Thursday, 23 December 2010

Walking in a winter wonderland

Glentrek goes winter walking in Glenshee, Scotland

As traditional as the turkey on Christmas is our Glentrek festive walk. With some leisure time on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and the days afterwards we can think of nothing better than to head off for a countryside hike - or two, or three! This year, we're looking forward to walking in the fabulous snowy landscape of Angus.

Hill walking in the snow isn't for everyone and you should be experienced in the use of crampons, ice axes, avalanche awareness and navigation if you plan to head high into the hills. Otherwise, why not go for a lower-level walk, perhaps following the banks of a picturesque river or the pretty trails through Scotland's expansive forests?

Ensure you are wearing good boots with plenty of grip, lots of clothing layers, hat, gloves, a buff or a scarf and carrying extra layers as well as a drink and snacks. Even if you're planning to stick to trails it's important that you also take a map, compass and a mobile phone with you. And remember that the sun sets in the late afternoon at this time of year so ensure you have enough time for your walk in the daylight.

Wherever you walk the snow is sure to have created a gorgeous winter wonderland landscape. (Don't forget to send us your pictures of your walks this Christmas).

Thanks to Sue McKichan for this lovely photo of Water of leith

If you're based in town or a city then there are still plenty of wonderful places to walk for an hour or so. This photo of the Water of Leith in Edinburgh reveals the delightful scenery just minutes from the busy shopping streets.

If you are adequately experienced for winter mountain walking then you'll love this time of year. A snowy landscape offers a wealth of new challenges and experiences - and the views from a mountain summit are spectacular. We've enjoyed fantastic festive walking days when hardly another soul is seen. Having the landscape to yourself for the entire day is really special.

And while you're thinking about walking why not make a plan for 2011? Do you want to start a Munros round? Have you been wondering about conquering all the Corbetts? Would you like to learn how to navigate safely? Have you thought about heading off on one of Scotland's fantastic long-distance walking trails, such as the Cateran trail? If any of these ideals appeal, or if you are looking for other suggestions, why not give Glentrek a call? We will be delighted to chat to you about walking in Scotland.

Have a fantastic festive season.

Friday, 10 December 2010

All they want for Christmas...

Everyone knows a keen walker - but when it comes to buying them a new and original gift it's not always that easy. Most walkers will already have the full range of outdoors kit in their walking gear wardrobe. You might be lucky enough to know of a favoured item that has come to the end of its life or perhaps you've been listening intently this year and you are aware of a new gadget that they are hankering after. If not, then what should you buy your loved one?

Here we bring you a few ideas that should bring a smile to their face on Christmas morning.

The Ruffnek: A new version of the very useful multi-scarf/buff/neck warming thingie. This "ruff" is made of lovely soft fabric and is about as versatile as any outdoors person could want. It could be a scarf, a hat, a hat/scarf, a sweat band, a hairband, a fashion accessory. Pop a Ruffnek into a Christmas stocking for a lovely Christmas surprise.

Collins Ramblers Best Walks in Britain: A new book to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Ramblers' Association. There are lots of great walks in his hardback, coffee-table style book. No doubt your outdoorsy recipient will have walked all the walks but they'll still love looking at the pictures!

Heat holder socks: No walker can ever have enough pairs of socks. And a pair of socks that will be sure to keep their feet cosy on even the coldest hike will be more than welcomed. See how they grin as they pop their feet into these oh-so-cosy socks!

Go-lite: Why carry heavy kit when you can carry light (lite?) kit? Most walkers will welcome a lighter weight addition to their walking gear wardrobe so check out the equipment, including rucksacks, jackets, tops, tights, tents, sleeping bags, on offer at this forward-thinking outdoors company.

A Munro calender 2011: From the website MunroMap comes a gorgeous 2011 calendar. Now we'll bet no-one has one of these already!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The video: Glentrek all-girls hill walking navigation course

All-female navigation course: Fun and success

The best way to learn how to navigate the Scottish hills is to get out there and try. Our brilliant instructor ML Mike is a firm believer in learning as you go along and so his Glentrek navigation skills days include a walk to the summit of a hill or to a meaningful destination.

Just recently he led an all-female group on a successful Glentrek Basic Hill Walking Navigation Skills Day in Glenshee, Angus. Three of the women were self-confessed non-navigators, while one had "some vague idea that a map and compass were useful but I have never really got to grips with the art".

