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All things hiking Explaining Scotland Family holidays Suggested things to do Uncategorized

What does ‘off the beaten track mean to you’? Depending on how adventurous you are, the phrase can mean different things to different people. It can be scary to choose the path less travelled by, but the benefits from getting off the beaten track in Scotland are exhilarating.

Skye Munros - Scotland

Topping out on the Innaccessable Pinnacle in glorious sunshine weather, Skye May 2016

But, this certainly doesn’t mean you need to skip all the top sites like Loch Ness. For some, getting out of cities is rural enough and therefore Loch Ness is a great choice. But for those feeling adventurous and wanting to get a little more remote, we can help you there.

So, how to find a place where few people go?

Wanting to find a little peace and quiet is the most natural thing in the world whether you’re most at home surrounded by nature, a city dweller or somewhere in between. And arguably, there is no better place than the Highlands of Scotland. Known for its epic beauty, contrasting scenery and out of this world views, you’ll soon find yourself where the air and water are fresher and the most prominent noises keeping you company is nature at its finest.

The Cairngorm National Park is the ideal base for you to experience and explore the remoteness the Highlands can offer. Depending how far off the beaten track you want to get you’ll find an array of options suited for all fitness levels and ages. Offering options to be guided, or self exploration if you prefer, Scot Mountain Holidays has it all.

Mountain peaks

We understand that only you know what getting off the beaten track means. But, Scot Mountain Holiday trips, by definition are all off the beaten track. It’s unlikely you’ll see crowds of people during any typical day with us. Choosing one of our trips is a great way to decide if the more unusual spots and a more active vacation is the way forward for you.

Whether you’re after hiking, mountain biking, walking or countryside relaxation, you’ll find it here.   We can help organise a tailor-made trip for you, friends and family. Or, you can join one of our scheduled trips where you’ll meet like-minded people and gain friends for life. The choice is yours.

5 reasons to go hiking in Scotland

Scotland is an amazing destination renowned for many things: castles, golf, kilts, haggis and it’s amazing scenery. Scotland is also promoted as an adventure destination. However, there are thousands of people who visit Scotland every year but have no idea of the opportunities they can experience. Your experience is greatly enhanced if you invest a wee bit in expert guidance. Many people list our scenery as one of the motivating factors for a visit to Scotland. It also ranks highly as one of the reasons to go hiking.

Choosing a holiday destination is not always easy. There are a lot of considerations which come in to play. How much time do you have available? How much money do you have available? Do you have a short list to choose from? What images are influencing you? And these days, of course, you have your friends images and reviews to peruse via social media. If you’re a keen hiker, you probably already know, that Scotland has amazing scenery. Maybe you’re putting Scotland on your short list. In our experience running accommodation and adventure holidays in Scotland, it’s still got untapped potential and a lot of advantages as an adventure destination which most people don’t know about.

1. Scotland has world beating access rights – top reason to go hiking.

reasons to go hiking in Scotland

Waiting for the cloud to clear to reveal the spectacular view which can’t be seen from the road.

Photo credit: Scot Mountain Holidays

Photo description: A guided hiking vacation in the Cairngorms, Scotland – off the beaten track thanks to our excellent, world-beating access legislation.

Everyone has a right of responsible access in Scotland due to The Outdoor Access. You are legally allowed to walk/bike/canoe anywhere they wish. You do need to avoid the immediate grounds of a building. So you don’t have the right to walk across someone’s manicured garden. You do have the right to roam the hills at will without sticking to what few paths there are.

Do be careful when out on the high ground though because there is not a system of well-maintained way marked paths across the hills, unlike other European countries. In fact, if you have not been out hiking in Scotland before it would be advisable to book a local guide for the first time you go out. You will have a more in-depth appreciation for the countryside you’re walking through with your guide.

The guide would have extensive knowledge of:

which you as a visitor would never be able to glean during your short visit to the area without his/her presence.

 

2. Scotland has some amazing wildlife; but nothing which will kill you – another bonus reason to go hiking in Scotland

Capercaillie - wildlife of Scotland (reasons to go hiking in Scotland)

Photo credit: Jamie MacArthur (www.ornithography.com)

Photo description: A Capercaillie in the Cairngorms

Scotland has celebrated the Year of Natural (2013) and the Year of Adventure (2012). The Golden Eagle was voted Scotland’s most iconic species. The attraction of the wildlife is a growing sector of tourism in Scotland, particularly to the Highlands and Islands. You could expect to see red squirrels, red deer, reindeer, roe deer, eagles, otters and a multitude of other animals throughout the Highlands. Most of these iconic animals are frequently found in the Cairngorms. The Cairngorms feature heavily in all the BBC Spring, Autumn and Winter Watch programmes. However, you don’t need to worry about bear or wolf attacks. There are no large animal predators in the wild. Camping is a relatively safe experience; the main concern being a biting fly known as the midge (which will not trouble you on a windy day and is only around in the main summer months).

reindeer.jpg - wildlife of Scotland - reasons to go hiking in the Cairngorms

Photo credit: Scot Mountain Holidays

Photo description: Part of the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd which roam free in the hills during the summer months.

