Hiking in Scotland

        My mind is roaming in the mountains. Just before the lockdown we escaped the city and moved to a village in Loch Lomond. Never would I think I’ll live here, surrounded by tourist trails and unable to walk them because of the Lockdown. So I came up with an idea to prepare for better days and put together a little guide for my couples who are planning their travel to Scotland to get married and elope and who also happen love hiking! I’m going to sum up some of the tips I’ve gathered over the years.

        I love hiking and hillwalking and I got into it even more since I came to Scotland. Hillwalking is something like a national sport here. I’ve spent some time during the uni in Edinburgh Hillwalking Club, so much of the credit for my Scottish hillwalking knowledge goes to them. The club trips were amazing and unforgettable.

        Best season to hike in Scotland & weather forecast for Scottish hills?

        They say there is no such thing as bad weather only bad gear. Well, although we do have an incredibly sunny days, full on waterproofs is the gear of choice for Scotland. Waterproof trousers and gaiters especially are a game changer. Keeping your ass dry (only slightly sweaty) and windproof in any kind of weather.

        On more serious note, the hills in Scotland might not be the highest you can get in Europe… they’re hundreds of meters far from the peaks of the Alps but in my opinion they’re much wilder. The staffed mountain huts are not quite a thing in Scotland. So chances are that if the weather worsens you’re out there on your own and you need to carry all the necessary equipment with you (as you should in the Alps too anyway).

        All in all it’s possible to hike in Scotland across all the seasons. The best chance for sunny weather is from my experience in April and September. During summer large numbers of midges appear and it’s also very popular with tourists. Winter offers some amazing conditions but crampons and ice axe and knowledge how to navigate is needed.

        Since everybody is so keen on hills and safety in Scotland, there is a particularly good and accurate weather forecast – specific for the area you’ll be visiting: Mountain Weather Information Service. Your classic Yr.no works also well as a basic overview but is far from detailed.

         

        hiking in scotland in winter by ceranna photography -1931

        Best resources for planning a hike in Scotland

        The website to go to is Walk Highlands with hike recommendations and ratings, hike descriptions and map resources. There are several mountain guides who have amazing websites with some more resources and attractive routes. You can of course also hire them to guide you on a trek which is definitely thing to consider if you’re a beginner.

         

        Cairn marking the summit of Bla Bheinn in the Isle of Skye.

        What is munro bagging?

        There was a guy in Scotland who really liked hills and decided co climb each one over 3000 feet tall. His name was Hugh Munro and ever since he first climbed them all in 1891, there is a list of the hills called munros. And munro baggers are here to bag them all. Sometimes even multiple times.

         

        Level 100 of bog is a river. Haha.

        What is a bog? How boggy is terrain in Scotland?

        It was in Scotland when I learned the meaning of the word “bog” for the first time. We do have some marshes in the Czech Republic, where I am originally from, but those are usually protected habitats and fully boggy terrain is hard to find – with tourist routes usually crossing on wooden bridges. Not so much in Scotland. Bog is basically everywher. It’s a damp piece of hill. And Scotland has a lot of hills and lot of dampness. Given it rains a lot in Scotland as well, some bogs just never dry. It’s good to have some gaiters on and often you can find hikers fashioning gaiters even in a completely dry terrain. Just gotta be ready for bog.

        Useful links: Every walk description on Walkhighlands website contains “Bog Factor”. You may laugh about it but take your gaiters if it’s 2 or more.

         

        One of the finest scrambling routes in the UK – Aonach Eagach ridge in Glencoe. Where anybody else in Europe would put metal bolts and via ferrata, Scots just hold on to rocks. Wouldn’t have it any other way! But definitely not for beginners.

        Scrambling and climbing

        Another thing which is pretty specific to Scottish or British hills is scrambling – which basically means a part of the route where you need to do a very easy climbing – usually just a rocky part with very good handles to hold on to, basically walking with occasionally employing your hands, although level of difficulty are varied. It’s good to check in detail if there is any scrambling, the amount and the difficulty of scrambling on your route, there are many walk reports available online and in books. It’s also good to check if everybody of your group would be concerned about exposed terrain and if everybody has a good head for heights and climbing experience.

        Here’s a video of my friend scrambling up the route to Buchaille Etive Mor. It looks a tiny bit steeper and dangerous than it really is and it makes for a very fun day in the hills if you’re looking for a fun scrambling route in Scotland.