The group were all determined to become independent navigators (at some point in the future and perhaps after a few more lessons) and several said they were looking forward to the day when they could take themselves off to the hills "without a man in front"!

The women were not anti-men, they have simply reached the point where they would like to walk solo or as part of an all-female group and they had come to the conclusion that the only way to do this was to join a navigation session, and preferably a female-only class.

Many outdoor activity companies are reporting that female-only groups, from climbing, to walking, to navigation, to mountain biking, are becoming increasingly popular.

As one women in the Glentrek navigation course group said: "If there is a man in the group they tend to take over the navigation. Whether they are better at using a compass, or whether they think they are better, they still lead and then I just follow."

Indeed, ML Mike pointed out that women in all-female groups are more likely to ask questions and become involved in the navigation discussions than when part of a mixed group.

Certainly, the female-only atmosphere was uplifting. The navigation was achieved through friendly discussion, camaraderie and great laughs and chat.

At the start of the session, ML Mike gave a lesson in map orientation, basic compass use, how to identify aspects of the landscape and OS map detail, such as grid sizes and contours. If you're at all intrigued then why not book on to our next navigation course?

Then the women set off to summit a Munro. Stopping at frequent intervals, ML Mike revealed a range of important map skills techniques, such as route plotting, contour reading, grid references and navigating by compass and pacing from A to B. If anyone in the group was slower to get the hang of the skills then they were helped along by ML Mike.

So many times there were cries of "Oh, so that's how it works!" or "I just never knew that but now it makes perfect sense" and "Look, we made it to the right point. How brilliant!"

The day wasn't all learning and there were plenty of opportunities to take in the fantastic scenery, spot wildlife and stop for snack breaks and lunch. Reaching the summit of the Munro, Carn a Gheoidh, was really satisfying.

One of the participants said: "I feel so much more confident now. I wouldn't call myself an expert but I can see how we navigated the route and how we arrived at the summit. It's an up-lifting experience."

The final lesson was safe navigation back to the start of the walk. Despite snow flurries, mist and a darkening sky, the group successfully found their return route and still had enough time for tea, cakes and a good chat about the day at the Spittal of Glenshee Hotel.

To see some of the highlights of the day check out this fab blog video.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Scotland's landscape is worth a fortune

A new report has revealed just how important Scotland's amazing landscape and and abundant wildlife are to the economy. The study by Scottish Natural heritage (SNH) shows that "nature-based tourism" is worth £1.4 billion to Scotland. It also supports some 39,000 full-time jobs.

When you take a closer look at the report Scotland benefits by £900 million thanks to walking and landscape enjoyment. People visit Scotland for a wide range of walks, from gentle strolls to mountain challenges.

Of course, we already knew that many people come to Scotland - or stay for a holiday on home turf - to enjoy walking pursuits and holidays. But it's great to have this confirmed by an investigative report. Indeed, we're delighted to be part of this growth industry.

The SNH research also found that wildlife tourism, including bird watching, whale watching, guided walks and practical conservation holidays, brings in £127m and is the main reason for more than one million trips to Scotland each year.

Adventure activities, such as mountain biking, canoeing and kayaking, are worth £178m.

Commenting on the study, Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: “Scotland’s wonderful natural environment and fascinating wildlife have so much to offer and it’s exciting that there are visitors coming here to appreciate our world-class landscape.

“Tourists obviously enjoy what they see and there’s such a wide variety of activities on offer, whether it’s walking in the glens, spotting some of Scotland’s iconic species or getting involved in conservation.

"Nature based tourism generates significant benefits for the economy, including thousands of jobs. It’s vital that work on the conservation and enhancement of our natural environment continues to ensure we can deliver these benefits for generations to come.”

Ian Jardine, SNH chief executive, added: “We have always known that landscapes and wildlife are one of the main reasons why visitors come to Scotland. We also know that enjoying nature is one of the key activities they like to do when they get here.

"Now we know just how important that is to the economy of Scotland. With spending on nature activities worth nearly 40% of all tourism spending, nature-based tourism can generate significant benefits for the economy."

Great news indeed!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

What to wear for winter walking in Scotland

Just because it's colder, wetter, windier and darker it doesn't mean you should give up on walking in Scotland. As we've been blogging all year, walking is a great form of exercise and a fantastic mood booster so giving up shouldn't be an option. However, winter walking does come with more dangers than in the summer months so it's important that you're prepared for the weather conditions.

