Why choose a guide to hike in Scotland?
- Why choose a guide to hike in Scotland? – local knowledge
- Why choose a guide to hike in Scotland? – weather lowdown
- Why choose a guide to hike in Scotland? – lack of high waymarked paths
- Why choose a guide to hike in Scotland? – go further and higher
- Why choose a guide to hike in Scotland? – interpretation of the landscape
- Why choose a guide to hike in Scotland? – get off the beaten track
- Why choose a guide to hike in Scotland? – extra safety and security
- Why choose a guide to hike in Scotland? – (for winter) knowledge of snow conditions
When you go out for a hike on your own in a new area, you will almost certainly admire the views you see. You’ll probably stop to admire any pretty buildings you see and you may also see some of the local wildlife; but what you’ll probably miss are the local stories which make the area come alive to you. You might not see the wildlife and you might not be able to identify the carnivorous plants or useful herbs. (There are plenty of useful plants which grow wild on the mountainside, like thyme) If you pick a local guide with a lifetime’s interest in the outdoors, all this will be part of the story he can pass on to you during your excursion into the outdoors.
A guide who lives in the area you want to explore is likely to know wee titbits of information relating to local history, gossip, nature, geology, plants etc that you may well not know yourself. All this information helps to bring alive the walk.
“Our recent trip to the Scottish Highlands exceeded my expectations. Prior to our trip we contacted Scot Mountain Holidays to create a one day hike for our family based on the current weather conditions and our fitness level. Andy was a wealth of knowledge on so many topics which added interest to the hike – geography, history, botany, cuisine, etc. We foraged our way through the forests, heather fields, and mountains. It was truly the highlight of the trip. Andy and Rebecca are lovely people who shared a part of their world with us and I am grateful!!”
One of the most frequent comments, our guests make on their departure is: “Haven’t we been lucky with the weather!” Have they been lucky? Were their expectations very low to begin with? Or was the guide working hard to judge the weather conditions and relate them to his experience so that he could adjust the routes and plan the best day possible for his group?
Andy spends a huge amount of time analysing the forecasts. Check out his blog on how to predict snow, which is all part of his extensive collection of weather research.
We’ve been hiking in several different areas in different countries of Europe and the one thing they all seem to have in common, is the high level path waymarks and sign posts. Here in Scotland, however, history has dictated differently. In Europe, high land has not been greatly prized and has historically been used as common grazing in the summer months. As it has not been privately owned, it has been easy to develop a well marked system of walking routes throughout.
In Scotland, however, most land is privately owned even high in the hills therefore the bureaucracy involved with establishing paths and putting in signage has kept the signage to a minimum. Walkers and climbers are all expected to take suitable maps and a compass with them when they go out in the hills. Do not rely on being able to see the path on the ground or in seeing a sign to indicate how far you have to go.
The weather is a feature of many conversations in the UK, and particularly in Scotland. Many foreigners from continental climates can’t understand our fascination – but then they have relatively stable weather patterns and don’t tend to experience 4 seasons in one day. This is a phenomenon peculiar to maritime climates. It can happen anywhere here, but particularly in the mountains. This can mean that even though visibility is good when you begin your route this might not remain the case all day.
If you’re not confident about your navigational abilities this may mean that you don’t go across the high mountains. However, if you hire a guide, the navigation becomes their responsibility as it is also their choice of route (within your aspirations). They are better able to pick a walk which will make the most of the prevailing weather and safely take you to the higher peaks where the best views are to be had.
Most guides have an amateur interest in geology as well as their professional qualifications. They are all interested in their outdoor surroundings. Andy, our director and main inspiration behind the routes on our holidays, is particularly interested in geology. He can always find an explanation for the form of mountains; the make up of the rocks etc
Most hikers are confident about going out on clearly marked paths, which are more often than not in the more popular hiking areas. However, it is not so easy, particularly if you are not familiar with the area to pick the best routes for the limited time you have, unless you are particularly good at map reading. A guide will have intimate knowledge of the local surroundings and is probably able to find you a spectacular route where you are unlikely to see a single other hiker during your entire day out. We like to pick routes for our guests where they see unexpected views and have memorable and unique experiences: as is said, one never walks the same route twice, as the changes in weather, fauna, light, season etc all come together to produce a unique environment every time.
A guide is professionally qualified to cope with hazards outdoors. He or she undergoes first aid training which is renewed every 2 years to keep their knowledge current. Having a guide with you is like having a first aider, risk assessor and professional mountaineer with you all in one person
Why choose a guide to hike in Scotland? – Why choose a guide to hike in Scotland? – (for winter) knowledge of snow conditions
If your guide lives in the area you are intending to visit in winter, they are likely to have one the ground knowledge of snow conditions. This kind of local knowledge is difficult to convey even with today’s modern communications. With experience, guides who live in the area are able to pick the best spots for snow and ice conditions, even in lean periods. Winter 2017 was a very lean year but we still ran 4 snowhole expeditions and never had to retreat due to thin conditions. Admittedly Andy did make some reconnaissance walks to check the snow depth prior to going out, but he was still able to deliver all the booked trips.