Thursday, February 18, 2016

Ten Reasons (+1) Why You Need to do our Scottish Highlands Hike




From June 2-11, 2016, our small group of hikers and guides will climb mountains, taste whiskey, photograph bagpipers, and relax in stately inns on our Scotland Highlands and Islands hiking tour. Here are ten reasons why you should try to snag a spot on this trip.

1. Scotland is Hot Right Now


There’s a reason that so many films and television programs feature Scotland. The place is frickin’ gorgeous! Just do a quick google search for ‘films set in Scotland’ and you’ll see what we mean. From Harry Potter to James Bond, and Bravehart to the DaVinci Code, the list is too long to include here. The castles, the Gaelic language, the remote beauty...it's overwhelming. Plus, the word has gotten out that Scottish cuisine is not just fried fish and haggis anymore. Sure, you can still get those things, but the culinary options have taken a HUGE leap forward in Scotland, with organic fare and fine wines rounding out the bill. These days, you can #GetYourHikeOn in the remote Highlands and dine at Michelin-starred restaurants too. 

2. The Isle of Skye


This photo, the next photo (Black Cuillins), and the photo for #7, were all taken on the Isle of Skye. The place is insanely magical. The Island is also covered with lots of cool old stuff including thatched roof cottages, ancient tombs, standing stones, and Iron Age forts. A person could spend a month on this Island and still have plenty to do. We'll show you our favorite hikes, and you'll love it.

3. The Black Cuillins


Do you remember the mountains of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings? That’s what the Black Cuillins are all about—black, jagged, foreboding and overshadowed by a dark lord in a tower with a large creepy cat eye wreathed in flame. 

We’re exaggerating. There’s no dark lord or flaming eye, but the Black Cuillins are dark, mysterious, and awe-inspiring mountains just the same, and hiking amongst them is worth every minute. Oh, and here’s a tip: Compasses don’t work in the heart of the Black Cuillins due to the magnetic nature of the rock, so be grateful for your guide. 

4. The Torridon


You'd move fast too if you worked a bar with over 300 different whiskeys on offer. It's not just the whiskey that makes this place top shelf, however. The Torridon has cozy log fires, Michelin quality cuisine, impeccable service, and it's all housed in a 19th century hunting estate. At dinner time, they'll start you off with canapés in the salon and then walk you through to the dining room. You'll feel like you've landed in an episode of Downton Abbey. 

5. #StandingStones Are Trending


Let’s see a show of hands. How many of you have watched the show Outlander? Here’s a quick background if you haven’t. The plot revolves around a WWII British Army Nurse named Claire Randall (Catitriona Balfe) who touches a standing stone and finds herself unexpectedly transported to 1743 Scotland during the height of the Jacobite uprisings. You can imagine what happens next—awesome scenery, tear-jerking flute and drum music, castles, muscled men in kilts, sex, violence, more sex, more flutes, nudity, rain. Outlander is an extremely dark and violent show, but it’s incredibly popular, and the Scottish countryside is now crawling with tourists in search of Randall’s mythical standing stone. You’ll see standing stones on our hiking tour, and you’ll be the hit of your social network when you upload photos of your own #StandingStones @Outlander_Starz style.  

BTW: The burial mounds in the background of the above photo were constructed 3-4,000 years ago. 

6. Talisker Distillery


This place is the salt of the earth. You can taste the ocean spray, the smoky peat moss, and the very marrow of the Highlands in the whiskey they serve. It's also the ONLY whiskey distillery on the Isle of Skye. If you like whiskey, then by all means, raise your hand when we suggest an aprés-hike tasting. 

7. Scottish Roads


Scottish roads are right (or should we say "left?") in so many ways. There's the whole drive-on-the-left-side of the road thing (steering wheel on the right), but it's a moot point in many places. The roads are so narrow that only one car can drive in the lane anyway. With views like this, pausing for an oncoming car is not a bad thing at all. 

8. Hill Walking Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This


The Scots call hiking in the Highlands 'Hill Walking,’ but don’t be fooled. Scotland has real mountains and hiking them is serious business. There are more than 200 Munros (peaks over 3,000 feet/910 meters) in Scotland, but there are hundreds more peaks that fall just shy of 3,000 feet. Some people spend their entire lives trying to summit them all. Three thousand feet may not sound very high, but when you're starting from almost sea level, it's a good climb. 

Even more, very few of the trails in Scotland are signposted or way marked. The Scots have a rule called the Outdoor Access Code which basically gives any person the right to hike wherever they please (within reason). It's expected that you'll follow common sense, don't trample someone's flower garden, for example, and that you'll leave the land in the same pristine condition that you found it. 

9. You’ll Feel Like A Bad Ass


There’s something bad ass about Scotland. The weather can be notoriously bad, the midges bite by the billions, the trails (or lack thereof) are steep, the mud is deep, and the wind is fierce. Yet, at the end of the day, you feel like crying out for MORE.

We guarantee that your chest will swell with pride when you stand on top of your first Munro, (with calves aching and cheeks stinging) and you gaze upon the remoteness and beauty of it all. It also goes without saying that your mineral-rich, peat moss-infused bath will feel that much more relaxing at the end of a long day.  

10. Full Scottish Breakfast


Let’s be clear about this. We have NO complaints about the Full Scottish Breakfast, which is standard, nay, mandatory, at virtually every inn across Scotland. The FSB includes; yogurt, fruit, muffins, cereal, eggs, sausage, bacon, potato scone, baked beans, toast soldiers (french toast), cooked tomato, cooked mushrooms, haggis, black pudding, smoked herring (kipper), oatmeal, toast, whiskey, coffee, and tea. Yes, you can have all of this at one serving, and, in fact, the Scots will be somewhat insulted if you don’t.

In the photo: Cream, brown sugar and a dram of whiskey for your oatmeal. Those instant oatmeal packets that you had as a kid will never taste the same again. 

*11. Scottish Straightforwardness


We just had to throw this in.

You won't find a lot of switchbacks on Scottish trails, and you won't find a lot of beating around the bush either. The Scots live their lives the way they climb mountains, straight on. We like it.

Just do yourself (and us) a favor. Please don't worry the livestock. 

See you in Scotland. 

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