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2020 has been an “interesting” year for those who operate hillwalking holidays. It’s been a time to appreciate our Scot Mountain Holidays family and friends. A time when we’ve been thankful to have so many guests who come back time and again to see us and experience a slice of life in the Highlands of Scotland.

Certainly, for us, this has been a year to appreciate living in the Highlands; enjoying the little things; appreciating the ability to stay in touch with friends and family (even when we can’t see them in person); and thinking about new horizons or opportunities to explore.

Hillwalking holidays – enjoying the outdoors during the pandemic

There are things to be thankful for, despite the restrictions we’ve been forced to live with this year. Hopefully we’ll also be able to learn some lessons for the future. One thing which has been repeatedly emphasised is that being outdoors significantly reduces the risk of contracting the virus. Many people either discovered or re-discovered the joy of the outdoors and many ways to experience the UK this year – without being in crowded places. Long may it last.

Hillwalking has been the province of the middle-aged, middle-class, white person for some time now. I’ve yet to see figures and demographics for the many people who enjoyed the outdoors this summer (2020) but I hope statistics will show that there has been greater diversity. Certainly the rise in mountain rescue callouts would suggest that there has been a greater influx of newbies.

If you know of anyone who’s been bitten by the bug and wants to get into the outdoors more, bag more Munros, explore year-round – pass on our details – we’re always happy to share years of outdoor experience and can offer  foraging tips, navigation refreshers/intro courses and winter skills

hillwalking in Scotland

Social distancing – before it was an “in” thing to do

Stay safe while in the Highlands on hillwalking holidays

Fortunately we have several advantages which have allowed us to  continue to run trips through the pandemic (except during strict lockdown phases).

  1. we are a very small company – this virus thrives on people being in close proximity in large numbers. As a micro business we have chosen to be a single, household provider. We live in a very small community and provide all our meals in-house at the moment (we have temporarily suspended the meals out on the day off to restrict further the potential to be infected by the virus)
  2. all activities on our trips take place in the great outdoors
  3. every person/household booking on the trip has their own individual room to retire to.
  4. masks are worn when moving around Fraoch Lodge
  5. staff (us) and guests are socially distanced at all times
  6. Numbers are restricted. There is enough space for guests to socialise in the lounge and dining room, if they wish. You can still remain socially distanced at all times.
  7. plenty of soap and hand sanitiser are provided along with disinfectant wipes

We hope that we’ve managed to strike the right balance for you in providing a safe but social environment for you to come and explore the Highlands. Come and see us when travel is allowed once more.

hillwalking holidays

Our temporary advice until COVID is brought under control/defeated is to travel up by car where possible. Alternatively follow all the strictest guidelines on travel and wear a face covering at all times except when eating/drinking.

We hope that movement will be allowed once more for our winter season. Book your visit as soon as you can. There will no doubt be many desperate to get a wee break away from home by the time we’re released once more.

Conclusion

I could say a lot more about how safe it is to come and join us for a hillwalking holiday but really you’d probably be better off asking someone who was able to do just that before #lockdown2 started at the beginning of November. Here are Mala’s recommendations after her trip in September:

“I came to Fraoch Lodge with some nervousness as this was my first holiday on my own. From the moment I met Andy, Rebecca and Gregor, I was made to feel welcome and at ease.

I have had the best week here. I have loved the walks in the Glens, Forests and Lochs (programme) and Andy also kindly threw in a mountain! Through Andy’s knowledge of the environment and geography, I feel as though I have learnt so much about this incredible part of the world.

Rebecca’s cooking has been outstanding. Her inventive, creative cooking, and delicious dishes, and amazing cakes have really been a delight to experience and enjoy. I will miss “Cake o’Clock” and my evening with sage tea & Kindle.

I’ve loved chats and laughs with Gregor. Thank you to you all for making my holiday so special and memorable. Your hospitality and welcome has meant so much. I hope to come back and see you again one day.”

walking in the Cairngorms

Scottish Weather – planning your visit.