Lower-level walking in winter in Scotland

Rain, lighter winds, some ice and perhaps even snow will be the challenges facing the walker in the lower-level hills.

The minimum kit should include: Robust, waterproof walking boots, wick-away base layers, fleece, waterproof jacket, trousers, waterproof overtrousers, warm hat and gloves.

Pack in your rucksack: Extra base layers, an extra fleece, another pair of gloves, water, a flask of hot tea or coffee, food and energy bars or cereal bars, a compass and a map.

High level walking in winter in Scotland

Walking in Scotland's higher hills or mountains in winter is for the experienced only. Alternatively you could hire a guide. Weather conditions can rapidly change and it's vital that you know how to navigate in very low visibility. Expect ice, deep snow, high winds, white outs, heavy snow fall and rain.

Essential kit needs to be carried on your back so you should also be fit.

The minimum kit should include: Four seasons walking boots, wick-away base layers, fleeces, waterproof jacket, trousers, waterproof overtrousers, warm hat and warm gloves.

Pack in your rucksack: Extra base layers, an extra fleece, another pair of gloves, an extra hat, crampons, ice axe, a shelter in case of an accident, mobile phone, water, a flask of hot tea or coffee, food and energy bars or cereal bars, a compass and a map. A GPS gadget is a good idea too but you can't rely on this so a map and compass (and the ability to use them) are vital. A first aid kit would be a wise addition.

Always check the latest weather reports and avalanche warnings before setting out. If in doubt, it's best not to go, instead choosing a lower level alternative.

Monday, 25 October 2010

It's official: Walking makes you smarter

Fresh air, fitness and bigger brain size. Now there are
even more reasons for getting out in the hills for a walk.

A new study has revealed yet another reason to get out walking in the Scottish hills. The American survey found that people who walked at least six miles every week had less age-related brain shrinkage than people who walked less.

One of the results of brain shrinkage in later years is memory problems. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, also kills off brain cells and reduces the volume of the brain.

But the University of Pittsburgh research found that people who walk regularly had larger brain volumes.

A spokesperson for the study said: “Our results should encourage well-designed trials of physical exercise in older adults as a promising approach for preventing dementia and Alzheimer's disease.”

The study on 300 people looked at the size of their brains over a period of almost 14 years.
It was found that people who walked roughly six to nine miles a week halved their risk of developing memory problems.

The spokesperson added: "Our results are in line with data that shows that aerobic activity induces a host of cellular cascades that could conceivably increase gray matter volume."

So now there’s even more reason and motivation for getting outdoors this winter.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Get outdoors in the half-term break

Late summer and autumn are
great seasons to visit Angus

While some schoolchildren in Scotland are already enjoying their October break, others in various places in Scotland and most children in England are still looking forward to their traditional mid-term break. We said, the children are looking forward to the holiday! But what about the parents?

It only seems like a couple of weeks ago when the kids were off school for the summer holidays - and now there's another week (and in some cases, two weeks) to keep the little darlings busy and happy. Thankfully October often brings some lovely clear days for outdoors fun. (Outdoors fun = lots of energy burned off!)

You will need to wrap up warm but when the skies are blue, the trees are turning their gorgeous autumnal shades and and the air is crisp and dry it's difficult to think of a better place to be than Scotland.

In fact, here at Glentrek we can't think of a better time to head out for a spirit-lifting walk. (Of course, we might be a little biased but we'll be surprised if you disagree!).

Autumn does bring with it a few more potential dangers on the hills. Walkers should take care to check the weather forecasts and always take the right kit with you. Make sure you have enough emergency clothing, food and water if things turn out to be a bit less than easy-going. It is vital that someone in the group is also good at navigation. (Why not check out our navigation courses?)

And if you're looking for walks to suit the family then we recommend the Angus Glens. The area boasts a wide range of lower level trails and hill walks as well as some of the "easiest" Munros, including Mayar.

The glens also offer a fascinating geography lesson for kids (and even the adults).The Angus Glens comprise five separate glens (or valleys), which are described as resembling the fingers of a giant's hand.

Scoured by huge glaciers during the Ice Age these glens, including Clova, Isla, Prosen, Lethnot and Esk, stretch from the flatter lowlands - known as the Straths - gently upwards like outspread fingers towards the summit tops of rounded hill tops and mountain summits.

