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Winter walking holidays and courses in the Highlands of Scotland

January 2018 has been a very busy month which Andy is currently rounding off with (another) snowhole trip into the gale-bound Cairngorms with a team from the BBC Travel Show. Nerves were displayed by the newbies presenting the programme. I think they were daunted by the Triathlon enthusiasts who’d been drafted in to help dig.

New Year Winter Walking

We welcomed in 2018 in the company of our select winter walkers. The group all brought in the New Year with a great deal of good-humoured and crowded dancing in the street in Grantown on Spey. Dancing was followed by a magnificent firework display. Great fun for everyone which topped off some fabulous snowy walks.

New Year Winter walking

Striding out across the snow before bringing in the New Year in the Highlands of Scotland

Andy was even able to get out the tentipi and show off it’s capabilities over a cosy whisky in the evening. His market research (which might be skewed by the whisky and warmth inside the tentipi) shows some demand for his pony wilderness glamping proposals.

wilderness glamping

Checking out the luxury tentipi wilderness glamping beds – deemed superior and mattress-like

5 Day Winter Skills

5 younger enthusiasts joined us on January 1st for the first winter skills and navigation course of 2018. We think the photos tell most of the story. Great fun and quantities of cake kept everyone happy throughout.

Winter skills in the Cairngorms

Winter Skills group hamming it up for the camera

Winter skills course

Striding out into the Cairngorms to practice ice axe and crampon skills – January 2018

Winter skills in the Cairngorms

Practising cramponing techniques in the Cairngorms, Scotland. There’s nothing more fun than legitimate play in the snow.

Winter skills in the Cairngorms National park

Putting their crampon techniques into play on the slopes of the Cairngorm mountains

winter in the Cairngorms

January snow cover in the Cairngorms (2018)

winter walking skills

Tumbling down the mountain, alternatively known as ice axe arrest on a 5 day winter skills course with Scot Mountain Holidays

winter skills course

Successfully stopping a sliding fall on an ice axe arrest – 5 Day Winter Skills course

winter in the Cairngorms

Head first ice axe arrest – what fun!

mountain navigation course

What’s going on here? This is part of the navigation instruction on the 5 day winter skills course

winter in the mountains

Work or pleasure? Heading up into the mountains.


Classic Winter Cairngorms

Back for some more trailbreaking through the snow-decked Cairngorms. Our blog advice on how to keep your hands warm and how to keep your phone going in the cold were of great help this week.

Cairngorms winter walking January 2018

Atop Bynack Mor deep in the heart of the Cairngorms National park. Not everyone goes on to see these magnificent “barns”. Quite a feat of climbing to get to the top, especially after the walk in!

Guided winter walking (Cairngorms)

The view you’d be rewarded with for the challenge of pitting yourself against potentially the worst conditions nature can throw at you. When you come out on top, you can feel the adrenaline.

Winter walking January 2018

Walking through the snow – January 2018. Winter walking is a completely different experience and a different challenge. If you haven’t tried it, maybe this is your time.

Guided winter walking in the Cairngorms

Cairngorms (January 2018) Spectacular views are the reward for challenging yourself to a winter extravaganza.

Winter in Scotland

A winter wonderland here in the Cairngorms

walking in the Cairngorms

Getting a workout through the snow in the glorious outdoors. Plenty of fresh air and stunning views.

guided winter walking

Glorious winter walking on the Classic Winter Cairngorms week with Scot Mountain Holidays this January (2018)

guided winter walking in Scotland

Lucky or what? The views of the Classic Winter Cairngorms week were stunning at times as this shot shows.

Winter walking holiday and courses in the Highlands of Scotland

A view for miles – the snow brings this landscape alive.

Snowhole Expedition

Lorna chose to encourage her friends and family to join her on a Snow Hole Expedition with Andy to celebrate her 50th birthday. We felt honoured. Lorna herself must have enjoyed the experience because she’s back right now helping the BBC to dig in tonight. Let’s hope they get to see the blue moon despite the snow showers.

