Winter Wonderland

The temperature has dipped and the skies have cleared – it’s the perfect time for a winter walk!

After the logistical planning of Christmas and the busyness of New Year, I love a bit of time in the countryside to clear out my head. We’ve been in and out of work in between times, too, which means quite dense days of getting things done before being off again.

Winter can be wonderful, but it’s not a generous season. It often gives rainy or windy days, sometimes thick snow, but every once in a while it delivers the perfect combination of crisp frostiness and absolutely clear blue skies. Wednesday was one of those days, so I took to the hills above Blair Atholl for a cycle in the low sun.

I’ve said it before, but I love how everyone’s in a good mood in the countryside! People I passed wished me a “Happy New Year”, or just a friendly “Hello”, which was a bit lovely after the argy-bargy of the city centre and the supermarkets.

No Clear Path

The long climb into the foot of the Cairngorms went on for a while, but the scenery was amazing and the views went on for miles. I crossed a burn and the path disappeared in the foliage, and suddenly I was hacking across a hillside worried about making it home before dark.

Fortunately I was heading downhill now, so it passed quickly enough, and I was out the back of remote Bruar Lodge as the sun was getting low. Before joining the estate road, I passed a single Highland cow – in the original black colour!

Here, you’re at the start of a famous mountain pass called the Minigaig. It’s one of a number of historic routes that head north over the difficult Central Highlands to Speyside and the Moray area.

Back in the late 1600s, the Minigaig – now barely a foot-wide dent in the heather – was the only road marked north, well before the Drumochter took over as the main route.

Chilly Tips

Progress was a bit quicker now as the estate road to the Lodge made for smooth progress, though the speedy run back to the car park was so bloomin’ cold that I lost the feeling in my fingers and my beard froze. My toffees had gone even harder in my rucksack, and gave such an almighty crack when I chewed one that I was worried about my fillings.

Still, though, as everything started to thaw on the drive home, I was sure our Willie Shand would’ve been proud of me – it was a proper day out in some of Scotland’s finest scenery.

Find more out and about Travel Blogs from the team – and Willie – on the website.

Alex Corlett

Alex is the "Friend's" Features Editor, working with the talented Features Team to bring you everything from cryptic crosswords to financial advice, knitting patterns to international travel and inspirational real life stories. Always on the hunt for a new feature idea, Alex also enjoys cycling and loves a good tea room.