'Would you plan a trip to the Scottish countryside in the middle of winter? It wouldn’t have crossed my mind to head further north than we are already (in Switzerland), to where the days are even shorter and the weather not known to be winter wonderful! But when Anne contacted me to suggest a home swap over the Christmas/New Year period of 2013 I immediately thought – why not? As it turned out we were to experience a holiday with Weather with a capital W!
Danny met three of us at Edinburgh airport – myself, Kas and daughter Saskia. When we arrived in the little hamlet of Roberton Danny and Anne gave us a wonderful dinner and showed us their comfortable house, lovingly and beautifully decorated with an interesting layout and a long history. We knew immediately that we’d be very happy staying there for the next two weeks.
The next morning Anne and Danny set off for their flight to Zurich and we began to settle in. The first view out of the kitchen window was a delight – a big garden with lots of trees leading down to a stream (we’ll remember to call it a burn) at the bottom. A small group of pheasants was picking over the grass and white clouds chased across the sky. What a start to the holiday! We went for a walk to the moors just five minutes up the road. The wind was bitter but the views wonderful. Little did we know that it was to be one of only two days of sun! During the next two weeks we spent three days in Edinburgh - one shopping in pouring rain, one visiting the Royal Yacht Brittannia in high winds and driving rain, and one exploring the Castle and old town in freezing gale force winds. The driver of the Dumfries – Edinburgh bus started to recognise us. “Yous out voluntarily? Ye must be off yer trolley!”
We also spent a day in Glasgow – pouring rain, serious train disruptions and road closures. We had to detour in the dark for miles on the way home and thanked our stars that we’d filled up with petrol. A visit to the fascinating World Heritage town of New Lanark kept us happy on a sunny day with icy roads. Other small towns like Moffat and Biggar figure large in our memories for the delightful number of small shops and restaurants where we could shelter from the Weather and chat to the friendly people!
We spent Christmas and New Year snuggled up in our cosy living room with the wood burner, the TV (we never got round to the vast collection of videos but Saskia read several of Anne’s historical novels) and scoffing all the Quality Street and local specialities Anne and Danny had left for us. We met the neighbours shortly before New Year – what delightful people, they were so welcoming and encouraged us to join in the ceilidh on New Year’s Eve. That turned out to be a really special experience – we met many more Robertonians, all of them wonderfully open, friendly people who drew us in to the traditional dances and were impressively good at belting out popular songs! No wonder Anne and Danny love living there so much.
Since we returned home we’ve been watching the weather in the UK and while Scotland was already soggy in December, some parts of the country are completely submerged and the weather continues unchanged. We think often of our new friends and hope they’re not struggling with submerged railway lines and roads. This was our third exchange and once again we’ve found that special empathy that comes from sharing other people’s lives, meeting their neighbours and experiencing their environment. Weather and all, the memories are special and we’d do it again!' - Bea Fitze, Niederuzwil, St. Gallen, Switzerland (see her home exchange offer).
Photo: Wrapped up on the moors above Roberton, South Lanarkshire