Highland Wilderness Glamping Adventure
Hiking with Horses – Highland Wilderness Glamping
Pack horse supported adventure: hiking with hot tipi wild camping comfort – a UK first!
Imagine escaping into the wilds and immersing yourself in one of Scotland’s most iconic natural landscapes! Hiking with pack horses by day and hot tent wild camping by night. All within the Cairngorms National Park!
This guided adventure brings together the traditional role of the Highland Pony as a pack animal and the development in heavier but more luxurious camping equipment.
Two things have aligned to revolutionise camping comfort in the UK. The use of more traditional breathable tent fabrics and the availability of portable camp Wood burner stoves – hot tent camping! In terms of Scotland’s often cool temperate climate, it’s a game changer!! With a frosty star lit night outside, it’s quite possible to have temperature of 25 degrees C inside!
With the help of Goldie and Foxglove, our native Highland Ponies, we’re able to wild camp in perfect isolation in some of the Scotland’s remotest and most beautiful locations. Guests have the luxury of carrying little more than a day sack!
You will be treated to heated nordic tipi’s, warm showers and comfy camp beds in the wildest and remotest of locations – a UK first!
What to expect
The Nordic Tipi’s we use are over 3m (10ft) in height, more than big enough to stand up in! Up in the apex we can dry clothing overnight without fear of condensation forming. With seating around the central stove there is a lovely cosy area to relax and enjoy the whole experience!
In addition warm camp showers are provided as well as a camp toilet. The beds are made up with deep insulated mattresses inflated to your own desired firmness. Overlain by a fitted sheet and a down duvet, the beds provide a sleeping experience akin to being in your own bed! All this in the remotest of locations!
This self-contained trek with the ponies sees us pass through spectacular Caledonian pine woods. We past beautiful lochs and fields with views to some of Scotland’s highest peaks. It is stunningly beautiful and at the leading edge on nature conservation in the UK.
The area is home to Golden Eagles, Wildcats, Ptarmigan, Pine Martens and Capercaillie. Over 5000 different species live locally, a fifth being nationally rare. The range of wildlife is breath taking! Old growth pine trees draped in lichens give an “other worldly feel”, one in which time stands still. It’s the same plants and animals that chased the glaciers back 11 000 years ago. It’s Britain’s wildest and most natural habitat.
This 4 Day/3 night fully inclusive adventure includes:
- 3 days wilderness guiding with 2 Guides/Pony handlers
- ½ day expedition training
- 1st nights accommodation at Fraoch Lodge
- 2 nights wild camping
- All camping equipment including camp beds
- All meals from Lunch on the day of arrival (Day 1) through to lunch on day of departure (Day 4).
- Transport between Fraoch Lodge & Stables
- Inverness Airport/Aviemore Rail station transfers
Prices are displayed below but if you would like us to quote for a private trip please get in contact.
The trip is off grid escapism and a truly immersive and engaging experience, a chance to reconnect with nature.
Making a difference:
This trip takes place within the Cairngorms Connect area, the biggest ecological restoration project in Britain. Extending over 600 square km, the 200 year vision encompasses some of Britain’s rarest species and most spectacular habitats. Scot Mountain Holidays will be putting 1% of the cost of all bookings for this trip towards helping to support ecological restoration projects within the Cairngorms Connect /Cairngorms National Park area.
Although reducing browsing by deer is key to natural woodland regeneration, it isn’t the only factor. Moss build up within the heather often prevents a germinating seed getting its initial root into the ground.
The natural disturbance was created by Wild Boar, the Great Auroch (ancestor of modern cattle) and trees being blown over. The Great Auroch is extinct, Wild Boar are missing and many trees were felled long ago resulting in their root plates being left in-situ. The one time disturbance of the ground by the hoofs of heavy animals like ponies makes it more receptive to tree seed. By varying our route when not on recognised paths we create that one time disturbance.
Leave no Trace principles, of course, underpin the whole trip.
In addition to all the usual precautions as detailed on our Covid -19 page, here are additional Covid considerations specific to this trip:
- Since the majority of this trip taking place outdoors it’s intrinsically much safer. Outdoor air movement rapidly disperses any viral particles. The campsites we use are otherwise inaccessible so as a result we have them to ourselves!
- With the heat of the stove there is a natural movement of air in through the vents at the base and up through the top of the Tipi. This helps to regularly renew the air and keep the atmosphere safe.
- Scot Mountain Holidays is a small single household adventure tour operator. Andy does the guiding and Rebecca “holds the fort” and provides guests with delicious home cooked food in our family home, Fraoch Lodge. There just isn’t that many of us involved in the delivering the trip!
Day 1: arrival*
Over lunch you’re able to meet the other guests and settle in. The trip kicks off with an afternoon of expedition training learning how to efficiently pitch and strike camp. Everyone gets involved! We first start with learning how to set up and take down the corral to keep the ponies secure overnight. Once that is done we do the same with the Tipi tent and camp beds. Cake O’clock follows and we go through what you’ll need to carry for the expedition.
