Indoor attractions this winter

08 November 2018

smoo cave 

Smoo Cave by Alessandro Malatesta via CC

Holidaying in Scotland this winter you could experience a whole spectrum of weather possibilities, from stunning, bright and calm days with cloudless skies to fierce winds and snowstorms that make you think of the North Pole. If you are not the sporty adventurous type then venturing outside can be intimidating in the worst conditions but don’t despair, there are a host of indoor attractions across the country that are open all year round. These are appealing at any time of year but are best saved for days that you would rather leave the woolly hat and waterproofs at home.

Whisky tastes so much better on a winters evening than at any other time, and a drive around snow speckled Speyside is just the thing to get you in the mood for a fireside single malt. As well as being home to some of the most famous names in whisky, this region has an incredible concentration of distilleries of all vintages and sizes. Almost all of the big names such as Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and Strathisla have distillery tours and tastings available as well as extensive gift shops and restaurants with whisky themed menus. Due to their proximity you could easily visit 2 or three in a day as well as some of the related attractions on the official Malt Whisky Trail such as the Speyside Cooperage and the Dallas Dhu Historic Distillery. Clashindeugle Farmhouse sits right in the heart of whisky country and has panoramic views as well as a huge open fire where large groups can sit round and enjoy a winter evening with a wee glass of something local. Just make sure you have a designated driver!

For an indoors day out, with more appeal for the younger family members, Strathspey Steam Railway is a fantastic option. Although the season is winding down at this time of year there are still a number of services running such as the Santa Express up until the 23rd December and the Mince Pie Special from the 27th December to 2nd January. The rest of the year there are dining services available so you can take in the majestic landscape of the Cairngorms while enjoying quality food and drink in the luxury of a refurbished carriage from the golden age of British railway travel. Clach Beag is located just a short drive away, small and cosy, with a woodburning stove and modern kitchen. It also has a full Sky package for when you just want to curl up on the sofa with a mug of tea and a Christmas film.

The Cromarty Film Festival has established itself over the last decade as one of the most unique and friendly events on the film festival circuit. What it lacks in size or star power it more than makes up for with its community spirit and adventurous line up. Previous years have seen esteemed guests such as John Snow, Michel Faber and Mark Cousins in attendance and 2018 shindig, which takes place from the 30th November to the 2nd of December, promises to maintain this tradition. The village has a palpable buzz about it when the festival is on and although thronging with visitors in the peak summer months, winter is when the locals let their hair down and the pubs and cafes have a more relaxed and fun vibe about them. Festival events and screenings take place in a number of venues around the town but nowhere is very far to walk if its dreich outside. Seashell Cottage is one of the oldest cottages in Cromarty and sits right in the heart of the village with everything you need close by. Instead of driving, it is perfect for those who would rather a slower pace of holiday where you can walk everywhere.

Smoo Cave is one of the most fascinating natural wonders to be found on the North Coast 500 and definitely one that can be saved for a dreich day. It lies close to the main road and is open 365 days a year with no entry fee so as you are motoring by its really easy to park up and make a dash for the entrance. There is a stair and public walkway going down to the river side where you can get in via a 50ft tall entrance which then leads to the second, and appropriately named waterfall cave. The majestic limestone interior has numerous attached legends related to smuggling and banditry and has a unique and dramatic atmosphere. It is fascinating as well as beautiful and for those desperate to see more, a geological tour featuring a boat trip is available into the flooded third chamber. Seahorses sits right on the route of the NC500, from here it is a very scenic drive up to Durness regardless of what the weather is throwing at you. The outstanding Assynt scenery can also be absorbed from the comfort of the luxurious lounge whilst watching the visiting badgers on the patio!