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All things hiking Winter

Why come to Scotland in winter?

10 reasons in pictures

Have you ever wondered what all the fuss is about? Scotland. Why? Especially in winter must be far too cold and far too dangerous. Take a look – yes, it’s proper winter but isn’t that preferable to wet rain, umbrellas and grey days with little to differentiate between summer and winter, except for the lack of leaves on the trees.

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Photo Credit: Paul Tomkins/VisitScotland

1. A Snow Hole Expedition:

Digging out a snow hole site in the Cairngorms under the guidance of Andy Bateman of Scot Mountain Holidays. It’s not quite Sweden’s ice hotel as you have to create the living space yourself, but they’ll have a relatively comfortable night out of the wind, cocooned in their sleeping bags enjoying being cooked for and served a three course meal by their guide.

 

Build a snowhole in Scotland

Build your own snow hole in the Cairngorms

 

kintail in winter

2. Winter mountaineering and ridge walking:

Hiking along the ridges of Argyll, Kintail or Glencoe – space to yourself away from all the crowds and views which stretch for miles under clear skies. We often visit the west coast of Scotland in March to bag some winter Munros: we’ve run trips in Argyll, Glencoe and Kintail. For this year’s offering check the calendar or the Munro bagging page. Some of our clients have left from these trips with the most spectacular images – but those are for another blog.

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Photo credit: Dave Downing

3. Cross country skiing:

The beauty of Glenmore in the winter. Snow laden trees and cross-country skiing opportunities. Short days are not always a disadvantage as they allow for the most spectacular photographic opportunities, as seen above.

 

winter skills in the Cairngorms

4. A winter skills course:

Safety skills for walking in the winter hills, demonstrated here by Andy Bateman – ice axe arrest. Legitimate playing in the snow, but as part of a learning process on how to avoid a sliding fall.

 

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5. Winter photography:

Scotland on a cold, clear, crisp day in winter. What’s not to like, especially if you like to take stunning pictures.

 

Winter in the Cairngorms

6. Reindeer:

The Cairngorm Reindeer herd in their natural environment. When out walking in the Park, you can come face to face with the reindeer who roam the hills in winter.

Ptarmigan

7. Ptarmigan:

The Scottish Munros, particularly the Cairngorms, are the only area of the UK where you can spot Ptarmigan. Ptarmigan change their plummage twice a year – they have a summer coat, a breeding plummage and a winter coloration to blend in with the snow. You can almost step on the Ptarmigan sometimes as they like to conserve their energy by walking rather than flying if they can and they nest on the ground – there being no trees at the elevation where they are found.

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8. Burns Night:

a chance to savour some of Scotland’s most famous and unique produce. Haggis is a traditional meal to celebrate Scotland’s greatest bard, whose influence can be found everywhere from the Birks of Aberfeldy (where there is a thinking/writing seat dedicated to Rabbie Burns) to the Winking Owl in Aviemore, where the great bard is said to have taken breakfast. You might not even be aware of his influence on your own life from: “And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne” – which you’ll have sung if you’ve ever brought the New Year in; to “O’ my luve’s like a red, red rose, that’s newly sprung in June” and a special Scottish grace for a meal: “Soem hae meat and canna eat And some would eat that want it. But we hae meat and we can eat, sae let the Lord be thankit.”

Burns Night is 25th January and is celebrated throughout Scotland with a haggis meal and the address to the haggis – written by Rabbie Burns.

 

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9. Colours of winter:

Scotland is famous for the colours of heather in the summer but the winter can be colourful too. This is the time of year that you’ll get to appreciate the sunset. The snow also reflects the light of the moon & stars if the sky is clear, so a night out in winter can be glorious.

 

10. Snow is fun:

snow will entertain the kids for hours and cost nothing, but make sure you’re well stocked with socks, gloves and hot chocolate!

 

Useful links:

Have fun in the snow: 

Snow related activities for kids:

Free mountain weather service:

Met Office forecast for the hills:

Scottish Avalanche Information service:

 

 

It’s all about the gear for hiking Scotland

Whether you are caught in a white-out, needing to navigate trails or provide emergency first aid, it is imperative hikers are properly equipped on their Highland adventures. Otherwise we would rely too heavily on Mountain Rescue for preventative emergencies!

