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Winter Travel in Scotland
One of the questions that come my way more than most is what time of year is best to come to Scotland. While us locals would likely all converge on spring, early summer and autumn as the best of it weather-wise, poor old winter often gets shunned. But maybe we shouldn't be quite so hasty.
I'm just back from the Isle of Mull having done something I'm programmed not to do - last-minute, chaotically un-planned travel. Dropping it all, jumping in the car and heading to the west coast was a revelation as I just winged it. The result was spectacular as desolate landscapes screamed attitude, old ruins gave out the sad dog eyes and local wildlife stared back at me with bemused 'are you mental, pal?' curiosity. Having hikes and coastal trails to yourself without seeing another human all day is one of those great gifts of nature and every fan of the outdoors needs to give this a try. Good for the soul, and easy on the eye too I hope you'll agree.....
The things to be ready for:
- Many rural attractions are closed for winter. Not all, but most. So check ahead and be prepared.
- Extreme weather may come your way in which case there could be road closures and ferry cancellations. This is rare and you'd have to be unlucky but do have a plan B, especially when ferries are involved. So far this winter there's only been a handful of days when this has applied.
- The days are short. It's dark by 4.30pm-ish so it's about making the most of the light that you have and spending time outdoors when you can.
- You'll have vast and spectacular parts of the country pretty much to yourself, the only time when this is possible. Even Skye is fairly quiet!
- You don't need to book accommodation months in advance. I literally booked into an excellent self-catering lodge at 11am for a 3pm check in on Mull, one of the most popular of Scotland's isles. Winter is ideal for spontaneous travel, so check the forecast a few days before and, if it's looking decent or better, start booking.
- Although many restaurants in the rural areas may close for the season, self-catering is a super-flexible option and, should the weather turn on you, you'll be in a home-from-home setting anyway. Bring a bottle of single malt and you'll be grand.
- The light in winter can be absolutely breathtaking and favoured by photographers.
- Single track roads are significantly less annoying when there's no-one else on them.
- Some islands are much easier to get to in winter than others. For first timers, I'd nudge you towards the likes of Arran, Bute, Mull and Skye which involve short ferry crossings with regular ferries. Skye has the added advantage of being able to drive on over the bridge but is a long way if coming in and out of Central Scotland.
- Many people come here in search of the misty glens, sulking lochs and contemplative, snow-topped mountains. Never is that atmosphere more tangible than in winter! This is raw Scotland at its best.
Scotland travel blogger
and writer with a wee bit of photography and video thrown in. Love nothing more than exploring my home country and have a particular leaning towards the outdoors, history and our national drink.
You can also find me on Twitter