. Insuring extra drivers is free — ideal when you’re facing a nine-hour trip. The car was supremely luxurious, perfect for the long drive, punctuated by a few stops along the way to admire the epic views — as well as picking up some goodies at the unmissable Tebay Services.

Finest footwear

Out in the field I had to fend for myself, no heated seat or massage at this point. Thank goodness I’d got some reliable gear; as well as being the welly kings, Le Chameau also make walking boots as soft as butter — no blisters, no wearing in, instantly comfortable and will most probably last a lifetime.

But a woman cannot walk on boots alone. Inside the boots I popped on some gorgeously soft Tom Lane alpaca socks, which made a powerful combination for all day walking. There wasn’t a whine in earshot.

Jeans? Ha. Amateur move

Taking a walk in jeans? Oh no you don’t. They might be comfortable and hard wearing, but few things are heavier and more unpleasant to wear on your legs when they get wet. I  went instead for Schöffel moleskin trousers.  I wore them rolled up slightly above my boots and as well as fending off the tough heather there — and as it happened was something about the waistband which meant they were far more comfortable than jeans in any case.

I sported one of their baker boy hats too, which I’ve worn with great success on rainy London days since.  I vetoed the gaiters, though; they might be practical, but they’re not pretty, and you have to draw the line somewhere. And even without them I lived to tell the tale.

Dressing for the season? That’s nothing — try dressing for four seasons in one day

The scenery was spectacular, the walking was tough — and the weather was utterly barmy. We had wind, we had rain, then we had blazing sunshine — and then back to the wind and rain again. It was totally unpredictable but wonderfully wild and like nowhere else. The only problem was figuring out what to wear  – and thankfully Troy London make country attire for women that looks the part but plays the part too.

My favourite was the camo option (pictured at the top of the page), which saw surprising envy from the male contingent. This kept me dry and perfect temperature, I think it would be great with layers for every month of the year. I also love their Tracker jacket, famously worn by The Duchess of Cambridge. It’s a half shirt, half jacket hybrid, and would move seamlessly from town to country.