The Cairngorms and Glencoe: forests and Glens

Saturday 21st September – Friday 27th September 2024

Number of Travellers: 14
Duration: 7 Days / 6 Nights

Overview

This carefully crafted itinerary, with a focus on hiking, presents a perfect blend of heritage, nature, and awe-inspiring landscapes, immersing you in the true splendor of Scotland. We’ll begin by exploring Royal Deeside, the location of Balmoral Castle, the Scottish residence of the King, before moving on to Strathspey, all within the vast expanse of Scotland’s largest National Park – The Cairngorms. Our journey will lead us to the enchanting wilderness of Glencoe, a place steeped in ancient folklore and history as profound as the surrounding icy waters. Guided by our experienced leader, we’ll meander through the tranquil glens, fragrant pine forests, and wildlife-rich, heather-clad moors, relishing some of the finest easy to moderate hikes in the Highlands. As night falls, we’ll unwind, reflecting on the day’s adventures, and savor the warm, inviting hospitality for which the Highlands are renowned.

Start/ Finish in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is easily accessible, connected by regular flights from various cities in the UKand Europe, as well-as some direct flights from the US. It’s also on the UK mainline railnetwork, with the sleeper train being an attractive option for the journey to/from destinationsin the south of the UK. The airport is just 20 minutes from the city center and is connectedby tram, bus and taxi.

Highlights

  • Explore the UK's most expansive National Park, teeming with native wildlife, flora, and breathtaking landscapes
  • Hike some of the best easy/ moderate hikes the Cairngorms has to offer
  • Explore the captivating wilds of Glencoe
  • Relax each evening with locally-sourced meals of seasonal produce, in accommodations hand-picked just for you

Day by Day

Day 1 - Saturday 21st September - Edinburgh and transfer onwards to the Cairngorms

Your guide will meet you in Edinburgh at 1pm and transfer you to Braemar, a charming village located in the heart of Royal Deeside in Aberdeenshire. After a brief welcome meeting, we’ll set out on a short hike at The Linn of Dee, a dramatic natural feature where the River Dee flows through a narrow gorge, creating a stunning waterfall. The hike allows us to both stretch our legs, savour the surroundings and get acquainted with our new travel companions. After working up an appetite, a short transfer will take us to the neighbouring village of Ballater, where we will stay for the next two nights. In the evening, we’ll enjoy a delicious dinner and a good night’s sleep, ready for the adventure ahead.

Overnight: Ballater | The Balmoral Arms Hotel, Ballater
Room Type: Twin share
Meals Included: Dinner
Walk Details: 3 km / 2 miles | 42 m / 138 ft elevation gain | Approx: 1 hrs

Day 2 - Sunday 22nd September - Unearth the captivating history of Royal Deeside.

After a hearty Scottish breakfast, we head out to explore Royal Deeside, famous for its scenic beauty, rich cultural heritage, and its association with British Royal family. This morning we embark on circular hike, offering magnificent vistas of Deeside and even Balmoral Castle (the King’s Scottish residence), itself.  After lunch, a castle visit awaits, a historical landmark, offering a glimpse into Scotland’s past and the architectural style of its time. The rest of the afternoon is free to discover the serene and picturesque village of Ballater. Ballater is known for its Victorian architecture and royal connections. It’s shops are a delightful part of the village’s charm, offering a diverse range of goods, from traditional Scottish souvenirs to locally crafted items, antiques, fashion, and more. Dinner is not included this evening, but that’s okay as the village boasts several bars and restaurants so there are plenty of options to choose from.

