Getting outdoors here in Scotland is something we can’t get enough of as a family. We’ve had countless adventures wildcamping, getting away in our campervan, canoeing or challenging ourselves on some of Scotland’s best mountains.
Munros are mountains in Scotland that are over 3000ft. There are 282 munros and people who climb them are called munrobaggers. Those who ‘bag’ them all are ‘compleatists’. We’re just going to put it out there now that we don’t think of ourselves as serious baggers nor do we think we’ll ever compleat….possibly…
There are many reasons why people bag munros. For us, it’s a list of 282 different mountains to walk up. This list helps us see past local hills and settling for familiarity.
We’ve had days where we’ve summited just in time to see the most amazing sunrise, days where the sun shines and views go on for miles, days where there’s nowhere we’d rather be, just living in the moment.
And then we’ve had days where it’s all gone wrong. Where the wind has been stronger than predicted and temperatures a lot colder. I’ve left the house carrying two left boots, or we’ve forgotten baby’s insulated suit, or our eldest’s waterproof jacket.
But, in the hope that not every one leaves the house with two left boots, here are a few tips to increase those good munrobagging days.
Check weather forecast on MWIS and Met Office – Remember windchill, windspeed (less than 20mph on the summit is a fairly good rule of thumb for smaller kids). See what the worse weather is you’re likely to encounter from the forecasts and decide whether you and your family are happy with it.
Check route – Walkhighlands is a fantastic resource for checking routes, ascent, parking info etc. Total distance + total ascent could potentially equal a very tired, very grumpy kid if you’ve picked a very big mountain. Mountaineering Scotland also has some great suggestions for route planning on their website.
Pack map and compass + GPS if you have it.
Pack poop kit – because let’s face it, movement encourages, ahem, movement and kids always seem to get the urge in the most scenic of places… Always follow the leave no trace rules (Dig a hole and carry out your tissues! Don’t leave it for others to find!)
Pack 1st aid kit, bothy bag or emergency bivvy bag, torch and whistle. The emergency foil bivvy bags can be bought very cheaply online and are so lightweight. There’s definitely no excuse not to have one in your bag!
Pack bag – Remember waterproofs for everyone in your party, hats / gloves, a spare insulation layer for everyone, suntan lotion / sunglasses if it’s forecast to be a sunny day + nappies etc if baby is coming along.
Food and water – High energy (chocolate buttons works for our family adventures), slow release food such as flapjack and sandwiches etc. Don’t forget to carry enough water or if you have a filter and know there are rivers along your route, carry less! Remember to pack out all your rubbish
Don’t forget baby carrier, baby insulated suit, 1 x left boot and 1 x right boot for everyone…..
Involve your kids in the planning, that way they’ll feel more involved with it and may even take charge and lead the way!
Work up to the really big days
Look for the adventurous bits that will leave an impression on your kids – spend time by the rivers making splashes, look under that 20th rock, pick up that 11th stick. Let your kids have a bit of fun and chances are, they’ll want to do it again
Go at their pace
Have fun! But be flexible with your plans, the summit will always be there if you need to change plans for any reason
We have been based in Scotland for around five years now and have to admit that despite all our outdoor adventures, we had not spent a night in a bothy.
A bothy is a free basic shelter that is open to anyone. They are often old estate houses that have been left open and a majority are maintained by the Mountain Bothy Association, although a good number of other ones are maintained by the estate or other groups.
During Stacey’s pregnancy we were still keen to get outdoors despite not being able to cover as much distance or ascent. We decided to try a bothy adventure in the far north west of Scotland, an area we particularly love for its majestic beauty, and where there is a large, multi-forked sea loch with a walk along one side on a good track which leads to the bothy. With Stacey just over 5 months pregnant, it was far enough a walk for her without being too much. We took our tent as well in case the bothy was busy but needn’t have worried as the other people we met were all continuing on to another bothy further on.
The bothy is wonderfully sited on the shore of the loch and we spent a sunny if windy afternoon playing on the shore and gathering what drift wood we could. As evening set in we enjoyed a fantastic sunset before we lit candles and the fire to make the place as cosy as possible.
We have to say that it was a little spooky to be honest and so we decided to sleep in the main room downstairs where the fire was instead of heading into one of the two bedrooms upstairs.
