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All things hiking News

Highlands of Scotland: summary of a month of walking tours during a pandemic

In Scotland, there are plenty of walking tours.  However, when you join Scot Mountain Holidays –  it’s more than just a walk. It’s more of a complete adventure which will hopefully give you a sense of place and belonging. Not only do we feast on stunning mountain views, but we’re also treated to some spectacular, colourful and sometimes dainty looking wild flowers; and unexpected wildlife encounters.

Always bear in mind that September is also harvest month. In normal, times no doubt there would be church services to give thanks. Though we can’t do that this year, we have still been treated to some of the best of nature’s bounty (see images in slideshow).

This year we’ve picked loads of chanterelles and boletus mushrooms plus we’ve been able to find not 1 but 3 cauliflower fungi. It’s also a spectacular year for plums (from the garden) – and apples but they need a wee bit more time on the tree. Berries have been good too. Andy had brought back wild blueberries (blaeberries), wild cranberries (linganberries), juniper berries and cloudberries (highly prized in Scandinavia)

Though wildlife is not the focus of the walks Andy has led this month, he has some close encounters including 2 capercaillie and 2 black grouse down Glenfeshie. Unfortunately no pictures though to back up reports of the sightings.

Of course the dinners we’ve had this month have also been a highlight for everyone, but we’re usually too busy enjoying them to take pictures. We’ll try to add some in next month so you get a more complete picture of the trips and what makes them so special to the people who join us.

Here’s a sample from just this month of all the delights Andy has come across while out in the hills.

With thanks to Mala, Joanne, Valerie, David and Gareth for the excellent company this month.

  • walking holidays Scotland

Foraging in Scotland: some of the fungi

2019 has been a spectacular season for foraging in the Cairngorms. Scotland’s wild larder should be renowned across the world. Whether you’re by the sea or up in the mountains, foraging in Scotland is bountiful. Our European guests are so jealous. In many parts of Europe mushroom sites are closely guarded secrets and foragers have to be out early to be in with a chance of finding anything.

It’s been unavoidable to see/pick mushrooms and we’ve also been quite lucky with berries etc. The crows are feasting on rowan berries at the moment, which I don’t mind if they leave the strawberries, bilberries and raspberries for us. One of the few benefits of a damp, showery autumn and a coolish summer with bursts of warmth, has been the proliferation of ceps, chanterelles and all kinds of fungi throughout the woods for weeks.

Foraging is a fantastic activity to introduce to your kids – but always make sure you know what you’re doing. An introductory course from a knowledgeable guide is a great way to do this.

Boletus edulis and others

This year (2019) has been such a spectacular mushroom season that our larder is over-loaded with dried ceps and boletus. At one point it was impossible to take a walk in the woods, without coming back with several mushrooms. Do be careful though in season to make sure you have knife with you. It is frowned upon not to use a knife to remove the boletus mushrooms when you find them.

Check the mushroom code and make sure you know what you’re doing before you head out on a fungal foray.


Scottish Wildlife Trust – details on how to identify and where to find the Cep

Further details and intro to “Fascinated by Fungi”


These are the most reliable crop of mushrooms in the Cairngorms. We manage to pick some every season and they’re usually up earlier than anything else. A great crop for summer usually up in July and August.

They freeze well and make great soup with some cream and onion. We tend not to dry chanterelle mushrooms. Freezing does make them a wee bit more watery but they are still good in soup and risotto. They maintain their texture well in the freezer.

NB There is a false chanterelle which you also find here in the Cairngorms but there are distinct differences between the 2. If you know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to be sure that you’re picking the right one. We have had guests bring back a whole crop of false chanterelles though, so maybe it’s not obvious to everyone.

Cauliflower fungus

This is one of our absolute favourites. There’s always too much to eat in one go and it dries a treat. The taste is relatively mild but it has an amazing firm texture completely unlike any commercial mushroom. It is great in mushroom soup, risotto, mushroom pie, venison or beef casserole in fact it is a substantial mushroom which can be cooked in virtually any mushroom recipe, including risotto.

These fungi only appear one at a time. You’ll never find a cluster as you can do with virtually all other fungi we’ve learnt to identify. They are so large it must take all the plant’s energy to produce one.

We don’t come across a cauliflower fungus every year, despite checking the site where it was previously found. It’s such a huge investment by the plant to produce such a large “fruit” that it needs perfect conditions to put one up.

The only down side is that the cleaning can be a bit of a  faff – but at least you can wash it as it doesn’t absorb much water, but it helps to shake it upside down before you take it home to minimise the bugs.



Further details

Hedgehog fungus

We don’t find this one as often as we’d like. It’s a great firm edible mushroom.

Further details and help with identification


If you’d like to gain more confidence in your mushroom identification, enquire with us for a foraging day. There are many other foraging options which go alongside the mushrooms including a plethora of wild berries.

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