Scottish weather has it’s own reputation. Everyone who comes to visit seems to be prepared to be cold and wet. Many are pleasantly surprised when they come to stay with us. Scotland has a great many ambassadors who spread the world all over the world but there’s no getting away from the fact that it is a green and beautiful land and that green comes at a price sometimes. However, it is possible to minimise the effect a poor weather day could have on your vacation.

A quick comparison between a relief map of Scotland and the annual rainfall map shows a very close correlation.  The higher you go the higher the annual rainfall. The altitude of the land can change considerably in a single mile and so can the amount of rainfall both on an annual and daily basis depending on the prevailing wind direction.

The point is, the Scottish Highlands are packed with micro climates and by jumping in the car and placing big mountains between you and the prevailing wind direction, you can massively improve the weather you’ll experience for your day.  It can be the difference between frequent heavy down pours and sunshine with the odd very light shower. If active frontal systems are sweeping across the country, well you’re probably going to experience some kind of precipitation at some point wherever you are but if they’ve all passed through and it’s just an air-stream scenario then some judicious planning can pay handsome dividends.

scottish weather - rainfall map

An example of managing the weather

I remember turning up at a house in Glenfeshie one April. I was to guide the group of ladies up from the London area. The forecast for the N. Cairngorms was not good: 70 mph NE winds, blizzards above 800m and torrential rain. I arrived to the gutters overflowing but having studied the weather closely I suggested we jump into the cars for an hour and drive around to Pitlochry on the leeward side of the range to do Ben Vrackie.  The suggestion wasn’t greeted with any enthusiasm and possibly a certain amount of doubt but the thought of an hour in a dry bus was better than an extra hour walking in the heavy rain.

As soon as we passed over Drumochter Pass the weather started to improve (as is often the case) and by the time we got around to Pitlochry we were in sunshine to the comment of “Andy, haven’t you done well”.  We had clear views from the summit, albeit in a strong bitter wind. On passing back over the pass we drove back into the bad weather. ‘Had it been wet and horrible all day’ I asked Rebecca, my partner. “Yes’ was the answer.

scottish weather map

 

4 tips to get the most out of your visit to the Highlands:

 

Closely follow the weather forecasts

The prevailing weather/wind direction makes a big difference. If there’s bad weather on the way make sure you’re on the sheltered lee side of big mountain ranges. One of the most common comments made by visitors is how changeable the weather is.Don’t judge the days’ weather by what’s happening at breakfast.

 

Remain flexible

So when it comes to planning your tour, if you can remain flexible and not book things too far in advance it can often make a big difference. Avoiding the high season from the middle ofJuly until the end of August can be a big help in this regard. April & May can produce some of the best weather.

 

Base yourself in the North East

The vast majority of Scotland’s bad weather comes in from the south and west. You will notice the east side of the country is considerably drier than the west. In fact the west coast ofScotlandcan receive up to 3 times the annual rainfall of the east. So by basing yourself, for example, in Strathspey or in the North East side of the Cairngorms National Park you can often greatly increase your chances of experiencing better weather. Also, with easy access to the main road routes to Ullapool in the North West Highlands and Fort William in the West Highlands are only 1hr 40mins and 1hr 30mins away respectively from Aviemore it’s easy to make a foray into these areas.

 

Book an Adventure Guide

This is you buying into in-depth local knowledge of suitable locations with regards to the weather conditions. Adventure activities also provide you with the opportunity to immerse yourself in the beautiful landscapes and amazing wildlife of the Scottish Highlands.

Adventure Tour Operators in Scotland

Scot Mountain Holidays

Wilderness Scotland

Highlands and Islands Adventures (mountain biking specialists)

WOW Scotland

 

Walking holiday providers in Scotland

Scot Mountain Holidays

CnDoScotland

About Argyll

Walkabout Scotland

 

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