 

3. Scotland has stunning scenery

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Photo credit: David Webster

Photo description: Ridge walking on Liathach, Torridon, Highlands of Scotland with Scot Mountain Holidays

Scotland has ancient mountain scenery full of mystique and history, which draws thousands of tourists every year. Most visitors only experience the views from the road. There are plenty of views to be seen from the roadside, but the best of the landscape can only be experienced by immersing yourself. Exploring the Highlands without a car has its trials but hiking, canoeing, adventure biking etc here in the Highlands is the way to go.

The beauty of Scotland speaks for itself in many images and has formed inspiration for movies and art worldwide:

There are several long distance paths which are waymarked across Scotland, but the high hills are not waymarked. There are paths which crisscross the high mountains but a knowledge of map reading and compass work are necessary to deal with the changeable weather conditions and wild scenery.

 

Two climbers

Happy snaps mid climb

Photo description: Viewpoint obove Loch Aan in the Cairngorms showing the cliffs by shelter stone. Some of the stunning features of the Cairngorms which can’t be seen from the road.

4. There is no need for altitude training and adjustment in Scotland’s hills.

Scotland’s highest peak is Ben Nevis at 1,344m. To many Europeans this seems merely a bump, but when you consider that the route up the mountain starts at sea level, it becomes a decent mountain day. Most people take about 8 hours to complete the route up and down Ben Nevis, even by the regular “tourist” route; but for all that it is not an 8000m peak it should still not be under-estimated.

The changeable weather conditions, our maritime climate, in the UK make an ascent of any of the hills challenging, except in the most stable of weather conditions. People do die in our mountains every year. You don’t need to worry about altitude sickness or having to carry oxygen to summit the mountain and most summits can be reached without any need for ropes. All risks in the mountains can be limited by employing a guide with the relevant training and experience.

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5. Scotland is accessible

There are international flights to Scotland through Edinburgh and Glasgow with onward flights or good public connections through bus and train onwards to the Highlands. However, to make the most of your time in the Highlands your best transport option is still either to hire a car or to book a suitable tour with a guiding company which will take in the routes at the top of your list or allow them to pick to routes best suited to your ambitions, taking account of the prevailing weather and terrain conditions.

You can reach most of the hills in Scotland on a day walk, within the capabilities of most hikers. There are more extensive routes – which take several days to complete, but you can reach the summit of most individual peaks in a day.

If you do choose to undertake any of the long distance routes you will find that with the exception of the West Highland Way and possibly the Great Glen Way, you are unlikely to see many other people during your walk. So far, Scotland is accessible without being crowded.

The following companies are expert at arranging walking tours and hiking holidays of various kinds:

 

Links for further information:

Hiking is the ideal way to explore the Scottish Highlands

Visit Scotland’s walking information

WalkHighlands: A comprehensive resource for any independent hikers planning to visit Scotland:

Check out the Lairig Ghru mention in the top list of walks in Scotland

Ramblers info about walking in Scotland

12 Trail rules you should know

8 of the best long distance hikes in Scotland

 

 

 

Knoydart or Skye – hard to choose

Walking holiday options on the west coast of Scotland are almost endless. Knoydart or Skye – where to go? One of the most popular and endlessly filmed locations is the Isle of Skye. The dramatic jagged images of the Skye hills have formed the backdrop for many a dramatic movie. However, there are places which are just as satisfying to walk all up and down the west coat where the views are as magnificent or even more stunning. We’re heading over to Skye and to Knoydart in May this year. See our assessment here of the advantages and disadvantages of each to help you make a decision.

Knoydart or Skye – factors to consider

1. Skye’s reputation

Skye has a huge reputation as a destination in Scotland based on the dramatic nature of its scenery and its romantic attachment to the Stuart/Jacobite legend. The attraction of Skye for hillwalkers and Munro baggers comes from the nature of its terrain. There is nothing to match the jagged peaks of Skye in the UK. The closest comparable peaks are in the Alps, when you may also have to contend the the altitude and the additional possible complication of altitude sickness.

