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All things hiking Explaining Scotland Suggested things to do

by Tezhara Mae Reynolds

These thoughts on how to appreciate nature which surrounds her were recorded by Tammy prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. They should still resonate with many and may even have more relevance now we’ve all been forced to step back from seemingly busy lives and “stay at home to save lives”.

After travelling down south for Christmas last year, I came to the staggering realisation about how much living in the Highlands has changed my life. I say to myself: “Never compare” but it’s something you can’t help. If when you go away, you instantly start missing home, you know you’re living in the right place.

For me, there is magic in the Highlands. Most of you may find this dubious, but in an area where mobile reception can be a luxury and saying hello to people that pass you is almost a necessity, it’s easier to focus on what’s going on around you. You become more aware of how much worldy things don’t really matter so much. Your thoughts can slowly, and peacefully get themselves into some sort of order.

As I said, magic.

best walks in Scotland

On the way to Britains’s second highest peak, Ben Macdui. Perfect photo opportunity.

Turn off and tune in

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that if we let go of our devices, we can discover more than enough time to be creative. Being in the Cairngorms has helped me realise that though I come to be reliant on these gadgets, that I can also find the time to let them go and look up. There is also joy to be had in writing with a pen; painting, knitting, cooking … loads of more productive skills that many of us rediscovered during lockdown. Lockdown has also reinforced the value of nature, and the outdoors. Many more of us have taken the time to explore by bike or on foot under travel restrictions – long may that last.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not denying the fact that technology is the way forward and that ignoring it would only hinder myself. I love the creations we humans have made over the years and how truly incredible they are, but we should also come to open our eyes to what’s already been made around us. We’re so closed in four walls of either an office or our own homes that we forget how we’re actually able to live in the most primal sense of the word.

We breathe air that trees make, we eat food that comes from the soil of the ground, we drink the water that flows from our streams and into our taps. We have a beautiful world and we shouldn’t ignore its beauty.

family walks for all ages.

Perfect spot to rest up after a wee walk. Popular in the middle of the day.

How to appreciate nature

I am so lucky to live in a place where I am constantly reminded of nature’s beauty.  Yes, the weather can be a bit drab, but it is one of the main reasons that I feel changed and challenged by the area.

There are some negatives to exploring the great outdoors. I don’t know when the last time was that you felt truly uncomfortable. Do you remember the wind biting at you with every gust? Was the rain drenching you down to the bone and the pain in your feet is threatening your very happiness? Though it may seem miserable in the moment, strangely enough this is not what you remember and talk about at the end of the day. It is through the discomforts of walking up these hills (where those experiences can easily happen) that I come to realise that we are not made of glass. We are not as fragile as we seem and that we are more than capable of conquering pain and discomfort, and we can use that to fuel what we can do next.

It is when we do something out of our comfort zone, (and believe me, it is well and truly out of my comfort zone,) that we tend to only remember what we’ve learnt and the good times we shared with those who we did the adventure with or to those who ask about it. We tell them how hard it was and how far you’ve had to walk, but there you are, standing next to them. You survived all that hardship and you’re telling your tale… and they admire you for it.

How to be comfortable with yourself

I have found that my confidence grew through the admiration of others. Then being comfortable in my own skin became easier and easier. I pushed myself to know where my limits are. Now I am not jealous or envious of those who do more or do less. I have come to see that there is no such thing as competition when it comes to living and challenging yourself. The only enemy you have is  your own mind.

But then again, this may not be for everyone long term, and I get that, but there is no denying that everyone needs this kind of time for themselves as well.

I’ve come to stop putting people, especially myself, in boxes with labels on them. We’re just people, going about our own lives. We put ourselves in labels in order to truly tell ourselves that we belong somewhere and that we’re not alone. If we were all the same, this world would not be what it is today. Yes, it’s pretty messy sometimes but in the grander scheme of things, we only truly want one thing. The freedom to express ourselves in our own unique ways.


The Cairngorms has taught me all of this. You see, nature doesn’t choose who it teaches. She (nature) will let anyone and everyone know of her wisdom if you only give her the respect she requires. It is scary, but also magnificent. It’s intimidating but also majestic. It’s as if the hills I’ve come to see almost every day whispered to me to just let the reins go on my mind. I might just be crazy, but aren’t we all?


If you’d like to start exploring either your local area of the Cairngorms National Park, take a look at our advice on gear

You might also like to look at our advice on gear specific to exploring hillwalking in Scotland.

Family adventure vacations: A truly wild & natural adventure

Family adventure vacations mean different things to different families. Our definition is possibly a wee bit on the wild side for some people – but some of our friends have adventures even more out on the wild side than ours. At least if some one else arranges your adventure for you, you have some peace of mind in knowing that they have checked out some of the potential hazards for you. They have probably minimised the risks so you can relax and enjoy the vacation.

Imagine living on the 69th floor of a skyscrapper – what do you think your ideal vacation would be?
A family from Hong Kong contacted us about our Walking, Whisky and Wildlife itinerary. They were looking for something authentic and unique. From there we developed a tailor-made itinerary for them to take account of their 6 year old son and the fact that in Hong Kong they have few if any opportunities to hike. They also wanted to see a wee bit of the Highlands, sample whisky, visit Loch Ness and dip under the surface of a typical touring itinerary.
We put together the following itinerary for them. How much would you have included in your tour? How much did you know about before reading on?
  • family adventure vacations
    Enjoying the summit on our first mountain climb in Scotland

Family adventure vacations: in the Cairngorms

Day of arrival: 

Arrival was out of our control and we kept the possibility of activities as free as possible. As it turned out the train from Edinburgh was delayed and no one had lunch before 4pm. There was plenty of time to explore the village and keep an uneducated eye out for wildlife. The kids had a lovely time discovering the trampoline in out garden and the hides/shelters which seem to decorate the entire forest here.

family walk Photo caption: Taken on a different day with different children, but you get the idea. Dens in the wood had a universal appeal.

