Cruel is the Snow that Sweeps Glencoe

As we draw near the end of our time in Scotland, my brother and I have traveled south towards the more inhabited areas of the country.

We’ve encountered more tourists and more precipitation during this leg of the journey, as well. But we’re still taking our time and still keeping a pretty loose itinerary, with plenty of stops for snacking and painting and writing — not letting ourselves get too caught up in the “tour-bus lifestyle.”

I’ve really come to appreciate the space that’s been provided throughout this trip when Jay has taken out his art supplies to work on a painting each day, as a part of a 31-day challenge. While he’s doing his painting, I get a chance to catch up on journaling. Or reading. Or social media (which is increasingly possible, as we drive to the south, where the signal is stronger). These lulls in the action actually make the trip more enjoyable for me: a part of the adventure, not an interruption to the adventure.

Camper-Van

Even in the “busy” parts of Scotland (which really aren’t all that busy), we’re still pretty free and happy in our camper-van. I can’t say this week has provided the best sleep I’ve ever had, but the mobility, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of the camper-van have been pretty hard to beat.

It’s been especially nice to have a space to warm up and dry off between adventures.

The coldest, wettest, and most-adventurous part of our time in the southern Highlands was an attempted walk from Glencoe to set of three mountain peaks called the Three Sisters, or Bidean nam Bian.

It was probably only a quarter of a mile up the trail when we got to the part where the snow started sticking. The path, paved with stones, was visible enough. Just slippery. As we kept climbing, though, the snow got deeper. We made it about half-way up the mountain when we started having trouble following the trail. Three different times, we made an attempt to follow the trail, and three different times, we lost it. There was just too much snow and not enough visibility.

It was disappointing to turn back, but the decision felt better and better as we descended. I slipped and fell four times (fortunately, nothing super-dangerous). Jay and I stopped to have a snowball fight at one point (which may have been frivolous and foolish, but at least it was fun!). We got sopping wet, and we had to stutter-step almost the entire way down — but we made it.

Back in the camper-van, we cranked up the heat and the stereo to listen to an old Scottish folk song that included the lyrics, “O, cruel was the snow that sweeped Glencoe.” And it felt like we understood Scotland better than any other time on our trip.

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