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Hill WalkingOn Ben nevis by Roger Wild

Almost 60% of Scotlandís landmass could be termed as hills or mountains. Scotland has the highest mountain in the UK (Ben Nevis), the most remote mountain areas (e.g. Knoydart, Cairngorms) and is the only area in the UK that has regular snow covering in winter.

The Scottish mountains are recognised as being unique due to their height and proximity to the Atlantic and offer some of the most remote walking country in Europe.

They also sustain severe weather patterns in winter, with semi-arctic temperatures and violent storms and even summer can see snow and blizzards, especially on the high plateau of the Cairngorms Mountains. Being aware of the likelihood of changeable weather conditions, and the challenges offered by winter conditions when hill walking is important for your safety and those in your party. Roger Wild, MCofS Scottish Students' Mountain Safety Officer, outlines the difficulties posed by changeable winter weather conditions, in the article 'When is Hill Walking not Hill Walking?' originally published in TGO magazine.

Scotlandís mountains offer a huge variety of challenges from gentle walks through glens and up smaller hills, to serious summer expeditions in rough, pathless terrain. In winter the hills transform into Ďmountainsí where mountaineering skills are required.

 

Starting Out

Taking a progressive approach to hill walking is the way to build up your fitness, stamina, experience and confidence. Set realistic initial goals and achieve them. Read our mountain safety pages especially those on navigation. These are designed to help you understand the importance of basic navigation skills. We offer subsidised navigation and other courses, lectures and events, but these can be very popular and places go quickly!

MCofS Associate Member, walkhighlands.co.uk has a superb website with graded walks throughout Scotland. These vary from short walks in the lowlands to expeditions into remote and high country. You should be able to find information and inspiration here to help you make the first steps! 

And Scottish Walks magazine, which sponsors our winter safety lecture series, is also a great source of ideas for both classic and less well-known routes. You can get a free online subscription to Scottish Walks here.

Always remember to take appropriate clothing and equipment, including a map and compass, enough food and drink for the day, and check the weather forecast before you set out.

If you enjoy hill walking and want to go further afield, a good way to reduce transport costs and obtain access to lower-cost accommodation is to join one of our clubs. There are over 130 throughout Scotland. No two clubs are the same and we recommend that you talk to more than one club before you decide which one to join.

 

Munros and Corbetts
Walking in the Scottish hills has become a popular pastime and one of the main sources of tourism for remoter communities, with many people travelling long distances to 'collect' summits of the highest hills such as Munros and Corbetts.

 

Long Distance Paths
Lower-lying routes have been created as official Long Distance Routes that bisect the various mountain regions, but there are also many unofficial long distance routes which have been described in various books and are now followed by a growing band of walkers, but there is ample opportunity for creating your own extensive backpacking expeditions in the remoter areas where you may not meet another soul for days. Many of the 'Ways' have been created through lowland areas and particularly around the coastline; good examples are the Fife Coast Path, North East Scotland's Coast Path and the ambitious North Sea Trail detailing coastal walking from East Lothian to Moray. With thousands of miles of coastline on the Scottish mainland alone, there is also ample opportunity for making up your own routes.

 

The Chain Walk
Scotland does not have equivalent examples of the 'Iron Roads' - Via Ferrata - that exist in European countries, as their development on mountain crags and cliffs would be regarded by Scottish mountaineers as too damaging and against the ethos of mountaineering. However, one unique example does exist on the Fife Coast Path - The Chain Walk at Elie.