A wild mountain wedding – eloping to the Lodge on Loch Goil in Scotland

Neil Thomas Douglas

We couldn’t have wished for a wedding day that was more perfectly us.

Getting married on the shores of Loch Goil in the Scottish Trossachs, surrounded by rugged nature, was so wildly beautiful. And considering Iain and I only had a few weeks to plan everything after suddenly deciding to marry for the very practical reason of moving to Denmark together, we surprised ourselves with how well it all turned out.

Neil Thomas Douglas

Jump ahead to:

Finding a wild yet weather-proof venue in Scotland

So Iain could get over to Copenhagen for his new job, we needed to get things moving fast. And to put more pressure on making quick decisions, in Scotland you need to hand in your marriage application twenty-nine days before the day. And that paperwork needed to include where we were getting married.

At first we thought we’d end up getting married in the local town hall close to where we were staying with Iain’s parents as we presumed Covid would’ve put all fun off the menu. But we heard some rumours about being able to get married in National Trust castles and the like with a Covid-secure elopement, and did some research.

We stumbled upon The Lodge on Loch Goil, and realised we could get married in an actual treehouse by a loch.

Neil Thomas Douglas

As has been the case with the most magical places, people, and opportunities that have unexpectedly come into my life, it all seemed a bit too good to be true. But we asked for more information, got a near-instant email back with dates that would work for us, talked it over on a walk through the woods, and decided what the hell.

Five weeks later, just after the wait required for the marriage paperwork, we got married at Loch Goil.

Although we would’ve loved for our families and friends to be there, with Covid we were restricted to having just two guests – including the photographer. However, it turns out an elopement has plenty of silver linings. Only Iain’s sister joined us, and we had such a stress-free, simple and beautiful day together.

Choosing a Scottish elopement photographer

We discovered that Scotland has a tribe of truly badass wedding photographers who love elopements in the mountains. We made the easy choice of Neil Thomas Douglas, and along with our venue, it was some of the best money we’ve ever spent.

In the chat with our celebrant, she asked who our photographer would be. “Neil Thomas Douglas? He’s the best of the best.” (We love Neil).

Whoever you go for, if you’re eloping to Scotland (which I’d wholeheartedly recommend), you’re spoilt for choice with photographers who will document your day beautifully without any of the usual cringeyness of staged wedding photos.

Neil Thomas Douglas

Finding a celebrant

Originally we wanted to be married by a Humanist celebrant for the most intimate and special ceremony (check Scottish elopement photographers’ Instagram pages and you’ll find loads of awesome ones). However, The Lodge on Loch Goil’s wedding-planner-turned-fairy-godmother nudged us towards the most straightforward, failproof option to keep things on schedule.

We went with the local Argyll & Bute registrars, and were put in touch with Leanda from their team who would carry out our ceremony. It turned out to be a great decision for us, as everything went seamlessly and took a lot of work off our plate.

After some changes a few years ago, standard registrars in Scotland can integrate humanist-ish wedding elements such as handfasting and quaich ceremonies, and we opted for both of those.

As the handfasting part of our ceremony, we chose a ribbon (or in our case, a cord, which we got off Etsy) to be tied around our hands, which Iain’s sister as our one guest did for us.

Neil Thomas Douglas

If you’re wondering what a quaich is, it’s also known as a loving cup and it’s a wonderful excuse to drink whisky during your wedding. It’s a nice bit of Scottishness to add to the ceremony, traditionally used to show your commitment (and that you won’t try to poison one another).

The dress, kilt, and other nice things

To make planning easier, Iain’s outfit was already sorted: he’d bought a kilt in his family tartan (Anderson, on his Mum’s side) a couple of years ago for weddings and other excuses to dress up. He just picked up a new shirt and was good to go.

Neil Thomas Douglas

My outfit took a little longer to plan, but not much. After trying on six cheap Monsoon wedding dresses and despairing at awful fastenings, I decided to try something a few price brackets above. I came across E&W Couture – a sustainable, quirky brand from Cardiff – and their try at home offer.

After a few emails and boxes back and forth, I worked out I loved the satin slip designed to go under their lace tops and dresses most, especially combined with the flower sash they’d sent over with one design. They thought I might like a matching flower veil, and after prancing around the house a bit, I decided to go for that too.

Neil Thomas Douglas

Because it was Scotland in March, I had a tartan scarf-turned-blanket from Kinloch Anderson and wore white thermal leggings from M&S under my dress all day (ha).

I had cheap-ish satin shoes from Monsoon for most of the day, but brought along some Hunter wellies to switch into during our photos in the hills. While traipsing around through mud and with gale-force freezing winds and hail, I was singing the praises of both thermals and wellies.

Neil Thomas Douglas

My engagement ring, with aqua-blue seaglass in the centre and recycled diamonds around it, was made by Kate Pearse at Glasswing Jewellery in Devon (it’s her Godreva design). For my wedding band, she made us a simple silver wishbone ring to sit underneath my engagement ring.