The following morning, after a chilly night we slowly headed back to the van. It was a great few days away, something a little different from our usual and it definitely got our imaginations going, for better or worse!
If you do choose to stay in a bothy it is sensible to hang your food from the rafters as mice are a common occurrence. We didn’t see any when we were there but didn’t take chances with our food.
On the walk in we saw an otter playing along the shore line as well as a number of deer and many birds and seals.
We are so glad we went for a bothy adventure and would highly recommend it for the experience as well as an option when the weather is less than ideal. It is lovely knowing that there is somewhere (probably) dry and where you can (probably) light a fire to keep warm at the end of the day. Check out the MBA website for guidelines as well as updates for bothy closures and details for membership.
At the weekend we headed to Dunkeld to do something a bit different for us; we went on an archaeology dig on the battle site dated 1689 when the first Jacobite rebellion lost to the red coat soldiers.
The event was organised by the National Trust for Scotland who had already set out the grid for the test pits and provided all the equipment we needed: trowels, spades and most importantly kneeling mats for our knees!
We then got to spend around 3 hours excavating the pit, collecting anything we thought was interesting. For any Outlander fans, we didn’t find Jamie’s musket balls. No no… that’s the wrong rebellion isn’t it… but we did find a good number of objects including our favourite, 4 different clay pipes. The archaeologists on site dated them to about 200 years ago. There was also pottery from the same era and quite a bit of charcoal pieces which led us to the idea that we had stumbled upon the aftermath of a party. Imagine 200 years ago, a group of people sat around a fire, smoked some tobacco and shared some food, leaving all the evidence behind for us to discover 200 years later.
Our son had a wilder imagination, not worrying so much about the date of the objects we found and reckoning that they were from the medics treating the wounded soldiers by getting them to smoke. Incidentally smoking using clay pipes was thought to be a cure for the Plague, so there is a past ‘medical’ use for smoking.
As well as the excavation we did, we got to nose around all the other finds from the total of around 10 test pits and got to see a good range of pottery and so on that had been found. The objects that were getting the archaeologists most excited were a few pieces of green glaze pottery which they dated at about 600 years old.
They had also brought along a range of replica weapons form the time of the first Jacobite rebellion so we got to test out our highland charge, decide if we preferred the two handed broadsword or the musket as our weapon of choice and imagine just how much of a difference it would have made between the first Jacobite rebellion, when the redcoats took around 30-50 seconds to reload compared to them taking 10-15 seconds per reload at Culloden. We were also shown some replica grenades which were round balls about the size of your fist. They were used at the Battle of Killiekrankie where the red coat threw them at the Jacobite army who were gathered uphill of them…… the grenades then rolled down the hill back to the red coats and is the first recorded incident of friendly fire.
The NTS organises around 6 to 12 of these digs at sites around Scotland each year. We chanced upon this one when we had to change plans a couple of weeks ago because we forgot a key bit of kit for our baby, stopping us from going for a mountain walk and instead heading to Killiekrankie where we happened to see a poster. We would highly recommend getting involved in an archaeology dig near you as it was an extremely interesting way to fully immerse ourselves in history as a family. Playing in mud is pretty much what it is, so kids are in their element, and the sense of digging through time gives a powerful link to the past which spurred us to ask more questions and find out more than we would have in any visitor centre.
We had plans for today… we’d been keeping an eye on the weather forecast which looked incredible for bagging a munro… low wind, great visibility, no rain forecast but very low temperatures. Nothing awful. So we packed our bags yesterday, all except the jackets we’d used in the snow as they were drying out. We set an alarm and got an early night.
So this morning, the alarm went off at 6am and off we went after breakfast to drive the 90 mins it’d take us to get to the mountain we were eager to climb. We got there and began to get ready. Then Keith stopped and looked at me with what I’m going to say was pure horror on his face… “we’ve forgotten his suit”
Baby’s insulated waterproof suit was still hanging up at home. Knowing there was an outdoors shop a short drive away we thought about getting a replacement suit, but decided against it as it’d make us start later in the day. We couldn’t carry on with our plans for the day.
So, as the mountains will always be there for another day, we went on a couple of shorter walks instead and ogled the autumn colours, which turned out to not be such a bad thing to do after all!!
