Published 26th April 2018, 13:56

    THE wave of nostalgia that has broken over the demolition of the King's House Hotel should come as no surprise.

    There's a combination of grief over the passing of this 17thCentury coaching inn and a sense of despair over the design of the building that will rise in its place.

    I'm sad to see such an iconic landmark disappear. Like so many others, I have spent some great nights in the Climbers Bar after a day on the hills of Glen Coe. But it's also time to ditch the rose-tinted lenses and apply some honesty. Much as I enjoyed every visit, I will be the first to admit that its history and location have covered up the fact that it was overpriced, over-rated and often downright lazy.

    Some 25 years ago we stayed in a room that was dearer than hotels in the centre of Edinburgh, with furnishings that would have been deemed unacceptable in most hostels. Yet we loved every minute of that stay.

    I vividly remember a meal there, the finest I'd ever had; minestrone, mince and doughballs, jam roly-poly and custard, perfect hill food after a mammoth day doing both Buachailles and all their tops, although I suspect the desperate need for nourishment at the end of a mammoth day meant my culinary views were somewhat short of Masterchef standards.

    That's the problem with nostalgia: It's the cerebral equivalent of fake news, a storage facility for false memories. We remember only the good times and airbrush out the bad. It's the foundation of what has driven the disaster of the Brexit vote, people hankering for a past that didn't exist, certainly not in the way they'd like to remember.

    Ah, the good old days. Remind me again – when exactly were they? My mum is coming for 90 now and sometimes when you listen to her reminisce you'd think the second world war years were the best of her life, lots of singing and dancing and a grand feeling of togetherness with the wholesale slaughter and devastation a mere inconvenience. 

    Things may be far from perfect now, but it's hard to see how stepping back into a fantasy world is going to improve our lot. Still, on the plus side, at least my grandchildren should be able to find gainful employment from a tender age being forced up chimneys.

    We're all culpable when it comes to nostalgia. It's there in every walk of life, and mountaineers and hillwalkers are some of the worst culprits. You hear it constantly. There are too many people on the hills, the bothies are being over-used, we have too many tourists wanting to see the natural wonders that we constantly encourage them to visit.

    There's always that great mantra about the mountains and the bothies being there for all, yet secretly most of us would prefer to be alone. It's one of the reasons why we love the winter so much.

    My dad was a friend of the climber Doug Lang, and he always went on about how much he detested the summer months in the mountains. Too many folk around - and this was in the 1960s. He was in his element when alone on the harsh ice climbs of winter.

    Similarly, I had two friends who used to disappear regularly for bothy weekends. They carried massive packs but they never made it up a mountain; most of the cargo on their backs was booze. It was basically a three-day bender and they came back looking worse than when they set off into the open air.

    And despite signing up to the assertion that all were welcome, they were actually paid-up members of a type of bothy Taliban, mumping and moaning for days afterwards if anyone else had had the temerity to want to share 'their' bothy. 

    I freely admit to being selfish, disappointed when my solitude is disturbed. I don't want to spend the night in a crowded shelter, and I like to have as much of the hill to myself. It's why I try to avoid weekends and school holidays and do most of my walking midweek. Alone.

    Despite all this, I am prepared to embrace change. I don't have to like it, but I accept that it is constant and that there is no going back. We are not going to turn back the tide. Onwards and upwards, as they say.

    The way ahead has to be through education – encouraging people to get out into our great outdoors and showing them how to responsibly enjoy the freedom we have in this country.

    The past can be a lovely place to visit, but you really wouldn't want to stay there.