         

        Wet day in Highlands with an overnight stay in bothy. As this one had a fireplace we brought in firewood so it was pretty cozy stay.

        Scottish Mountain Bothies & Bothy Code

        One of the most amazing things about Scotland are Bothies. These are basic shelters open to hikers in need for a little hideaway on their trek, usually in pretty remote locations. They are very basic but will give you all you need as a hiker – with a space to lay your sleeping mat and sometimes a fireplace – often wood needs to be brought in as there aren’t other sources in the proximity of the bothy.

        Please take a minute to learn the Bothy Code, and be considerate of the nature and fellow bothy dwellers. Due to the popularity of some bothies unfortunately some are being closed which is a real shame as they served hikers for years. Please note the Scottish Mountain Bothy Association volunteers make this all possible and consider donating to the Association if you get to use the shelter they provide on your hikes or just if you want to improve your karma!

         

        View from Stac Polliadh in Assynt.

        Scottish Law for Outdoor Access – Freedom to Roam

        This is why all this hiking magic is possible. Outdoor Access Scotland

         

        The (almost) invisible path to Ben Lui.

        Navigation in Scotland

        Back to basics – a map and compass are your best friends in Scotland. There isn’t that many of marked paths and usually you’d be walking in a completely wild terrain or on unmarked paths. Therefore it’s essential to know how to navigate with a map and a compass and have a backup of a map app on your phone. The phone reception in the hills is usually very limited to non existent, hence download your maps to have with you! I use Windy Maps app.

         

        adventure wedding photographer scotland - anna portrait

        What to pack for a hike in Scotland?

        • Quality footwear
        • Map and compass
        • Waterproofs (Jacket, Trousers, Gaiters)
        • Thermals and warm clothes to layer up
        • Suncream
        • Midge net
        • Water and food
        • Head torch
        • Fully charged phone and backup energy source
        • First aid kit, thermal blanket
        • Winter gear: Crampons and ice axe

         

        Hiking in Scotland in winter
        Freezing conditions up on Schiehallion – crampons and ice axe were essential. Thanks to Charlotte for the image!

        Midges in Highlands

        The midges are a general annoyance. They start to appear in the springtime and are with us all the way until the first frosts of autumn. They’re extremely tiny and bite a lot.

         

        Suilven in Assynt, one of the finest hills out there.

        My 10 favourite mountains, hills and hikes in Scotland

        These are ordered according to (my perceived) difficulty.

        1. Ben A’an

        This is a very fun and easy wee hill to start with. Up and down in under 2 hours, the path is decent overall but tricky in some places.

        2. Stac Polliadh

        Beautiful monolith up in Assynt with a fun little scramble to reach one of it’s two summits. Magical views across Assynt.

        3. Suilven

        Another Assynt boy with much longer approach, but can be combined with overnight in a bothy. I do have a thing for the vastness of the landscape you can see from up there.

        4. The Cobbler

        This is a fun little mountain with pretty decent path not too far away from Glasgow and with magical views across Arrochar Alps.

        5. Beinn Alligin

        This boy’s name means The Mountain of Beauty and sure enough beautiful it is.

        6. Bla Bheinn

        Fine viewpoint of the Black and Red Cuillins on the Isle of Skye with some magical waterfalls along the way.

        7. Bidean Nam Bian

        Situated in the magical Glencoe (check out my recent Glencoe elopement on the blog).

        8. Aonach Eagach

        One of the finest ridge walks in UK with a proper amount of scrambling.

        9. The Black Cuillins

        I do have a thing for pointy black rocks and those are the Black Cuillins on the Isle of Skye (check out Isle of Skye elopement adventure on the blog).

        10. I’ve left it open to be honest as I still have much to explore!

         

        Long Distance Treks in Scotland

        To be honest, I haven’t done a long distance trek in Scotland, but I’ve walked parts of these and their just amazing.

        1. Fife Coastal Path
        2. John Muir Way
        3. The Rob Roy Way
        4. The West Highland Way
        5. John o’ Groats Trail
        6. Cape Wrath Trail

         

        Isle of Skye Elopement Photography | Scotland alternative Wedding Photographer

        Do you need some help with planning your trip to Scotland?

        Are you planning a trip to Scotland and have any questions I haven’t answered here? I’d be happy to help! Just message me or ask me in the comments! Over the years I’ve helped 50+ couples to plan their hiking elopements to Scotland and it was so awesome none of them complained about midges really.

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