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How to Prepare for a Winter Walk in the Cairngorms

How to Prepare for a Winter Walk in the Cairngorms

Posted by Hilton Coylumbridge, December, 2014

You’ve planned a winter trip to the Cairngorm National Park in the Scottish Highlands and safely arrived to your destination where your plan is to explore the surrounding natural beauty. You might, however, not be used to the wintry conditions that we do get up here in the Highlands and perhaps therefore not be sure how to best get ready for your hill walk or mountain hike. As the weather conditions are unpredictable it is paramount to be well prepared, so make sure you do your homework before setting off!


How you dress is extremely important, especially if you’re doing a longer walk. Dressing in layers is the best way to go, so start by wearing a snug-fitting under-layer, followed by one or two layers of insulating fleece, wool or synthetic materials (avoid cotton). The top layer consisting of both pants and a jacket with hood should be windproof and waterproof.

Don’t forget a comfy pair or two of socks, gloves and an insulated hat. Wet, cold feet will make any trek miserable, so make sure to wear sturdy, insulated shoes. If you’ve forgotten something there are several shops in Aviemore where you can buy suitable clothing for your walk.


Depending on the route and the amount of snow you might need to opt for snowshoes or skis. Packing an emergency kit is always a good idea, especially if you’ll be venturing off the beaten track. A map and a compass, a whistle for signalling, a knife, emergency food, fire-starting materials, headlight and a space blanket are other things you might want to consider bringing with you. Also make sure you know how to use the equipment!

Weather forecast

Always check the local weather forecast before heading off. Ask around for information about avalanche hazard too – the most up to date information on the snow in the Cairngorms is provided by the Scottish Avalanche Information Service.

If the weather looks like it is deteriorating and that there might be a storm on the way it is always safer to turn back or to reschedule your walk. It’s not worth the risk!

The Route

When planning your route for your winter trek you should always have a plan B, C and perhaps even D. This is because you never know what the exact conditions are until you start walking, and too much snow or wind or danger of an avalanche can result in you having to refigure your route.  

Remember to consider the fitness of everyone in your party, the length and difficulty of the route and how long it will take each member to finish it. Also remember to check when it gets dark and plan the length of the walk according to that. If you’re planning a long hike it is better to leave before sunrise instead of coming back in the dark – as you’re likely to be a lot more tired at the end of the day.  

Tell a friend

It is important that you let somebody know exactly where you are going, the route you intend to take and when you plan on getting back before you head off. This way you know that someone will start looking for you in case something happens and you don’t stick to the plan.

Get comfy after the walk

If a crisp winter hike in the Cairngorms seems like something you’d like to do this winter you need a good base near the Cairngorms. Hilton Coylumbridge in Aviemore is ideally located and a great place to return to after a long day out in the cold. Relax in our indoor pool followed by a steaming sauna session and a delicious Scottish dinner in one of our restaurants. End the evening in front of a roaring log fire in our cosy Woodshed Bar whilst sipping on a local dram.

Remember to check out our fantastic Winter Sale Offer that includes a 3-night midweek stay with breakfast and dinner each day when you stay between January and March 2015 – you can save up to 33%!


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