While walking in the glens it's easy to spot the work of the glaciers including huge valleys, ribboning rivers, corrie lochs and tumbling waterfalls.

If you're looking for a lower level walk then you could head to the Cateran Trail for a day's hike. The 64-mile long-distance walk is normally completed over five days but much of the walk can be broken down into shorter sections that would be ideal for a family hike.

And while you're in the area you could take the opportunity to try a few other family activities, including cycling, mountain biking and gorge walking. Rainy days are also well catered for in the area with cultural and family friendly attractions such as J M Barrie's birthplace in Kirriemuir, Glamis Castle and RRS Discovery, Dundee.

There's a host of outdoors fun to be had in Angus this October.

If you require any guidance about walks and activities in Angus please do contact Glentrek.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Tales of epic British mountain walks

We love to hear about epic walking challenges in the great outdoors. Just this summer Munro bagger extraordinaire Steve Fallon completed his 14th (yes, 14th!) full round of 283 Scottish Munros. What started as a mild distraction some 15 years ago has turned into a full-on hobby and even a business, as Steve now leads people who want to climb Munros.

And now fellow mountaineer Alan Hinkes has succeeded in his attempt to climb all 39 of England’s highest peaks in his latest adventure: the County Tops Challenge. Alan, who was the first British person to climb the world’s 14 highest peaks, took just eight days to reach the summit of the highest peak in each English county.

This is a challenge that Alan had always wanted to do and originally he planned to spread it out over a few years but then he had the opportunity to do the challenge with Pro Trek while raising funds for mountain rescue.

His epic journey began in his home town of Northallerton, from where he headed north, then to Lincolnshire, up the west side of the country and finished in the Lake District. As well as the need for strength and endurance, Alan said that driving and finding the peaks was hard going.

Despite experiencing the wonders and scenery of much higher mountains, such as Everest and K2, Alan is still very much passionate about his home country. He is reported as saying: "My heart is in the British hills."

We couldn't agree more!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Glentrek visits the Glenuig Inn, north-west Scotland

Stunning views from Glenuig

For the first time in a long while I set off for a weekend that didn't include plans of hiking up a mountain. I confess it did feel a little strange to be off on a trip with Husband (a defiant non-walker).

We were lucky enough to have been gifted a stay in the eco-friendly Glenuig Inn at Lochailort, on the beautiful Sound of Arisaig, so off we went with no particular agenda and unaware of the hidden gem we were to discover.

Arriving late and in darkness, Husband and I were treated to the friendly sight of the inn with lights glowing like beacons in the apparent middle of nowhere. It was exciting and I couldn't wait to see our surroundings in daylight.

Despite the 10pm arrival, owner Steve whipped up some delicious food, dotting in and out of the kitchen while telling us enthusiastically about the inn that he has painstakingly upgraded over the last three years. The hard work and dedication has paid off and the result is a unique Scottish inn that while minimal and with unfussy decor offers truly comfortable surroundings and a great atmosphere.

There are numerous opportunities at
Glenuig for coastal walks and sea kayaking

The Glenuig Inn bar offers only Scottish beer and cider on tap, with a great choice of bottled Scottish beer, too. This brave move was tested while I was there by both Husband (a defiant lover of beer in general) and a Royal Navy group who were there on the Saturday night. Everyone enjoyed the choices on offer. I felt vaguely uneasy indulging in my usual Chardonnay (which thankfully was available) as if somehow I wasn't quite doing my bit for the country. Available juices were all natural additive-free varieties and there simply were no fizzy drinks. Bar snacks were in bulk and you helped yourself to a scoopful. How ultra-cool and very environmentally friendly!

The Glenuig Inn accommodation extends to places for 35 people, of which nine are bunkhouse beds and the remaining are various bed combinations in six separate rooms. Prices start at £25 pp B&B

The Gleniug area is ideal for Munro and
Corbett bagging... if that takes your fancy

The Glenuig area: The location is utterly outstanding with mountains galore, including lots of Munros and Corbetts. I did feel an itch to get up high in my walking boots but the lower-level coastline offered a fantastic alternative, and one that Husband and other altitude averse walkers can enjoy too.

You can walk from Glenuig to the ancient village of Smirisary... or try sea kayaking. The shoreline is renowned for excellent kayaking and sailing opportunities. For a taster kayak day try local business Rockhopper Scotland.

