Friday, July 31, 2020

Ice And Flames in the Highlands

Back in the day when I was wee – those old days when politicians were considered statesmen, those evenings when if your favourite programme was on the tele and you went out, you missed it. When the telephone sat in the hall of a posh lady round the corner and you used it in dire emergencies and left money to pay for the call. Or it was a long walk to the telephone booth in the village….  You remember I'm sure, three channels on the TV and even then you had to walk across the room to turn the dial.

 It’s your judgement whether  I am that old, or Glasgow is a bit backward.

The other things that used to happen when I was in secondary school were one day skiing trips to Glen Shee. I never went as it cost money and my dad thought skiing was ridiculous sport when you could be out on a bike. He said he grew out the need to slide down a hill and then climb back to the top when he was about four.

Interestingly when talking about the blog 'him indoors' rolled his eyes and said 'so I went on a school trip to glen Shee once. To go skiing.'

I was surprised.

He was sick on the bus on the drive up; he went up on the chair lift, fell off his skis and spent the rest of the day behind the toilets, him and his mates, chatting up the girls from the posh school, rolling about in the snow and starting snowball fights.

It doesn’t happen now (the day trips to go skiing I mean, not the chatting up girls behind the toilets…)

The weather is too warm now in winter, and if it snows, it snows all over and the road are blocked. I think global warming or a natural ebb and flow of seasonal weather has put an end to it being snowy ‘up north’ while it was drivable rain ‘down south’ so that folk could get away to ski.

Glen Shee is over near Braemar and that very posh part of Perth where the queen goes her holidays. Glen Coe is the great glen up the middle and home of the Glen Coe ski resort centre.

It has a phoenix like ability to exist, even when the sole purpose for its existence is absent.
It has a ski lift, an old chair lift type that yanks folk up, and down the ben. It must be 15 years or so since I saw somebody go up there with skis. Mountain bikes, trail runners and wildlife photographers are much more common now. Folk go up, soak in the view and come back down again. The tearoom had expanded hugely, the toilet block extended into a shower block. Overnight hobbit huts started to appear at the side of the car park. Crime writers were known to rendezvous here for coffee, cake and gossip as no matter where you were going on the west coast… this was theee road. It was expensive but you could understand why, it wasn’t just the coffee, it was the stop, the leg stretch watering the dog etc.

So it survived the lack of snow, then the whole thing burned down on Christmas day 2019.  I knew that, of course I knew that but it had slipped from our consciousness as we drove up to the car park saying thing like… they must be doing more work on it etc. etc… then it dawned on us.

The owner probably spent the first three months of 20 20 clearing up after the fire.

Then the virus hit and the highlands were effectively closed by the police – the joys of having only two roads that go up and down the country. Many (not all English as some would have you believe) thought the best way to go into lockdown was to sit in a tent or a motorhome in a remote Scottish glen, 50 miles from any other human being. The argument against that was of ‘well what would happen if everybody did it.’

These villages rarely have a gp and the emergency room transport is via helicopter, probably taking you back to where you came from!

Here’s what social media is saying about the café

“Our main cafe building was burnt down on Christmas day 25th Dec 2019. A new cafe is currently being designed and will be in place by the summer of 2021. In the meantime we have an amazing temporary cafe which will be serving the same great home cooked food as normal from 9am until 8.00pm.
However during the Covid Crises the café will only be providing take-away food. Outdoor seating is available. We will review this arrangement regularly and may introduce some limited indoor seating–with appropriate social distancing built into the layout:
– We are providing hand sanitiser at all entrances
– Movement through the building is clearly marked with direction arrows and spacing marks
– Only takeaway food will be provided
– We encourage you to make contactless payment whenever possible
– All surfaces will be cleaned frequently by staff member
Cafe opening times may be subject to change during periods of bad weather in order to ensure staff safety.”

 I like that last line!

The temp cafe and toilets

The white corries cafe

As close as  I could get without my telephoto.

The white shepherd of the glen 

Scottish crime writer in height of summer

Something was here but burned

The new seating arrangements....

What is left....

Still clearing the site

The road back to the main road

him indoors and hound on the rubble

I think those hills see us as tiny specs on their timeline.

Going to try the new blog thing now.
I may be some time.


  1. "Hound on the Rubble," is a catchy title, but it's a kick-butt one for a potential international political thriller without the extra "b."

    Okay, I'll go quietly to my room now.

  2. Though I sympathize with the man who lost his business, Caro, the wilderness fancier in me kinda prefers it without the infrastructure. In its natural state, it is GORGEOUS!