…by Paige / from United States of America + Canada / studying Linguistics and studied at The University of Edinburgh on exchange
Often our preconceptions of a city are associated with its climate. I have experienced first hand that this is indeed true. I can tell you as a native Californian that I am questioned about our sunny climate. Or as a university student in Canada I am often pitied for our exceptionally cruel winters. That being sad, my weather associations with Scotland were that of rain and emerald landscapes and not much else.
However, my first trek into the Highlands was quick to prove me wrong. First came the rain, then the snow flurries, and finally a landscape so white you couldn’t see where mountain ended, and sky began.
Our first stop was in Glencoe, rather a viewpoint in the Glencoe Valley. That morning I expected the view to be rolling green landscapes with a reflective river running through its center. Instead, grey took over. The foggy skies once again hid the mountain tops. Bare sticks of frozen vegetation broke through haphazardly through the snow.
It wasn’t as though it were any less beautiful; it was a Scotland I hadn’t yet conceptualized. Darker, greyer, more mysterious.
We moved on to Fort William, a quaint town sitting alongside Loch Linnhe with a view of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. The town mostly consisted of a High Street, mostly frequented by students on an otherwise quiet Sunday. And as the name suggests, it is where Fort William once stood. As an Outlander fan, I was sorry to see that this pivotal location in the books was nothing more than a short wall of stones. Its former glory was left to the imagination.
Finally, we reached our main stop, the famous Harry Potter bridge in Glenfinnan. Although I am not a Harry Potter fan, it was impossible not to be entranced by this setting. True to nature, the track curved against the mountains, its supporting arches a perfect contrast to the pure natural landscape.
It was a feat to scale the icy mountainous terrain for a perfect photo opportunity. However, the sight of the bridge with the white mountains to your left and the moody expanse of Loch Shiel to your right was nothing short of breathtaking.
Along Loch Shiel stands the Glenfinnan Monument, also relevant to the Outlander series. After all, the Jacobite Rising began there. However, the rising began in August, and one can only imagine the inverse beauty of this area in summer.
The journey back from Glenfinnan was long and dark with the sun setting early. I chose Citylife for my day trip into the Highlands, but at every location we were flocked by various tour busses shuttling students from Edinburgh.
The snowy landscape of Scotland was not what I had expected to see my first time in the Highlands. Yet, I was glad to see the country in a way many of its outsiders could not imagine it. Scotland in winter adds another dimension to its ethereal beauty. I can only hope to explore it again in warmer weathers to round out my experience of Scotland.