I can't wait to go back to Glenuig, stay in the inn and try kayaking. Steve truly deserves success and admiration for sticking to his path of eco friendliness while promoting Scottish food, drink and the great Scottish outdoors and I wish him the best of luck.

Monday, 20 September 2010

A wealth of long-distance walks in Scotland

The gorgeous and historic
long-distance walk, The Cateran Trail

Every year many thousands of walkers set out to walk one of Scotland's famous long-distance routes. From the "original" long-distance walk, The West Highland Way, to some of the "newest" long-distance routes, such as the Kintyre Way and the Cateran Trail, this stable of routes is spread across Scotland and offers a unique opportunity to walk to places you might never have thought to visit.

Many of the long-distance trails are waymarked on routes that may have been in existence for centuries. The Cateran Trail, in Angus, for example, follows many of the old drove roads and tracks once used by the Caterans, the cattle thieves that once roamed the lawless regions of the Highlands between the 15th and 17th centuries.

For walkers who are less experienced at off-the-beaten navigation, the long-distance waymarked trails are the ideal solution for a walk that provides a mix of challenges and the rewards of "ticking off" a hike. Many routes take days to walk and this only adds to the adventure of a walking holiday.

Knowing the approximate distance and the challenge that is laid out for you day after day is comforting for walkers who are not so fit or are less experienced.

Many long-distance walks also boast numerous places to stay overnight and eat/drink en route. Our favourite route, the Cateran Trail, offers numerous hotels, bunk houses and hostels along the way, many located in a convenient place after a day of walking.

Why not take advantage of services such as luggage transfer, as offered by Glentrek, which will make the walking even more pleasurable? There is little point in carrying a heavy rucksack when for a little extra cost you can have it delivered to your next overnight accommodation.

And just because the routes are waymarked it doesn't mean they do not offer a wealth of scenic treats. These routes are laid out to guide walkers through some of Scotland's most stunning landscapes.

Now that winter is coming, many of the waymarked routes across Scotland will be ideal for walkers who are not so keen to go high-level but still want to get out and about in Scotland's great outdoors. Go on, why not choose a long-distance walk in Scotland and take steps to explore this great country?

Friday, 17 September 2010

The benefits of yoga - for walkers

Yoga is an ideal activity for walkers

It's been happening across the UK over the last decade. Little by little a wave of yogis have been spreading the word about the superb benefits of yoga. These days most people will know about yoga and many will have given it a try. Perhaps not everyone is aware of the many different styles of yoga, including Hatha, Ashtanga and Iyengar, but a good number will be familiar with a range of yoga postures such as, downward dog, inversions, twists, backbending etc

The benefits for the general person include strength, flexibility, balance, posture, concentration and relaxation. If you have spent any time doing yoga you will know that all these aspects can be realised within a relatively short time and with practise can become an important part of your life.

But yoga is also of great benefit to walkers, too. In particular the core strengthening advantages of yoga, especially when practising the more dynamic Ashtanga-style of yoga, can help to combat aching back problems that often hit people who hike mountains.

Other benefits of yoga for walkers include:
* Improved energy levels
* Muscle strength in the legs
* Cardiovascular fitness
* Focus
* Stamina

For many people yoga is also a great way to ward off potential injuries. The repetitive motion of walking, especially if you suffer with poor posture or bad limb/body alignment, can lead to a host of leg, hip and back injuries. Yoga helps to realign body alignment and can therefore prevent potential walking aches and pains.

Why not sign up for a beginner yoga group in your area?

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Seven great reasons for a walking holiday

One of the great attractions of hill walking
is the fabulous views. From the summit of the
Munro Slioch this walker can see
the fabulous expanse of Loch Maree

For some people the reasons for walking in Scotland's great outdoors are obvious. While for others the discovery of this great activity can come out of the blue. Have a read of a guest blogging spot on my friend's website, FionaOutdoors, to find out how one woman has found hill walking to be her mental and physical salvation

According to a number of reports, hill walking is on the increase. So many more people are finding that the combination of scenery, fitness and relatively low outlays for kit add up to the ideal activity.

If you still need a little convincing, we thought we'd bring you a list of reasons why walking is such a great thing to do.

