Hiking Through Scotland

Susan Waymire hiking on a trip to Scotland
Body: 
Scotland is known for being wild and rugged. I recently experienced the beautifully vast fells and glens on a hiking trip to Scotland with Backroads. 
 
As an active travel specialist, I had decided earlier in the year to plan my own overseas adventure with my adult daughter. Both of us are trying to drop a few pounds, so what better way than hiking in a scenic setting. We both wanted a trip that would both push us physically, yet provide the cultural experience, food and comfort in the evenings. We agreed upon a cooler climate for summer travel to escape the heat, and landed upon Scotland. 
 
Meeting up with our guides in Inverness, we find two young twenty-something Scots, Alex and Christian, to lead us off into what would be a six-day journey filled with hiking, whiskey and laughter. Both were very knowledgeable not only on the terrain in the area, but on the history and culture as well. After a check-out day to assess the group skill level on Day 1, I’m thinking this is going to be a pretty easy trip after all. 
 
Then, Day 2 hit like a literal ton of rocks. As we trek off into the Beinn Eighe wilderness (pronounced Ben A), I look up the mountain ahead of us… “some Gaelic word we can’t pronounce,” says Christian. So up we go... and up... and up again. Huge steps designed by long kilted Scotsman cut out of massive boulders... I climb step after step thanking Andrew, my trainer for all of those painful squats, step-ups and stairs he required of me in my personal training for this trip.
 
I put my head down and proceed, determined to make the midpoint cairn 4 miles straight up. As I pull in to the cairn, Alex is waiting with hot tea and a bottle of optional whiskey to “heat up” the tea. Whiskey not yet being a favorite libation, I decline the add-in but the tea adds some necessary fuel to my already famished body. We are then given the option of the waterfall stop “another 2 miles straight up..a bit rockier,” says Christian.  I’m feeling fairly good at this point so of course, I’m in.
 
As we climb and scramble using trekking poles for leverage, my body is begging me to stop but my mind pushes through. Lunch is at another Gaelic-named lake at the base of Can’t Pronounce mountain located at the top of a no-named waterfall. “You’re nearly there,” says Christian… not really, but it was encouraging. We reach what my daughter named the Stairway to Heaven... massive stairs cut into the mountainside eternally climbing, rapidly turning into Purgatory. She and I are the first ones up...high fives all around. Lunch with a view in all directions... pretty incredible. 
 
Finally, we start the trek down the mountain following Alex, who offers us a longer return route at 6 miles with “less rocky” conditions versus giant rock leaps down the 4-mile route we had previously climbed. I opt for the longer yet “gentler” route. 
 
As I shove off down the mountain I find myself in another variation of Scotland landscape... gentler slopes among the lochs and waterfalls made for spectacular scenery. Wild heather was abundant and the lighting was mystical. I’m now feeling weary and legs are rubbery. Upon arrival 12 miles later, Alex offers us Scottish beers and ciders to cap off our day. I had survived my longest day hiking in Scotland. 
 
The subsequent days were a little less painful as we found ourselves feeling stronger each day in spite of the miles trekked. There are several wonderful features of Backroads: the “apres hike”, the lodging and the additional experiences. For example, a whiskey tasting and Highland concert were just a part of the entertainment. For lodging, hunting lodges and castles each comprised our beautiful accommodations. The food was Scottish gourmet… not your basic Haggis, rather Haggis in phyllo...And who can resist the Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert?  In Scotland lots of farm to fork dining as well as fresh meats and game, all served elegantly. Toward the end of our trip we rode the Jacobite Train (the Harry Potter Train) to Fort William.  
 
On this particular trip the hiking was challenging for some, but with Backroads the option to hike shorter distances may be available. I really took the time to grill the guides regarding difficulty for the different hikes. I can now say I’m equipped to make appropriate suggestions for my clients. 

I returned home with a sense of renewal and am now figuring out which mountain to climb next! 

Susan Waymire, CTC