Skye Munros

Topping out on the Innaccessable Pinnacle in glorious sunshine weather, Skye May 2016

2. Accessibility of Skye

Skye is more accessible. The bridge over to Skye has made it much more accessible to everyone, especially now there is no toll. However, it has also taken away a small part of the mystique which comes from taking a ferry to get somewhere; it makes you feel more like you’re going somewhere exotic and unknown, almost as if you’re abroad. That’s now missing from the Skye experience (unless you choose to take a ferry route or are island hopping through the Hebrides), but is still a part of going to Knoydart

3. Using Ropes

To reach the actual Munro summits on Skye you will need to do some roped climbing. It is the ambition of many a Munro bagger to reach the top of the Innaccessible Pinnacle. Some will never make it as you do need to have some elementary rock climbing skills and a very good head for heights (see Skye photos below)

4. No bridge to Knoydart

Knoydart is only accessible after a boat ride from Mallaig or a long walk in along the peninsula. There is no motorised transport allowed on the peninsula for visitors i.e. you can not take your car there. It still has the feel of being remote and inaccessible. You feel privileged to have the opportunity to visit. Even the public ferry is a relatively small boat but most groups end up chartering wee motor boats to get down the loch to Inverie.

Knoydart

Loch Nevis looking towards the islands of Eigg and Rhum

5. No roped climbing experience needed in Knoydart.

All the peaks in Knoydart are accessible to a walker without the use of ropes.

6. Views

You can see the Cuillin Ridge clearly from Knoydart while climbing the peaks there.

7. Food options

Both have excellent dining opportunities, especially if you like seafood.

Knoydart

 

See our pictorial comparison below:

SKYE

We’ve chosen 3 images from our Skye collection. They certainly give you an idea of the kind of terrain which makes up the ridge. If you’re on social media (and connected to the right people, which includes us!) you might have seen the famous film of Danny Macaskil riding his mountain bike along the ridge. In fact, you don’t even need to have been on social media as a short programme about the making of the film was shown on BBC TV.

isle of skye munros

High in the Cuillin mountains of Skye

 

Skye Munros

Sunset over Am Basteir from Sligachan on the Isle of Skye during the Skye Munros itinerary

 

 

Sunset over the Cuillin Munros

Sunset over the Cuillin hills in Skye

 

KNOYDART

Britain’s most remote wilderness (on the mainland) – Knoydart does have a very special feel to it.

knoydart

The ridges of the Knoydart peaks

 

Knoydart walking

Eve negotiates the ridge

 

Knoydart hiking

Mick admiring the view in Knoydart

 

VALUABLE RESOURCES FROM AROUND THE WEB

Knoydart:

The Knoydart Foundation – http://www.knoydart-foundation.com/

The Old Forge, Britain’s most remote pub – http://www.theoldforge.co.uk/

Britain’s most remote wilderness in video – http://www.theguardian.com/travel/video/2013/jun/11/britain-wilderness-scotland-knoydart-peninsula-video

John Muir Trust in Knoydart – https://youtu.be/rGCL7uBRw5s

Skye:

Walkhighlands: The Black Cuillin

TripAdvisor: The Black Cuillin www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g186585-d196763-Reviews-Black_Cuillin-Isle_of_Skye_The_Hebrides_Scotland.html

Black Cuillin Ridge of Skye – http://www.mountainhiking.org.uk/scotland-mountains/skye/skye4.shtml

Danny Macaskill – The Ridge – https://youtu.be/xQ_IQS3VKjA

The Munro Show – Sgurr nan Gillean https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lfc-dDsfV6c

November: Hiking in the Cairngorms

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Fancy a guided walking holiday in November? Not a question you hear every day.

One of the most frequent questions we are asked is: how do you cope with the short days in winter? Scotland is not Finland though. We never get 24 hour darkness. Actually it’s the long days of summer which make more of an impact. The shorter days of winter really don’t last that long.

The disadvantage of hiking in Scotland in November is that the day light hours are short though we still haven’t reached the shortest day of the year, so if you’re wanting to do a Munro hike it might be best to book a guide. At the very least, you’ll need to make sure you have a functioning head torch in your pack.

November hiking options:

1. “Get Off the Beaten track” –

When you go travelling the memories which stick with you are the unusual situations, or the times when you’ve done something different. These chances almost always happen when you meet new people. They give you new advice, or show you something you wouldn’t otherwise have experienced.

Get off the beaten track with us combines at least one guided day with the opportunity to explore on your own following our personally designed routes. When you take up the guided day as part of the “Get Off the Beaten Track” choice, you’ll be opening up an insider’s knowledge. You still get the opportunity to explore independently, but the trip will be so much more memorable and the day on your own so much more enjoyable. “Get Off the Beaten Track” is a safe way to be adventurous and get away from the crowds.