Price is right: You only really need a pair of walking boots, a waterproof jacket and a backpack. And once you have bought these items they tend to last for many years. After this you can add to your hill walking gear to make your outings more enjoyable. It does make sense to buy reasonably good quality kit at the outset because it will not need to be replaced so often but for less than £200 you should be able to buy the essentials.

Great for your mind and body: Walking outdoors for just half an hour each day has been shown to combat depression. Walking is also a great cardiovascular exercise and is ideal for burning calories and toning muscles. The further and faster you walk, or the more hills you climb, the greater the health benefits will be.

Sociable: Walking, especially on guided walking holidays, is the ideal place for meeting like-minded people. Some walking events, such as walking festivals and walking challenges, have even resulted in love matches - and the occasional marriage! Walking holidays are also ideal for groups of friends or for couples.

Exploration: Walking is bound to take you to new, beautiful and remote places. In Scotland once you start walking you'll become hooked on the desire to see many more places. Some people take up pursuits such as Munro bagging, which then leads them to discover a host of new destinations.

Fabulous views: Walking so often reaps great scenic rewards. It doesn't really matter where you walk, from urban to rural destinations, you are almost always likely to chance on a fantastic view or vista.

Be your own leader: Learning how to guide and navigate yourself on walking trips can be a huge confidence booster. Once you've mastered the fine art of map and compass reading you can become your own master of your walking destiny.

It's green: Walking and walking holidays are environmentally friendly. If you also arrive on public transport or via bike then you will further reduce your impact on the environment.

What are you waiting for?

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Five great Scottish walks for autumn

We’re lucky to be basking in some late summer sun – and just as the leaves on the trees were threatening to change colour! Still, autumn is just around the corner and we think it’s a season that offers some of the most picturesque walking opportunities in Scotland, in particular in
Angus and Perthshire. Here we bring you our five top walks for autumn:

River walk, Airlie Estates, Angus.

Heading from Cortachy Bridge to the Sawmill Bridge, this walk was originally laid out in the 1870s to celebrate a forthcoming visit by Queen Victoria. Unfortunately Her Royal Highness never did arrive, but the trail has been carefully maintained ever since. The magnificent conifer trees were planted at this time and include Wellingtonias, Douglas, Silver Firs and Sitca Spruce. Stunning rhododendrons were planted by successive generations of the Airlie family. There is also a footbridge of note, "The American Bridge ", on the walk, which was formally opened by the American Ambassador of the day, Charles Price. This is a lovely walk in all seasons but in autumn it is particularly gorgeous.
For further directions and information about the River Walk, Airlie

A range of walks on the Airlie Estates, Angus

Monument walk, Airlie Estates, Angus
Another stunning walk on the Airlie Estate, the 8km circuit takes in a memorial tower and wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. On a clear autumnal day the vistas are hard to beat.
See Monument Walk

Rocks of Solitude River Walk, Edzell
An impressive gorge in all seasons, the 10.5km circuit via woodland paths and across Gannochy Bridge is simply wonderful. You’ll love kicking through the piles of colourful, crunchy leaves.
See Rocks of Solitude River Walk

Cateran Trail, Perthshire
Know as Big Tree Country, Perthshire offers a wealth of fabulous walks in autumn. A five-day walk along the historic and atmospheric Cateran Trail (see Glentrek's 5-day Cateran Trail break) begins in Big Tree Country. This first day heads through gorgeous woods with lots of colour, which is ideal for soaking up the atmosphere of autumn.

Glen Doll, Angus
Head to the ranger base and choose from a range of wonderful short walks around the glen and forest here. From here you can take a longer walk into the awesome Corrie Fee National Nature Reserve and to several Munros (Scottish mountains more than 3000 feet), such as Mayar and Dreish.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Scotland's best camping spots

It was brilliant to see two top places for Scotland in the results of a Five Top Campsites in the UK contest. Thought up and developed by Cotswold Outdoor, the quest was to find Britain’s Best Campsites.

They wanted to hear about all kinds of campsites, from those with breathtaking scenery and spectacular surroundings to those boasting fun-filled family activities and back-to-nature charm.

Campers from across the UK were asked to put forward their favourite sites with the judging panel selecting the five best based on location, facilities, customer service, entertainment and their beautiful outdoor settings.

