Days on Trails

Scottish Winter Wilderness

Guided Scottish winter trekking in Cairngorms National Park. Tundra climate, Caledonian forests with herds of deer, rugged barren hilltops and ancient glacial valleys with tiny bothies… that’s the Cairngorms!

Quick overview

What?
  • Pickup/dropoff in Edinburgh/Glasgow + all transport in between.
  • 5 Days of trekking in Cairngorms National Park with an experienced and certified guide that will share know-how with you.
  • 2 Nights in Youth Hostels and visits to traditional pubs.

With more than 4500km², Cairngorms National Park is one of Scotland’s most spectacular wilderness areas and without a doubt the “top of the United Kingdom”. Climatologically, the Cairngorms are more similar to Siberian tundra than to the rest of the UK. Caledonian forests with herds of deer,  rugged barren hilltops and ancient glacial valleys with tiny bothies… that’s the Cairngorms!

As we go, your guide will share knowledge with you about the landscape and the skills involved in moving through it for days on end. You can sit back and simply enjoy somebody doing the thinking for you, or you can be involved in the thought processes behind it all.

Experience with multiday hiking is an advantage, suitable clothing/equipment is essential. This trip is doable by people with good basic fitness and some perseverance. We move and live as a group an adhere to the principle of “no one left behind”. This trip is not built on a set itinerary, so there’s no need to worry about being able to do it or not.  The philosophy here is to spend 5 days and 4 nights out in the winter wilderness and adapt to the group & local conditions to create our own journey. We want to go on an exploration wile using winter camping skills and keeping it enjoyable for everyone. Our canvas is hundreds of square kilometers. Imagine what we can come up with!

Want a little taster? Here's some video from our last trip!

When?

February 2 – 8 2020

Date doesn’t work for you? Just contact us! 

Departure is guaranteed at 6 participants. To keep the group small enough to ensure a quality experience, we have a maximum number of 12 participants. 

Don’t wait too long to sign up! 6 Participants is easily reached and as soon as departure is guaranteed, we’ll let you know so you can still book cheap tickets well before departure! Last minute flights/trains are always more expensive.

Pricing

  • EUR 900 / CAN 1350 / USD 1050

Book your trip!

To book, simply email us your interest (info@daysontrails.com) and we will respond with detailed information.

Feel free to mail/call us with any questions you might have!

What’s Included
  • Qualified guide (Minimum 1 per 6 persons)
  • All leaders are first-aid trained to a higher level than usual Mountain Leader first Aid (so either Wilderness First Responder or Expedition First Aid).
  • Two nights in hostel + breakfast
  • All transport from initial pickup until final dropoff
  • Emergency communications equipment so the leaders can deal with any incidents. 
  • Gas for stoves
  • Support from the Days on Trails team in the build-up to the adventure.
What’s not Included
  • Travel to/from Edinburgh or Glasgow
  • Personal expenses
  • Food and drink besides the two breakfasts
  • Personal kit
  • Individual insurance

Details and frequently asked questions

The core of the plan is to spend 5 days and 4 nights linking up the best landscapes the Cairngorms have to offer. There’s countless ways we can do that, we’re in Scotland, so we’ll use our “freedom to roam”!

You’re welcome to relax and go with the flow while taking in the landscapes. But, if you’re into learning a thing or two, you’re just as welcome to get involved in the thought processes! No dusty classroom courses here! Every day, your guide will assess the conditions, make a risk analysis and together we’ll finalize the next day’s plan. You’ll get hands on experience and tips ‘n tricks involving navigation, planning, risk analysis, bivouac, nutrition, etc… One thing is for sure. After this week you’ll know more about what’s involved in going out into the Scottish wilderness!

A typical week may look like this:

Day 1

Meeting and pickup in Edinburgh or Glasgow. Transfer to Aviemore. Hot meal and drinks in a traditional pub.          

Suggestion for  day 2: 16km 900 up, 800m down

The goal of today is Cairn Gorm, Ben McDui and eventually Hutchinson Memorial Hut where we’ll spend the night in our tents.

Suggestion for  day 3: 16km, 760m up, 890m down

Via the ridge of Derry Cairngorm and Carn Crom we’ll descend down a valley that will bring us to Corrour Bothy at the foot of Devil’s Point. Devil’s point was first named “Devil’s Penis” in Gaelic, but was renamed when the queen came for a visit. 😉

Day 4, 5 and day 6 continue on a similar theme. Every day can be completely different, but should be similar in length depending on the conditions at the time. We aim to leave the mountains by Friday afternoon so we can enjoy well earned hot showers and some extensive  meal/pub time back in civilization!

Day 7

We leave Aviemore in the morning to allow airport/hotel drop-offs around noon up to early afternoon. We can agree on exact timings once we know everyone’s flights.

If you’re coming from far away, we really recommend adding on an extra day in Edinburgh to explore the city and its cultural wealth!

For a breakdown of the walking equipment you’ll need for this trip please see the winter bivouac trip kit list. There will also be a detailed packlist in the trip folder we’ll send you on booking. Feel free to contact us with any questions you might have.

