Photo: Relaxing by the fire at Inver Lodge
The ‘Strathpuffer’ takes place this weekend, known locally as ‘The Suffer’, this event involves little more than cycling round and round a snowy hill for 24 hours. It is undoubtedly an exercise in masochism that has nonetheless proved to be a mainstay of the Scottish biking calendar, selling out almost every year. Whilst we salute the hundreds of hardy souls slogging their way through frozen mud to the point of exhaustion, it seems a great time to consider a very different way to spend a winter weekend in Scotland and the intriguing concept of Còsagach.
Coined as a distinctly Scottish variation of the Danish idea of Hygge that captured the imagination of the world a few years ago the term is a rediscovery of an old Gaelic word meaning feeling snug, sheltered and warm. In this context it describes perfectly the attractions being indoors in a Scottish winter.
Blankets are just one possible ingredient for this, basically you can never have too many, whether they are super soft and fluffy or thick Harris Tweed then wrap up in them for that childlike embrace. Holidays don’t have to be about exercise and activity, about gung-ho adventure and exploration. For many the chance to do nothing, to just relax with your thoughts, your partner or a great book is enough to recharge. If you seek an antidote to the often frantic pace of modern life then Còsagach is a means to an end, to help you slow down, switch off and unwind. Clashindeugle is a great spot for this, whilst the active members of the family can build snowmen or go sledging, the older (and wiser) generation can snuggle up in a woolly jumper with a Nan Shepherd book and a bowl of hot soup.
A fire will help enormously to get you into the mood. Old fashioned style open fires are definitely the best for atmosphere and modern wood burning stoves are the best for heat, but nothing beats the evocative smell of burning peat, it’s like Hebridean incense. Once that smell gently massages you, then you know you it’s time to relax. Dim the lights, stoke up the fire as much as you dare and turn to the people around you. Còsagach is not about television or video games, as befitting an old fashioned Gaelic, idea it’s more about loved ones, conviviality and well-being. Inver Lodge is the ideal spot for a social evening around the fire and in addition to the bar and billiard table the fire is big enough for an extended group to gather round and play cards to decide who makes the next round of hot chocolate or tell ghost stories and swap tall tales.
The next ingredient for perfect Còsagach would be a fine single malt. If you have been out experiencing inclement weather all day then a hot toddy would be my choice to revive me, however it’s sacrilege in some quarters to add honey, sugar and lemon to a fine whisky. The best drams should be savoured and adulterated with only a spot of water. My personal favourite would be for something full flavoured and peaty to complement a roaring peat fire, sipped slowly with the only sound being the wind and the sea outside, it’s a world away from a typical night out in a busy city pub. Shore House sits right on the water’s edge. In summer it means easy access to the sea and the nearby beach at Big Sand, but a stormy winters evening is when it is at its atmospheric best as the waves lash the very edge of the garden and the howling wind shakes the window panes. Instead of turning on the TV, open the curtains and revel in the power of nature.
Maybe the greatest thing about the concept of Còsagach is that it does not have an exact definition, it will mean different things to different people, but for those seeking a brief change to a hectic lifestyle then Scotland in winter is the perfect starting point. Call LHH now and enquire about great bargains to be had for late availability, and holiday while the snow is still here for added cosiness.