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    Guest Post: Advice for Fellow Americans Hiking in Scotland

    7 min read

    By Wilderness
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    By Brandi Willis Schreiber

    This past May my husband and I travelled to Scotland to hike part of the West Highland Way and explore the Isle of Skye’s southern coasts. Now that we’ve (sadly!) returned home, I’d like to share a list of helpful tips for other Americans hiking in Scotland.
    Schreiber: Advice for Fellow Americans

    Brandi Willis Schreiber: Glenfinnan Monument

     

    We are hiking hobbyists and take a weekend several times a year to explore trails in Texas and neighbouring New Mexico. However, we knew an adventure like this in Scotland would require a lot more planning and preparation. I scoured blogs and books for information on what to expect, but no amount of research could have truly prepared me for Scotland’s beauty and the experience of spending nine glorious days in its great outdoors. So here they are – my top tips.

    Plan early and be open-minded

    Scotland’s outdoor pursuits are extremely popular and finding accommodation in the spring and summer can be tough. Book your trip as soon as possible. We confirmed our May 2017 adventure with Wilderness Scotland in February 2017, which caused a bit of a scramble for accommodation close to the trails. We stayed in a few B&Bs in villages off the West Highland Way, which was a lovely, more personal introduction to the locals. One of my favourite aspects were talking with the hosts who made us breakfast and hearing their stories and recommendations!

    • Book now – our trips are popular so book early before spaces fill up.

    Invest in a guide

    And speaking of people: invest in a guide. We chose the self-guided option for the West Highland Way because the trail is very well marked, but we took advantage of Wilderness Scotland’s excellent guides for our foray into Skye. Fran Pothecary, our personal guide, was so kind, knowledgeable, and attentive. She tailored hikes to fit our interests, taught us the history of the Isle, and made sure we were well cared for. Beyond that, however, she was just fun, and we felt like we’d made a lifetime friend by the end of our trip. This was money very well spent. Wilderness Scotland has many guided adventures to choose from including a fully guided version of the West Highland Way.

    The most important tip: take your time

    If you race to the end of each day’s miles, you’ll miss the marvellous sights, sounds, and smells that belong only to Scotland. Thanks to the longer daylight hours in spring and summer (the sun often rose before 5:00 a.m. and set close to 11:00 pm) you really don’t have to rush. I’m no marathon runner, and I lingered at streams, old ruins, and fields of playful lambs. Even on the longest day, which we hiked in about 8 hours, we still had plenty of daylight to burn once we reached our accommodation.

    What is the point of coming all the way to this ethereal place if you don’t enjoy the open vistas, smell the sweet air, or allow yourself a moment to linger in the grass next to a waterfall, in awe? Give yourself this gift.

     

    Gazing at the sheep in Scotland

    Brandi Willis Schreiber: Lambs on Skye

    Train your body for your adventure

    We hiked the canyon systems in West Texas and took to the treadmill a few times a week before our trip. Completing several hikes of 5 – 8 hours in length will give you a good idea of what to expect. While the West Highland Way is not difficult, it is long and requires endurance. The same goes for some trails in Skye. I can honestly say that although my feet were tired at the end of each day, my body did not hurt like I expected it to, and I attribute this to training in advance.

    Invest in a really good pair of hiking boots

    Because we used Wilderness Scotland’s luggage transfer service on the West Highland Way for our big suitcases, all we had to bring on daily hikes was a daypack. Here is where I went a little overboard, however. Anticipating everything from a horrible bug bite to falling off the trail into a ravine below (neither happened), I overstuffed my daypack.

    Learn from my mistake and carry just the essentials: water, snacks/a packed lunch, pre-cut moleskin patches with a few large, flexible strip Band-aids (in case a hot spot or blister does develop), sunglasses, sunscreen, your phone/camera, an extra pair of socks, a fleece, light rain jacket, waterproof backpack cover, and collapsible walking sticks (if you use them). Be sure that your daypack is constructed of lightweight material and has good shoulder support. I made the mistake of using a canvas backpack, which was heavier.

    Bring only the essentials in your daypack

    Because we used Wilderness Scotland’s luggage transfer service on the West Highland Way for our big suitcases, all we had to bring on daily hikes was a daypack. Here is where I went a little overboard, however. Anticipating everything from a horrible bug bite to falling off the trail into a ravine below (neither happened), I overstuffed my daypack.

    Learn from my mistake and carry just the essentials: water, snacks/a packed lunch, pre-cut moleskin patches with a few large, flexible strip Band-aids (in case a hot spot or blister does develop), sunglasses, sunscreen, your phone/camera, an extra pair of socks, a fleece, light rain jacket, waterproof backpack cover, and collapsible walking sticks (if you use them). Be sure that your daypack is constructed of lightweight material and has good shoulder support. I made the mistake of using a canvas backpack, which was heavier.

    A final word of advice

    Scotland is a hiker’s dream, and Wilderness Scotland helped make it a dream come true for us. To plan your own outdoor adventure, contact one of their adventure consultants. Kirsty Duncan helped us plan our adventure from start to finish and patiently answered all of our questions!

    Rain-Soaked-and-Loving-ItRain soaked and loving It

    Explore the adventure holidays that inspired Brandi:

    Walking and Hiking Holidays

    Meet the Author: Wilderness

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