Travel • The Journal • December 2020
There’s nothing like a frosty morning, a pale sun low in the sky and sending out Christmas cheer to all you pass on your way. Very Christmas Carol! So, this year more than ever, why not throw on your walking boots or wellies and step out to recharge at some point during your Christmas celebrations. Here are a few top spots around the world that we think would make the ultimate post-Christmas lunch walk. Of course, this year everything is a little different, but even imagining these landscapes might be a great way to recharge our minds amidst the lists of presents to buy and things to do that comes with Christmas whatever year it is.
Cairngorms - Scotland
If this place was a song it would surely be Winter Wonderland by Bing Crosby. Britain’s largest national park can provide the topping to any Christmas day – stunning views, perhaps a glimpse of roe deer and pine martens and native woodland. If you have time, take a circular walk up Meall a’Bhuachaille, also known as Shepherd’s Hill, which will set you back a good few hours over pine and birch forest to the peak: a granite cairn standing at 810 metres high. On a clear day you might catch a glimpse of Ben Nevis as you gaze across the Cairngorms plateau, the Moray Firth and Glenmore Forest. And if that isn’t enough to blow off the cobwebs take a detour off the track to visit Lochan Uaine, where the water is deep turquoise, said to be because fairies wash their clothes here!
If you like a reviving toddy at the end, a Scottish whiskey would be a fitting tribute to this pure and rich landscape.
One of the classic high-alpine hikes in the Tirol is the Zirbenweg Trail, set above Tirol’s capital, Innsbruck. Taking its name from the stone pine trees that line the route ( Zirbe in German means pine), it is a fairly straightforward route that gives onto stunning panoramas of the Inntal Valley below. Between the trees you can gasp at the views of around four hundred craggy peaks in the Alps, including many within the Karwendel Massif. The route is lined by Europe’s largest and oldest stone pine populations where some of the trees are several hundred years old. The Ampass Basin is home to what is considered the oldest tree anywhere in Tirol, a more than 700-year-old stone pine. Though much of the trail is under the old pine forest canopy, there are enough openings and clearings to keep the mountains and valleys frequently in view.
If you dream of having more space this is the place to head for. Jasper is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, and it has many well-marked trails. The Mount Edith Cavell trail is now pretty restricted, since part of one of the glaciers, the Ghost Glacier, on the Edith Cavell mountain collapsed into the pond below. Now permits are required to gain access, but it’s well worth the effort. At just over eight kilometres, the trail elevation is only five hundred metres which seems modest. But the views are anything but. Chances are you won't be able to look away from the Edith Cavell and its glaciers, a mountain that commands your gaze.