Scotland New Years

I headed up to Scotland for a week over New Years 2016 – 2017 with my parents, my brother Adam and his girlfriend, Diana. We went to Aviemore for three days and then back down to Edinburgh for another three days for Hogmanay – the Scottish New Years celebration.

After a considerable amount of trouble collecting our rental car at Edinburgh airport, we finally headed off up North and after an hour stopped in Perth for lunch at a lovely Wetherspoons in an old converted bank. We got a bit lost heading out and ended up driving down country lanes for a few hours, which was actually great because the Scottish countryside is beautiful.

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We arrived in Aviemore as it was getting dark and after collecting some groceries, checked into our rental home in the Silverglades. It’s a really nice resort and all the homes come with a full kitchen and all facilities. After dinner and a few too many whiskeys, Adam, Diana and I headed out to the local pub where we met some Brits from Hertfordshire. They were almost as drunk as me and quite funny – we kept getting into arguments over whether we were cheating at pool or not!

The next day we headed up the Cairngorms Mountain to see what there is to do. We found a reindeer tour and went up a freezing cold windy mountain trail to walk with and feed the reindeer. I didn’t actually feed any because it was too cold to take my hands out my pockets, but I got a lot of photos somehow.

Then we walked through a bunch of wet ground and snow, got our feet wet, took photos of a bridge, had a snowball fight and finally made it back to the car to warm up. Warm, dry and cozy we drove up to the top of Cairngorms Mountain and went to check out the ski and snowboard conditions. To be fair it wasn’t great – despite freezing temperatures and a heavy wind, there was barely any snow and only a few slopes open, maintained by the snow canons. We settled in for a typical ski resort type lunch at the small cafe and then went for a long, freezing hike up the mountain into a horrible mist and gale force winds. It was freezing and horrible but made for some great photos! After finally descending the arctic-like mountain we drove home, stopping for a quick pint at the Highland Inn pub.

The next morning I was thinking of trying out some snowboarding on the slopes, but since the snow conditions still bad I decided against it and joined the others for a whiskey tour at Dalwhinnie Distillery. Luckily for us they were doing free tours all of December, so we got a full tour of the entire distillery, including a tasting of two whiskys. It was quite interesting to see the whole process of how whisky is made, the vats and potstills, and the thousands of old oak barrels it’s all stored in for 15 years. Then we went for a crap lunch and took a thousand photos of a really old bridge that was built to carry corpses over a river… for some reason. Looked pretty though.

On our last day in the Highlands we packed up and checked out of the house, then headed up North to check out the The Glenlivet distillery and Braemar Castle.  On the way we stopped to take some photos of the Avon Bridge and Craggenmore distillery.  Then we drove on to Glenlivet but missed the turning as it wasn’t signposted and, deciding not to double back, continued to the tiny town of Tomitoul which is famous for ice cream and The Whiskey Castle. 

We had some coffee, cake and ice cream and I tasted a small batch whiskey that was matured in an old red wine cask and was from one of only 127 bottles ever made.  It was okay.
Next was on to Braemar Castle, which like most things this time of year was closed to visitors, but we still walked around and took some great photos from the outside, and then did the finally drive back to Edinburgh and dropped off the car.


The first night in Edinburgh we went to watch the torchlight procession and fireworks on Calton Hill.  It was very packed so we couldn’t get onto the hill and didn’t have a great view of the fireworks, but they were very short anyway.  The procession was interesting though and I got some good photos. 

Then we walked through town to the old section and went to a pub called Bannerman’s, which my Mom, my brother and I had all visited together 7 years ago when we were last in Edinburgh.  It hadn’t changed much and we made a funny comparison picture with one of the old photos of Adam.  It was already getting late and didn’t want to be tired tomorrow so we headed home after one pint.

New Years Snowboarding in France

 

New Years 2016 found me snowboarding in the small French alpine town of St Francois-Longchamp.  Unfortunately, snow conditions were not ideal, and we found ourselves spending the entire week boarding down the same one run.  Despite a small spattering of snow on the 3rd day, only one ski-lift remained open the entire week.  However, the braver amongst us took to the off-piste and managed to find a few nice patches of powder to keep us entertained.  At one point I boarded straight over a ravine hidden by packed snow and was very lucky not to land head first into a pile of rocks.

Hiking Weather

We also took advantage of the fair weather to hike up some of the surrounding mountains and got some lovely shots.  Since we all knew there wasn’t any excellent snow to wake up early for, we spent most nights partying until the wee hours.  After one particularly drunken night, I awoke to find my snowboard was not in the board room where I usually kept it.  A quick panicked run down to where we were drinking the night before revealed it had been saved by the bar owners, who kindly stored it safely overnight behind the bar in the hopes my hungover ass would come retrieve it!

While cooking dinner one night, Alex managed to dislodge the top of a wooden meat hammer while demonstrating his hammering skills, which then proceeded to fly across the room and hit me square in the mouth, splitting my lip and exploding pain across my face.  Luckily I didn’t lose any teeth, and Alex was kind enough to buy me a bottle of whiskey as an apology!  No hard feelings!

Snowless Off-piste

Despite the bad snow conditions and the snowpark being closed (!), I managed to get in a few jumps off the side of the piste and tighten up a few surface tricks on the board. One day we hiked up the opposite mountain and a few of our group, including the group leader, snowboarded down through very rough off-piste – over slush,  grass and rocks!   Luckily they were using free testing boards provided by a sponsor!

New Years

New Year’s Eve itself was the usual drunken debauchery. The resort even had a small outdoor party in the parking lot with DJ’s, fireworks and all.  We had a huge dinner with our tour group of about 30 guests and then watched the fireworks from the hotel balcony before heading down to the party for a bit.  After that, the three or four local bars continued the party until the early hours.  I vaguely remember something about jager-bombs and not much else after that.