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Calvin College (Michigan) come to the Highlands – June 2015

We were contacted to organise a Scottish extension to a long study tour for 15 people from Calvin College in early 2015. The outline brief for the trip was that it was a first time visit to Scotland for the students who would be travelling up from Edinburgh after spending a few days in London and exploring Edinburgh. They wanted to experience the beautiful Scottish scenery and visit Loch Ness and they only had a couple of days free in their itinerary.

Their trip worked out as below:

Day 1; depart Edinburgh on the train for Aviemore. This is a beautiful train ride which passes through the Cairngorms National Park. The journey ended at Aviemore station where it was the plan to pick up all the baggage and walk the group through to the Old Bridge Inn. There was a slight hiccup to the original plan in that picking up the extra van to transport the whole group took a wee bit longer than planned so we picked up the baggage as the group were finishing their pub lunch.


Photo caption: the Lairig Ghru seen from the Boat of Garten end of the Speyside Way

In exchange for the baggage, maps and route information was handed over so the group could follow a section of th eSpeyside Way to hike through to Boat of Garten across the heather moors. The girls then walked the 5 miles from Aviemore to Boat of Garten along the Speyside Way. The route is waymarked and relatively easy to follow without a professional guide. A couple of boards along the way with information about which hills you’re seeing at the relevant viewpoints would be very beneficial. You do get excellent views of the Lairig Ghru along the way as well as Cairngorm and Braeriach. Also if you’re lucky enough to be crossing the moor when the steam train is making one of it’s scheduled runs to or from Aviemore, it adds something special and atmospheric to the walk.

By 5pm, everyone had finished hiking and was settling in to their rooms at the lodge after devouring the tea and cake set out to welcome them.

Later in the evening we all ate a dinner of Harissa Chicken or butternut squash dumplings with rice and vegetables, followed by Self-saucing jaffa cake pudding (recipe to follow in our recipe requests section).

Day 2: Loch Ness

After a light breakfast, the girls made up sandwiches and a picnic lunch to take on the tour to Loch Ness. Today they were tourists personified planning to do the main tourist highlights around Loch Ness. First stop – Urquhart Castle. Lunch stop at Divach Falls. Nessie Exhibition, circuit of Loch Ness through Fort Augustus past some Heilan Coo (photo opportunity not to be missed) and back through Inverness to Boat of Garten.


Photo caption: Dressing up at Urquhart Castle


Day 3: Guided hikes: Forest Loch and Abernethy Woods or Rothiemurchus and Loch an Eilean.


The group was a large one at 15 so we offered 2 levels of hike: one for the more energetic and one for those feeling the strain of being on the road for a while.

In Andy’s group, we took the girls to Forest Lodge, where Andy was able to explain how the partnership between Scot Mountain Holidays and the RSPB works to regenerate the tree level up to 600m in this area. The RSPB have established a sapling nursery at Forest Lodge to encourage the regeneration of seeds of local provenance which they can then reintroduce across their estate to try to take the natural tree line to the level it would be at were there not so many deer in the area.


Photo caption: the active group enjoying the Pass of Ryvoan



Photo caption: Forest Lodge to Ryvoan Bothy with Calvin College

Monday morning: after breakfast the group departs to go back to Edinburgh and their ownward flight to Dublin.

Without the help of Scot Mountain Holidays the girls may well have missed out on their hiking opportunity and hence may not have visited the Cairngorms National Park at all. We were able to provide the missing link so that they could hit eveything on their bucket list in the limited time they had available. We hope to see a group from the college again.

All transport provided by Scot Mountain Holidays.

Tour conceived and supplied by Scot Mountain Holidays

Tailor made to the requirements of Calvin College.


Vacations organised by Scot Mountain Holidays

Guided hiking vacations

Multi-activity adventures

Self-guided Mountain Biking breaks


Useful links for planning your trip to Scotland

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.

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