WINTER WONDERLAND ~ SCOTLAND
It was a honeymoon to remember for David and Anne Robinson of Edinburgh.
“We both wanted to do something unique, something a little out of the ordinary,” recalls David, a 29 year-old engineer. “Anne and I both love outdoor activities, so we thought why not celebrate our marriage accordingly?”
With the blessings of their family and friends, the young newlyweds packed their hats, mitts and scarves this past February, and took-off to the mountains of Scotland’s scenic Northwest Highlands. There, amidst the hilly and barren Kincaid region, the couple joined thousands of like-minded adventurers for WinterFest, a three day celebration of cold and snow.
“It was brilliant,” shares Anne, 28, whose family hails from nearby Thurso. “We hiked the hills, and spent a couple of afternoons scaling some pretty steep cliffs with ice picks. We also learned how to construct an outdoor snow shelter, and even got in some cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing. It certainly wasn’t a typical honeymoon by any means.”
“It was…exhausting,” laughs David. “Exciting, but exhausting. My muscles are still sore. Thankfully, we were able to recoup at the end of each day with warm brandy and a good meal. I do remember that sleep could not have come quickly enough that weekend.”
Despite the exertion, Anne says she would do it all over again given the opportunity.
“I loved it. We usually think of holidays as being about going south during that time of the year for a bit of sun, sand and surf. But events like WinterFest show that there are many amazing things to do here right in our own backyard between November and March. I would love to go back again next year.”
Anne may get her wish, as WinterFest 2013 is scheduled to take place this coming February 22-25 in Glen Affric, near Loch Ness.
“We have a full-long weekend of great activities planned,” says co-organizer Graeme Hall. “We start with outfitting and kitting sessions on Friday, where people can update their gear and supplies. We follow that with a meet and greet where hikers can speak with guides and other participants to ask questions and get advice.”
On Saturday, Hall will lead an experienced group of climbers up the southeastern ridge of Tom a’ Choinich, a challenging 1112 meter trek. A more moderate hike of 1036 meters to the summit of Sgurr na Lapaich is also available for novices.
“Neither are what you might call easy climbs,” notes Hall, “but once you arrive at the peak it makes the effort all worthwhile – the views are simply spectacular.”
Sunday’s agenda is similar, with a snow-sheltering session scheduled for those looking to set up camps on their journeys.
“It is a lot more fun than it sounds,” jokes Hall. “Contrary to popular belief, this is not only a wilderness survival tool – it is also a comfortable and unique way to experience nature.”
A final sojourn on Monday to Meall Fuar-mhonaidh in nearby Drum wraps up the weekend with a shorter hike of 696 meters, giving participants a more relaxed opportunity to mingle.
“And that is really what the weekend is all about,” explains Hall. “It is a chance for folks to get in some good exercise, while socializing with others. Many people have made life-long friendships here, and we often see the same groups of individuals come back each year to re-connect.”
David and Anne Robinson are likely to return again this winter.
“Anne doesn’t know it yet, but I have already put a deposit down,” smiles David. “I thought it might be a great way to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.”