Hiking in the Highlands

pennybenjaminPB-Log, TravelLeave a Comment

I discovered in the Lakes District that Hiking is a very popular pastime amongst the English. The same can be said for the Scottish!

Sir Hugh Munro (1856 – 1919) was an avid hiker and loved adventuring through the Scottish highlands and countryside. He decided to climb every peak higher than 3000ft (914m) in Scotland. As such, all peaks higher than 3000ft (914m) are now known as ‘Munros’.

Two of my closest friends from Australia, Chris and Zoe, were in Edinburgh visiting family so we seized the unique opportunity of us all being on the other side of the world together to venture out into the highlands and tackle a Munro together. As a stroke of luck, Zoe had grown up in Aberdeenshire (~3 hours north of Edinburgh) as a child and knew of some particularly spectacular walks. It’s always handy to have some insider knowledge, but if you’re by yourself, just ask around – the Scottish are very friendly!


The Munro we decided to tackle was Cac Carn Beag overlooking Loch Nagar. The route we chose was just over 19km with a peak of 1155m. In fact, the view of Loch Nagar from this peak was a favourite of the active Queen Victoria who built a Summer house on the nearby Loch Muick where she regularly holidayed.


The scenery is astounding, with the trail spanning over and around mountain streams and lochs, through moss-carpeted pine forests and traversing plunging rocky ridges. The distance and ascent is certainly not for the faint hearted BUT the path is very well laid and clear, and during good weather in the summer you’ll find several people out and about.


We started down in the valley (glen) and crossed a freshwater stream before meandering through a lush pine forest. The path then gradually ascends through typical Scottish highlands – rocky, almost no trees but covered in the fuscia Heather flowers, moss, grass and other bright wildflowers. We spotted some rabbits, caterpillars, and even some deer along the way!

The ascent steepened as we approached Miekl Pap but the effort is absolutely worth the view of the Loch and towering cliffs once we’d breached the ridge.


Loch Nagar with the peak over on the far side of the ridge.


Walking around the ridge above Loch Nagar.

Cac Carn Beag is the peak on the other side of the ridge, and to reach it, we followed the path along the ridge around the Loch. We had to be careful along there, not just because of the rocks and continued ascent, but the majestic panoramas of the highland ranges were so distracting! We made several stops to take in the magnificence of it all.


Slowly making our way along the ridge while enjoying the scenery. Pic by the talented Zoe McMurdo.



Summit selfies!

After a well-earned lunch, perched on a boulder at the summit, we followed a delightful mountain stream to take a different path towards Loch Muick, to loop back to our start. I always find downhill to be more difficult than uphill, but the views along the way ease the pain. A delicious waterfall and a stroll past Queen Victoria’s summer house brighten the return journey.

Loch Muick

Descending down to Loch Muick

For me, however, the best part about this hike was being able to do it with my close friends. It was surreal and humbling to share such an experience with them on the other side of the world!

At only 13 weeks post-spine surgery, completing the feet left me a little emotional – I was so proud of myself for finishing! Z & C, I can’t thank you enough for the support, motivation and love! Can’t wait to do it again, love you long time!!

Practical notes:

  • Public transport to (and around) Aberdeenshire is not great, we hired a car and I recommend that having a car is the best way to get around easily, particularly if you want freedom throughout your stay. Otherwise a visit with a tour group may be an option for you. If you hire a car, make sure you get a Sat-Nav as mobile data is intermittent.
  • Aberdeenshire is a 3-4 hour drive from Edinburgh.
  • Don’t rely on mobile service for communication (especially mobile data). Most homes/pubs/hotels have wifi if you feel the need to connect.
  • If you decide to go hiking, make sure you do your research first – get a proper map, go with a compass, water, food, appropriate clothing and footwear. I didn’t have a map when I did Scafell Pike (in the Lakes District) and would have become terribly lost if it weren’t for several others also hiking on that day. Look ahead at the weather and make smart decisions about whether or not to modify/change your walk if the weather is unfavourable.
  • There are plenty of gorgeous hotels, B&Bs, and pubs in Aberdeenshire just take your pick!

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