Trip Report: Glasgow & Scottish Highlands

By CrustyCanucks - August 09, 2017

While most people plan their trips to Scotland during the summer (when the country is home to long days - it stays light out until nearly midnight there!), we chose to go in the heart of winter. 

Not just any section of winter either, we chose to go to Scotland during Christmastime. And this was by design, as the entire island of Britain is famous for being full of holiday cheer, and Scotland also happens to be home to Britain's only free herd of reindeer, and we just simply had to see that. 

We flew into the ultra cool Glasgow Airport, and decided to spend a couple days in the cosmopolitan city before we headed off to the Highlands. We figured this would be a good way to get ourselves acclimated to the time difference and give ourselves a chance to visit some of Glasgow's amazing pubs and whisky bars. 

We ended up falling in love with Glasgow and wondering aloud why more people don't talk about how cool of a city it is? It has the art, the history, and architecture to compete with any big city in Europe with the Scottish Highlands on its doorstep. 

Well, we say one vote for Glasgow! But alas, it was off to the Highlands. 

After a long day of bus travel, we arrived in the ski town of Aviemore. We chose this town to be our Highland base due to its location inside the rolling hills of Cairngorms National Park. The park is the largest in the British Isles and is home to several attractions including a ski resort and of course the main reason that we were there: the Cairngorm Reindeer Center. 

We actually didn't know that Scotland even had ski slopes before researching this part of our trip, but we soon were surrounded by a winter wonderland. Our decision to make Aviemore our base was also aided by the fact that it is located within the famous Speyside whisky producing region. Afterall, what could be more Christmassy than running around with some reindeer after drinking some whisky? Not much. 

After a long travel day on the bus, the Dunroamin Bed & Breakfast was an absolute sight for sore eyes. Warm and welcoming, our room featured a view of the snow-dusted Cairngorm mountains and one of the coziest atmospheres we had experienced in a long time. 

We loved all the space we had in the room and the comfy beds so much, we ended up spending most of our time in Aviemore inside the cozy inn. Of course we would shuffle downstairs for a full Scottish breakfast, but then we'd settle in for days full of long winter naps, listening to Christmas music, and looking out the frosted window panes saying things like “sure looks cold out there”, before slumping back down on our pillows with a warm mug in our hands. 

Hey, sometimes even these Crusty Canucks aren't always adventure travelers!!!

There was one thing in Aviemore that was going to get us out of bed though, and that was the reindeer. The Cairngorm Reindeer Center is home to over a hundred of the gentle beasts and the opportunity to get up close and personal with them to boot. The Scottish Highlands had been a home for reindeer but they had disappeared until they were re-introduced in the 1950s by a gentleman from Sweden. 

He recognized the environment in the Scottish Highlands as similar to that of Lapland in Scandinavia, and the rest is history. Even though we are from Canada, we have never been to the arctic or walked on anything in the world you would classify as tundra before, but looking around, we could really see where that wise man was coming from all those years ago. It just felt Nordic, and at around 57 degrees north latitude, Aviemore was the furthest north we had been on this trip.

We got the chance to see the reindeer in their natural environment as they are a free-ranging herd, pet them, and feed them. They were all very friendly as can be and with the fresh dusting of snow on the ground under their hooves and a light mist hanging in the air above them, it made for an absolutely stunning setting. 

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