Overnight: Ballater | The Balmoral Arms Hotel, Ballater
Room Type: Twin share
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Walk Details: 10 km / 6 miles | 371 m / 1,217 ft elevation gain | Approx: 3 hrs

Day 3 - Monday 23rd September - Discovering Abernethy Forest

This morning, we depart from Ballater and journey through the national park.The road winds its way through a landscape of undulating heather-clad hills, offering a transition from dense forests to stretches of vibrant purple moorland. This scenic route is characterized by its steep and undulating sections, particularly as you ascend and descend one of Scotland’s infamous snow roads, the Lecht Pass. We arrive in the pretty village of Nethy Bridge, in the heart of the Abernethy Forest, mid morning. From here, we explore the forest on foot, along one of the many enchanting trails, before returning to the village for lunch at a local cafe. After lunch we head deeper into the Abernethy Forest for a circular loch hike, adorned with ancient Caledonian pine trees, and home to rare wild and bird life such as red squirrels, pine martens and Ospreys. A short transfer takes us to the charming village of Boat of Garten, where we’ll enjoy dinner and a relaxing evening at the welcoming hotel bar.

The detail of today’s hikes are combined. The hike route is way marked on woodland pine needle paths. There will be exposed tree routes, which are uneven and can be slippy when wet.

Overnight: Boat of Garten | The Boat Country Inn Hotel, Boat of Garten
Room Type: Twin share
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Walk Details: 5 km / 3 miles | 69 m / 226 ft elevation gain | Approx: 2 hrs

Day 4 - Tuesday 24th September - Meet the locals!

This morning, we set off for the mountains, to some authentic albeit furry, local residents! The Cairngorms reindeer herd, is the only free-ranging reindeer in the UK and on a guided tour, we will witness these majestic creatures, up-close in their natural, mountain habitat. After a picnic lunch on the highest beach in the UK, we’ll jump back in the van to drive to the start of a picturesque trail hike around a local loch, Loch an Eilein. One of many freshwater lochs in the Highlands, this idyllic loch is known for its tranquil scenery and the ruins of a 13th century castle can still be seen on its island. From here we can take some down time, over a hot drink or why not explore a local farm shop, selling gifts and local produce. The town of Aviemore is just a short drive or walk away, and it is here where we will also have our delicious evening meal, at one of the town’s best known pubs.

The detail of today’s hikes are combined. It is worth mentioning, the hike to the Reindeer paddock is a short gravel path, although although steep in places. The ground can be boggy and uneven underfoot when in the paddock.

Overnight: Boat of Garten | The Boat Country Inn Hotel, Boat of Garten
Room Type: Twin share
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Walk Details: 7 km / 4 miles | 70 m / 230 ft elevation gain | Approx: 2 hrs

Day 5 - Wednesday 25th September - Leaving the Cairngorms for Fort William

Our last morning in the Cairngorms but before we head west, one final hike here awaits us. The Uath Lochans, known locally as the Paw Print Lochans, are a hive of biodiversity. Raised boardwalks wind through reedy marshlands. Look out for a glimpse of the occasional frog and the glittering wings of dragonflies as they dart over the wetlands. Climbing a short way to Farleitter Crag, this small hill offers incredible elevated views of the water, forest and surrounding Cairngorm Mountains. After a picnic lunch, our journey continues, as we travel west to Fort William, situated in the western Scottish Highlands. The town is a hub for outdoor enthusiasts, and is famed for its proximity to Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the UK. Here we enjoy some free time to explore this bustling center with its many shops and eateries. In the evening we’ll enjoy some true Scottish ‘pub grub’ and if we’re lucky, some live music too.

Overnight: Glencoe | The Clachaig Inn, Glencoe
Room Type: Twin share
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Walk Details: 5 km / 3 miles | 186 m / 610 ft elevation gain | Approx: 2 hrs

Day 6 - Thursday 26th September - Hiking in the mystical Glencoe

Waking up this morning in Glencoe may feel like a scene from a movie, pinch yourself, it’s real! Glencoe stands as a poetic masterpiece crafted by nature’s hand, carved out by ancient geological forces it is famed for its breathtaking and rugged scenery. Today’s hike starts start from the village of Kinlochleven, ascending a well-maintained forest trail, soon encountering the mesmerizing sound of cascading water – The Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall,  plunging nearly 50 feet. Continuing our trek, the path emerges from the forest, leading to a secluded loch embraced by mountains and untamed moorlands. On our way back, there are breathtaking views down the length of Loch Leven to the mountains beyond. A short transfer takes us back to our accommodation to unwind, relax and get ready for this evening’s meal.