Have you ever forgotten a key bit of kit for your family adventures?
Iceland is one of those places which seems to seep into your mind as a destination for a holiday, with amazing images of glaciers, mountains, hot springs and volcanoes everywhere. There is also the possibility to journey to the centre to the Earth!
We’ve been wanting to visit for a while, but have been put off by the high costs associated with visiting in summer. It turns out we’re quite cheap and don’t like big crowds, didn’t see that coming did you? The thought of visiting stayed in our heads though and then Stacey suggested we do a winter trip instead. Whilst the days are short, with sunrise around 11am and sunset around 3:30-4pm, it’s much quieter, hotel costs are half the summer season and winter brings snow and northern lights. Looking in to it a bit more, it looked possible and actually an ideal time to visit.
So we booked our flights and visited Iceland in early January 2018 for a total of 8 days. We thought about what we wanted to see and do on our trip and decided to make our way around the ring road, spending only a little time in Reykjavik and more time seeing as many of the natural sights and scenery that Iceland has to offer. As we chose to go in winter it was important to keep our plans flexible as the weather is a bit like the UK weather on steroids. The weather can change from beautiful sun to hard rain to blizzards and well sub-zero temperatures within minutes. We got all of this weather in abundance on our trip. This can and does regularly close quite a few roads, including the ring road on a relatively regular basis so we booked accommodation only a day or two in advance to allow for this.
The ring road is about 1300 km round, so 8 days really is about as short as we could do it in with reasonable comfort.
In the first of our Iceland blogs, here are some of the sights we saw:
The famous Seljalandsfoss waterfalls – The ice around the bases meant we weren’t able to walk all the way behind it, but I did put on microspikes and walked some of the way to get some pictures.
Skogafoss waterfall – amazing from the base. We walked the steep steps to the top which was pleasant but somewhat underwhelming compared to the base.
Solheimajokull Glacier – It’s unwise to go too far onto glaciers without crampons and ice axe (and trying to find a tour operator that had availability for us and a 6yo was tricky!) so we kept ourselves near the edge and our son loved his first glacier experience.
Svartifoss, Vatnakokull national park – A fairly short uphill walk to another great waterfall with basalt columns after the icy path down to it.
Jokulsarlon, the glacier lagoon – We stopped on the west side of the bridge, away from the main crowds and had timed our day to arrive just past high tide on the outgoing tide, as this is the best time to see icebergs being swept out to sea. We also got to see around 40 seals or so resting in the lagoon away from the main crowds.
Diamond Beach – We then headed to the sea side just outside the lagoon where icebergs from the lagoon wash up on the black sand beach. It is a brilliant sight and we were there after most of the tour buses had headed off, so it was relatively quiet. We had a great time through to last light wandering around the icebergs which are crystal clear, taking photos and keeping an eye on the rough sea. A few people got wet feet and one went for an accidental swim whilst we were there!
Egilsstadir – Our next day was quite a long travel day, heading round the East coast to Egilsstadir. The route was much quieter and the route has endless views of deep fjords, mountains, coasts and crashing seas. We took a small detour into Djupivogur to see some sculptures of eggs around the harbour and also found a great café by the waterfront which was really friendly, had great food, and by Iceland standards was pretty cheap. That night we stayed in a wood chalet with its own hot tub, fed continuously by a geothermal spring. We relaxed in the hot tub until quite late in the night enjoying the show that the northern lights put on for us.
Akureyri – Our next day was the best weather we got, and what a day for it. We drove through to Akureyri along empty roads through snow covered mountain scenery, getting out for walks with a trollish history and exploring geothermal vents along the way.
Siglufordur – The weather was still pretty good the next day so we decided to detour round the north cost to Siglufordur. This was spectacular with many great mountain views and some seriously long single track tunnels. I think the longest was around 10 km straight through a mountain!
Grundarforjdur – We had booked onto an Orca viewing tour but unfortunately a storm came in over the next couple of days so the tour was cancelled. We took a bit more time over the rougher sealed gravel roads to Helgafellssveit where we stayed in a cabin by a frozen lake and fed the farmers sheep.
On our last day we made our way slowly back to Reykajvik and the airport through heavy snow and blizzard conditions. The roads were perfectly passable but we were glad to get to the end of the journey.
