Keep Warm out West
Photo: Tamana Cottage
The west coast of Scotland is an ideal winter holiday destination. The spectacular scenery is never better than when it is blanketed in a covering of snow and the beaches and mountains take on a whole new aspect. Keeping warm is one of the keys to having an amazing winter holiday, especially when the weather has been as cold as this week with temperatures dipping below zero. Here are a few recommendations for things to do and some ways to keep warm.
The beach at Big Sand is amazing in any weather, a bracing walk along it when the wind is howling and seas are active is an invigorating, life-affirming experience. Fortunately the power of nature can also be savoured from the comfort of Taigh Glas, just a short walk away. Here the views are 180 degrees and take in beaches, islands and mountains. If you are lucky then you may even catch the sun going down over the snow-capped peaks of the Cuillins. That’s not even the best feature of this property, the real attraction is the ability to do this while sitting in front of a roaring wood burning stove. A hot chocolate made with Bailey’s and a mince pie would round off the experience nicely.
A peat fire and a peaty single malt would be the traditional way to appreciate a view over the Atlantic as these three things seem to go perfectly together. For a slightly more modern winter experience then how about a hot toddy, a hot tub and the aurora at Tamana Cottage. When the sun goes down, rather than head inside, turn off the lights and appreciate the total silence and the magnificence of the Milky Way. The lack of ambient light pollution means when the Northern Lights do appear they are absolutely spellbinding. Another way islanders would traditionally keep warm in winter is by wrapping up in the best Harris Tweeds. Locally made hats, gloves and scarves make great souvenirs but are also incredibly practical for venturing out in the occasionally harsh Hebridean winds.
Hill walking can be a challenge in the snow but the rewards are such that it is always worth the effort. Tigh en Leigh is well placed to access the Munros of Torridon and even the winter climbing on Liathach and Beinn Eighe. Another alternative would be to go for a paddle. The sheltered waters just outside the front door are ideal for a sea kayak and you can visit the island visible from the living room. Something restorative is required after a day of exercise in the cold (especially if you have been practicing your Eskimo rolls) so I would be reaching for a big bowl of freshly made Scotch broth followed by a Clootie dumpling with brandy cream. It seems to taste so much better after it’s been hard earned. The well equipped kitchen here makes preparation a breeze but it’s only a short walk to the hotel if you don’t fancy cooking yourself.
The Loony Dook is a modern tradition that has grown in popularity over the past few decades from a few friends jumping into the sea to try and cure their hangovers on New Year’s Day to being an organised and for many people integral part of New Year celebrations. The concept of wild swimming and not being restricted to enjoying a dip in the most popular beaches in the peak of summer has really taken off this year thanks to personalities such as Calum Maclean (he probably does the equivalent of a Loony Dook every day). So get your costume ready and some warm clothes for exiting the water and join in the fun. Helensburgh is one of many places with an organised event this year, which raises money for local charities, and is just a 15 minute drive from Strone House. If you are still feeling cold when you get back then you could always easy yourself into the hot tub and kick back with some mulled wine.