Get Outside This Winter
Winter is not a time to be hibernating, it’s a time to be active, get outside and do things. It has been a mainly wet and windy season so far but when the snow arrives the opportunities for fun multiplies. Here are a few of our favourite seasonal sports to get excited about. These go hand in hand with some of our best properties so book now for a winter break to make the most of the conditions.
Most skiers are familiar with the popular resorts in Glencoe and the cairngorms but when it is cold enough there is another alternative in the borders. The Lowther Hills Ski Club, located beside the highest villages in Scotland has a clubhouse, nursery slope, a number of tows and offers night skiing, instruction and coaching. The area has a long history of snowsports and is trying to re-establish itself on the ski scene with the formation of a new volunteer run club that focuses more on families and beginners. Glendow is only a 40 minute drive away and has two massive open fires, just the spot for some après-ski.
Back country skiing has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years so it is perhaps not that surprising that snowboarders would find a way to follow suit. Splitboarding allows a special snowboard to break into two pieces so that the more remote parts of Scotland can be accessed in the same way as ski tourers would. This is a fantastic way to make the most of Scotland’s sometimes fickle conditions and also get away from the crowds. You could glide from the top of a Munro back to your car on virgin snow without seeing another person all day. Quite the contrast to piste skiing. Clashindeugle Farmhouse is close to the Cairngorm Mountains and the Lecht Ski Centre, traditionally the most reliable area for snowfall in the country.
As well as being the snowsports capital of Scotland, Aviemore is the location of the Cairngorm Sled Dog Centre. Although you can visit the museum and kennels all year round, it is in the snow with sled dog trips and safaris that you can have the most fun. Day trips or certified courses are available that are suitable for ages 12 and upwards. Late January also sees the annual Siberian Husky Club Rally in Aviemore. This is the largest event of its kind in the UK and attracts over 1,000 dogs and 250 mushers to compete in a number of races. It’s a great time to visit, atmospheric and exciting and very family friendly. Mallachie is just out of town but still convenient for all the facilities in Aviemore.
Mountain biking is not a sport usually associated with winter but for over 10 years now the hardiest racers in the country have been gathering in January in the north of Scotland for the world’s toughest 24 hour mountain bike race. Strathpuffer has evolved from a niche local get together into a sell-out national event. The competitive side of things may not be for everyone but it highlights the fact that mountain biking can be done year round in the Highlands, trail centres are open in even the worst weather and with the right equipment and clothing you can have some memorable riding experiences. Skylarks on the Black Isle is convenient for those taking part in the race as well as being close to the mountain bike trails at Learnie Red Rock.
Groove Cairngorm takes place in Aviemore on the weekend of the 11th-13th March. It will be the UK’s first ever combined snowsports and music festival. With one ticket you can shred the slopes at Cairngorm during the day then get transported to the big top in Aviemore to party all night with some of the biggest names on the festival circuit. Thyme Cottage is just 5 miles from all the action but snuggled away in the forest where you can enjoy some peace and quiet after your exertions.
Curling in Scotland has a long and distinguished history stretching as far back as the 16th century. The Bonspiel or Grand Match is an event that traditionally takes place only when the weather is cold enough. This epic battle between the north and south of Scotland has taken place only 38 times with the last official competition being in 1979. In 2010 after a prolonged period of freezing temperatures a match was scheduled for the Lake of Menteith, much to the excitement of the curling fraternity in Scotland. Health and safety concerns would ultimately derail the official competition but despite this more than 20,000 people defied police instructions and turned up to play and spectate. Should the temperatures fall this year The Old Farmhouse is ideally located for you to head up there for an opportunity to witness this rare spectacle.