Overall the holiday was great. We saw many of the sights in Iceland we really wanted to but it was a very busy holiday and the time we had was really the minimum amount of time that you could reasonably do it in in winter, particularly given the short days (and that was with us being lucky with the roads being clear). It was probably the most ‘adventurous’ type of holiday we’ve done to date with our son, just with booking accommodation on the go and being completely flexible with our plans. It had both me and Stacey reminiscing about our year spent travelling and wondering whether it would be doable with kids… hmmmmm
We’ve got a few more Iceland blogs in the works, including tips on winter driving there as well as the best travel apps to use so keep your eyes peeled for those or sign up to our newsletter.
If you like the look of visiting Iceland, consider visiting in winter as it is definitely quieter and has its own unique appearance and feel. Have you been before? Do feel free to share any tips, itineraries, favourite spots below for other families interested in visiting there.
We’ve been a bit quiet with the blogging side of things lately but we’ve been a little distracted by other things…. Baby will be joining our mad family shenanigans in the summer!
To say we’re excited is an understatement but I’ve been a bit surprised by just how slowly I’ve had to take things the last few months. Thankfully though, it seems like my energy levels are making their way back up so while I’ll be continuing to take it slow, at least I’ll be getting outdoors more.
I won’t lie, it has been a nervous few months given our previous miscarriage and I’m sure I’ve given a new definition to neurotic but, so far, everything is looking good, baby is feeling like a future snow boarder given the jumps and tumbles and we can’t wait for the summer!
2017 was a bumper year for us when it came to getting out on Scotland’s hills. We bagged 2 corbetts and 30 munros together, shared a good few laughs along the way, many a bag of sweets, the odd tear but made a lot of fun memories as a family.
One of our proudest moments was climbing 22 munros over 4 weeks during the summer with our then 5yo son, walking 104km with over 7500m of ascent, raising over £1200 for Tommy’s to help fund their research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature births. This was a challenging time both physically and emotionally, as our due date was in the middle of those 4 weeks. However, getting out there and doing something positive really helped us both come to terms with our miscarriage. Our son blew our minds with his positivity and determination to get out there each day and do something he enjoys to “help poorly babies”.
It’s not just all been mountain days though. We’ve tried to spend as much time as possible outdoors together as a family. We’ve converted our campervan which has helped us get out and explore for longer trips; we went looking for caves, we tried to get the hang of stand up paddle boarding and slack lining (balance is not our strong point apparently!), walked behind waterfalls in Fife, went fossil hunting in Assynt, went wildcamping in the snow, found gorgeous empty beaches, was chased up smaller hills by our son and recently our son has tried skiing and is loving it!
I think though, it’s safe to say that our hearts belong to the mountains. Here are a few pictures from each of our mountain days in 2017:
Geal Charn (917m) – A moody walk in the Drummochter hills at the start of the year.
Tolmount (958m), Tom Buidhe (957m) & Mayar (928m) – An incredible two-day walk and wildcamp, with a highcamp just below Mayar. Plenty of opportunity for sledging (we didn’t need our waterproof trousers anyway!) and the weather was fab, as was the sunset! The featured image was from this walk as well, heading towards the first summit of the day.
Carn a’Gheoidh (975m) – We headed out on a still sunny day, and after reaching the summit, spent a while sledging, as you do when the weather’s that good and there’s nowhere else you’d rather be.
Ben Gulabin (453m) – We were wary of having too many ‘big’ days out before our summer challenge as we didn’t want our son to be fed up of the hills before we’d even started! We chose this local corbett, taking our time and enjoying the views.
Loch Wharral Corbett – The weather was moody and dismal, but we were desperate to get out. We chose a wee corbett near Glen Clova, using it as a chance to refresh our navigation skills in the low cloud and not give our son too much uphill with our summer challenge looming.
Creag Leacach (987m) & Glas Maol (1068m) – We started our 4 week fundraising challenge by bagging these two by Glenshee, a good set to start with and ease our legs in to it. And there was time for our son to grab an icecream from Braemar before we made our way to Lochnagar.
