FEST IVE ESCAPE
are still baked in Shetland, are round. with notches around the edges to represent the sun's rays—: relic of the Scandinavian worship of Frey. Even the arrival ofthe turkey to replace the boar‘s head at the Yuletide table can be attributed directly to persistent Druidic beliefs.
From the great communal banqueting ofthe Scandinavian settlers, Yule has become a family occasion, based around home and hearth. It was, in fact, forced there by the Reformation, and the reasons for its suppression had far more to do with fears ofCatholicism than paganism. The early Celtic Church had little to do with Christmas, celebrating Easter as the main festival of the year, but a rising Roman Catholic influence, encouraged by Queen Margaret, finally established it in the calendar. By the Middle Ages, Edinburgh had taken to appointing a Lord of Misrule who reigned throughout the winter, and the folk enjoyed a period oflicence, ‘the Daft Days‘, the likes ofwhich tended to be tolerated more in Catholic countries at the time. This upsurge of ‘Popery’ eventually led to the General Assembly voting to have the celebration of Christmas abolished in 1638 and, when Cromwell occupied Edinburgh thirteen years later, he managed, temporarily. to do just that.
The Kirk. however, has endured by absorbing. Few will attend Watchnight services this year without seeing a Christmas tree, or a pulpit garlanded with holly. Even the words to many of the holiest carols are echoes of a time long before the missionaries paddled up on to the beaches, scriptures in hand.
Shona Munro is your further afield.
I In town
Pollock Country Park offers a variety ofpaths through the woodland surrounding the Burrell. Or try the first section of the West Highland Way. Head to Milngavie and follow the signs from the railway station up through Mugdock Wood to Carbeth Loch (about 4V2 miles). You can either retrace your steps or walk left when you reach the B821 to reach the A809 and buses back to Glasgow. '
The hills around Glasgow offer
guide to walks in town and,
numerous walks but if you have transport, head up north for the forests round Brig 0' Turk. There are several possibilities here and a walk (around 6 miles) can give a good mix of forest paths, hills and, if it’s a clear day, splendid views of the Trossachs. The Ochlls can be reached by car or bus and are best tackled in fine weather. Head up from Dollar to Castle Campbell past the Burn of Sorrow or the Burn of Care and on up Whitewisp Hill (between 31/2 and 8 miles). Or if you’re feeling more energetic, start from Alva and head up to Ben Cleuch for great views (up to 9 miles). You can walk a horseshoe coming down at Tillicoultry or retrace your steps back to Alva. You’ll need good footwear as the paths can be very
I In town
Within easy access are ambles along the Water oi Lelth or more energetic strolls around Arthur’s Seat and Hermitage oi Braid. All are very accessible and the latter two offer a variety of pathways and splendid views. Alternatively, the New Town Conservation Committee have produced a booklet detailing walks around town, noting points of architectural and historical interest along the way.
I Further Alleid
The stretch of coastline from Aberlady to North Berwick offers a very pleasant walk up to 9 miles in length. You can reach the shoreline at Aberlady, Gullane, Yellowcraig (Dirleton) or North Berwick. If you do begin at Aberlady remember that this is a Nature Reserve — you will have to stick to the paths and dogs should be kept on a leash for this stretch. The full walk can take four to six hours or you can walk out and back from any one of the above access points.
For the more intrepid, the Pentlands offer a huge range of walks. Bonaly to Glencorse (7% miles), Nine Mile Burn (41/2 miles) or the Allermuir and Caerketton Hills (5 miles — start at Hillend) are all circular routes. They can be reached by public transport and have pubs at the finish point.
A bit further away is the Tweed Walk (about 6 miles although it can be shortened) starting at Peebles. This is a circular walk virtually all on the ﬂat with good paths following a disused railway line. A very pleasant walk on a crisp, clear winter’s day. I Getting There The majority of these walks can be reached using public transport: check bus stations for times out and back.
Buchanan Bus Station 041 332 7133. Anderston Bus Station 041 248 7432. Strathclyde’s Buses 041 226 4826.
St Andrews Bus Station 031 556 8464. Lothlan Regional Transport 031 220 41 l 1.
