Writing in… Glencoe Café

Highland's cafe

There’s nothing more inspiring than the Highlands because, I promise you, they’re the best cure for the Artist’s Ego disease. Don’t you know what I’m talking about? Let’s be honest, we all want to be the next Shakespeare and/or write the next Fifty Shades of Grey

But when you are in Glencoe – West Highlands – and find yourself completely soaked in icy rain, with your body shaking under the wind and the sky is black and threatens to fall on the ancient mountains so they break and devour you… Then you feel the smallest and humblest creature on Earth. And I tell you, you might be even an atheist but you will pray to come back alive. The Highlands are like an old dragon. Terrible and fascinating.

I first went to Glencoe on April 2013, when I was living in Edinburgh. Because I was a poor student without a car I took the train to the furthest place I could find – Fort William – and booked a room in the cheapest hostal – Ossian Hotel. Now I woudln’t recommend this place to stay unless…

A) You’re a fan of The Shinning – the red carpetted corridors are smelly and equally creepy!

B) You want to get involved in Fort William’s local life – they were many of local aracnids in the toilet.

C) You have a fetish with vouyerism. The toilet window was a large one facing Fort William’s main street. And it didn’t have curtains – or anything – to cover it. Yep, I’m saying that every time you wanted to take a sh* or a shower virtually anyone could see you.

Nevertheless, what I do recommend is the trip I made by train from Edinburgh to Fort William. This is one of the most inspiring train trips ever – I love trains – and I won’t talk more about it because it deserves a whole new post.

Let’s come back to Glencoe now, whose name actually means ‘hell of never ending hard rain’ in Gaelic*. A bus from Fort William can take you to Glencoe village in half an hour. You will enjoy an impressive scenery – Loch Linnhe surrounded by dark woods. Glencoe village is a holiday place, which means that if you go on Summer the colorful cottages would be full of flowers and little dogs barking in the backyards – there is also a special cottage whose backyard is crowded with tiny china figures, quite spooky. If you go on November – as I did once – is a ghost village. But still pretty.

Glencoe Village’s main – and sole – attraction is Glencoe Folk Museum. Although I would like to, I haven’t visited it yet because you have to pay three pounds. Yes, I know, it’s not that much. But if you go to Glencoe you go to suffer – I don’t own any lovely cottage there, I go for hiking. So it seems a bit too much to spend, because if you have money believe me you want to save it to have one, two or three super warm coffes/teas/hot chocolates when your bones are frozen and you cannot stand Glencoe’s weather any more. Which takes me to the purpose of this post…

Glencoe Cafe is the coziest Highland’s cafe I’ve never been to. My perception might be biased because I always come to this place feeling miserable after a long hiking in Glencoe – and I have more in common with a smelly wet dog than a human being. Yet when I leave I always feel myself again. And warmer.

The best thing about this place is that it opens all year around. Even in Winter, when Glencoe is dead, it will be open. I cannot explain with enough words the happiness I experienced when I realised I could have a hot coffe here in November.

The local is small but very clean – and it has free Wi Fi. You’ve a few tables and a big sofa by the window – wher you can enjoy Glencoe’s beauty from a safe place. In Winter they even have tartan blankets – I just love them – in each of the chairs. There’s always music – pop-rock songs – and the smell of soup and home baked scones. The prices are alright – If I had the only Cafe in Glencoe I would be selling my coffes for ten pounds at least, but oh well… If you ask for a large cup  of mocca – I did so in November, obviously – you’re going to recieve a big pool of the sweetest coffe mixed with chocolate. Totally worth it.

Everytime I go they have cakes and they look awesome, but in the end I always go for the scone – I like scones because they’re not too sweet. Their scones are just delicious and you can tell they are home made. You also have colorful postcards with original drawings from the Highlands and things like soaps and pictures to buy. They’re a bit expensive though.

The owners are always friendly. Last time I was there – August 2015 – they even gave me paper and a pen to draw. And you can stay there forever – well, until they close. I remember nursing my gigantic mocca, reading The French Lieutenant’s Woman and imagining the characters of Mrs McLean’s Cabinet of Curiosities (my last novella) wondering around the Highlands…

Glencoe Café is the perfect place to write Gothic Horror.

*Not really… but it would have made a lot of sense…

Writing in… 34 Golgotha Rd

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As a writer, it’s very important for me to change environment when I work. I don’t necessarily need a quiet place like a library, although I often go there because they allow you to drink coffee, they have toilets and you can stay there as long as you want. The only forbidden place to write for me – personally – it’s my room or – even worse! – my bed – although I know that two of my favourite writers like doing so, Patricia Highsmith and Gabriella Campbell. Gabriella said that there’s nothing  like a beautiful notebook and a cup of tea to let her imagination flow on the paper. I also read that Patricia spent the days in bed, leaning on fluffy pillows and eating sweets while she wrote her amazing dark short stories – like the ones in her collection The Snail-Watcher and other stories. But I cannot concentrate in my room, because I consider it a place to relax and sleep  – and perhaps do some funny stuff, but that doesn’t include writing.

So I would like to introduce in the blog a record of places that I have found inspiring for my art. And I will start talking about Yamuna’s kitchen. Yamuna is my writing pal – we met in our MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. She recently moved houses and because she knows I am a nomadic writer, she offered me her place whenever I might need it.

She lived on 34 Golgotha road in Lancaster*if you want to pay her a visit it’s too late, by the time I will be publishing this she would have returned to India, sadly. Her house has a cute little kitchen with a big ‘welcome’ written in wooden letters on the wall. There is a circular table besides a window from where you can see the green from the back yard. I love green and open spaces, so for me it is ideal.

Also, one of the advantages of writing inside a kitchen is that it is very easy to reach for coffee and food when your stomach starts growling but you don’t want to stop writing. Plus every time I go and visit Yamuna she makes for me coffee in the Indian style. This means she adds to water two spoons of coffee and two spoons of sugar and then boils it slowly. After a while she filters the dark liquid and… voilà! I always drink my coffee without sugar, but I like Yamuna’s version because it’s not just caffeine, it’s also a treat.

We usually eat chocolate cakes – she buys them for me, she knows I am more of the sweet kind – and the spiciest crackers I can possibly find – I know she needs spices as she needs to breathe oxygen.What you can see in the photo, Hot Chili Chips is my latest discovery in the Spar next to her place. I just could eat a few before my lips and tongue started burning. As always, she maintains it’s not even closer to the spicy level you can find in India… I don’t know if she really means this  or if she’s just mocking me – in any case, I had to stop eating those because of survival.

Writing with Yamuna is fun. We listen to vibrant Indian music when she helps me with grammar and gives me interesting ideas. I usually see her staring at the white page of the computer or burying her head in her arms and sleeping over the table. Yet I cannot call this laziness because she’s an amazing writer… – want to check one of her stories?

Do you have any writing pals?

Do you invade their places to write?

Check this sophisticated Indian Coffee recipe in any case, it might strengthen your inspiration!

*This is the coolest name for a road ever.