I swung wide round the turning circle and apprehensively dropped down to first gear. I’ve crawled my way up this road a number of times now and in all weathers but it always seems to throw up a surprise or two.
My first ascent of this road back in February 2017 was interrupted half a dozen times by having to get out and scrape it clear of snow just to get a few metres further up; efforts that were eventually abandoned along with the car about a quarter mile from our destination as we accepted the car-to-cottage relay. Subsequent trips have involved much wincing, lots of bum clenching and countless scrapes of my car’s undercarriage as I’ve crawled the car up its lumpy bumpy incline.
Suffice to say this final road up to the cottage isn’t a particularly enjoyable one, and once up there I do my level best to leave the car there until we have to leave. This time, however, as I chugged my way up there in the darkness of Christmas Eve it seemed easier than usual. Tucking to the left side of the single lane forest track I managed to avoid the potholes and loose gravel that usually batter my relic of a car.
We pass through the final gate and pull up in front of the cottage. This place, this haven in the hills welcomes us yet again and I exhale out all of my residual stress; stress doesn’t live here, only calm. I turn off the engine and step out of the car and immediately my breath is stripped from me as I’m greeted by the most incredible sight. The arc of the Milky Way floods a bright line that stretches edge to edge across the night sky. It’s not new to us; it’s a typical sight on a clear night in the Highlands, but even so we’re stopped dead in our tracks at the beauty of it. Quite literally millions of stars are visible and we spend a few minutes enjoying this Christmas Eve treat before unlocking the cottage and heading in.
The centrepiece of this old farmhouse-turned-education-centre is a large log burning fire. The fire powers the hot water and radiators so with an endless supply of logs freely available we waste no time in getting the fire blazing. We stock up on logs from the store, unpack the car and settle in for the evening.
We’re right in the heart of the Coquet valley nestled in the Cheviots here. There’s no TV. No internet. No phone signal. We’re two miles from the nearest house and fifteen miles from the nearest town – we’re far away from civilisation. But we have music. We have an iPhone and a Bluetooth speaker so we put on Hogs’ 2018 Spotify playlist, drag the sofa in front of the fire and sit. We just sit. We listen to music and stare at the crackling fire until well past midnight. It was bliss. We both fall into a deep and peaceful slumber, resting ourselves in readiness for a Christmas Day adventure.
This. Place. Is. Rejuvenation. But Christmas morning is for exploring.