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Tourism Scotland - Walking in Scotland
Heading for the Hills
Helpful Tips


The Scottish hills demand respect at all times of the year. If you intend to try hill-walking, follow these helpful tips and you won't go far wrong.
  • Watch the Weather
    Always get a weather forecast before you set out, and be prepared to change your plans if the forecast is not good. Scottish daily newspapers carry quite detailed forecasts which often include advice for hill-walkers. Local radio stations are another good source. Or you can phone MountainCall for an up-to-date report on hill conditions. The numbers are 0891 500441 for the West of Scotland, and 0891 500442 for the East of Scotland (these calls cost 50p per minute).
  • Plan Carefully
    Good planning is the key to an enjoyable day out. Make sure you have enough time for your planned route. Check the length and difficulty carefully. Everybody in the party should know what lies ahead before you set out. If you are unsure of the fitness of anyone in the party, shorten the route or make it easier. Allow time for drink and food stops and try to build in an 'escape route' in case the weather turns against you.
  • It's Colder on Top!
    At most times of the year, it is colder and windier the higher you go. Make sure you have adequate clothing with you. Scottish hill weather can change with amazing rapidity. Keep an eye on the weather and learn the signs that tell you of worsening conditions approaching. Never be afraid to cut the walk short and head home - there's always another day.
  • Wear Good Gear
    Use the 'layer principle' - take several thinner layers that you can adjust according to conditions rather than one thick one that is inflexible. You can control your temperature much more easily this way. For the higher hills you should always take full waterproofs, a fleece, hat and gloves. Be aware of the wind - 'wind chill' makes it feel much colder than the air temperature might suggest.
  • Feet First
    Good boots are an essential item of kit. For hill-walking and rough terrain you need properly designed boots with ankle support, good tread on the sole and preferably waterproofing. Any specialist outdoor shop will advise you. Break your boots in with gentle walking before embarking on long hill days.
  • Be Prepared
    All hill-walkers should know how to use a map and compass and should take these invaluable aids on every hill walk. These skills can save your life and add enormously to your enjoyment. If you want to learn, there are good courses available through the Mountaineering Council of Scotland.
  • Leave a Note
    Before you set off it is advisable to tell someone - a friend who isn't walking, the place where you are staying, even the police - how many of you there are, roughly what your route is, and when you think you will be back. Please remember to let them know when you have returned - too many rescues have been mounted simply because someone forgot to check back in and it was assumed they were lost.
  • In Remote Country
    Many areas of Scotland are remote. Tracks and paths shown on the map might not be visible on the ground, or can be very rough. Off the path, the terrain is often slow and difficult to cross. Don't underestimate it. There is often no shelter of any kind in hill areas. Rivers and streams can rise very quickly after rain, making them impossible to cross. Never try to cross if you are unsure. Check the map for the nearest bridge or safe crossing point. Slow-moving rivers can be waded but use a stick for balance or cross in twos, arms linked.
  • In Emergency
    The distress signal is six quick blasts on your whistle (or six torch flashes at night), wait for one minute, then repeat the signal. If there are more than two in the party, one should stay with the person in difficulty while another goes for help, taking with them exact details of location and nature of the difficulty.
    There are voluntary Mountain Rescue teams covering all the hill areas of Scotland. In an emergency the police (dial 999) should always be used as a first point of contact. It is worth saying that in many hill areas, mobile phones will not work.
  • Winter Walking
    Hill-walking in winter in Scotland should be regarded as mountaineering and needs extra equipment such as ice axe and crampons and the skills to use them. Winter skills courses are run by Glenmore Lodge and other centres, and are regularly advertised in outdoor magazines and in some tourist publications.
  • Helpful Leaflets
    Helpful free leaflets called Enjoy Hills in Safety, Learn to Read or Get Lost, (basic advice on navigation) and Winter Essentials can be obtained from the Scottish Mountain Safety Forum, Mountaineering Council for Scotland, 4a St Catherine's Road, Perth PH1 5SE Tel: 01738 638227.

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