And the top five included two in Scotland (of course!). They are:

Marthrown of Mabie, Dumfries and Galloway

Why: Set in the middle of Mabie Forest near Dumfries, this quirky site offers a variety of unusual accommodation options, including a replica Iron Age Roundhouse, native American style Tipis and a Mongolian Yurt

For the active family this is perfect as a base for 7stanes famous mountain bike trails, or for something a little more relaxed, enjoy the luxury of an onsite hot tub and sauna under the stars.

Why: Situated in the Highlands of Scotland near the small village of Ross-Shire, this remote site offers spectacular views of the Outer Hebrides and the Kintali mountains. With no mobile phone reception the emphasis here in on tranquillity and relaxation away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.

Their heated camping huts are suitable for up to four adults and are fully insulated and double-glazed for a refreshing alternative to camping. Campers can wind down from an adventurous day at the Applecross Inn with excellent food and quality beers.

As Dave Housley, senior camping equipment buyer at Cotswold Outdoor, is reported as saying: “Camping is the perfect way to get out and explore everything our country has to offer. With such an eclectic array of accommodation, from eco-pods and yurts to native American style tipis, we’re thrilled to showcase the amazing variety of campsites enjoyed by families across the UK."

Isn't Scotland fantastic?

Friday, 20 August 2010

Happy Glamping and Glampervanning

Glamping in the purest sense

Words I've learnt this summer that still make me smile are Glamping and Glampervanning (the latter I think was coined by fellow bloggers Big Tree Campervans). Both reveal a growing desire from the general public for outdoors holidays but with a bit of luxury thrown in. So instead of seeing camping as a muddy, uncomfortable affair, Glamping was created to add all kinds of modern touches to camping.

Own-style Glamping

In the purest sense, Glamping is apparently more to do with static yurts and tents, which are kitted out with a wealth of 21st century luxuries, including heating, toilets etc. However, there are Glampers who organise their own tent and camping kit, and simply throw into the car as many modern gadgets as possible to make their camping holiday just that bit more glamorous.

Outdoors shops now sell a wealth of 21st century camping accessories such as solar showers, toilets, toilet tents, blow up mattresses, double sleeping bags, armchairs, proper cooking stoves, glasses, cutlery, crockery etc.

Have you tried Glampervanning?
Pic thanks to Angus Clyne

Glampervanning is similar except there's the added luxury of a warm van in which to live and sleep. While many campervanners still love the nostalgia of a VW van, increasing numbers are finding there are huge benefits to hiring or buying a more modern campervan. (That is, it's much less likely to breakdown/burn your bank balance in petrol!). And so an outdoors holiday in a modern campervan has been coined Glampervanning.

Whether you like the sound of Glamping or Glampervanning both offer a great base for an outdoors holiday whether you're looking for the convenience of a campsite or the get-away-from-it-all tranquility of a wilder spot. You'll also feel a great deal more inclined to embrace some of Scotland's great outdoor pursuits, such as walking, cycling, climbing, surfing.. oh the list is endless!

So many times I've found the weather in September and October to be ideal for an outdoors weekend or break during the school holidays. Who's up for a bit of Glamping or Glampervanning these next couple of months?

Friday, 13 August 2010

Families catch on to walking holidays

Family fun: Walking holidays are on the rise

And so we're seeing a bit of a trend here at Glentrek. We are finding that more families are asking for cycling and walking holidays. In particular, they are looking for bike rides and walks that while offering an adventure are easy-going and accessible for younger children.

We're happy to oblige as the Angus Glens and the wider Angus region has a great deal to offer the active family. There are lots of beautiful off-road tracks for cycling and lovely flattish trails for walking.

Perhaps, too, this is part of the trend for an increase in staycations. Instead of flying overseas, the stats tell us that more Brits are vacationing at home, in England, Wales and Scotland. The sector for which this is proving most popular is families.

Thanks to Scotland's fantastic outdoors landscape, our country offers the ideal destination for all kinds of active aspirations. In Angus we're a wealth of mountain biking and hiking trails, as well as other activities, such as white water rafting, canyoning, gorge walking, climbing, sea kayaking, Canadian canoeing, sailing and coasteering.

If you want to find out more about what Scotland has to offer - and the wide range of accommodation options - Glentrek will be happy to advise and tailor an active holiday to suit your family.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Cycle your way to a great holiday - and improved fitness

Every year the Tour de France inspires a host of people to rediscover their bikes. And what a great choice of transportation and fitness cycling offers!