I adore my rings, and Iain’s wedding band is also fantastic: he has the mountain contours from where I lived in Meiringen carved into it, with two pieces for land and sky that slot together. It’s made by Hannah Louise Lamb in Scotland and so uniquely stunning.

My only other jewellery was a pair of beautiful snowdrop earrings with blue seaglass (like my ring) from Boho Silver, handcrafted in Scotland by a wonderful mother-daughter duo. I’ve been wearing them a lot since, too. I adore them.

The day

After arriving at the Lodge for 11am, we had a quick tour with Alice and had an afternoon tea with lovely scones, sandwiches, and cakes to settle our stomachs before the ceremony. Then, I was up to the bridal suite to get ready with Iain’s sister and Iain headed over to the Summerhouse where he was getting ready.

Neil Thomas Douglas

We got married in the treehouse, headed out to the hills around the Rest and Be Thankful viewpoint with Neil for photos, and came back for a newly-wed swim in freezing Loch Goil. (Yes, it was cold, but actually not as bad as we thought it could be. Although only Iain went fully underwater.)

After showering and warming up, we had some time to process the fact that we were married (daaaang) and read letters from our families. Then, it was back to the celebrations to cut a little cake the Lodge had baked for us, enjoy a drink (we were offered a lot of those), and head for our vegetarian tasting menu dinner in the treehouse.

The food is another huge selling point of the Lodge on Loch Goil – we ate incredibly well. Although local fish and meat are some of their real specialities, Iain and Katie followed me in being vegetarian and we didn’t miss out one bit on exciting deliciousness. Think vegetarian terrines, mushroom ravioli, and chocolate souflés.

With our dessert, we moved back into one of the Lodge’s main rooms, cooried in next to the fireplace, and called both of our families to update them on the day.

Neil Thomas Douglas

Staying the night

One of the many fabulous things about The Lodge on Loch Goil is that it’s an exclusive-use venue. When you book it, you book the whole place. In non-Covid times, you can book all of the guest rooms. For our grand total of 1 guests, we booked Katie into their Bute room, just next to the bridal suite.

While I got ready in the bridal suite, we were able to choose between spending the night in there too or sleeping in the Summerhouse by the loch. As suckers for Scandi-esque design and being as close as possible to nature, we went for the Summerhouse, where Iain got ready too.

Iain Stepek

With a woodburner downstairs and a bed up by the roof, it’s a wonderfully cosy nook. Waking up, out the little window overlooking the loch I could see the waves rippling to start the day, and heading out of bed to inspect closer, there was an oystercatcher on the nearby rocks.

Adventure and nature-themed vows

We decided to write our own vows, which made our ceremony so much more personal. I wrote mine first, in about twenty minutes before dinner, and Iain read them the next day.

He said he thought I’d set the bar too high, but then twenty minutes later presented his own version which I thought far superior to my version. We left our drafts alone, didn’t make any tweaks, and read them just as they were in our ceremony.

I wanted my own vows to encompass adventure, nature, and my love for wild places and the mountains. Here’s part of what I came up with:

Iain, from this day forwards, I promise to be by your side. To join you at mountain tops and the sea, through the forests and sunshine and storms. To share your joy on the happiest days and hold your hand on the most difficult.

I promise to help you find your dreams and keep going until you reach them, celebrating with you as if they were my own. For every one of your achievements, I’ll remember how much you inspire me to follow my own callings, courageously and with a graceful appreciation for the journey we’re taking together.

I promise to treasure the joy, wonder, comfort and companionship that you have always brought me, ever since that first day we met.

I promise to love you as you deserve to be loved: with my whole heart, honestly and generously, as two souls who belong together, as the geese love the water and the oaks adore the sun.

With these words, and all the words of my heart, I marry you and bind my life to yours, as two people who are strong apart but always stronger together. I love you, today and always.

Our readings

A Blessing for the Journey (Buddhist Prayer) by Sensei Wendy Egyoku Nakao

Let us vow to bear witness to the wholeness of life,
realizing the completeness of each and every thing.
Embracing our differences,
I shall know myself as you,
and you as myself.
May we serve each other
for all our days,
here, there, and everywhere.
Let us vow to open ourselves to the abundance of life.
Freely giving and receiving, I shall care for you,
for the trees and stars,
as treasures of my very own.
May we be grateful
for all our days,
here, there, and everywhere.
Let us vow to forgive all hurt,
caused by ourselves and others,
and to never condone hurtful ways.
Being responsible for my actions,
I shall free myself and you.
Will you free me, too?
May we be kind
for all our days,
here, there, and everywhere.
Let us vow to remember that all that appears will disappear.
In the midst of uncertainty,
I shall sow love.
Here! Now! I call to you:
Let us together live
The Great Peace that we are.
May we give no fear
for all our days,
here, there, and everywhere.

Excerpt from The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman

I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I’ll drift about forever, all my atoms, till I find you again… I’ll be looking for you, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams… And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me.

Our playlist for the day

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Lucy Fuggle
I'm Lucy – an adventurer, writer, author of Mountain Song: A Journey to Finding Quiet in the Swiss Alps, and creator of Live Wildly.