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What is coorie? Discover how to be cosy the Scottish way

Take inspiration from the philosophy that happiness is in small, gentle activities that connect us with nature, family, heritage and home. Alice Whitehead explores this uplifting Scottish trend

What is coorie?

What better way to embrace the cooler temperatures and inky evenings than to hunker down with a loved one and warm your toes under a blanket? In Scotland, there’s even a word for it. In a literal sense, ‘coorie’ means to ‘crouch for protection’ or to ‘snuggle and nestle’ but more recently it has taken on a wider meaning, one that can be applied to the way we live, eat, work and spend our free time. One that binds us with nature, family, heritage and home.

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“A coorie way of life practices small, quiet, slow activities by engaging with our surroundings to feel happy,” says Gabriella Bennett, author of The Art of Coorie (Black and White Publishing). “Unlike hygge, coorie is more than about simply being cosy. It’s about working out how to be in tune with our surroundings to evoke that feeling. In a techy world, it’s easy to forget where we’ve come from – both on a micro and macro level – but anyone can become more coorie by learning more about the world on their doorstep.

Coorie isn’t about spending money, it’s about getting the most out of life by doing the opposite – by drawing energy from landscapes and people.” Here are 10 ideas for bringing a little more coorie into your life, to help fill the colder months with kindness, warmth and joy…

10 ways to embrace coorie

1

Learn some coorie words

“To get a true sense of Scotland it helps to learn the vernacular,” says Gabriella in The Art of Coorie. “Words with roots in Lallans and Doric – the dialects of the lowland and north east – sing with history.”

Try dropping a few of Gabriella’s favourite coorie words into conversation:

  • Dreich – a dreary, bleak day. Time to put the kettle on.
  • Moorie-cavie – a blizzard of fine, powdery snow.
  • Drooket – thoroughly drenched by rain.
  • Yaldi – a triumphant explanation. How you feel once you’ve dried off (after coming home like a drooket rat).
2

Give yourself a cuddle (or someone else)

To snuggle up is a big part of the coorie philosophy, and studies have shown that cuddling helps the body release the stress-relieving hormone oxytocin. If you don’t have a significant other in your life, consider hosting a cosy evening in with family.

“Cuddling is a basic human need, but many people feel uncomfortable about touching others,” says Anna Fortes Mayer, who ran monthly cuddle workshops focusing on the importance of touch before the pandemic (currently suspended). “In the safe environment of our workshops, people were able to talk about boundaries before moving on to cuddle others. It was a place where people could drop their facades and connect to themselves and others.”

If you don’t have anyone to hug, Anna suggests hugging a pet or a teddy with a hot water bottle inside. Or, cuddle yourself. Research shows that giving yourself a hug can still give you a dose of calming oxytocin.

3

Stir up a soup

A bowl of soup can warm the soul, and the Scots know a thing or three about good broths. From Cock-a-Leekie (a traditional chicken and leek soup) to Cullen Skink (a smoked haddock chowder), the idea is to use cheap ingredients from your garden or market to make comforting meals in a single pot. “I love to spend a day cooking up soups and stews,” affirms Gail. “One of my favourite recipe books is Stirring Slowly: Recipes to Restore and Revive by Georgina Hayden, which sums up the coorie philosophy for me.”

Try this easy Scotch Broth:

  1. Soak 200g of broth mix (such as pearl barley, beans, split peas, lentils and rice) overnight.
  2. Sauté 1 large onion in oil, adding 2 sticks of diced celery and 500g chopped carrots. Cook for 3-4 minutes then add the broth mix, 2 litres of stock, and season.
  3. Bubble for 40 minutes until the grains and pulses are soft. Add torn kale leaves, or cavolo nero, in the last 10 minutes.
  4. Dunk with bread.
4

Knit for others

Knitting’s rhythmical, repetitive movements calm the mind (thanks to the release of serotonin) and free us from distractions. With the Fair Isle known for its distinctive Yoke collar and Aran for thick jumpers, knitting also nurtures a sense of place. If you’re an accomplished knitter but not sure what to knit next, consider knitting for others.

“The main reason a lot of people stop knitting is having no one to knit for,” says Dame Hilary Blume, director of Knit for Peace, which provides free patterns for those who knit for people in need. “Knitting with people provides a community, it encourages social interactions and connections.”

