If your holiday budget is looking a little depleted, and it seems there is no way that much yearned for annual holiday overseas is going to become a reality this year, and time is slipping away before your very eyes, consider for a moment the world of volunteering where you can stay in accommodation ranging from a wildlife sanctuary, a mountain bothy, or even an organic brewery, and it won't cost you one red cent.
And what is a bothy you may well ask, bothy and bothying can be described as many things, but a holiday home is not one of them. Think camping without a tent, although it could be considered to be somewhere in the middle.
When going to a bothy it is safe to assume there will be no facilities. No tap, sink, beds or lighting. If there is a fireplace, there may be nothing nearby to burn. Bothies may have a simple sleeping platform or maybe the only place to sleep is on the stone floor.
Source/Credit: mountainbothies.org.uk Location: Kettleton Byre, Southern Scotland
Visitors to a bothy will generally need to ensure they have made adequate arrangements for a supply of water. Conversely, if there is no fire then on a cold night you may have an issue staying warm. The great majority of nights in Britain are on the cool side so bear in mind most bothies are up in the hills.
Few bothies have toilet facilities apart from a spade and the advice is that you should walk at least a couple of hundred meters from the bothy and at least 60 meters from the nearest water supply before doing your business. It's certainly a different way to experience travel for those with a love of camping style accommodation.
With the permission and support of the owners, a number of these shelters are unlocked and available for anyone to use. All of the maintenance activities are carried out by volunteers, who welcome new members who want to support their ongoing work, either by attending work parties or by contributing financially through subscriptions and donations. One group, the mountain bothies association maintains a website where visitors can view and request stays at bothies throughout Scotland, Northern England and Wales.
Source/Credit: mountainbothies.org.uk Location: Cross Fell, Northern England
However, if you are looking for accommodation with a few more creature comforts then why not check out the following options;
Blair Castle, Pershire, England
Keeping a huge country estate running is not an easy task so the owners of the amazing 12th century castle Blair Castle situated in Pitlochry, Perthshire England offer free bed and board to anyone who's willing to help out with various tasks including repairing fences or marshaling at their horse events. Take a look at their vacancies currently available.
Chisholme House, Hawick
Chisholme House Hawick, is a beautiful 187 acre estate and stately home located close to the border with Scotland. The estate is a fully operational retreat and educational center where volunteers from around the world make a huge contribution to the life of the estate and visitors are welcome throughout the year to get a taste of what Chisholme has to offer.
Work and volunteer opportunities vary depending upon the time of year and ongoing program, however they may involve anything from learning to rebuild the stone garden wall, planting bulbs in autumn, helping prepare a feast for a 200-strong celebration, picking wild raspberries on the estate, caring for chickens and ducks, working in the forest, splitting and stacking timber for firewood, clearing snow, researching logistics for a festival or putting up a barn.
Volunteers can stay from a week to a year, depending upon their skills and what they can bring to the table. Visit their website to find out more.
Another site helpx.net provides an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, Bed and Breakfasts, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats, who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation.
HelpX is provided primarily as a cultural exchange for working holiday makers who would like the opportunity, during their travels abroad to stay with local people and gain practical experience. In a typical arrangement the helper works an average of 4 hours per day and receives free accommodation and meals for their efforts.
The time range can vary considerably depending on the tasks at hand and the host preferences, as some hosts may require just 2 hours per day for accommodation only and ask you to provide and cook your own food.
Others can expect up to 6 hours per day in return for meals, your own room and sometimes other benefits such as free Internet use, horse riding, kayaking, bikes, local sight seeing trips, yoga or English lessons, etc.
Some will allow weekends off, while others might allow you to put in 8 hours one day and later take a full day off. Helpers often live with the host family and are expected to join in and offer a helping hand with day-to-day activities. Helpx lists accommodation in over 74 countries including Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada, Thailand, New Caledonia and Malaysia.
So if you have the energy, these styles of vacation may just tick all the boxes for you on your next holiday at home or overseas.