The day is rounded off with one of Rebecca’s delicious home cooked evening meals and an overnight stay at Fraoch Lodge. The Lodge provides comfortable twin room en-suite accommodation. There is also a lovely lounge for guests to relax in.
* Guests are asked to aim to arrive for lunch by 1pm.
After a good breakfast we head over to the stables where the pony handlers will have already got the ponies ready. We head out onto the beautiful Rothiemurchas Estate. With views to the hills we take a very varied route. A lovely mix of heather moorland, native birch and pine woodland and pastures. We pass by the lovely Lochan Eilean and its ruined castle and on into Inshriach National Nature Reserve. It is some of the most beautiful scenery Scotland has to offer, iconic of the Cairngorms National Park.
Heading off the path we have a small burn to cross and head uphill. Amongst regenerating pines we find ourselves in a wonderfully secluded spot – our campsite for the night. The setting couldn’t be more natural. Heather, birch, pine, blaeberry, the same suite of plants that chased back the glaciers 12 000 years ago.
Route: 8km across fields, on estate tracks, footpaths and through heather moorland on undulating but gentle gradients. Ascent is negligible. Walking time excluding photo stops, breaks, etc is approximately 3 hrs.
After coffee and breakfast we pack our bags we head out on a day walk from camp up onto the tops. Depending on the aspirations of the group, the weather, etc we will do one of 2 routes. Both routes start by following a long lost trail! Still easier underfoot, it’s indicated only by the subtlest changes in the vegetation. Walking through beautiful heather and scattered pines we make our towards a more obvious path. It takes us up through a delightful fringe of first growth forest. Reaching up to the tree line these trees were too inaccessible to ever be touched by the fell mans axe. It is where time has stood still, an “other worldly” feel. Breaking out above on the open mountainside we rise efficiently on an old stalkers path to gain the ridge line.
Heading right the ridge line climbs steeply and sees’ us climbing to the Munro summit of Sgor Gaioth (1118m). On the right heather clad slopes sweep down to the forest below. On the left the view is spectacular. A series of precipitous slopes and cliffs drop 2000 ft into the huge glacial trough that cradles deep and dark Loch Einich. The massive hulk of Britain’s third highest peak, Braeriach rises equally steeply on the opposite side. It is an awe inspiring view. With expansive views 50 miles west towards Ben Nevis, we descend via a subsidiary ridge to pick up another stalkers path a descend back to our campsite.
Route: 15.5 km on mountain paths and over moderate mountain terrain, some of it heather clad, with some steep ascent. 971 m of ascent. Walking time excluding photo stops, breaks, etc is approximately 6:30 hrs.
An alternative easier route sees us heading right and up to the Argyll Stone. Various legends surround the naming of this peculiar rock. It is in fact a morphological relic of much warmer times long before man was on the scene! Views extend into the great glacial trough of Gleann Eanaich on the right whilst on the left the eye is drawn down across the sweep of forest below.
Route: 9km on mountain paths and over moderate mountain terrain, some of it heather clad, with little steep ascent. 584m of ascent with walking time excluding photo stops, breaks, etc being approximately 4 hrs.
After packing up we head back onto the Rothiemurchas Estate via the Rathad nam Meirleach (The Thieves Road). Route of the notorious Jacobites and cattle rustlers like John Dubh Cameron, this route served as a “back road” where stolen cattle could be ushered unnoticed back to their Lochaber lands.
Passing by beautiful Lochan Eilean we head back through birch woods and pastures along the route we originally set out along. The trip is then rounded off with a late lunch at Fraoch Lodge before you depart. Alternatively there may be the option of staying on a little longer if you prefer and one of Rebecca’s delicious home cooked evening meals.
Route: 8km across fields, on estate tracks, footpaths and through heather moreland on undulating but gentle gradients. Ascent is negligible. Walking time excluding photo stops, breaks, etc is approximately 3 hrs.
We asked our guests what sets Scot Mountain Holidays apart, why they return year after year:
“the social aspect” – “the camaraderie, food and conversation” –
“the company of the hosts” – “so warm and welcoming” –
“a profound sense of belonging” – “the welcome of Rebecca’s home cooked meal” – “Andy’s skills as a guide, naturalist and leader” – “stewardship, sustainability and a small footprint” – “in harmony with the land” – “a slice of rural Scottish life”
Scot Mountain Holidays is the ONLY adventure tour operator in Highlands of Scotland with a combined home and guest lodge. We strive to be more than just an tour. We aim to provide you with a ‘home away from home’ on your adventures. We thought of no better way of doing this than to welcome you into our own family home.