Our sister website Gathered has lots of free knitting patterns for you to try including a beautiful Fairisle hat and gloves knitting pattern.

What is coorie?
Unsplash/Richard Rawlings

5

Create a cosy corner

“When we have safe places to go, we make better decisions,” says Rev Gail Love-Schock, an interfaith minister and coach, who grew up in Scotland and runs coorie workshops throughout the year. “It’s so important to have psychological spaces of safety and self-care where we can nurture new habits. Finding a place to rest is vital.”

Gail suggests turning a corner over to coorie. “Think of it like that wee nook on the settee between your grandma and your mum when you were little,” she says. “Place your favourite chair there, light some candles, set up your favourite playlist. Have a coorie buddy on speed dial to help you feel ‘held’, then tap into your breath and relax your belly.”

6

Home smoke

Recreate the aromas of the Scottish smokehouses with a spot of home smoking. “A DIY smoker made from things lying around the house will do,” says Gabriella. Try drilling holes in an old bread tin and inserting a metal rack.

Soak woodchips such as hickory or mesquite for a few hours and then use a chimney starter (weber.com) to heat up your coals. Add them to your tin (carefully), along with your soaked woodchips, and place your veg, fish or meat on the rack and put the lid on. You’ll also get the same effect with a large wok with a grill and lid.

7

Make a garden grotto

If you’re feeling ambitious (and have the space) you could create your own wee ‘wild’ hideaway on a patio or next to your vegetable patch. Use a wooden frame and layers of chicken wire to create a grotto. Plaster the inside and outside, and add shells, pebbles or broken pottery to the final layer before it dries fully.

Paint with a traditional yoghurt mixture to encourage mosses and lichens to grow and then fill with ferns. Nymphs optional. And if that sounds a bit hard (or you don’t have a garden), cultivate an indoor ‘grotto’ by dedicating a shelf to a jungle of potted plants, or, if space is really limited, opt for a tiny terrarium.

8

Celebrate local heritage

Find a heritage trail in a town or city near you and learn more local history, or get some friends together to create your own. Trails could be themed around interesting street trees, blue plaques recognising important figures in history, or little-known treasures.

Follow the lead of tour guide Jonathan Schofield in Manchester, who designed a trail called ‘A Tour of Uninteresting Objects’, bringing together things that were often overlooked such as strange sculptures and street map oddities. And always remember to look up: the most interesting architecture is often above the eyeline.

What is coorie?
Unsplash/Markus Spiske

9

Gather a woodland bounty

Getting out into the fresh air is as much part of coorie as the cosying up. So, put on your favourite wellies and bodywarmer and head to your nearest woodland to soak in the smells and the silence. “You can harvest pine needles to flavour food and drinks,” says Gabriella.

“Pick fresh from the forest floor, wash in mild soap and rinse. Dry thoroughly, then bruise in a mortar and add to sugar or salt for dry cure rubs or for infusing [cordials and] alcohol.” Collect sprigs of evergreens or dried foliage to arrange in a jug at home to bring nature indoors.

Discover the benefits of spending time outdoors and why mindful forest bathing is good for you.

10

Nearly wild camping

While wild camping is only permitted in Scotland, you can enjoy an ‘almost wild’ version in Dartmoor National Park, or get in touch with an organisation such as Nearly Wild Camping. This bridges the gap between true wild camping and commercial campsites with an online directory of land you can legally camp on, rated for ‘wildness’.

“Nearly Wild Camping appeals to those who don’t want (or have the ability) to walk for hours to reach a remote spot,” says Lee Barton, who runs the site. “What better way to spend an extended time in nature? You will appreciate the sounds and smells of the countryside and your body will adjust to a more natural circadian rhythm. This reminds you that you are part of a greater ecosystem, while your day-to-day stresses melt away.”

Looking for more wellbeing inspiration? Learn how to love the outdoors the Scandinavian way with friluftsliv, lift your mood with Suzy Reading’s winter self care tips, or discover the benefits of mindful baking.

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This article was first published in In The Moment Magazine issue 32. Featured image from Unsplash/Ross Sneddon.