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All things hiking Explaining Scotland News

Choosing a hiking guide for your hiking tour in Scotland

What is it you want from your hiking trip to Scotland?

No doubt if you’re travelling from further afield – Canada, the US, Australia- then you want to see a bit of Scotland; experience the culture; try the iconic foods and meet some genuine Scottish folk. How can you do this within your limited time and budget?

Researching a trip takes time, energy and to make the trip extra special, a wee bit of local knowledge. If you’re lucky you can pick this up from your friends and relatives who may already have visited the area you want to go to. If not, you’re left with the wide morass of the internet and the opinions of strangers. You can cut through the confusion and distraction though by booking an initial introductory trip with a local expert.

Choosing a hiking guide

Guided hiking holidays in the Highlands of Scotland

What to look for when choosing a guide?

A good indication that your guide has the technical navigation skills and training to lead groups is to make sure that he/she has one of the following qualifications:

These are the national governing body certificates which cover the technical skills a group leader needs in the mountain environment. In Scotland, for mountain/hill walking, it is best to check that your guide has a winter mountain leader award as there can be snow on the ground in May/June or on Ben Nevis, most of the year. We have taken clients out in the Cairngorms in July and August and still found patches of snow in shady, north facing areas.

How to choose a hiking guide

Summer snow patches in the Cairngorms National Park

Is your guide local? How good is their local knowledge?

Check carefully to make sure your hiking guide is or has been resident in the local area for some time. If so they are more likely to have intimate knowledge of the best spots to take their clients/guests. It would also be an idea to see if your guide has interests which coincide with your own:

On wildlife:

If you are a keen wildlife enthusiast, make sure your hiking guide has a good grounding in the local wildlife. For example, here in the Cairngorms the species to keep an eye out for, along with the iconic red deer, are:

Capercaillie, red grouse, black grouse, ptarmigan, crested tits, Scottish crossbills, red squirrels and golden eagles among many others.

Cairngorms wildlife

Some of the high mountain wildlife frequently seen in the Cairngorms

On Geology:

If you have an interest in geology, it’s also worth investigating the depth of your hiking guide’s knowledge. You might find that some hiking guides, especially the younger guides, have only very superficial knowledge of the geology of the area, particularly if they are not resident all year round.

On local history:

If you are interested in local history, it is especially important to make sure your hiking guide has been resident in the area for some time. He or she should also have an interest in the history which has formed his environment. This really is the only thing which is going to improve their knowledge of local history.

Highlander habitat

Live like the Jacobite Highlanders

On local cuisine:

If you’re interested in local cuisine, it’s again a good idea to book a hiking guide who is local to the area as they will probably have the most up-to-date information about the local cafes and restaurants. You never know one popular local eating venue might have changed hands or lost their chef since they were last listed in a guidebook or reviewed online. Online reviews are usually only snapshots of one person’s experience at that moment, your guide (if local to the area) will probably have accumulated a more rounded impression of the various local establishments.

On foraging:

If you are particularly lucky, you might find a hiking guide who has an interest in wild foraging who can introduce you to the spectacular harvest Scotland’s nature has to offer.

Amazing meals at Fraoch Lodge

Amazing meals at Fraoch Lodge

Wild foraging

Wild foraging in the Caledonian pine forest of Scotland

To check out the profile of our own main guide and company director, Andy Bateman, view his profile.



Autumn in Assynt

2016 heralded the return of our Empty Quarter hiking vacation, this year based from Ullapool. It was also our second visit to the area in 2 months (September was our month for Torridon). If you were ever in any doubt for reasons to head north of Inverness, check these out as inspiration for 2017 and beyond. Perhaps the North Coast 500 is beckoning you or would you rather explore on foot…

It’s easy for us to take this kind of scenery and the opportunity to get out and explore it for granted. One of the advantages of living where we do, only 30 minutes south of Inverness, is that it is possible for us to pop up north for a weekend and feast our eyes on such refreshing vistas as these. If you’re coming from further afield you probably want to consider spending longer in the area, in which case the Empty Quarter trip could be better suited to you. (If you don’t want to take our word for it, read our reviews.)

Top 20 images from a trip full of amazing views and fabulous people:

Grey seal

1. Grey seal watching us in hope of scraps

mountains of scotland

2. Stac Pollaidh, Assynt, Scotland – north of Inverness

mountains of Scotland

3. Who said Scotland didn’t really have mountains?


Scottish coastline

4. Stunning scenery from the Scottish coastline

autumn colours

5. The colours of autumn in the north of Scotland

Autumn in Scotland

6. Autumn reflections in Assynt (Northern Scotland)

HIking in Scotland (Assynt)

7. Heading up the ridge, Assynt (Scotland)

lochs and mountains Scotland

8. Spectacular Scottish coastline, Assynt (Scotland)

your guide

9. Your guide showing off his balance skills

autumn light

10. Stunning light and cloud formations, October 2016 (Assynt, Scotland)


11. Autumn light and hills in Assynt

autumn in Scotland

12. Stunning scenery, perfect light and amazing clouds (Assynt, Scotland)

sunset in Scotland

13. Sunset over the west coast of Scotland

hiking in Assynt

14. Hikers descending from a long day’s hike in the Assynt area (Scotland)

lonely hiker

15. Standing proud on the ridge while walking in Assynt

autumn sunset, Assynt (Scotland)

16. Perfect autumn sunset scenery and light while walking in Assynt, Scotland

autumn in Scotland

17. Stunning panorama taken while walking in Assynt


18. Striding across the stunning landscape in Assynt (Scotland)


19. There’s something very soothing and spectacular to the eye in the combination of coast and mountain in the same shot, taken while walking in Assynt


20. Moody mountains in Assynt (Scotland) – who would believe that most of them are less than 1000m high?

The Empty Quarter 2017 – walking in Assynt

(currently a group only itinerary)

If you’ve been inspired by the photos, why not join us next year all you need is a couple of other friends (min. group of 4) then give us a call to settle on dates. The sooner you can get organised, the sooner we can get something set for you. We will guarantee the price on our website for your group, except for dates in high summer (mid July to end August).



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