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Adventures in Scotland

When hills become mountains … winter in the Highlands of Scotland

when hills become mountains

On January 29, 2024 By Rebecca Field

Turning hills into mountains – the effects of winter

Winter has descended upon the Scottish Highlands, the familiar hills evolve into awe-inspiring mountains, blanketed in a pristine coat of snow, setting the stage for a winter hiking experience like no other. The landscape, now a picturesque haven, invites adventurers to traverse its snow-laden trails, discovering a unique blend of tranquility and adventure. However, one must always keep an eye on the ever present dangers inherent in winter.

Winter hiking in contrast to summer

Winter hiking in the Highlands offers a striking contrast to other seasons. The once-green paths are now transformed into a pristine canvas of white, waiting to be explored. Intrepid hikers, armed with waterproof gear and insulated boots, embark on journeys that unveil the Highlands’ winter charm.

Traversing the snow-covered trails is a sensory delight. The crunch of snow beneath each step echoes through the valleys, and the brisk winter air invigorates the senses. The hills, now adorned with a glistening layer of frost, create a visual spectacle that adds an extra layer of magic to the hiking experience.

Never forget though that you need to be extra prepared before you head out into the winter hills. Our top tips include:

  1. make sure you have undergone specialised training in winter skills from a qualified expert
  2. always carry a headtorch
  3. always have a paper copy of the relevant map as the cold drastically affects the performance of your phone (at least 80% of mountain rescue callouts stem from navigational errors).
  4. carry a flask (never underestimate how much of an improvement to morale a hot drink will give you)
  5. make sure you have a powerpack to keep your phone charged (the effects of cold on a mobile phone are quite incredible).
New Year Winter Walking

Cairngorm plateau, New Year Winter Walking 2022 – 2023

Preparing to go hiking in winter

Preparation is key for those eager to embrace the winter landscape. Layered clothing, including waterproof jackets and insulated gloves, become essential companions (see our blog). As the landscape transitions from hills to mountains, the weather can be unpredictable, and hikers must be equipped to face the challenges that come with the season.

winter wildlife Cairngorms

A ptarmigan makes walking across the snow look easy

Popular winter hiking routes in the Highlands include the West Highland Way, the Great Glen Way and the Speyside Way; which transform into a winter wonderland, offering panoramic views of snow-capped peaks and frozen lochs. The Cairngorms National Park, with its diverse trails, provides opportunities to witness the Highland wildlife amidst the winter spectacle; and for the intrepid this area can become a wilderness for the most intrepid to explore and indulge in winter sports and adventures like snow holing.

Hiking in the Highlands during winter is not just a physical adventure but also a journey into solitude and reflection. The silent majesty of the snow-covered landscape imparts a sense of serenity, inviting hikers to connect with nature on a deeper level.

Braemar winter munros

Cosy winter retreats to return to at the end of the day

Cozy hostels nestled along the trails and in the villages close by offer refuge after a day of winter exploration. Hostels provide a welcoming retreat where hikers can share stories and relish in the hearty warmth of local hospitality.

Winter hiking in the Highlands of Scotland is a testament to the enduring spirit of nature. It is an invitation to witness the marriage of untamed beauty and the thrill of adventure. So, lace up your boots, embrace the chill, and discover the enchanting transformation that occurs when the hills become mountains in the heart of a Highland winter.

Check out our range of guided winter walking holidays

at Fraoch Lodge

Everyone loves an open fire, almost as much entertainment as the TV

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