The West Highland Retreat was opened in 2013 and has been an incredible asset to our children’s charity here in the Highlands.
In 2011 the spacious 5 bedroom property was converted to help disadvantaged families in the UK who have children with a wide variety of assisted needs.
These families can have children with very short life expectancy or assisted needs through mental health or physical disability. It includes families who have suffered bereavement of a child, children traumatised by serious medical conditions or domestic violence abuse, the list is endless.
Since 2011 many of these families have arrived for a week at a time with no possible chance of a respite care break otherwise. These families have enjoyed life changing experiences which have enhanced their quality of life often taking the children’s thoughts away from painful traumatic invasive hospital procedures.
Children who often arrive in total despair have developed during their holiday to return home with renewed confidence and self-esteem.
The charity is run by a team of unpaid volunteers and the property owners Jan & John who together with some help from outside sponsors and year round fundraising ensure that they do not use donated cash for overheads such as heating the property and its running costs.
In 2013 realising that there were many weeks of the year when the house was unoccupied they wanted to maximise the chance to fund the children’s charity. About this time they were contacted by a member of British Naturism, a young man who suffers from Cerebral palsy with seriously limited movement, but being financially secure he asked about staying as a paying guest. The young man enjoyed an independent vacation which allowed him dignity and self-respect particularly at times of personal hygiene.
After some thought the concept of West Highland Retreat was born. Jan & John realised there was a lack of facilities for genuine naturists in the UK.
Scotland has a population of approximately 5 million there are almost 5 million residents in the UK who seek to enjoy naturist family holidays. Jan & John thought about their unique location, the property had to be secure while children and families were in residence. Some very vulnerable children with mental health challenges can sometimes be described as “runners” - they will race off at any opportunity.
As the House is used at times as a safe house for children who are victims of abuse the property was made secure with perimeter fencing screening and electronic security cameras to secure the entrance. It was therefore an appropriate location for vulnerable naturist families to be able to relax without fear of invasive unwarranted anti-social behaviour from those intolerant of their chosen lifestyle.
Realising that there were very limited facilities for genuine naturist families it seemed a unique selling point to allow naturists to pay for a holiday on the vacant times when no respite care kids were in residence.
Since then guests have been able to enjoy the highlands as paying guests and in doing so help Jan and John to meet the running costs of the centre.
Never the twain shall meet - it is important to understand that while WHR is occupied by paying guests it is never occupied by Respite Care families and vice versa.
West Highland Retreat is not the only other time that guests arrive as paying guests - on other occasions clubs and groups can be invited to take part in a weekend fundraising gathering such as motorcycle clubs, or others such as classic car clubs. They can rent the venue with all profits going towards the ongoing upkeep of the property.
Its number one priority is always the children’s respite care breaks which will not be compromised but when free it is great to allow paying guests to enjoy the facilities.
What is naturism? A way of life characterised by the practice of nudity, both alone and in social settings, generally in mixed gender groups. It encourages self-respect, respect for others and for the environment, embodying freedom and a unique sense of communion with nature. It is purposely non erotic and non-sexual. A Naturist philosophy asserts that the naked human body is inherently decent, and that clothing should not be worn out of shame, but for the practice of warmth, protection and of course a loving sensitivity to non-naturists.