Winter Glamping In The Scottish Highlands
Updated: Jan 13, 2020
Castles, Whiskey and exploring the Cairngorms
Taking a months break from Asia to visit family in the U.K., Adam and I spent some time exploring Scotland. For a few nights we stayed with Adam’s dad, who lives in Gardenstown, a tiny village of cottages clustered on a hill jutting up from the northeastern coast. There were no bars, restaurants or shops - just quaint seaside homes and a few fishing boats softly bumping against the dock in the gentle waves. The cozy seaside home yielded a picturesque view of the sea with dramatic cliffs towering above. Cozy fires heated the home from the bone-chill of Scotland’s winter. In the evenings we’d cook delicious dinners before retreating to the inviting living room, filled with comfy couches and warm fleecy blankets. A country known for its many fine whiskies, Adam’s dad had a unique collection for us to sample. Late in the evening we’d bundle up and walk along the darkened, deserted beach with the two adorable pups, gazing up at a perfectly clear night sky sparkling with countless stars.
Winding through the exhilarating countryside roads in our little Fiat, it seemed every other sign was for a whiskey distillery, a castle, or some majestic estate. Used to driving a scooter since leaving the States, I was back behind a wheel again. I struggled against my American habit of driving on the right side and adapted to shifting with my left hand. The moment I lost myself in the scenery Adam had to remind me “Left! Stay on the left side of the road!” - luckily there wasn’t much oncoming traffic around! As we drove through the vibrant green countryside thousands of sheep grazed lazily under the winter sun. The bright blue sky created a stunning contrast to the landscape, dotted with bright white fluffy clouds as far as the eye could see.
While some people come to Scotland to drive along the distillery route, I was more interested in the castle route! I was fascinated by the dramatic history the old walls held, and couldn’t wait to absorb it all as we explored them. We stopped at the Delgatie Castle and had lunch inside the old kitchen, ending the meal with my favorite Scottish delicacy: warm scones with fresh jam and clotted cream!
Afterwards, we explored the massive castle. We climbed the central stone staircase that wove through the heart of the castle like a central vortex, stopping on the many floors to view the rooms that were still perfectly appointed after hundreds of years. Massive weapons hung on the walls and complete warriors’ armor stood shining, guarding the corners. The library’s shelves displayed hundreds of colorful, aged spines - I so desperately wanted to crack one open! Canopied beds stood sturdily with tiny matching counterparts for the children. Every room was decorated uniquely; the curtains, the rugs and even the types of wood gave them each their own special character. Outside, horses roamed about in the afternoon sun.
Braving the northern Scotland winter, we embarked on a road trip to the biggest national park in Scotland: The Cairngorms. The countryside landscape morphed as we increased elevation to beautiful mountains capped in snow towering all around us. When Adam bravely let me drive again, I had a blast zooming through the mountain range, the narrow road twisting sharply - it was so much fun in a little manual car!
That night, we glamped in a bell tent in the middle of the countryside. Leaving our exhausted auto, we hiked ten minutes up through the muddy countryside to our tent. I unzipped the double flap door and gasped: it was beautiful inside! Tasteful string lights hung throughout, and lanterns glowed in strategic spots to create the perfect ambient lighting. Cozy throws were draped around and inviting floor cushions lay near the wood stove. It was large enough for a queen bed, a small table and chairs and a wood burner. But most importantly: a bottle of wine was atop the table! We kept the wood stove burning constantly to stay warm (it was about 20 degrees outside the tent!), because when it was off it got cold very fast. Unfortunately, there were no restaurants around for dinner, but true to my style I was armed with cookies, cakes and chocolates - so we sat by the fire and ate sweets and drank wine...heaven!
The next morning I unzipped the tent to a view of snowy mountains with sheep grazing behind the tent. It was perfectly remote and utterly peaceful. After a delicious picnic basket full of breakfast, we continued our road trip exploring the forest.
We passed dozens of lochs, massive bright blue lakes gleaming in the winter sunlight with deep green pine forests surrounding their shores. We passed castles whose turrets poked through trees, while some stood alone on massive estates - we even saw one on its own island in the middle of a loch! Stopping at the famous Fort William, we ate a seafood lunch while overlooking the loch.
On our way home, we passed Loch Ness, and I stopped the car to witness a serene sunset over the water. With Adam’s arms around me, it was silent but for the waves gently lapping as we gazed out at the spectacular scene. We stood there together, deeply content, hearts full. My mind swam with the adventures we’d had the last five weeks and those to come, until eventually all I could think was: Does life get any better than this?