Search out your gloves, never go out without a lip balm, slip the woolly liners inside your boots, bubble up the soup pot, reacquaint yourself with the hot water bottle by all means, but you have to face reality: it is going to be cold and dark for months.
Somehow, I feel we'd all be able to embrace this challenging season with more enthusiasm if we could just hole up somewhere like Trigony House Hotel for the duration. Instead of risking broken limbs on icy pavements, we'd start the day with a proper hot breakfast, cooked by someone else, then we'd take time to read the papers in front of the fire. The light hours of the early afternoon would see us take a gently bracing stroll through the woods, down gravel paths that crunch with frost; then we'd head back to the house and the open hearth, this time for afternoon tea. Next thing we'd know, it would be time for aperitifs, followed by dinner cooked with well-chosen ingredients - many of them local to Dumfries-shire, several of them organic.
As you will have gathered, I rather like Trigony. It's still a beautiful house, despite the blandly modern interior decor, and it doesn't have the self-pleased, stuffy, antiqued, heritage feel of so many country house hotels. At Trigony, no-one will feel obliged to dress up for dinner, and dogs get to snooze before the fire. It's more like staying in a comfortable, larger-than-normal family house run by hospitable friends. Best of all, its well-priced winter breaks make it possible to pass a few days in quiet comfort without breaking the bank.
The least good thing about the food here is the presentation. Even by my laid-back standards, several of our dishes could have been prettified. But that's a minor consideration really, given the fine provenance of the ingredients, and the generosity with which they are served. A starter of duck confit was a case in point. It amounted to a good main course-sized portion of richly succulent, almost fondant duck, eased off its bone, under a paper-thin, crispy skin. Its accompanying sour-sweet shallots set it off nicely, though the dull salad (cucumber, iceberg, ungainly tomato) did nothing for it. It was a similar story with the goat's cheese croquettes. They were more a light, cleanly fried tempura of oozing cheese than a breadcrumb or batter-heavy number, with crisp, refreshing green apple slivers, mixed with walnut and dressed with thyme honey - but they weren't improved by the surplus salad pile.
Venison is one of our finest national ingredients, and roe deer roam freely in the locality. The loin, served at Trigony on a bed of pureed celeriac, was impeccable, almost fork tender, and just lightly gamey. Equally, the juicy roast chump of lamb with its lubricating cover of fat had all the flavour you would expect of sheep that roam the hills. The accompanying cassoulet of soft green flageolet beans, spiked with ham, was just right for it.
There was a very respectable, palpably fresh and natural baked orange cheesecake with a crunchy chocolate base. It came with whipped cream, though for my taste, the cream was too much; some orange compote or sauce would have finished it off better. It's not often that I choose the cheeseboard, but then at Trigony, the line-up is so discerningly chosen and apt. You get organic Loch Arthur cheddar from Beeswing, Cairnsmore ewe's milk cheese from Newton Stewart, Dunsyre Blue from Lanarkshire, and Clava organic brie from Ardersier on the shores of the Moray Firth, all served with homemade walnut oatcakes - yet you don't have to pay a supplement for the privilege. Menus at £22 and £25 (for two and three courses respectively) represent brilliant value for money, given the top quality ingredients.
The cooking at Trigony is sound and agreeably unfussy, although a more assertive hand with herbs, and some ramped up flavours, wouldn't go amiss. I'd go back like a shot for the warm home-made organic bread alone, and to toast my feet in front of the fire.