Snow Hole Expedition

Heading out into the Cairngorms fully prepared for a night out on a Snow Hole Expedition with Andy Bateman

Winter in Scotland

Snow mascara! Who would have guessed?

Winter in the Cairngorms

Lorna is enjoying the break through moment. Now they can see that their overnight residence is a real possibility

Winter in Scotland

Dinner in the snow hole – carrot soup and vegetarian bolognese


If you’d like to join us for a winter walking extravaganza or to learn new winter skills, there’s still plenty of time. Winter in the Highlands lasts well into March and sometimes even April.

Plenty of choice of walking holiday or skills course

13 things to do in Aviemore and the Cairngorms when you can’t ski

1. Mountain biking:

there are trails all round the area plus several centres with purpose-built tracks like Laggan Wolftrax and Glenlivet Bike Trails. Bikes can be hired from Mikes Bikes or Bothy Bikes in Aviemore.

mountain biking in Scotland

Enjoy the wild parts of the UK out on your bike

2. Dog sledding:


3. Be crafty:

visit Smarty Art or take a half day work shop with Three Bags Wool in Aberlour (try knitting, crochet, needle felting, thrug making …)

what to do in Aviemore

Check out the crafting workshops which might be available during your stay

4. Walk a section of the Speyside Way:

you could take the public bus to Boat of Garten (5 miles) or Nethybridge (8 miles) and walk back to Aviemore stopping in the Old Bridge Inn for a pint on your return.

5. Hire a Canadian canoe

and paddle the Spey;

canoe with the Moray Firth dolphins or kayak/canoe on Loch Ness.

what to do in Aviemore

Water based options might not be as appealing as you think, but water is surprisingly warm in the winter.

6. Take a tour to Loch Ness.

what to do from Aviemore

a tour to Loch Ness is a popular option for our guests at Fraoch Lodge

7. Head up to Findhorn

and check out the Findhorn Foundation or visit the Kimberley Inn for lunch and walk along the white sands of the beach.

8. Visit the ice rink in Inverness

and try out ice skating.

9. Take a swim at Inverness Aquadome.

unfortunately the Aviemore pool at the Macdonald’s resort is not currently available to the public for swimming.

10. Visit Speyside

and tour a distillery plus visit the Cooperage and round of the day with a visit to the Smokehouse by Grantown on Spey where you can observe the workers preparing the smoked salmon to be shipped all over the country to supermarkets and restaurants all over the place. Some of the salmon is smoked over the shavings from the whisky barrels to add extra flavour.

what to do in Aviemore - whisky tasting

Always a wet or cold day option – a distillery visit or whisky tasting.


11. Take a detour to Knockando Wool Mill

or Johnston’s wool mill in Elgin if Knockando is closed. Tours are every hour until 3 or 4pm and are free of charge.

where you can experience the whole wool story from shorn fleece to completed material.

what to do in Aviemore

Get crafty if you’d like some time and space to knit, ask Rebecca for recommendations

12. Visit the reindeer centre at Glenmore.

reindeer in the Cairngorms

If you like to see reindeer, you should come to Aviemore, particularly in the winter which is their natural habitat.


13. Visit the Highland Wildlife Park

and/or the Highland Folk Museum

what to do in Aviemore

Traditional village which is part of the Newtonmore Highland Folk Museum


Useful links:

New website for the Cairngorms National park highlighting selected experiences within the park – cairngormsnationalpark.co.uk

2017 remembered

The best of 2017 for Scot Mountain Holidays – 19 years in the Cairngorms!

In January we were fortunate enough to meet a group of novice winter walkers from Barings Bank all keen to learn new skills and experience Scotland in winter. They were lucky enough to time their visit to coincide with the most wintry weekend of January 2017.

winter walkers

High in the Cairngorms, January 2017


First outing of the Tentipi in Knoydart made for quite an adventure in Barisdale, though unfortunately not a lot of snow.

