A Highland Winter

The Highlands in winter.

12th December 2020

I am going to put it out there and say that everyone, at some stage in their life, should visit the Scottish Highlands in winter! A tour of Scotland in winter might just be a trip of a lifetime.

The Scottish Highlands are one of the most beautiful places in the world, and this area constantly tops lists by travel writers, on where to find the best natural beauty across the globe. Take this landscape and put into winter, and it becomes everything from romantic to epic! It is a rugged land, and it looks even more wild when the temperature drops, and the sun does not display as much of its light across the landscape. The sun shines across the landscape in Scotland in winter as opposed to on it, and this creates an amazing seasonal atmosphere including fiery red sunsets.      

Winter travel is becoming ever more popular and, as we are now fully supporting environmentally friendly tourism, we are designing more off-season tours of Scotland to some of the most strikingly beautiful places. The landscape of the Scottish Highlands is stunningly beautiful at any time of year. Spring brings a first burst of colour where green starts to encroach the land. Summer continues with the explosion of green across the land, hills and mountains as grasses, trees and shrubs displays just how beautiful and relaxing the colour green is. Autumn sees our landscape turn to gold, leaving winter with a hard act to follow! But it delivers, and it delivers with an epic shift to white. Frost covers the land early in the morning and, in most places, it will stay all day. Even a short walk on a hillside will put you in the mood for beautiful winter, where bracken leaves, covered in crisp frosted white particles line the paths and cover the hillside. However, the frost is only the start. It is quickly followed by snow and ice, and by early December, the hills and mountains across the highlands will have a covering of snow, much like the icing on top of a Christmas pudding. Most of the mountains in Scotland display rocky black features set onto grasses which, in winter, have turned brown and pale, hence my comparison to a Christmas pudding! But it is not only the hills and mountains of the Scottish Highlands that hold winter beauty. The open lands are, in places, so vast that with big skies above, can hold you still for as long as you wish. It is in those places where you can stare into the huge empty space and literally watch winter settle on the landscape, making its presence felt for what will be the foreseeable future. The highland glens are where winter can be felt the most. Although you can be sheltered from the wind in a glen, it is here where the temperature can get down to -20 Degrees Celsius due to the sun finding it difficult finding these places. However, wrap up warm and you will enjoy some of the best walking in a highland glen, in winter.

The land of Scotland can be, and is, unforgiving in the winter months and care must be taken if you are going on the hills and mountains. But you can enjoy many easy level walks on, and through the landscape. Walks where you can feel and embrace winter. Even your walk is just for an hour, and your sole reason for the walk is to get to that favourite coffee shop or pub, it will make you feel you are part of this year end’s, or early new year’s season! It snows a lot in the Scottish Highlands and the landscape can be covered in snow, on and off from November to April. Wander off into the landscape and ice forms too, especially on the hills and mountains.

The air in Scotland’s north in winter can feel like the cleanest on earth and it probably is. Especially when it blows from the north when it comes via Greenland. It is worth noting that winter is our windiest time of year and gusts can reach gale force levels. However, a fresh breeze in winter in the Scottish Highlands, is in that ‘perfect weather’ category. There is nothing like walking in the highland wilderness in winter, everything seems so still, and you literally feel the benefit of every single breath of fresh air that you take.    

Water - Scotland makes up the Island of Great Britain - we are surrounded by water. We are in the north of Britain, having a border with our southern neighbour, England so we are also technically, a peninsula too. We have the North Sea to the east, the Pentland Firth right on the north coast and the mighty Atlantic Ocean on our west coast. It is said you are never more than 40 odd miles from the sea when in Scotland, such is the indented coastline of our country. There are around 30,000 lochs in Scotland, and we have many beautiful rivers criss-crossing the land. Scotland has a beautiful relationship with water, and you will find the subject of water in Scottish art, music, poetry, film and literature. The frozen loch is a thing of wonder in the Scottish Highlands. It is no wonder that ice skating and curling were once big sports in the Scottish Highlands. Today, I love coming across a frozen loch when on my travels. I do not venture out there! I stand, or sit beside it, just looking at nature doing its thing, turning liquid into ice. Freezing mist rising off a frozen loch is a beautiful sight and one I can sit with for an hour or so. I also enjoy a riverside walk in winter but one of my favourite winter experiences is walking on a hill and coming across a mountain stream cutting its way through a frozen landscape. The sound of the running water is so peaceful, and on a winters day, it always looks crystal clear due to its ice cold nature.

My favourite time of day in winter is between 3.00pm to 5.00pm. I love being out in the countryside at this time of day. I love the disappearing sun, especially if it turns the sky orangey red. I love seeing the trees at this time of day as they become silhouette against the landscape and darkening sky. I love the peace and quiet and the sound of nature. The sound of birds turning in for the night and, if you are lucky, the sight of red deer or fox walking through the snow. I love the end of my day in the outdoors, around 5.30pm where I walk into my favourite highland pub or hotel for a pint of ale. I look forward to sitting with family and friends over great food and a stodgy Scottish dessert finished off with a malt whisky! I love the deep endless dark outside but at the same time, the reflection of the warming bar in the window. Tonight we are inside, but tomorrow we'll be out...