Scottish winter wonder land
A weekend in February in Scotland - close to Glasgow. At first glance, not the most enticing of proposals: bad weather, grey buildings and a reputation for aggressive people. 'So all surprises are guaranteed to be positive!' we thought as we booked a long weekend. Quite right, too: leaving our early-morning plane and Glasgow airport, we were met by a beautiful rising sun with blue skies, crisp temperatures, lots of snow and no water in the car for the windscreen wipers ;-)! Click on the first picture to see them full size:
The first task: find your countryside accommodation through a distinctly murky windscreen. As we were dying for some food, we ordered a late breakfast (the morning foragers only left us sausages and toast). The veggie sausages were a bit tough to eat - but who cares when you are hungry ;-)!
Right behind our B&B, the River Fyne comes down from the hills. A beautiful 18 km hike leads from the parking next to the old bridge close to the A83, first along the river's left side. Before the Fyne splits, a bridge leads to the right side of it. From there, the path slowly starts climbing up to the reservoir Allt na Lairige - we took the hint and followed it. At the beginning, we still walked in the shade next to the river, but once we crossed into the sun - and the knee-deep snow - we felt we had entered winter wonderland! All the trees covered under a thick layer of snow, a herd of deer looking lazily at us and deciding we were probably not dangerous ... bliss! The river and lake below glittered in the sun and my face beamed in bright red colours - it was quite exhausting to walk up the hill through the snow. The good thing about the UK is that a cozy fire and a glass of whisky is never too far away, and for me there is no better feeling but to come in from the freezing cold and slowly warm 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 location of Duneagles, which is called Inveraray Castle in real life. At this time of year the castle is closed, but you can walk the grounds. We decided to do the Dun Na Cuaiche Woodland Walk. It's only 2,5km one way, but through the snow storm it was quite an adventure. Up the hill there is a towe, from which you would normally have a perfect view of the Castle and beyond the town down to Loch Fyne - we only saw lots of snow. Click on the first picture:
On day 3 we decided to drive one hour to visit the coastal town Oban, which is located right on the sea. Of course the main attraction for my boyfriend was Oban distillery - for me as a driver it was a bit less exciting, though I always enjoy visiting places like that (even if it is 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 stroll from the city centre along the coast and the views in the sunset were certainly 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 easy and faster route.
The last day we hiked along Loch Lomond's east coast. Unfortunately I lost the map and now can't remember the exact way. So my best advice is to better check in a tourist information. The one in Balloch is more or less on the way. There are many hikes, but for us the Gleddoch Hotel spa was calling and it would have been really rude not to answer :-)!
How to get there: If you are lucky - and in off season that is often the case - you can get fairly cheap tickets from eg Frankfurt to Glasgow with Lufthansa. How to get around: The best way to go from A-B and to be flexible is with a rental car. You can find good deals at https://www.billiger-mietwagen.de or https://www.rentalcars.com/ Where to Stay and Eat: The Cairndow Stagecoach Inn is beautifully located on the bank of Loch - Fine apparently it is one of the oldest Inns in the highlands. The rooms are comfy, but don't expect them to be stylish. The same goes for the Pub: Typical Pub-food in an cosy room with open fire. Cairndow PA26 8BN, UK, Tel: +44 1499 600286
Conveniently 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 off season. The SPA is very good, with a big swimming pool, sauna and an outdoor Jacuzzi. The rooms are all modern, the restaurant was ok. Old Greenock Rd, Langbank, PA14 6YE, Tel: +44(0)1475 540 711