It’s still January. It’s dark and cold outside. We reckon there’s nothing else for it but to curl up by the fire with a cup of tea (or something stronger), under the comforting warmth of a Skye Weavers throw. It’s definitely time, as the Scots say, to ‘coorie in’.
‘Coorie’ is such an evocative word. Traditionally it’s always meant cuddling up or snuggling in but today it’s becoming something of a lifestyle trend – the Scottish equivalent of the Danish Hygge. There’s even a bestselling book on the subject: The Art of Coorie: How to Live Happy The Scottish Way. Intrigued, we tracked down the author, Glasgow-based journalist Gabriella Bennett, to find out more.
SW: So Gabriella, how would you describe the new ‘coorie’?
GB: About two years ago I interviewed an interior designer whose clients had asked him for a ‘coorie’ living room. They wanted the space to be cosy but also reflect Scotland’s textile heritage, using contemporary tweeds and so on. When I put this new usage to other Scottish makers and designers they seemed excited. They, too, wanted to use it to describe their work – rooted in our oldest customs but also updated for modern times. It was clear this new notion of coorie can be applied to the distinct way we do things in Scotland.
In essence, coorie is about learning to live better using what is around you. It’s about drawing comfort from Scotland’s oldest traditions and updating them for modern times. It’s also about looking at how we consume and spend our leisure time, and trying to simplify the processes involved. A coorie way of life practises small, quiet, slow activities by engaging with our surroundings to feel happy.
SW: Your book seems to have struck a chord – it’s a Waterstones bestseller and has already been translated to French and Russian! Why do you think that is?
GB: In a tech-obsessed world it’s easy to forget where we’ve come from – both on a micro and macro level. Learning more about the world on our doorstep, whether historical, natural or otherwise, helps us to figure out our own identities too. 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.
SW: So how can we all adopt a coorie lifestyle?
GB: There’s no single way of living in Scotland since we’re a nation made up of a diverse bunch of people. But recently there’s been a growing demand to move towards a slower, more considered way of being, one that champions local producers where possible. The health benefits of communing with nature are also something people are tuning into. Climbing Munros, swimming in lochs or just ambling around your local park are all ways to do this. Harvest pine needles to flavour food and drinks, smoke your own food with a DIY smoker, or learn how to knit a Fair Isle sweater. A Scottish wool blanket, my comfiest hiking boots and my wetsuit: a balance of cosy and outdoorsy.
SW: You travelled all over Scotland to research the book. Tell us about some of your favourite coorie moments.
GB: When we did The Art of Coorie photoshoot at the Inshriach estate I stayed in the estate’s big house with friends the night before. There was whisky taken, a wolfhound at our feet, traditional Scottish music on the stereo, a roaring fire … that felt pretty coorie. I also love any moment that involves outdoor swimming. Though I have to say that I think I’ve had my fill of icy wild swims now. Bring on the spring and summer.
SW: What’s next – what’s the future for coorie?
GB: Continuing to practise the coorie code – slowing down, using our hands, getting outside, collaborating with others.
Check out Gabriella’s book for some great inspiration on following the ‘coorie code’ – whether you’re into travel or textiles, food or furnishings. We’ll leave the last word to BBC TV personality Neil Oliver (presenter of ‘Coast’ and ‘A History of Scotland’): ‘Coorie is good for the heart and soul’.