Last weekend my wellies saw some snow. Real, honest to gosh, feet and feet of snow. I grew up in the Southern U.S., where it snows once every few years- and then only up to a few inches. Even a slight dusting of snow is considered The Snowpacalypse to us- schools close (yeah!) businesses shut down and anyone brave enough to attempt to drive is taking her life in her hands, as Southern people LOSE OUR MINDS in winter weather. Vehicles in ditches, store shelves cleared of all the milk and bread. You get the picture. We had an antique Radio Flyer sled (called sledges in the UK) that belonged to my grandfather, and on the rare occasion that we could use it, my sisters and brother and I would put on our “snow clothes” and hit the hills. Southerners, who don’t normally own hard core winter clothing, tend to look like homeless bag ladies in the snow. We pile on layers of pyjamas, sweatpants, sweaters, windbreakers and borrowed sock hats. And, not being skilled in the ways of the sled or the ice, someone usually gets hurt- but, never to let a good snow day to go waste, our motto was “It’s not fun unless you almost die!”
As an adult, I vacationed out west a couple of times so have seen real big snow. But snow is still a novelty to me, and since I’ve moved to Scotland, I’m still like that Mississippi kid when even an inch of the white stuff blankets the glen. Being on the coast, we don’t get snow that much. But from the hill behind our house, I love to see the snowy peaks of Ben Cruachan. I had been wanting to actually play in it, so when we finally got a nice weekend, we took a day trip to find the snow.
Glencoe is less than 50 miles north and has had great snow all year. The drive is always beautiful, and even more so among the white topped mountains. Feeling a bit peckish, we went into Glencoe village for a coffee and cake before we hit the slopes. Glencoe Café was the first place we spotted and what a little gem, as it turned out. Adjacent to a B and B, the small yet bright and airy café had a lovely selection of cakes, pastries and light lunches on offer, featuring local produce- and the hosts, Jimmy and Justine, welcomed us warmly. Local art adorned the walls and a couple of shelves of regional gift items such as jams, candles and soaps provided a nice touch. We settled in some comfy seats by a window looking out over the village with the backdrop of mountains and dug into a Lockerbie cheddar and herb scone and a huge slice of lemon cake with latte and tea. The scone was cheese and butter heaven- perfectly light in crumb but rich enough to fortify me until lunch. The frosting on the lemon cake was just tart enough to offset the sweet moistness. Rab declared the latte “creamilicious” and I had to concur. We could have sat for a while enjoying the peace and quiet of this idyllic little café, but there was sledging to be done so we headed up the mountain.
We arrived at Glencoe Mountain Resort a bit after noon and the place was buzzing. We donned our waterproofs and queued for half day lift tickets. There was one lodge at the bottom, with a café and toilet accommodations. The café was full of folks enjoying apres ski tea and snacks. There is a small ski shop next door and changing and shower facilities. The setting is remote and beautiful and the rustic facility fits in perfectly.
I didn’t care about skiing- I am past rusty- and Rab is less than a year after back surgery and while he is fully mobile now, there is no need to go crazy. But the ride up the mountain on the lift was worth the price of the ticket. As you ascend the mountain, the barren brown winter landscape gradually transforms into a winter wonderland. Icy waterfalls cascade below. There is a peaceful feeling but also excited anticipation of what lies on the other side of the mountain. The ride lasts less than ten minutes then suddenly you crest the hill and arrive in a winter wonderland.
Surface lifts take skiers and snowboarders further up to the runs but we trekked up. It wasn’t very far but the deep snow made for quite a trudge. A café stands at the top, and beside it, a selection of little plastic sledges free for the borrowing. We found a hill that no one was skiing on and a few folks were already sledding, but it wasn’t crowded and there was plenty of room for the intrepid sledger. Yes, those skiers and snowboarders look so cool whooshing down the mountain, but they couldn’t have been having any more much fun than we were sledging down a bunny slope. Other non-snow sport oriented grown folks like us were giggling and screaming “wheeeeeeeeee!” with abandon. It was like being a kid again.
After a few runs down the hill, we grew tired from trudging back up and returned our sledges. We would have liked to enjoy a coffee in the café, but it was the size of a water closet and there was a line way out the door. I’m not sure why they would even have such a small café at all. Maybe this was an exceptionally busy time but there certainly weren’t lines for the lifts. At any rate, the afternoon was getting on and we decided to go for lunch.
The Clachaig Inn is a popular stop for Glencoe travellers, with its sign that reads “No hawkers or Campbells.” In 1692, after the Jacobite uprising, members of the clan Campbell accepted the hospitality of the clan McDonald, then massacred them -for the “crime” of not pledging allegiance to William and Mary. This betrayal of one’s guests is known as “murder under trust”- doubly heinous in the eyes of Highlanders, and, by tradition, Campbells are still not welcome. We, however, received kind hospitality and a lovely meal. I got the “Cajun” salmon and chorizo jambalaya, which were surprisingly fairly authentic tasting. This spicy dish definitely warmed me up, and the relaxed atmosphere made for a perfect après sledge.
My snow itch was well scratched and it was time to head home. We are lucky to live in a place where you can go from the beach to the snowy mountains in an hour, and I look forward to another “snow day” before the season is over, which some are predicting may not be until well into summer. I give my Glencoe Mountain Resort experience three wellies-the facility is so-so but we had a great time.