Click here for full details

August in the Cairngorms (views and flowers)

 

2. Gentle Giants

A chance to get under the skin of our area and learn about it through our eyes. You’ll be picking up information you’ll never learn from studying a guide book. Going out on a guided trip with us, gives you the chance to go places which would otherwise to inaccessible to you. You’ll see things you might never have had the opportunity to experience and learn what has taken us nearly 20 years to learn about our area.

A guided hiking weekend ascending Ben Macdui and Cairngorm.

Ben Nevis sees thousands of people plodding up to the summit every year in everything from flipflops to full on winter hiking boots or skis purely because it is the highest peak in the UK.

Ben Macdui, the second highest peak, is a lot less busy. As with all Scottish peaks, care always needs to be taken as it is the weather conditions and the speed with which they can alter, which makes these summits dangerous, rather than their height. Many Europeans are very scathing about the Scottish”Mountains”looking purely at their height in order to assess them and claiming that they can’t really be mountains when they are less than 2000m in height. Look at the Alps they say. Look at the Pyrenees.  Those are real mountains. In Scotland, though the mountains themselves are lower in altitude, the climatic conditions are as violent at they can be at 2000 or 3000m in the Alps. Hence, taking a guide to explore across the Cairngorms is sensible thing to do if you are not familiar with the area.

Hiking Ben Macdui

Hiking Ben Macdui with Scot Mountain Holidays group tour

Reasons to go guided

Bear in mind is that there is little waymarking of routes on the high plateau in Scotland. This is yet another way the Scottish mountains differ from Europe. Historically the land has been owned privately here. Waymarked routes have not been developed across the high mountains.

There is a system of networked paths at lower levels and there has been a lot of work in recent years to improve the paths for hikers; a knowledge of navigation is still required for mountain hiking.

The joy of hike in the Cairngorms is to take it to the “brink” – the edge of the plateau where the views down the steep glacial features of places like the Loch A’an amphitheatre are breathtaking. Andy has hiked in the Cairngorms for close to twenty years. He knows the hidden highlights, the history, the plants, the quiet spots where you’re more likely to see unexpected wildlife, where you might bump into the Cairngorm reindeer herd; but even he is always discovering new plants and seeing unexpected wildlife every time he heads out.

On the second day, we’ve put together a shorter route on Cairngorm – but as you can see from the photos below, despite the fact that it is very accessible, you’ll hardly be in the crowds!

guided walking holiday in November

Autumn hiking opportunities for everyone

 

guided walking holiday in November

Soft light of autumn combined with mist to produce excellent photography opportunities

3. “Munro Madness” Tailor-made – guided walking holiday in November

Put together a list of the Munros you want to bag this autumn. We’ll make sure you get to tick them off your list – if humanly possible in your timescale.

We can offer:

This package can also be adapted to take advantage of the sleeper service from London to Aviemore station.

Please contact us for a quote or to discuss options with Andy.

autumn_gorms.jpg

4. “Mountains and Malts” – BESPOKE guided walking holiday in November

Highlights: Glenlivet whisky, ascent of Ben Rinnes , iconic Scottish wildlife (pine marten and red squirrels).

Hiking, whisky & wildlife – this trip samples the crowning glories of the Cairngorms National Park.

We’re not heading out to bag the highest peaks on this trip; instead we’re bagging some of the top icons of the Scotland’s persona – whisky, wildlife, and the added bonus of some stunning scenery. There’s more to Speyside than whisky, but equally there’s more to whisky than most people are aware. Andy knows all the low-down. (Check out our “how to choose a connoisseur’s whisky” blog).

There was a time that the whisky industry was an illicit trade for smugglers. There was also a time that the wearing of tartan was illegal. All that changed when Queen Victoria made the Cairngorms a venue of first choice for summer vacations.

We won’t quite be hiking in the manner of Queen Victoria, in long skirts, with sedan chairs to take the strain, but we’ll certainly be covering some of the ground the royals enjoy when we’re on the Royal Glenlivet Estate.

whisky_walking.jpg

 

Email us if you think we can help plan your vacation in Scotland – we can hit all the Highland hotspots and include some off the beaten track surprises you might not know about.

For inspiration check out our Pinterest board and our Flickr account.

It’s no secret that exercise is extraordinarily beneficial to achieving a happy, healthy lifestyle. Extensive research states that exercise not only improves physical health but also works wonders on mental health, and guided hiking health benefits are no different.

Couple pose for photo during climb

Celebrating mid climb during a guided walking tour.

Guided Hiking Health Benefits

Physical Health

Hiking uses some of the body’s biggest muscles resulting in an all-body workout. The legs, doing the grunt work will result in a workout of the gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Hiking also strengthens the back and the abdominal improving overall stamina and endurance.

