Top tips for winter walking in Scotland

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The temperature may be dropping, but that doesn’t mean a holiday north of the border means staying cooped up inside. That would be a shame when there are so many things to do in Scotland that involve being outdoors – including some of the most spectacular walks you’ll find anywhere in the UK.

Whether you’re hill walking or staying on lower ground, you do need to be prepared, especially in winter. Scottish weather can change quickly, especially in higher areas. And, of course, the shorter days mean that without good planning you could find yourself walking home in the dark.

If you’re not used to serious walking, go hiking with someone who knows what they are doing.

If it’s windy, reduce the wind chill factor. Try and stay in forested or woodland areas which offer more shelter than the coast or exposed hills. If your route is linear, try to plan things so that you are waling with the wind behind you.

In wind and on high ground, be sensibly equipped with warm, windproof clothes. Scottish mountains in winter are not to be messed with! Of course you’ll also need a map and compass, a decent pair of boots, waterproofs, map and compass (which you know how to use), head torch and spare batteries, a hot drink in a flask and enough food to keep you going, including high energy snacks. Reflective clothing may also be an idea if you are likely to be returning in the dark – walk facing the traffic.

Several thin layers tend to be better than a single thick one, and remember to take a scarf, gloves and hat.

If you’re going into the mountains, you should also know when crampons and ice axes may be needed and potentially how to assess avalanche conditions too.

If you find at any point that you do not feel safe, or don’t have the right kit, or don’t know how to use it, turn back.

Check the weather forecast before setting off – the Met Office and Mountain Weather Information Service are two good sources of information, as is the Scottish Avalanche Information Service. Remember, strong windows can be as much of a problem as the rain, fog or mist.

Finally, a charged mobile phone is a good idea so you can make a call in case of an emergency.


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