Winter opens its arms – 5 reasons to embrace the Scottish winter
Posted on Dec 05, 2012 by Rupert Shanks
Our guide to the best of this Scottish Winter
How do you feel about the oncoming winter months? Do you get a flurry of excitement at the thought of those thick soft flakes gracefully falling towards us? Do you find yourself religiously checking forecasts where any mention of snowy precipitation gets your heart racing? Do you find a glowing log fire on a cold winter’s day not only heats your exterior but gives you a warm glow inside too? I certainly count myself among the winter lovers. However, there’s a divide amongst us. For a lot of people, winter fills them with a sense of dread. The darker, longer nights and colder weather can make life a bit more difficult for many of us.
So I have compiled a list of 5 reasons to get excited about this Scottish winter. We certainly can’t change the weather that’s on its’ way towards us, so lets make the best of it!
1) Great chance to experience the Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis)
The bright dancing lights of the aurora are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. NASA have been saying recently that, due to high solar activity, this winter is a particularly favourable one for Northern Lights sightings. There have been some amazing sightings in Scotland and should be lots of opportunities this winter. To get a good chance of seeing them, you should aim for somewhere rural with very little light pollution. Generally you should be looking north but with unusual geomagnetic activity the Aurora could appear south of you. To be updated when sightings are likely you can subscribe to email updates from Aurora Watch run by Lancaster University. We also run a Wilderness Walking trip based in Gairloch which offers a great opportunity for stargazing and seeking out the Northern Lights phenomenon – Click here for more information.
2) Scottish skiing – so severely underrated
For a lot of ski lovers, Scotland isn’t exactly a ski destination to compare to the mighty Alps. Even I used to turn my nose up at the thought of Scotland’s unreliable snow, meagre altitude and ferocious winds. BUT, I was wrong, so very wrong! Yes, Scotland’s resorts are not as big or high as their cheese-loving Alpine cousins, but the terrain is still fantastic with rolling slopes, exciting steeps and wide open runs for all levels. Scottish snowfall has been more and more reliable over the last few years. This winter is off to a flying start with the best early season snow cover in a long time. For more info check out Ski Scotland online.
Where to go:
Cairngorm mountain – Aviemore’s local ski area with it’s own funicular railway and lift network. Also check out the famous Ptarmigan restaurant with Christmas market.
Glencoe Mountain– Great variety with the longest and steepest runs in Scotland
Nevis Range – Gondola to whisk you up to an extensive area with a great variety to suit experts to beginners.
The Lecht – A fantastic ski area for beginners with well-groomed wide gentle runs.
Glenshee – Scotland’s most extensive ski area. Check out ‘The Tiger’ the steepest black run in Scotland!
3) Ski touring – have you tried it yet?
The Scottish ski areas must be some of THE most ideal places to get into ski-touring. Ski-touring is all about getting away from the crowds to ski off-piste routes and hike the uphills with free-heel bindings and grippy ‘skins’ on your skis. The pure freedom and reward of earning your turns and venturing out into the wild beauty of Scotland’s white wilderness is hard to beat. Modern ski touring equipment is so much lighter and more comfortable than it used to be even just a few years ago. So if you are a reasonable skier, comfortable on red runs, then you are certainly good enough to give ski touring a go. As you will be leaving the patrolled ski areas you also need to learn about winter and avalanche safety (or go with a qualified guide). We recommend joining an introductory course as a great way to learn and experience ski touring for the first time.
4) Winter Warmers
After a bracing day out in the cold, there is nothing better than a winter warmer by an open fire to warm the insides. Our European friends have made the winter warmer drink an essential part of their mountain experience. Nobody can deny the restorative powers of a French vin chaud or an Italian Bombardino. Here at Wilderness Scotland we can wholeheartedly recommend our favourite Scottish winter warmer:
- a cup or so of apple cider
- a few tots of whisky (we recommend Talisker for a light smoky taste)
- a drizzle of honey
- a squeeze of lemon
- peeled fresh ginger, coarsely chopped (I used a thumb-sized piece)
- mulling spices (cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, allspice, nutmeg are all good)
- Optional garnishes: cinnamon stick stirrer, lemon slice, apple slice, ginger slice
Add the ginger and mulling spices to the cider and simmer in a saucepan over medium-low heat for at least 5 minutes (or a full 15 or more if you want full flavor). Drizzle some honey into a mug and add the liquor, hot cider, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Stir and enjoy.
5) Winter Events to get excited about
Although you may be tempted to face the winter with the curtains drawn and the heating on, there are some fantastic Scottish events to get out and enjoy
New Year’s Eve (Hogmanay as we say in Scotland).
– Red Hot Highland Fling. This free New Year’s party in the heart of Inverness has never failed to raise the roof at Hogmanay and kick off the new year in style. Join Scottish bands, Big Country, Skerryvore, The Treacherous Orchestra and the Whisky River Band for a barnstorming good time.
Our most famous poet, Robert Burns, is celebrated each year on 25th January with a night of poetry, whisky and the famous Haggis. Most Scots would claim to host the best Burns night in the country but here are two events to pay tribute to Rabbie in style.
– Big Burns Supper. This 3 day event from 25-28th January in Dumfries combines over 2000 artists performing in music, art, dance, comedy, theatre and children’s shows. Also as much haggis, neeps and tatties as you can shake a stick at.
So I hope I’ve given you a few reasons to get as excited about this Scottish season as I am. Embrace the winter! Do you love this season? Or find it a chore? Let us know in the comments.