But it goes deeper then improving physical changes. The physical effort required in uphill walking strengthens the performance of the heart and lungs whilst lowering blood pressure. Studies have also shown that hiking and mountain walking reduces the risk of chronic illnesses, asthma and type 2 diabetes.

Mental Health

Mental health is extremely important and hiking is an amazing tool in benefiting this positively. The physical changes from mountain walking are a great incentive to continue exercising. They also work wonders with improving self-esteem and self-awareness. Due to the heightened mental concentration hiking requires it strengthens mental agility, helps sharpen brain activity and is an amazing stress reliever. And hiking can be challenging. But successfully completing such a strenuous activity gives you a great sense of achievement and a positive headspace.

Further benefits of guided hiking

Group hiking is just another point to put on the pro list. Guided hiking with Scot Mountain Holidays gives you have a leader to follow, eliminating the stress of figuring out where you are and allowing you to fully concentrate on the task at hand. The group aspect also builds social bonds and completing challenges together will develop strong friendships and trust.

hiking in Assynt

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

The truly great thing about hiking is that not only do you get the fantastic physical, mental and social benefits, but everything is enhanced due to the exposure of the elements. Along with burning calories you will profit from vitamin D, fresh air and more.

For more information on guided walking visit Scot Mountain Holidays and Courses.

hiking health benefits

walking holiday

The benefits of walking far outweigh many other forms of exercising, including going to the gym.

Useful links:

Top 50 Long Distance Hiking Trails In The USA

Authorized Boots

19 Physical and Mental benefits of spending time outdoors

Winter walking holidays and courses in the Highlands of Scotland

January 2018 has been a very busy month which Andy is currently rounding off with (another) snowhole trip into the gale-bound Cairngorms with a team from the BBC Travel Show. Nerves were displayed by the newbies presenting the programme. I think they were daunted by the Triathlon enthusiasts who’d been drafted in to help dig.

New Year Winter Walking

We welcomed in 2018 in the company of our select winter walkers. The group all brought in the New Year with a great deal of good-humoured and crowded dancing in the street in Grantown on Spey. Dancing was followed by a magnificent firework display. Great fun for everyone which topped off some fabulous snowy walks.

New Year Winter walking

Striding out across the snow before bringing in the New Year in the Highlands of Scotland

Andy was even able to get out the tentipi and show off it’s capabilities over a cosy whisky in the evening. His market research (which might be skewed by the whisky and warmth inside the tentipi) shows some demand for his pony wilderness glamping proposals.

wilderness glamping

Checking out the luxury tentipi wilderness glamping beds – deemed superior and mattress-like

5 Day Winter Skills

5 younger enthusiasts joined us on January 1st for the first winter skills and navigation course of 2018. We think the photos tell most of the story. Great fun and quantities of cake kept everyone happy throughout.

Winter skills in the Cairngorms

Winter Skills group hamming it up for the camera

Winter skills course

Striding out into the Cairngorms to practice ice axe and crampon skills – January 2018

Winter skills in the Cairngorms

Practising cramponing techniques in the Cairngorms, Scotland. There’s nothing more fun than legitimate play in the snow.

Winter skills in the Cairngorms National park

Putting their crampon techniques into play on the slopes of the Cairngorm mountains

winter in the Cairngorms

January snow cover in the Cairngorms (2018)

winter walking skills

Tumbling down the mountain, alternatively known as ice axe arrest on a 5 day winter skills course with Scot Mountain Holidays

winter skills course

Successfully stopping a sliding fall on an ice axe arrest – 5 Day Winter Skills course

winter in the Cairngorms

Head first ice axe arrest – what fun!

mountain navigation course

What’s going on here? This is part of the navigation instruction on the 5 day winter skills course

winter in the mountains

Work or pleasure? Heading up into the mountains.

 

Classic Winter Cairngorms

Back for some more trailbreaking through the snow-decked Cairngorms. Our blog advice on how to keep your hands warm and how to keep your phone going in the cold were of great help this week.

Cairngorms winter walking January 2018

Atop Bynack Mor deep in the heart of the Cairngorms National park. Not everyone goes on to see these magnificent “barns”. Quite a feat of climbing to get to the top, especially after the walk in!

Guided winter walking (Cairngorms)

The view you’d be rewarded with for the challenge of pitting yourself against potentially the worst conditions nature can throw at you. When you come out on top, you can feel the adrenaline.

Winter walking January 2018

Walking through the snow – January 2018. Winter walking is a completely different experience and a different challenge. If you haven’t tried it, maybe this is your time.

Guided winter walking in the Cairngorms

Cairngorms (January 2018) Spectacular views are the reward for challenging yourself to a winter extravaganza.

