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Issue 24 - Thrilled to chill

Scotland Magazine Issue 24
January 2006

 

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Thrilled to chill

Dominic Roskrow on the joys of a Scottish winter

I have always loved winter more than summer and unlike just about everybody else I know, I look forward to late Autumn and the falling of the leaves with glee.

I anticipate lighting the first fire of the season with relish, and celebrate waking up to frost on the window and underfoot for the first time.

And for a variety of reasons. Everything from the fact that in the Northern hemisphere the best sport takes place at this time – soccer and rugby union in Europe, American football in the United States. The best new contemporary music is released at this time. Wasps and flies die off. The tourist resorts are quiet and you have more time and space. The list goes on and on.

Mostly, though, I put it down to my Celtic metabolism. I overheat even in moderate climes, and feel decidedly unhappy when it’s hot. I have never ever managed to stay or look cool when the sun is out. I’m the sweaty one turning up late to meetings, the flustered one downing pints of water to avoid a heart attack.

But winter! Freezing cold days with the sun shining in cloudless blue skies, ice, frost or snow carpeting the fields, your breath visible as you scrunch across the grass.

When you’re hot it’s all but impossible to cool off unless you have easy access to a swimming pool, and not many of us in Britain do. But in winter there are any number of wonderful ways to chase away the chills: big fires, hearty stews, baked potatoes, hot soup, Scotch whisky…

Scotland does winter better than most – that’s why the Romans called it Hibernia. And even despite the attempts of gas-guzzling car drivers across the world, Speyside in particular is just a wonderful place to be when it turns golden brown and the last rays of warm sunshine battle during the day to dispel the frost in the morning and hold it at bay towards the night.

I happened to be in Speyside for the first frost of the season this year as part of a magical three day trip catching up with some of my whisky contacts. I often wonder why so many people travel to these parts in the height of summer when the late autumn and early winter periods are so much more Scottish.

The Scots know exactly how to do winter properly. They start with St Andrew’s Day enjoy the build up to Christmas, make a mountain out of Hogmanay, stretching it well in to January, and then, just as they’re recovering, they have Burns’ Night.

And when all that lot’s out the way there’s still time for a trip up to the Cairngorms for some skiing. Does it get better than this?

It does in the case of one of my friends, who goes one better – he has a birthday mid-January, so that barely a day goes by during the worst month of the year when he doesn’t have a warming drink to hand.

They’ve been forecasting the worst British winter for some 40 years or so, though at the time of writing we’re still bathed in glorious but chilly sunshine. By the time you read this Scotland might well be under four feet of snow.

I won’t be complaining – that, as far as I’m concerned is how it should be. I’m looking forward to it already.