Lochanagar (1155m) Carn a’Choire Bhoidheach (1110m), Carn an t-Sagairt Mor (1047m), Cairn Bannoch (1012m), Broad Cairn (998m) – This was an epic beast! We biked in to Glas Allt Bothy, locked our bikes and trundled up towards the first summit. We were about 10 minutes from it when the cloud came in and the rain started. It then didn’t stop until the following morning, so out of 5 summits, we got the last one with views!! It was a bit damp, and our son renamed it Frognagar because of all the frogs we kept dodging!
Sgairneach Mhor (991m), Beinn Udlamain (1011m), A’Mharconaich (975m), Geal Charn (917m) – These munros at Drummochter have been on our to-do list for a while. Sure, they’re near the A9, but you start high which always helps on our family days out! We decided on a high wildcamp mid-way round as the weather was looking good, the views were incredible and it remains one of my favourite trips. They have a reputation for being boring, but these rounded hills were perfect for our son to burn off energy (he has unlimited amounts!!)
Meall Corranaich (1069m) & Meall a’Choire Leith (926m) – These rounded munros near Loch Tay will always be memorable, not only for the boggy start across the peatbogs, but for the moment I slipped on some boulders crossing a knee-deep river about 10 minutes away from the car, and just sat there, exhausted, drenched, with Keith and our son in absolute hysterics. Well, now I can see the funny side…..
Mount Keen (939m) – We biked in a good portion of this walk (around 6km each way), to make sure we could do it in a day with our son. It was a fun day, taking it slow and I remember how much we laughed, though I couldn’t tell you what about! Love days like that. It was cloudy at the top, then the rain started so we didn’t hang around. I’m sure the views from the top of Scotland’s most easterly munro might be good though…
Driesh (947m) & Mayar (928m) – Both Keith and myself have done these two a few times and our son has done Mayar, but we were looking at different options for heading up and saw the Scorrie Path. We couldn’t find much info about it, but from the pictures we saw and looking at the map it didn’t look too bad. It still didn’t when we were at the path split between going up the big path or straight up the Scorrie Path. On the ground it was a different matter! Very steep in places which set off my vertigo but both Keith and our son had no problems with it! I remember looking up at them, seeing my son’s lips were purple and beginning to worry, asking him if he was warm enough, feeling ok, trying to figure out if we needed to call Mountain Rescue…… then he gave me the cheekiest grin ever and said “Mum, you’ve got to try the braeberries, there’s so many of them!!!!!” Panic over, sweet snack fix had and we carried on our way, bagging the two before coming down Corrie Fee.
Stob Dubh (956m), Stob Coire Raineach (925m) – One of the sunniest days we’ve had on the hills, bagging these iconic duo at Glen Coe.
The Cairnwell (933m) & Carn a’Gheoidh (975m) – Our son was really beginning to feel the challenge now, so we opted for a few of the local Glenshee ones, perfect for starting high and taking our time.
Beinn Bhreac (931m) – Before we started the challenge, we asked our son if there was something he’s particularly like to do a lot of during it, to make sure he felt like it was his challenge too; summit wildcamps? Plenty of rest days at the beach? Straight away he asked to see the sunrise from a summit, so we wildcamped by Derry Lodge, set the alarm for 2am and were under way not long after then, reaching the summit of Beinn Bhreac just in time to see some gorgeous colours.
Carn Aosda(917m) – We saved the easiest munro for last, a short little ramble up Glenshee’s easiest munro. As this was the last day of our challenge, a few of our son’s friends joined in and ceebrated with a bit of cake at the top. It was a great ending to an epic summer!
Meall nan Tarmachan (1044m) – The Ben Lawers munros have always packed a punch for me and I’ve never felt them to be an easy bunch to do that’s for sure! It had felt like an age since we’d been out on the hills, so we went away in the campervan and bagged this one on a calm weekend, breathing the fresh air and enjoying the challenge.
Meall Buidhe (932m) – We bagged this munro the day after Meall nan Tarmachan. It was our son’s 40th unique munro that he’s bagged and he was in the mood to celebrate on that day, telling anyone and everyone that we saw about his achievement and going so far as ti give advice to fellow walkers at the summit about bagging Ben Macdui. It was good advice too!
Snowy Gael Charn – What a fantastic way to end the year!! The conditions looked too good for us not to try to bag both our son’s and my first winter munro (Keith usually has a few winter mountain days and has gotten in to ski touring the last few years so he’s well in to it!) It was perfect! We’ve done this munro a few times before, but it’s fair to say we’re both still buzzing from it.