Family adventure vacations: Day 1  

Short walk at Loch an Eilean followed by a transfer to Ruthven Barracks and Highland Folk Museum. Tour of Folk Museum.

 Our definition of a short walk was a bit of a shock for the uninitiated city dwellers as we didn’t just follow the dog walking, tourist route around the loch, but took everyone up to a wee viewpoint nearby and picked our first wild berries.
After the walk, we transferred the group over to the Highland Folk Museum where the kids had a great time going back in time to a strict classroom. The adults also remembered some of the games from their childhoods. It was a win/win situation all round.
family adventure vacations

Adventuring we will go – up hill, down dale and thru heather to the berries.

Family adventure vacations Day 2: 

Visit to Highland Wildlife Park to see the polar bears and Amur tigers, & sheepdog demonstrations

There’s a wildlife focus to our activities today. We’ll take a landrover safari of the wildlife park and visit all the animals. All the animals are cold climate dwellers. Many live in the Highlands today. There are currently new wildlife kittens and a young polar bear among others.
The kids had a great time seeing all the cold climate animals. I’m not sure what their favourites were but they all loved the sheepdog demonstrations which followed and remembered an awful lot of the information the farmer told them. I think it was particularly because they got to handle the puppies at the end.
family adventure vacations

Meeting the puppies after the sheepdog demonstrations here in the Cairngorms National Park

Family adventure vacations Day 3: 

Visit to Speyside Cooperage, Tomatin Distillery and the Whisky Castle

This was a day mainly for the adults as learning all about the making and drinking of whisky didn’t exactly thrill the kids but their day was made by an ice cream stop an a visit to the adventure play park in Tomintoul. For a full whisky explanation read up on our blog about how to choose a special whisky which you won’t find at home. We’ve also talked about all kinds of whisky related products.

family adventure vacations

Trying out the obstacles in the adventure play park at Tomintoul which entertains the kids while the whisky tasting goes on at the Whisky Castle.

Family adventure vacations Day 4: 

Bag a Munro – hike up Cairngorm

Climb your first mountain in the Highlands and enjoy stunning views across the whole valley.
This was a surprising highlight for the families. They loved hiking up to the summit of Cairngorm and reaching a snow patch. They played there to their hearts content and were perfectly content despite completely sodden footwear. The snow factor was a definite winner.

Family adventure vacations Day 5: 

Loch Ness

We’ll visit Culloden battlefield, the Loch Ness exhibition and if we have time Urquhart castle for a full quota of history today. See if you can spot the world famous monster. We’ll also fit in a small walk to stretch our legs and find a quiet picnic spot.
We made a wee bit of a different tour of Loch Ness this time and had lunch at the Dores Inn and did a wee bit of a walk. One of our families decided on alternative activities and rode the train on the Strathspey Steam Railway instead of a visit to Loch Ness. They were convinced that they wouldn’t see the monster!
Another alternative option for a Loch Ness visit with an older party is to park at Invermoriston, take the bus to Fort Augustus and walk the high route of the Great Glen Way back to Invermoriston for great views over Loch Ness and few if any crowds.
We also highly recommend a visit to Loch Ness Clayworks which is on the Great Glen Way but also at the foot of a wee hillwalk right by the side of Loch Ness – a fantastic alternative way to explore the area as lochside can be so busy it will be extremely difficult to get parked, particularly at the castle:
TOP TIP: walk to Urquhart castle from Drumnadrochit.

Day of depature: 

After breakfast we’ll run you through to Aviemore. We’ll be sorry to see you go but hope you’ll be back again before too long.
If you’re interested in a tailor made adventure vacation here in the Highlands of Scotland please don’t hesitate to contact us. We don’t really have a lot of availability in 2018 but if you’re thinking about coming over to Scotland in 2019, please get in touch as soon as you can as we’d hate to disappoint and holiday dates get booked up really quickly.

Imagine a place where you can trek through nature while indulging in fine whisky, handcrafted arts, local music and decadent home cooked meals. Autumn in the Cairngorms is a time to celebrate good food, colourful hiking and splendid photography opportunities as the sunrise and sunset become achievable times to be out and about.


Rainbow over the Cairngorms

Welcome to the Cairngorms National Park

A place where you can experience travel in Scotland at its finest. This is a place to discover breathtaking landscape from bagging Munros to relaxing on the beaches of Lochs Morlich, Insh and Tolmount. You will never run out of places to explore. There are activities for everyone from visiting castles and distilleries to hiking up the mountains or round the lochs. Autumn is also a time for the best mountain biking too.


River Spey, 5 minutes from our doorstep

But when is the best time of year to visit?

Falling under autumn’s spell

At Scot Mountain Holidays, nothing beats the vivid colours, crisp air, sunny days and cool evenings of autumn, a season of change.

Stags begin the rut, grouse take flight, and pheasant hunting season begins. Mountain ash, larch, silver birch, and sedges change colour and dazzle the landscape.


Tulloch Ghru – part of our Outlander excursions


The Cairngorms National Park in the fall – the best time to come for views of sunrise and sunset

It is a time of wild mushrooms in risotto, pâtés, polenta slices and ragu. And don’t forget to top it off with the spicy taste of Cairngorm Brewery’s raisin ruby ale, Autumn Nuts!


From Rebecca’s kitchen – Open mushroom and aubergine lasagne

A Fraoch fall

Come soak in Autumn days and nights with us your hosts at Fraoch Lodge, where we provide everything you need for self-guided tours and home style hospitality, and be enchanted by a Highland fall.

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