The stories they had … survival of the fittest under trying and wet circumstances:

Knoydart winter walking

Do the pictures say 1000 words? What do you think the whole story would involve?

Inside the Tentipi with the glorious explorers – check out the drying system.

Would this be a welcoming sight at the end of a day’s hike? Warm, light and food.

This is the reason for being out with the Tentipi. What a day out.

What was the full story? Ask Andy for details. Definitely one for the memoires.

We all know that the 2017 season was not at its best in terms of snow. We did still manage to run all our snow hole expeditions. None of our groups retreated.

Certainly Challenge Sophie

and the Lonely Planet team seemed to have a great time out in the Cairngorms.

The Lonely Planet team out in the Cairngorms with Scot Mountain Holidays

May Day 4000ers

More snow at the end of April in 2017 than we saw for a lot of the winter season. The 4000ers group were treated to several avalanche sightings as they completed their route around Braeriach, Angel’s Peak etc.


walking in the Cairngorms

Avalanche debris at the beginning of May in the Cairngorms National Park (2017)

walking in Scotland

The hikers in the sunshine deep in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park (more snow than most of January).

guided walking in Scotland

Admiring the view, early May 2017 in the Cairngorms

winter in Scotland

Check out the potential avalanche sites on the head wall. You can see how the corrie came to be made

Lewis, Harris and Skye

We had an amazing week in the Outer Hebrides. The ladies loved paddling along the white sand beaches. Heading back in September if there’s enough interest. Check out the photos.

2017 walking

Paddling on the beach at Harris

Hebridean hiking

Heading down to civilisation from the hill tops of Harris

walking in the outer Hebrides

Admiring the seemingly endless wilderness views from the hills of Harris

2017 remembered

Endless beach views along the western shores of Harris

walking in the Hebrides

Paddling along the white sand beaches of Harris

Unfortunately the weather didn’t really hold out for the group who came to do the Skye Munros later in the month (unfinished business for some perhaps?) but towards the end of the week, we still have some amazing weather.

skye munros

High in the Cuillin mountains of Skye

Cuillin mountains Skye

The magic of Skye


skye Munros

Stunning views across Skye


Skye munros

Enjoying a well-deserved break with views in the Cuillin hills


skye 2017

Checking out the view across the Cuillins in Skye.

Skye Cuillin

Popular view of the Cuillin mountains from the Sligachan area.

skye cuillin 2017

On top of a cold grey Cuillin Munro


Self-guided mountain biking in the Cairngorms

We’re working with some French partners to introduce more of our international guests to the glories of hiking and mountain biking in the Highlands of Scotland. In June 2017, we met a lovely group of mountain bikers who stayed a week at Fraoch Lodge, exploring some of the classic routes and also the Glenlivet area.

2017 remembered

A profitable visit to the Whisky Castle for both sides: the cyclists and the shop

We also ran a trial weekend in Knoydart with the Tentipi for a friend’s 50th birthday.

Knoydart wilderness

Relaxing outside the tentipi as the whole crew gathers to celebrate

knoydart glamping weekend

Check out the gourmet options available on a luxury wilderness glamping experience.

Goodbye to Mick

Many of you may have met Mick as in the course of our last 19 years here in Scotland, Mick Wansborough has probably been are most “frequent flyer”. So much so that Mick has lost track of how many times he’s been on our trips.

These are Mick’s parting words as he won’t be able to  participate in any future trips due to ill health in his family:

“I have had many (15?16?) enjoyable times with Scot Mountain Holidays. Andy always devises varied and interesting itineraries and, although I regarded myself as a reasonably experienced fell-walker, I have learnt much from Andy’s guidance and advice and have gained in confidence. And Rebecca’s catering is superb – just the thing for a hard day’s hill-walking

I wish you both continuing success – you deserve it. As I’ve said before: you both work very hard and are both very good at what you do!”

We are very sorry to lose Mick but he will be fondly remembered on all future trips. Someone else will now have to step up to Mick’s self-appointed position of “shop steward” on the walks.

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