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Keeping gear dry is a must. Photo courtesy of Complete Cairngorms participant, Alison Hedley

Here in Scotland’s Highlands the terrain and weather can be deceptive as our tallest peak Ben Nevis is 1,345 metres. However, the tree line in Scotland begins around 6-800 metres. Higher winds and colder and changeable weather thus occur lower down in Scotland at the same severity. This means, effectively, the environment you get at 600 metres is the same at 3,000 metres in the Alps.

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Some Full moon Snow-hole Expedition gear: snow shovel, ice axe, trekking pole, rope, rucksack

Finding the right fit for hiking Scotland

To protect ourselves from Scotland weather we prepare with the proper gear. Cioch Outdoor Clothing is a Scottish based manufacturer on the Isle of Skye, and along with being comfortable and durable they also provide excellent customer service.

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Wild Knoydart: walkers know the value of a good pack!

Nikwax Analogy material made to measure by Cioch and Páramo clothing, an ethical manufacturer, are favourites of Andy. He values these for their waterproof and windproof properties, essential to weathering Scotland’s worst. Many are surprised by the severity of “wind chill”.  (Wind chill is the effect of the wind in cold weather, which makes the actual temperature feel so much colder than the thermometer records.) Wind chill creates a high risk of hypothermia. Extra layers are a must.

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Andy in a Nikwax Analogy smock jacket by Páramo

Key features: never go without a map and compass, and pay special attention to foot care. Proper walking boots are essential. In general the heavier the boot, the more equipped you will be, and stiffer boots are best for dealing with snow.

Scotland - ATTA - Adventure Travel World Summit

Scotland – ATTA – Adventure Travel World Summit; Spirit of the Cairngorms. Compass for navigation.

Navigating the market

How does Gore-Tex compare to its competitors? Do you need to splurge on expensive gear for a single trip? Our resident guide Andy Bateman is an expert in questions like these.

Scotland - ATTA - Adventure Travel World Summit

Scotland – ATTA – Adventure Travel World Summit; Spirit of the Cairngorms. A bike you can depend on

We provide advice on the kit you will need, because the best gear makes you forget the job it is doing, and leaves you to soak in your adventures instead.

An international reputation: Scottish textiles

With more and more evidence surfacing of the adaptability, quality and craftsmanship of Scottish textiles manufacturers catching on worldwide in fashion luxury goods and film, it is no surprise the industry has also taken on sport technology.

Performance in a fabric is crucial to hikers, walkers and cyclists. In Scotland, weather can change so frequently that when it comes to treks off the beaten track (a speciality of Scot Mountain Holidays), to quote Duracel, “it just has to work”.

But we believe gear should more than work. It should be comfortable and enhance your experience. We also believe in supporting local and regional manufacturers for economic and environmental purposes.

Scottish textiles

Using the edge trimmings from the looms to make rugs. All made from 100% wool as is tweed. Wool is coming back in to fashion in outdoor clothing.

For these reasons, we have tracked down 5 Scottish innovators in the textile sport industry who are completely changing the performance game.

Scotland’s own

1. Findra

Cycling in the Cairngorms

On and off road cycling in the Cairngorms. We know all about valuing good cycling gear!

Dubbed by SCI market research as one of the top sport textile innovations in the last five years, Findra creates mountain biking clothing especially for women. They are recognized for their seamless knitting technology and unique textiles.

2. Nikwax technology

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Andy in a Nikwax Analogy smock jacket by Páramo

While Nikwax was developed in Northern England, innovater Nick Brown accredits his many walking holidays in Scotland as the inspiration for the product – so we feel it fits nicely on our list. This elastic and water-repellent treatment makes performance clothing elastic and breathable, protecting you from inevitable Scotland rain.

3. Harris Tweed Hebrides

From the Commonwealth Games to other professional sporting events, Harris Tweed is a becoming a feature of athletes all over the globe as they are revered for combining style with performance.

4. Diary Doll 

Another product innovation for women. Lightweight with a waterproof panel, these machine washable pants give women the freedom to carry on their explorations stress free.

5. Bonar Yarns

‘Greatness is in the detail’. This Scottish manufacturer has forever changed the notion of turf, enhancing sporting events all over the world.

Fit for a Highlander

Here in the Cairngorms we are part of the Highland way of life and keen nature enthusiasts, meaning we must be ready to adapt to Scotland weather in pursuing our adventures.

With manufacturers like these, nothing can hold us back!

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