Overnight: Glencoe | The Clachaig Inn, Glencoe
Room Type: Twin share
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Walk Details: 13 km / 8 miles | 350 m / 1,148 ft elevation gain | Approx: 5 hrs

Day 7 - Friday 27th September - Glencoe, return to Edinburgh

After a leisurely breakfast, it’s time to bid fairwell to the Highlands. Today’s hike, the ‘Lost Valley’, is so named because it’s a secluded and hidden valley (glen in Scottish terminology), nestled amidst the surrounding mountains. It is one of Glencoe’s most renowned short hikes and rightly so. The brisk and steep climb, coupled with crossing streams, proves to be a rewarding effort, drawing you deeper into the encompassing mountainous terrain. The vistas within the valley exude an atmospheric charm, even on damp and misty days. After a brief visit to the area’s National Trust visitor centre, we depart for Edinburgh.

Overnight: Edinburgh
Meals Included: Breakfast and Lunch
Walk Details: 4 km / 2 miles | 355 m / 1,165 ft elevation gain | Approx: 2.5 hrs

Trip Details

Inclusions Read More

 

  • A free place for the WWE leader, including single supplement and the same inclusions as for travelers, as listed below
  • 6 nights accommodation in twin share rooms, as described above
  • Breakfast each day
  • 6 x lunches (Days 2 – Day 7 inclusive)
  • 5 x evening meals (Days 1 – Day 6 inclusive)
  • The services of qualified and experienced female guides / drivers, from Day 1 through to Day 7
  • All transfers from Day 1 through to Day 7 (starting and finishing in Edinburgh)
  • Entrance fees – Day 2 Lochnagar OR Braemar Castle  (tbc under renovation)
  • Entrance fees – Day 3 RSPB Abernethy
  • Entrance fees-  Day 4 Cairngorm Reindeer Centre
  • All gratuities (except for the lead guides)
  • Trip design and delivery
  • 24/7 in-country support
Exclusions Read More

Exclusions:

  • Flights and train travel
  • Travel insurance
  • Meals not mentioned in the inclusions
  • Day 1 – note: lunch is not included on this day. The transfer is approx. 2.5 hours (excluding rest rooms stops).
  • Activities and entrance fees not mentioned in the inclusions
  • Tips for the guide
Notes Read More
  • All suggested accommodations and services are subject to availability at the time of booking.

Important: Mountain terrain and weather conditions in Scotland should be taken very seriously, an excellent level of fitness will be required for this itinerary and it should be recognised that weather conditions can change dramatically within minutes. Your guide reserves the right to change the itinerary based on the weather conditions and fitness and the ability of the group, the guide’s decision is final.

To undertake this trip we ask that all participants can commit to the following grading and requirements:

  • All participants must be comfortable with rough and terrain, in Scotland this can often be wet and boggy or loose and rocky
  • There may be exposed ridge walks and elements of non-technical scrambling
  • Daily hikes will may take up to 9 hours covering distances of up to 20km a day, on consecutive days
  • Daily hikes may include the ascent of a major peak of 900m or higher
  • All participants must have full waterproofs, hiking boots with ankle protection and hiking poles (hiking poles available on request)

Scotland’s September weather typically features a pleasant maximum of 16°C and a minimum of 9°C, offering cool days and chilly nights. Rainfall averages 500mm, with the west coast generally drier than the east in this damp and often overcast country.

Arrival & Departure Read More

Your guide will meet you at Edinburgh at 1:00 pm on the first day of your trip.

You will be returned to Edinburgh at 5:00 pm on the final day of your trip.

Pricing Read More

Pricing:

  • 5 pax £3,000pp
  • 6 pax £2,800
  • 7 pax £2,600
  • 8 pax £2,600
  • 9 pax £2,550
  • 10 pax £2,450
  • 11 pax £2,400
  • 12 pax £2,350
  • 13 pax £2,300
  • 1x FOC place for TL leader
  • Single supplement: £700 (max 2 per departure)