It’s worth taking a
_ scan or THE ARCTIC
Christmas Day, minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, tour leet oi snow. We are in torest wilds, 80 miles north oi the small town oi North Pole (Santa’s lactory, ZIP code 99701, is here). As expedition cook, l’m wakened at 7am by calls tor soup, and when the brew has had time to warm it is duly served to my companions along with a lump oi lat, gilt-wrapped. Eight voracious mouths
. devourthe lot: soup, lat and lestlve gesture.We break camp.
Frantic to be oh, the dogs strain at the traces, ylpping and cavorilng so high they almost lllp. ‘ALL RIGHT! HIKE!‘ Sled and driver are ripped into motion the instant the snowhook is Ililed. ‘Sssssssssssssss-schiisssh’. The sled runners make susurrant protest. They are never happy. 0n crusty snow, they crunch and rattle and groan. 0n glare ice they grate. On a hard trail covered with iresh snow, such as we have now, they cut tracks with muliled abuse.
Night’s darkness remains, though subdued by the delicate light at a three-quarter moon. Snow crystals sparkle on the ground and in the air, and the trail assumes a satin texture alive with these impish coruscations. The bouncing silhouettes In front exhale cloudy plumes oi vapour which reach back to their tails and
Alastair Scott's Yuletide view
mysteriously disappear belore the next dog’s approach. Lelts and rights, ups and downs, lean this way, now that, duck under a branch. . . we work as , one, bonded by isolation and a sense at mutual dependence on along glissade across Alaska.
And so Christmas becomes just a normal trail day, and none oi us is any the sorrier lor it. Whatever Christmas may be conceived to be, we found its essence— peace, communion, celebration — in a ‘sleigh’ with polyethlene runners and a land tree lor the travelling. (Alastair Scott)
Tracks Across Alaska by Alastair Scott is published by John Murray (£15.95).
thermos/water/hip flask and a snack just in case but try the following for sustenance:
Pollock The Burrell; Mugdock Wood The Inn at Carbeth; Brig o’ Turk There’s a very good tea room in the village but it’s likely to be closed at this time of year- best try Callander; Aberlady chip shop or a drink at the Wagon Wheel; Gullane tea or stronger at the Mallard Hotel; Dirleton The Open Arms or the much friendlier Castle Inn; North Berwick a number of cafes; Nine Mile Burn Habbies Howe Hotel; Hillend The Steading; Peebles A number of cafes.
The days are very short so ensure length ofwalk equates with hours of daylight. The usual rule is to allow three miles an hour with an extra half hour for every 1000 feet climbed. If you are crossing farmland do show consideration for the landowner‘s property and livestock. Most of the out of town walks mentioned here are suitable for dogs but obey signs and keep them on a leash when asked. lfyou are heading into the hills ensure you are well equipped. Take warm clothes, stout footwear, an Ordnance Survey map of the area and a compass (which you know how to use). lfyou are not an experienced walker start with short routes and build up.
Bartholomew Map and Guide Series (average £3.95). Most areas ofthe
country covered. Easy to use.
A Pech, A Pie and a Pint 2nd edition (Lothian Guides £3.75). For walks round Edinburgh, how to get there
One Hundred Hill Walks Around Edinburgh (Mainstream £5.95). One Hundred Hill Walks Around Glasgow 2nd edition (Mainstream £6.95).
The West Highland Way 3rd edition (HMSO £9.95).
Walks in Edinburgh New Town 3rd edition (Edinburgh New Town Conservation Committee, £1.30). There are lots more — take a browse through your local bookshop.
Miranda France rounds
up the ski resorts.
I Cairngorm Snow conditions hotline 0898 654655.
The biggest ski resort in Scotland, Cairngorm tends to get quite congested at peak times, but there are plans to extend facilities. Although most runs are open at the moment, staff said they were quite icy. However, conditions are changing all the time.
How to get there Bus or train to Aviemore or A9 by car.
Day pass Full area: £10.40; peak (weekends in Jan and from end of Jan to Easter) £13. Limited area: £7; peak £8.70.
Buns Numerous runs from 17 lifts and tows.
74 The List 21 December 1990— 10 January 1991