We have owned and operated Fraoch Lodge as our home base and business since 1999. In that time, we have come to embrace our guests as members of our extended Highland family.
We source our meals from locally produced and home grown ingredients to provide you with the most delicious flavours and traditions the area has to offer (while minimising our impact on the environment, too). Our dining room and lounge are shared spaces where we gather with guests and friends to share in the holiday and offer you extensive knowledge of your tour.
No matter the season, the Cairngorms and Fraoch Lodge is a place to relax and explore all its beauty and comforts, and we hope to make you feel as at home as we are.
Our campsite on the second night is a magnificent spot only accessible by foot along faint deer tracks. It couldn’t be more secluded and private. Situated within the stunningly beautiful Invereshie & Inshriach National Nature Reserve and set within the Cairngorms National Park, it’s an open area with a mix of heather moorland, grassy glades and native Caledonian Pinewood. With August’s purple heather, the blue-green of the Scots Pine and home to many of our iconic species, the setting couldn’t be more naturally Scottish!
Your abode for the night is a camp wood burner heated Tentipi (Nordic Tipi). The combination of a stove and the breathable fabric is a game changer as far as wild camping in Scotland goes. With camp chairs you have somewhere warm to sit, relax and chat around the fire at night. The tipi is lit by a traditional Coleman Lantern. Above you on the drying rail and lines any damp clothing is dry by the morning! Beneath the stove we achieve the impossible – dry boots by daybreak!
The group has the use of a proper camp toilet as well as the option of a warm camp shower. Warm water is added to the shower tank, it’s sealed and pressurised and hey presto you have a wilderness shower with decent water pressure.
Your bed is a down duvet (comforter) over a luxuriously 12cm deep insulated mattress which you can inflate to your preferred firmness without the risk of cold spots. Pillows are included of course.
This is all carried in on the backs of our very capable and gorgeous Highland Ponies, Foxy and Goldie. This is wild camping at its very best!
This aspect should quite rightly be a consideration for anyone booking an adventure trip involving animals.
Firstly, our ponies have been inspected by the Highland Council appointed Vet as part of Strathspey Highland Ponies yearly inspection. By law there is a strong animal welfare element to this inspection which is connected to the licence to operate as a pony trekking centre. Aside from our personal desire that our animals shouldn’t suffer, happy comfortable ponies are safe ponies. We use the most advanced fitted pack saddles which adjust to the shape of the pony.
Like humans, horses do need to exercise regularly if they are to stay healthy and not to put too much weight on. It’s worth bearing in mind that horses are naturally a flight animal (as in fight or flight) and so posses a natural athleticism. Generally, obesity in ponies has become an increasing welfare issue and as with humans, the extra weight puts added wear and tear on their joints. They can develop the equine equivalent of diabetes or Laminitis, etc. Our trips help to provide our ponies with their necessary exercise.
The sustainability of this trip
The expedition itself is probably the most carbon neutral trip you will have ever been on. The Highland Ponies are a native breed to the Scottish Highlands so are superbly adapted to the hill environment. They are amazingly tough animals being well adjusted to the rough grazing of our hills. Horse power – no fossil fuels required here! With their short backs they are ideally suited as pack animals and are impressively sure-footed on rough steep ground. In winter there is no need to rug them as they are that well insulated snow can lie on their backs!
If done correctly, the poaching of ground by the horses hooves can help in the forest regeneration by making the ground more receptive to pine and birch seed. In the past this would have naturally been achieved by animals like wild Boar and the Great Auroch – the ancester of all modern cattle, both of which are now missing from our ecosystems. Additionally, the natural exposure of soil is also achieved by the root plate rearing up when a tree is blown over. During the Neopolonic and subsequent wars, the demand for timber has meant the these root plates were left in-situ and the moss layer remained intact preventing a germinating seed getting its initial root into the soil.
Dead wood is an important component of the forest ecosystem so we carry in all the fuel for the camp wood burners. The camp wood burners are fuelled by spent whisky barrel staves, birch and peat briquettes.
We have achieved Gold Star Awards from the world’s most highly respected green accreditation scheme, Green Tourism, and were awarded Highly Commended in their Green Star Awards 2013 for both Scot Mountain Holidays and Fraoch Lodge. We offer a Green Travel Discount of £15 to any guests who travel to us by public transport. Our primary aim is to minimise the carbon footprint of our holidays, and to this end we donate 1% of the price of our tours to the RSPB’s Abernethy Reforestation project.
It is a holistic approach we have to the care of the environment. Andy your adventure guide has a passion for the natural world – whether it’s the flora, fauna or fungi . He has a background in geology and a lifelong interest in natural history, as well as being a keen gardener. He knows a Golden Plover from a Dotterel, a Green Shank from a Dunlin. He also makes no apologies to being very excitable upon spying a Golden Eagle!
For further information, please don’t hesitate to check out our Environmental Responsibility page, or contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.