Winter in Scotland

A winter wonderland here in the Cairngorms

walking in the Cairngorms

Getting a workout through the snow in the glorious outdoors. Plenty of fresh air and stunning views.

guided winter walking

Glorious winter walking on the Classic Winter Cairngorms week with Scot Mountain Holidays this January (2018)

guided winter walking in Scotland

Lucky or what? The views of the Classic Winter Cairngorms week were stunning at times as this shot shows.

Winter walking holiday and courses in the Highlands of Scotland

A view for miles – the snow brings this landscape alive.

Snowhole Expedition

Lorna chose to encourage her friends and family to join her on a Snow Hole Expedition with Andy to celebrate her 50th birthday. We felt honoured. Lorna herself must have enjoyed the experience because she’s back right now helping the BBC to dig in tonight. Let’s hope they get to see the blue moon despite the snow showers.

Snow Hole Expedition

Heading out into the Cairngorms fully prepared for a night out on a Snow Hole Expedition with Andy Bateman

Winter in Scotland

Snow mascara! Who would have guessed?

Winter in the Cairngorms

Lorna is enjoying the break through moment. Now they can see that their overnight residence is a real possibility

Winter in Scotland

Dinner in the snow hole – carrot soup and vegetarian bolognese

 

If you’d like to join us for a winter walking extravaganza or to learn new winter skills, there’s still plenty of time. Winter in the Highlands lasts well into March and sometimes even April.

Plenty of choice of walking holiday or skills course

In the heart of the Cairngorms National Park lies it’s namesake, the Cairngorms. The Cairngorms, a range of mountain peaks adorning the skyline, are rich with historical importance, and full of nature and wildlife. The soul of the Cairngorms, boast four of the five highest peaks in the United Kingdom. Conveniently, this is located just a short drive from Fraoch Lodge, home of Scot Mountain Holidays.

Hiking Ben Macdui

Hiking Ben Macdui with Scot Mountain Holidays group tour

Hiking Ben Macdui

Ben Macdui, at 1309 metres was our destination. Departing Fraoch Lodge we set out for a full day of hiking with the group tour leader, Andy. As someone who hasn’t done much hiking I was in good hands. Scot Mountain Holidays offered plenty of advice, tips and tricks. I felt well equipped in handling the changing climate, the potential wet weather, and cool temperature ahead of us.

Guided Touring with Scot Mountain Holidays

Andy is knowledgeable in not only the secrets of the mountain, but also fauna, wildlife and navigation. This became increasingly comforting as the heavy fog set in the higher we climbed. Transforming the landscape into a world of grey, it wasn’t long before the dips, plains and landmarks of the mountain became a sea of similarity for me.

But, with what appeared to be second nature to Andy, we headed away from the path ready to experience the Cairngorms, raw and untouched. Appreciating the full benefits of guided touring, it was as simple as follow the leader. It’s also advised to keep a camera at the ready for wildlife that Andy has a knack for spotting. We also had Andy’s storytelling keeping us company as we rose higher, with stories of history and legends wealthy with detail and fascinating to hear.

wildlife spotting and hiking

Wildlife with a view

The secrets of Ben Macdui revealed

Before long, history came to life in the form of a plane crash memorial. Pieces of the aircraft littered the mountainside and somewhat eerily seemed almost untouched 70 years on from the impact. Andy’s knowledge of the Cairngorms secrets continued to be show cast during the ascent and decline. Continuing to hike away from the track we came across no one. Allowing us to appreciate the solidarity, and peacefulness of the mountainous environment. With gorgeous views, and amazing landscape treating us as the cloud cover ebbed and waned. The experience of hiking Ben MacDui was memorable and a great combination of challenging and rewarding.

After a full day of hiking we returned to the homely comforts of Fraoch Lodge. Arriving to a roaring fire and well-deserved coffee o’clock it was a warm and welcoming homecoming. Rebecca’s home cooked meal, delicious and restaurant quality was the perfect way to finish a great day. Scot Mountain Holidays is a perfect blend of leadership, knowledge and homely comforts resulting in an amazing experience for group tour hiking.

Guided winter walking in Scotland

What a week of Guided winter walking in Scotland – almost 4 seasons in one week! From full whiteout blizzard to stunning views for miles from the summit of Braeriach, enhanced by a broken spectre with 2 silhouettes in the middle.

From conditions like this:

Guided winter walking in Scotland

Wintry conditions on the summit of Cairngorm at the beginning of the week

To glorious views like this:

Guided winter walking in Scotland

Stunning views to compensate for the lack of snow cover in the Cairngorms (courtesy of Claire Grogan)

 

The weekend at the beginning of the trip offered the worst of the weather, but unfortunately if you have to get back to work … maybe next time those who couldn’t stay on will be treated to views similar to those from Braeriach at the end of the week.

