Volunteer Info


Artist’s Impression

Skills on offer:

This is an opportunity to work and learn alongside several experienced low-impact builders in the hills above Loch Ness, in the North of Scotland. We will be using a maximum of local resources, stone, timber, straw, turf etc. the location, collection and preparation of which form part of the work. Although planning permission has only been granted as a retreat studio for artists & writers (non-dwelling), the structure is equally capable of being a dwelling, with the addition of services like water and electricity etc. so forms a practical introduction to building your own home.

These volunteer places are for any level of skill from complete beginners and up. Whatever your initial skill level, you will be shown how to use and look after the tools, as well as hands-on experience of various low-impact building techniques including:

  • Basic Woodworking – safe, and efficient ways to use saws, hammers, chisels etc.
  • Hand tool techniques for accurate joints, sawcuts, planing, power grips etc.
  • Tool Sharpening – theory & practice
  • Roundwood construction – everything you need to turn small trees into buildings
  • Drystane and mortared stonework
  • Strawbale (not load-bearing) – shaping, resizing, compression, preparation for render etc.
  • Window and solid wood floor construction
  • Timber conversion (trees to planks etc.) – using a portable mill
  • Limework – preparation, mixing, rendering and finishing
  • Next generation Reciprocal roofing – see Project Details page

Things to know & bring:

As part of  the crew you will be living onsite in an off-grid setup which includes a large communal yurt, hot water, shower, solar 12volt, firepit etc. At the request of the centre, we shall not be able to enter their buildings during the week (except to use the toilets), to allow the fee-paying students the peace to nurture their creativity. However we have our own facilities, and can still pick up wi-fi! Cooking will be by rota from those present. There are several musicians onsite, so please bring an instrument if you enjoy a session.

In return for your help and involvement (min. 6 hours per day, five days per week), you’ll receive all the instruction you need for the job at hand, chances to try other things, and learn from both other participants and the experienced builders on site. There is plenty of fine hill walking round about, and Inverness is not too far away. Loch Ness is over the hill, who knows, maybe Nessie will honour you with a glimpse!

Some shared sleeping space may be available (ask in advance), but there is plenty of space for various options from camping to live-in vehicles. Please let us know what you require when confirming you are coming. You’ll need to bring sleeping kit, old work clothes, some warm clothing and suitable boots. Wellies are useful, and wet weather gear if you have it. Collection from Inverness can be arranged if necessary (please arrange with us beforehand). We will provide any necessary safety goggles, work gloves etc. Please note that the Writing Centre operates a strict no dogs policy.

There will be minimal use of small power tools in this build, the majority of the work is carried out using hand tools. You may be surprised at how much can be accomplished using only co-operation and co-ordination!


If you were involved last year you’ll know we had to cancel at the last minute because of issues with funding and building warrants. After a long and expensive process we are on the verge of approval, but the budget for the build is consequently reduced due to the expensive bureaucracy involved. To spread this most fairly, the consequences are:

  • All food (vegetarian, organic where poss.) will still be provided, seven days a week
  • The £10 expenses per working day are still available, but now only to folk staying for two weeks or longer
  • If you are coming for one week only then we can only feed and teach you.  sorry 8-(

Booking Procedure:

  1. Select your available dates from the booking calendar (Book a Place tab above). There are limited spaces for each period and the calendar will not allow you to apply if all slots for that period are already reserved.
  2. You will get an automatic confirmation email acknowledging your application.
  3. We will be aiming for a mix of short and longer term placements, with three to four places available most weeks. If you are accepted for those dates you will receive an invitation email which you must respond to within three days to accept and confirm your place. If not, you’ll be placed on a priority waiting list for any cancellations.
  4. Come join us and have a great time!


Contact Info:

Steve James:

m: 0773 800 9150

e: steve@envisioneer.net