Is it worth travelling to Scotland for a weekend in winter?
My experience: Absolutely! From Glasgow we drive north, sleep in a cosy pub, hike around Glen Fyne in the deepest snow, visit Inveraray aka "Duneagles" in Downton Abbey, taste whiskey in the seaside town of Oban and hike along Loch Lomond.
A weekend in February in Scotland - near Glasgow. Not the most enticing proposition at first glance: bad weather, grey buildings and a reputation for being aggressive. "So all surprises are guaranteed to be positive," we thought when we booked a long weekend. And we were right: when we left the plane and Glasgow airport early in the morning, we were greeted by a beautiful rising sun with blue skies, crisp minus temperatures, lots of snow and no water in the car for the windscreen wipers ;-)!
Click on the first photo to start the photo gallery:
The first task: find the accommodation in the countryside through a decidedly murky windscreen.
The Cairndow Stagecoach Inn is beautifully situated on the shores of Loch Fyne and is said to be one of the oldest inns in the Highlands.
As we were desperate for something to eat, we ordered a late breakfast (the morning hunters only left us sausages and toast). The veggie sausages were a bit tough - but who cares when you're hungry ;-)!
Hiking in the Scottish Winter Wonderland
The River Fyne comes down from the hills directly behind our B&B.
Description: A beautiful 18 km walk leads from the car park next to the old bridge near the A83, first along the left side of the river. Before the Fyne divides, a bridge leads to the right side of the river. From there, the path slowly climbs up to the Allt na Lairige reservoir - we took the hint to heart and followed it. At first we walked in the shade next to the river, but as soon as we stepped into the sun - and the knee-deep snow - we felt like we were in a winter wonderland! All the trees were covered with a thick layer of snow,
A herd of deer looked at us lazily and decided that we were - probably - not dangerous ... Bliss!
The river and lake below us glistened in the sun and my face was glowing bright red - it was quite exhausting walking up the hill through the snow.
The good thing about Britain is that a cosy fire and a glass of whisky are never far away
and for me, there's no better feeling than coming in from the freezing cold and slowly warming up in front of the fire.
The next day we drove a few kilometres - or should I say miles - to Inveraray.
As fans of the Downton Abbey TV series, we wanted to visit the filming location of Duneagles, which in real life is called Inveraray Castle. At this time of year the castle is closed, but you can walk around the grounds. We decided to do the Dun Na Cuaiche Woodland Walk. It's only 2.5 km long, but despite the snowstorm, it was quite an adventure. At the top of the hill there is a viewpoint from which you would normally have a perfect view of the castle and beyond the town down to Loch Fyne - all we saw was lots of snow.
Click on the first picture:
Day 3: Off to the West Coast!
On day 3, we decided to drive an hour to visit the seaside town of Oban, which is right by the sea. The main attraction for my friend was of course the Oban Whiskey Distillery - for me as a driver it was a little less exciting, although I always enjoy visiting places like this (if only for the smell!).
I wouldn't go so far as to say that Dunollie Castle in Oban is a must-see, but it was a pleasant walk from the town centre along the coast, and the view at sunset was definitely worth the visit. If you don't mind driving, you can take the long way home via Glencoe, but as it was snowing again in the Highlands, we took the easier and quicker route.
Day 4: Hiking along the east coast of Loch Lomond
On the last day we walked along the east coast of Loch Lomond. Unfortunately I lost the map and can't remember the exact route now. So my best advice is to better check at a tourist information centre. The one in Balloch is more or less on the way. There are lots of walks, but for us the Gleddoch Hotel Spa called and it would have been really rude not to answer :-)!
The SPA is calling and I must go!
If you are lucky - and this is often the case in low season - you can get quite cheap tickets from e.g. Frankfurt to Glasgow with Lufthansa.
SLEEP & EAT
The Cairndow Stagecoach Inn is beautifully situated on the shores of Loch Fyne and is said to be one of the oldest inns in the Highlands. The rooms are cosy, but don't expect them to be stylish. The same goes for the pub: typical pub food in a cosy room with an open fire.
Cairndow PA26 8BN, UK, Tel: +44 1499 600286.
Close to Glasgow and the airport, the Gleddoch Hotel Spa & Golf is situated on a golf course. We got a really cheap room because it was low season. The SPA is very good, with a large swimming pool, sauna and outdoor Jacuzzi. The rooms are all modern, the restaurant was ok. Old Greenock Rd, Langbank, PA14 6YE, Tel: +44(0)1475 540 711.