We are always looking for the ideal boots for our son as getting decent footwear for small children can be a real challenge. We have had mixed success across several different brands to date but have always liked the look of the Lowa childrens boots.
Recently we were contacted by Outdoor Supply to see if we would like to review both a product they stock and their online shop. This great opportunity allowed us to get hold of a pair of the Lowa Approach GTX mid Junior boots in our son’s size. This is already a major plus for Outdoorsupply.co.uk as they have a variety of different brands of boots with a good range of availability in smaller childrens sizes – often no easy task to find. Secondly, the delivery was quick and easy with no hassles despite the boots coming from the Netherlands. So overall a thumbs up from us for their site.
Now onto the boots. Here are the specifications outlined on the website:
Model: Approach GTX Mid Junior
Colour: Blue / Black
Type: Multi-purpose shoe
Walking shoe category: B
Sole: LOWA Trac Lite Junior
RRP £81.95 (currently on sale for £57.95)
Our son got them in time to test out in a variety of conditions including mountain terrain on a boys weekend walking and camping trip, valley walks in the Cairngorms and wet bog trotting walks (is there any other kind?) in the North West of Scotland.
One of the first things our son said was how comfy the boots were compared to his previous ones, which were a cheaper Decathlon pair. He seemed very confident and sure footed from the off without any worries of the new boots trips and falls that we sometimes get. The Lowa boots are a mid-width allowing good comfort whilst also not being too square fronted to lose precision.
Next our son mentions that he can’t feel sharp stones through these boots unlike his previous ones. They have a good grippy sole which is sturdy but still has plenty of flex and so on, providing a good balance between support and flexibility to not restrict his feet. He will happily wear the Lowa boots for significant distance and time without mentioning discomfort in his feet such as pins and needles, which has been an issue in some previous footwear.
Finally they are gore-tex lined so are waterproof by design. He has tested this thoroughly, wading through pretty deep puddles and walking across boggy ground, but after his feet were completely dry.
So, overall we reckon that the Lowa Approach GTX Mid Junior boots are a great option, particularly in autumn, winter and spring where wet and slippy ground is more likely to be encountered, and we are confident that these boots will help keep our son warm, happy and safe on our hill adventures over the next six months.
Sometimes it is easy to think that getting cheap boots is fine for children, especially given the speed at which they grow, and indeed there are some good options out there in the mid-range market. However, in our opinion the Lowa boots do justify why they are more expensive and really do add up to good value, particularly if you really like getting out there on more adventurous and further afield walks with your children. These boots are on sale from the website, so check them out if you’re in the market for decent kids walking boots.
Many thanks to Outdoorsupply.co.uk for providing these boots for our son to test. All views and opinions are our own.
Last weekend, we went away in the van to explore more of the Aviemore area. It’s somewhere we love because of the mountains, but we haven’t really done much of the valley walks. However, the weather last weekend lined up brilliantly with us wanting a slower weekend, with shorter walks (hopefully) between the showers.
The Frank Bruce Sculpture Trail combines a lovely woodland walk with some culture packing a punch! The sculptures are spectacularly created, though our son did think they were “a little bit creepy!” and was warning other people about it as we went. A few had information boards next to them, explaining the thoughts behind the artists’ thinking. There was a lot of politics, war and death and we thought the surrounding woods added to the impact of the sculptures. The meandering path and autumnal trees, on a wet day with lichen showing on the drooping branches was just as gnarly.
In the walled garden there are a few more sculptures that are more darker, more political. Our son really didn’t like this part. Our favourite was The Walker which from the right angle, looked like a loping walker.
Back at the carpark, we headed along a smaller trail down towards the river and after about 5 minutes walk, came to a carved bridge over the River Feshie. The waterfalls were brilliant following the recent rain and Keith and our son spent a bit of time looking for kayaking lines down it…..
Distance: about 1.5km on fairly flat woodland trail
Nearest Town: Aviemore
Other info: There’s a charge for carpark so remember some cash. Take the path to waterfalls just a short walk away fromt he other corner of the carpark
Pushchair friendly: It is considered an all-abilities path and also has blue badge parking available avoiding the steps from the car park