At the start of the trek, you rucksack will weigh around 15 – 18kg. Everybody carries his/her own equipment and supplies. Shared items such as tents, stoves, gas… can be split. As we eat more, they’ll get lighter! We aim for an average of 5 to 8 hours of activity depending on our choices and the conditions at the time.

The hostels we’ll use in Aviemore are basic highland accomodation in shared rooms. Depending on availability, you will be in a 2 – 6 person room for the night just before and after the trek. 

You’ll be given a hearty English breakfast or cereal served with tea or coffee. 

Eating on the trek is quite different from the 3 meals a day most people are used to. We give extensive advice on food and what to expect in the trip folder we send you after booking. You can also check our food advice for trekking in our knowledge base here on the website.

Both hostel nights, we’ll make restaurant reservations where you can choose between a number of menu options.

We will drink the water found in the mountains. Although all carefully chosen water should be fine after boiling, we will provide purification tablets for those who wish them.

We give you the option to arrive either in Glasgow or in Edinburgh. Our plan is to meet around noon of the departure day and then be back to make sure people get their planes around late morning on Saturday. We can agree specific pick-up/drop-off times with all participants.

You can choose to arrive/depart in your city of choice at your time of choice as long as you can make the meeting time on the first day and as long as everyone can make it back in time on the last day. You can either book tickets yourself, or our partner can help you with booking flights or extra hotels. Feel free to contact us with any questions you might have.

As with any product or service, you will find seemingly similar offers at different price ranges. Offering something “cheap” usually means selling something in high volumes or compromising on quality. As a small dedicated team, we do neither. We are not a large operator that (re)sells bulk trips, to which we assign volunteers as leaders. Instead we do nearly all trip development “in-house” and assign only experienced and qualified leaders. This comes at a cost both for us and our guests. Compromise often comes at the expense of the guest. Remember, this might be your main holiday this year!

Going into remote and mountainous areas – just as any other activity in life – contains an element of risk. The biggest factor we are always dealing with is weather. As guides, the core of our job is risk reduction and risk management. We do this by careful planning and constantly re-evaluating everything while we are out on the trip. On the average day, you’re safer than you are in traffic back home. In order to deal with hazards caused by environmental conditions, we ask you to follow our gear & clothing advice as well as possible, to trust our decisions in the field and to accept there’s always a small amount of risk left. Still not convinced? Look at it like this… We make our living providing experiences. We wouldn’t have been doing it for this long if we were traumatizing and hurting people! In rare cases, extreme weather conditions can be reason for cancellation. Due to the realities of weather prediction, we can only make big decisions like this last minute.

Climatic conditions can cary wildly during this time of year. During the day the temperatures may vary from around freezing to mild 10°C in the valley floors. At night, temperatures can drop well below freezing and depending on our altitude, we may be in freezing temperatures during the day as well. Precipitation is to be expected at some point and can be snow or rain depending on the temperatures.

The biggest factor by far is wind, which can be strong enough to unbalance even the heaviest person. Usually wind will determine whether we deem something go or not go.

Another factor is the terrain conditions. Quite often, the valley floors will be free of snow or only have a thin layer, but it may be icy. The higher we go, the more snow we can have. Thick layers of fresh snow can make moving difficult and even create avalanche danger. Your guides are experienced and trained/assessed to deal with this so we avoid danger or walking conditions that are too difficult.

As much as we intend to avoid setbacks, they can be expensive. It is compulsory to prove that you have travel insurance covering search & rescue and repatriation. We strongly advise you to get cancellation insurance so you don’t lose any non-refundable deposits in case you can’t make it to a trip because of circumstances or due to unsafe weather conditions or natural disasters. For Canadians, travel insurance may be purchased through Georgia Hardy Tours Inc. at the time of registration. GHT and its insurance partner, T.I.P.S, offer a wide range of travel insurance plans, including but not limited to: Ultimate, All-Inclusive, Emergency Medical, Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption. People from Europe have multiple options available from insurance providers and can be purchased online. Feel free to contact us for advice.

American, Canadian or EU citizens travelling to Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland do notrequire a visa, but will need a valid passport.

It is important that you let us know about any pre-existing medical conditions you have so that we can make sure we can support you fully throughout the trip. If you are concerned that a medical condition will prevent you from completing the activity, it is essential that you see your doctor and show them the itinerary. Please remember that failing to declare a medical condition could invalidate your insurance, and if there is an incident, put yourself, our guides and other members of the group at risk.

During the trip we’ll spend most nights in or near “bothies”. A bothy us an unmanned shelter that can vary enormously in size and state. Expect nothing more than some walls and a roof. There’s no running water, no electricity and only very occasionally there will be a dry toilet. We’ll take water from streams or melt snow if there’s snow around.

We’ll sleep in sleeping bags + a mat. This is your sleeping comfort, so you don’t want to cut any corners here! The bothy code reserves bothies for individual travelers or duo’s seeking shelter. Groups are not supposed to use the bothies and individuals will always be given priority. Expect to sleep in your tent every night. Only when there’s noone there can we consider sleeping in the bothy. Even when we have place in a bothy, it’s often nice for comfort and privacy to still pitch your tent. Unless the bothy is full (rarely ever the case), we can usually use the room to be sheltered while cooking and eating together, as long as we respect any other users that might be there at the time.

Check out the following link to see a great video about bothies and bothy culture!