Clouds rolling over a moody, windswept countryside. Green and yellow grass waving in the wind, leading to red and black heather covering undulating hills topped by snow. Woolly sheep or inquisitive shaggy-coated cows watching us from behind ancient stone walls. And above all, a sky that quickened from clear blue, to ominously grey, to orange sunset. This is my lasting impression of Scotland.
Gareth and I drove around the Cairgorms National Park in search of Scottish castles. Unfortunately, the few ruins that we found were closed for the winter holidays. Instead, we delighted in the sweeping landscape and the quirky villages situated throughout the park.
Eventually we found ourselves in the little town of Braemar. We stopped for cake and coffee at a teahouse before wandering the main road, perusing the wares of local shops and admiring its church and World War memorials.
Outside the town, the castle was closed for renovation, but the sky was painted in shades of blue that took our breath away.
We left the valleys behind on our return route to Aviemore, and were amazed by how quickly the weather went from mild to freezing as we ascended into the mountains. Soon, snow lay in drifts next to the road and before we knew it, we had stumbled upon a ski slope.
Scotland is a country of contrasts, where the weather and the landscape can change in the blink of an eye. We looked forward to exploring all the sights the Park had to offer in the week that was to come.
For more posts in the Winter Escape 2012 series, click here.