Quotes and reviews:

“Thank you again for a very enjoyable week. Andy’s knowledge of the mountains and of the geology, flora and fauna, together with the welcoming and homely atmosphere and Rebecca’s cooking makes for a great combination”

Guided winter walking in Scotland – the highlights from Gentle Giants/Classic Winter Cairngorms – January 2017

These are just a selection of some of the points which have made the week so memorable and will hopefully serve as talking points when everyone gets home.

Group:

included

– a diverse group of individuals (including one couple) united by a common interest.

Guided winter hiking in Scotland: Wildlife highlights:

We saw a vole and it didn’t just pop out and disappear; it stayed and snuffled around searching for food. We have a really good view of it.

Sightings of ptarmigan became quite common place as the week went on. The first was exciting but by the end of the week, we’d had at least 5 sightings. Ptarmigan sightings were exciting for one of our guests whose young grandson (under 10 years old) is a keen birdwatcher, so it was something he could share with him.

We spotted golden eagle and mountain hare in the white winter plumage.

winter wildlife Cairngorms

A ptarmigan makes walking across the snow look easy

Guided winter walking in Scotland: weather highlights

Many a hiker would love to be treated to a broken spectre. It adds a certain “je ne sais quoi” to the day and provides a talking point. Everyone wanted to see the pics (and it certainly proved popular on our social media.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BPhU-QVhzFg/?taken-by=scotmountainholidays

Guided winter walking in Scotland: Scenic highlights

Panoramic photos courtesy of Claire Grogan

Guided winter walking in Scotland

Stunning winter views in the Cairngorms highlighted by a slight wisp of cloud to add character to the picture

Guided winter walking in the Cairngorms

Loch A’an sparkling in the sunlight peeping through the drifting cloud

Guided winter walking in Scotland

Clear dry air in winter makes for views which stretch for miles across the Cairngorms and beyond

Guided winter walking in Scotland

Not so wintry in the Cairngorms but still enjoying the company and repartee as the group ascends the ridges in the Cairngorms

 

Check out our Facebook album for a fuller collection of the photos taken during our trip.

Guided winter walking in Scotland: Recipe requests

Lentil loaf – a great vegetarian recipe to have up your sleeve for parties/dinners with friends.

Other food: Recipes going live shortly:

Beetroot brownies

Banana and fruit loaf pudding

Grasmere gingerbread

Raspberry and pine nut bars

Tear and share tomato and cheese bread

Summary:

A great group who enjoyed the variety of walking options during the week and did perhaps feel that they accomplished more in the week than they would have done without Andy’s guidance.

 

Winter is a time where people retreat inside and exercise unfortunately takes a backseat. Well not at Scot Mountain Holidays! With the gorgeous Scottish countryside transformed into a winter wonderland, the cooler season becomes one of our favourite. Winter walking also has many benefits. These include, staying active, clear winter views and a sense of accomplishment. So for winter walkers old and new; here are our top tips for winter walking.

 

winter Cairngorms

Winter scenery in the Ryvoan valley, taken by Thomas Barratt on a course with Scot Mountain Holidays

Five top tips for winter walking

  1. Layering

It makes sense that one of the most important things to consider for winter walking is your own comfort. Layering up is a great way to stay warm, and allows easy accessibility to avoid overheating. Avoid materials that will stick to your skin if wet and go for Thermals, fleeces and waterproof jackets.

  1. Get the gear

Getting the right gear for winter walking is vital. Waterproof trousers and jackets are a must have to compete with the mist and snow you might experience. Goggles are a great idea for your face protection along with a buff. And of course, remember to protect your extremities with gloves and a warm hat. However, arguably the most important is boots. Invest in a good pair of hiking boots that have grip and ankle support. Keep in mind that boots, and gear is available for hire through Scot Mountain Holidays, so don’t despair if you don’t have everything you need.

  1. Load up on a warm breakfast

Before heading out ensure you have a big warm breakfast of something substantial. This will keep you’re energy levels up, warm you up and be the right move in starting your day right.

winter walkers

Striding across the snowy slopes in the Cairngorms

  1. Stay active

Whether you’re on a guided walking tour with Scot Mountain Holidays or a self guided tour, staying active in the elements is very important. Although you may be tired, remember hyperthermia can set in if you are stationary for too long. So keep your breaks to a maximum of ten minutes, and try to nibble on something every time you stop.

  1. Stay hydrated

We know that keeping your fluids up in winter is harder than in summer. But, it is by no means less important. When winter walking it’s important to stay hydrated. So similar to eating, remember to hydrate every time you stop and keep your bottle somewhere warm to avoid freezing.

Winter has well and truly hit Scotland and now’s the time to join Scot Mountain Holidays on a winter walking tour. Our top tips for winter walking is just the thing to get you active and reap the rewards this winter.

