Generations of walkers have sung the praises of the Scottish Highlands, with good reason: few places in the world can match the majesty and drama of this incredible landscape. Local guide Peter Khambatta, an experienced hill walker and mountaineer, describes what's on offer.
Scotland's mountains are quite simply stunning. Set amongst sea and freshwater lochs, the landscape has a real wilderness feel about it. The views are truly magical. The weather is famously terrible, or at least temperamental, and no visitor should visit Scotland without experiencing a Scotch mist or a wet walk in some magnificent Glens. Ben Nevis and Glencoe are a a great starting point, yet are only 100 miles from Glasgow.
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Peter Khambatta is a professional mountain guide who runs Adventure Nevis. He has walked in the Scottish Highlands for approaching 30 years, completing all the Munros - mountains over 3,000 feet - in the process. His love for the mountains has allowed him to travel extensively throughout the world, but the Scottish Highlands have a unique feel about them. He now lives in one of the most...
What follows is a list of the four principal areas within the Scottish Highlands and islands that I believe to offer the very best hill walking. I have visited these places many times and spent many a night wild camping, followed by a night in a local hotel to recover.
I personally find the west coast of Scotland to be the most rewarding location in terms of scenery: the mountains tend to be more rocky here, and the combination of rugged coastline and lochs make it a magical place.
Ben Nevis and Glencoe
Ben Nevis and Glencoe are great introductions to the Highlands and only 100 miles or so from Glasgow.
The Mountain Track is very popular and often busy from May to October. The Visitor Centre or Youth Hostel in Glen Nevis or the Ben Nevis Inn at Achintee are the normal starting points. For the more adventurous, Ben Nevis via the Carn Mor Dearg arête is a wonderful route: people usually set out from Torlundy at the North Face car park, three miles north of Fort William. A less-used walkers route goes via Steall at the head of Glen Nevis.
Glencoe itself has several very imposing Munros and is not an ideal venue for novices. The Aonach Eagach is probably the best known ridge in the region and is normally walked east to west for the best views. A pint in the Clachaig Inn is very welcome. Alternatively the stunning peak of Buachaille Etive Mor (aka The Beuckle) gives splendid views of the Glencoe mountains themselves, as well as across the expansive wilds of Rannoch Moor.
Isle of Skye and Isle of Rum
Skye is a huge island with some of the best scenery Scotland has to offer. The Red Cuillin in the south-centre offers slightly easier mountains to climb, while a few miles further north Glamaig from Sligachan is short, steep and wonderful. Alternatively Glen Sligahan takes one to Loch Coruisk and onto Elgol and is possibly one of the best low-level walks in Scotland. The main Cuillin itself often starts with a climb up Sgurr nan Gillean for an airy view on a very small summit.
The departure from Mallaig to Rum - a real wilderness of an island just to the south of Skye - is well worth the effort. Many people stay at the hostel in Kinloch; for the more adventurous, the bothies (shelters) at Guirdil and Dibidil are remote and idyllic. The Rum Cuillin ridge itself is a long day out and includes the summits of Hallival, Askival, Ainshval and Sgurr nan Gillean.
Knoydart, Torridon and Sutherland
These wonderful destinations are up in the wilds of the Northwest Highlands.
Knoydart is a spectacular and wild area on the mainland just across the water from the southern tip of Skye. There are various challenging Munros here - the highest is Ladharr Behin, and the views - a glorious jumble of mountain and sea - are up there with the best.
Ben Nevis - Fort William
At 1,343 metres (4,406ft), Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the United Kingdom by some distance. The Mountain Track is the most popular ascent but for those looking for a more adventurous route the Carn Mor Dearg (CMD) Arete is outstanding.
Buachaille Etive Mor - Glencoe
Glencoe's most iconic mountain and when viewed from the Kingshouse Hotel it takes the shape of the perfect pyramidal peak. Many just just climb the main summit with wonderful views over Rannoch Moor, but the ridge should not be missed.
Isle of Skye
There is no place like Skye anywhere else in the UK. The walking opportunities, from the red and black Cuillin to the Stor north of Portree - the island's capital - are simply stunning.
Isle of Rum
Less than 50 people live on Rum. Once you depart from the ferry and head out into the mountains you seldom see more than one or two people all day. In fact you're far more likely to see the red deer for which the island is famous.
With three Munros, no road-head and a pub, Knoydart has it all. It was the first place I ever walked in when I was 17 years of age. The ferry from Mallaig is the easy way in, or you can walk down Loch Hourn.
Best times to go:
I am a great believer in out of season travel. There are many advantages - and you never know, the weather may even be kind to you. My business adventurenevis.com operates all year. Generally speaking July and August, which tend to be the busiest months, are my least favoured, mainly due to the midges which really can spoil a holiday. Believe it or not, it can also get quite warm, and hazy weather can obscure the fine views.
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