Bucket Reserve List: Scotland and Skye

The Scottish Highlands and Isle of Skye

Huge forbidding cliffs of Cape wrath on a rare clear day. By John Clive Nicholson, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12589450

Region: United Kingdom

Logistical Difficulty:  Moderate (excepting Cape Wrath)

Hiking Difficulty: Moderately HIGH

Degree of Risk: Moderate

Estimated time required (including travel and logistics): One week.

Long a fixture of our things to do and see list is the highlands of Scotland. While people have been trekking over these peaks for generations, in recent years some of the less frequently visited, more out of the way locations have been getting increased attention. You can’t hardly glance at Instagram without being besieged by pictures from Skye, which ranks behind only Iceland as the world’s most over-photographed place. Hard core hikers will head to where the land ends to take on the extreme challenge of the Cape Wrath trail.

Who’s minding the Storr? By Diliff – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33721100

Why Hike Here?

  • Classic ‘hill walking’
  • Small mountains, but lack of tree cover means big views
  • Elevation is no factor at all
  • Stark, rugged landscapes
  • Hidden valleys, windswept moors, deep lochs
  • Surprisingly rugged and sparsely inhabited coastline
  • Excellent trail system and hiking infrastructure
  • Quaint, charming villages
  • In most areas you can stay in refuges, B and B’s, hostels
  • The peoples of the British Isles are tremendous trail enthusiasts
  • UK has the best printed and online hiking resources of any English speaking nation
  • Most lakes are monster free
  • No dangerous wildlife, leave the claymore at home

But First Consider…

  • Don’t underestimate the difficulties of the ‘small’ Scottish peaks
  • Weather comes in three varieties…brisk, pissy and godawful
  • Rain, fog often ruins views (or makes them more mysterious!)
  • Pack your waterproof kilt
  • Freak weather can happen at any time of year
  • Very exposed ridge lines and peaks
  • Getting lost and falling off a cliff known to happen
  • Hypothermia a possibility here even in summer
  • The coastal hiking conditions can be positively brutal
  • Extreme Northern Scotland is almost unpeopled due to near continual howling wind and rain
  • Skye is not for the faint of heart…
  • …And even the stout of heart might think Cape Wrath a wee  bit much
  • Brexit or leave it, the British Isles are not cheap


Hikes We Want to Do Here:

  • Isle of Skye
  • Cape Wrath
  • How can you even think of the British Isles without mentioning Big Ben? (No, the OTHER one.)








































Why Hike Here?

  • When the weather is favorable, the Cascades can equal or even surpass any mountain range in Norther America
  • Broad, stunning alpine meadows
  • Miles of rugged, undeveloped coastline
  • Many iconic, easily recognizable peaks (Rainier, St. Helens, Hood, Baker, Shasta)
  • The only active volcanoes in the lower 48
  • Still a lot of copious glaciers (but they are shrinking)
  • HUGE trees, temperate Rain Forests
  • Great hiking resources; Seattle, Portland and Vancouver have large populations of hiking aficionados
  • Long hiking season, excepting the higher peaks
  • Short (July-mid September) “dry” season

But First Consider…

  • The weather is seldom favorable
  • In fact, the weather is often horrible…Many rainy, drizzly, cloudy days
  • Views at times more theoretical than actual
  • Many of these hikes are rough, the coastal hikes especially
  • Trails often washed out
  • Hiking infrastructure is sparse further out from the big coastal cities
  • Dangerous stream crossings not uncommon
  • Popular trails crowded, hard to get permits for
  • Though the winter is mild near the coast, the rainy season lasts from late September until June…
  • …And winter is NOT mild on the big cascades peaks
  • Active volcanism is rare, but be aware of warnings