Located in the heart of Scotland, the Cairngorms National Park is voted one of the top 20 places to visit in the world by National Geographic Traveller Magazine. Offering activities for all types of travellers it’s no wonder people flock from all around the world to see this little piece of paradise.

Wild scenery of Scotland

Glorious wild scenery for the Cairngorms National Park

So why visit the Cairngorms National Park?

  1. Accessibility

Easily accessible from Scotland’s major cities, Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Cairngorms are incredibly well connected and easy to navigate by all sources of public and private transportation. While in the national park you’ll find many walking/cycling paths for all levels of fitness connecting villages and towns making it exceptionally easy to explore.

Not all footpaths are waymarked, particularly on the high hills. If you’re unfamiliar with the area or if you want to learn a bit more about the Cairngorms and their history, geology, habitats, wildlife etc; then it is always a worthwhile investment to book:

  1. Attractions

No matter what your age or situation the Cairngorms offer attractions for everyone. You’re sure to feel the culture of Scotland with many historical castles to visit.

  1. Balmoral castle
  2. Braemar castle
  3. Corgarff castle
  4. Ballindalloch castle
  5. Loch an Eilean castle (ruins)
  6. Drumin castle, in Glenlivet

And on the outskirts of the Cairngorms:

  1. Cawdor castle
  2. Urquhart castle
  3. Brodie castle
  4. Balvenie Castle (ruins)
  5. Huntly Castle
Castles in the Cairngorms

Pipers welcome visitors to Braemar Castle

There are also distilleries aplenty producing the famous whisky the region is known for. (We’re at the beginning of the famous Speyside Whisky Trail and our tours often include a visit to Glenlivet distillery and/or the Speyside Cooperage  – where the oak barrels are made for the distilleries.) The national park is also home to endless outdoor opportunities. Because of this, walking, hiking and cycling are fantastic day activities, as well as endless outdoor choices and wildlife spotting opportunities. As a result, you’ll visit the best locations along amazing hiking trails when joining Scot Mountain Holidays on a guided tour. And, with Andy as your guide you’ll learn so much more about the region and the wildlife.

 

Autumn hiking

Hiking in the autumn (Cairngorms, Highlands)

  1. Seasonal options

No matter what the season, the Cairngorms offer fantastic attractions. Water sports and water based activities are a great option in summer and spring. In winter and late autumn there are snow sports and more complex hiking options to choose from. And wildlife watching and incredible hiking and cycling trails are available all year long. Because the Cairngorms are so well connected, Scot Mountain Holidays have options to experience all parts of Scotland. Giving you the best of both worlds.

Whether you’ve been before or a first time visitor, The Cairngorms National Park is a place you’ll grow to love. Fraoch Lodge, the heart of Scot Mountain Holidays will give you a base near all of the major sites. And Scot Mountain Holidays will help you to experience the Cairngorms in all their glory.

wild blueberries in the Cairngorms

Wild blueberries abound in mid-summer here in the Cairngorms

4. Hiking for everyone

There are hikes suitable for the wee ones, the ancients, the enthusiasts and the dabblers. Wildlife and nature walks to backpacks across the park. You can lose yourself in the “backwoods” or “wilderness” of the Cairngorm hinterland or saunter at your leisure through stunning scenery with the dog, the kids or on your own. There are certainly enough paths to choose from that you can choose solitude if you wish. The multitude of options can be confusing if you’re not familiar with the area, but here at Fraoch Lodge, we pride ourselves on choosing the best option to give you memories which will be the highlight of your visit to Scotland.

Reindeer in the Cairngorms

Visit the Cairngorm Reindeer herd in the natural environment (Cairngorms)

Walking in the Cairngorms

Beautiful views and a clear path on the ascent of Meall a'Bhucaille

Wild scenery of Scotland

Glorious wild scenery for the Cairngorms National Park

Hiking in Scotland

Hiking through the varied habitats of the Cairngorms

5. Variety of activities

There are numerous activities in the Cairngorms, particulary for those who enjoy the outdoors:

 

All these options are open to guests based at Fraoch Lodge – Andy and Rebecca are here to guide you on what is possible in your available time.

6. Discovery tour

If you are short of time you may want help putting the highlights of the Highlands, particularly the Cairngorms, into a time frame to make the most of your visit. We have an ideal 3 day experience of the Cairngorms which will get you hiking, biking and experiencing some of the crafts which have been a part of daily life in Scotland for hundreds of years. Use the Cairngorm Discovery tour as your introduction to the Highlands or as a base for your own Off the Beaten Track experience.

crafts in Scotland

Sheep have been a major influence on the HIghlands as has their fleece!

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