Cycling at even leisurely speeds will burn off an average of 150 calories every 30 minutes. Riding at a moderate pace of 12 to 14mph burns double the calories.

There are a wealth of other positive health facts associated with cycling:

* One study found that regular cycling reduces the risk of premature death from ill-health by 39%.

* Research found that by cycling for half an hour most days of the week, you'll lose as much weight as doing three aerobics classes a week.

Go off-road on countryside trails or to one of Scotland’s many mountain biking centres and the health benefits increase. Riding uphill, going fast downhill and cycling on uneven surfaces will increase fat-burn and offer greater all-over-body toning.

Cycling is also a fantastic way to get around Scotland. Thanks to a wealth of off-road trails, purpose-built mountain bike centres and a network of quiet roads and traffic-free routes, there are many, many miles of countryside to cycle - and explore.

Most people are capable of cycling for an hour or so at a time and you’ll be surprised how far you travel in that time. And once you build up your strength and fitness, you’ll find that a bike offers a great way to get about.

Many more people are also discovering the delights of cycle tour holidays. Whether guided or self-guided, there are plenty of options and companies keen to organise routes, accommodation, bike hire and luggage transfer for you.

The advantage of following a route and schedule is that you are more likely to visit recommended places and benefit from the knowledge of local guides and cyclists.

Companies such as Glentrek know all the best routes in their area and can tailor a cycling tour to suit your aspirations and fitness. The cycling holiday could be a couple of days or a week or two. It might be off-road, on a long-distance cross country route or on quiet roads. It could be self-guided or part of a guided cycling weekend.

The choice is yours. But whatever you decide you’ll most likely lose weight, improve your fitness, meet new people and discover a host of attractions all in one holiday.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Walk your way to a lighter you

Walk your way to better health and fitness

Most of us are looking for way to be more active. For many adults it's the promise of weight loss and improved health that offers the motivation to get off the sofa and out the front door.

If you're trying to find an activity that is accessible, flexible and leads to new and interesting places then walking could be the answer.

The facts make for good reading. Assuming one hour of walking for a person who weighs 10.5 stones then:

* Walking on the flat and at an easy-going pace burns 170 calories.

* Hiking or faster walking on off-road surfaces and up hills burns up to 400 calories.

* Backpacking, ie carrying a backpack while walking off-road, burns around 450 calories.

Almost anyone can take up walking as an activity. For those who are less fit then it's vital that you start slowly and build up steadily. Why not start by walking to the shops or out and about with the kids? Switch off the TV for half an hour in the evening and take your partner out for a walk.

You will see the benefits of walking within a week or so. Being outside and walking in the fresh air will give your skin a healthy glow, boost your energy and help you to start to lose weight. In the long-term it will also tone leg and bum muscles.

Over the next few weeks you should increase your pace a little and walk further. Then, once you can walk at a good pace for more than an hour, including some uphill sections, it's time to take your exercise off-road.

Walking on trails and in the hills burns more calories and boosts muscle tone - but it's also a great way to see more of the countryside. In or near to most villages, towns and cities you'll find a network of fantastic paths and trails that are ideal for walkers. Start by exploring some of those close to your home and then, at weekends, why not travel further?

Scotland boasts numerous waymarked trails to walk, along rivers, in valley, along glens and over hills. The views are usually guaranteed to be wonderful and if you take along some friends or your family then you can enjoy a walk and a chat at the same time.

Before you know it you'll be signing up to a guided walking holiday or taking part in a charity walking challenge. Oh, and the chances are you'll have also lost some weight.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Get outdoors and be active!

Canoeing and kayaking are great outdoor
activities for children and adults

Get Active is a message we're hearing more and more. With rising obesity rates, especially among UK children, and greater concerns about the affects of inactivity on health, everywhere we look the experts are telling us to get off the couch and exercise.

The problem is that many people think that exercise = boring and repetitive workouts. But it really doesn't have to be this way.

Scotland's great outdoors offers a fantastic keep-fit playground. Simply being out of doors and active is guaranteed to burn calories and improve your mental well-being. Walking and cycling provide a great way to see the countryside, take in the views and get in shape. Many more people, especially families, are switching on to the benefits of these highly-accessible and relatively cheap activities.

Gorge walking and canyoning are becoming
increasingly popular in Scotland

There are numerous family-friendly cycle and walk routes criss-crossing Scotland and thanks to a number of outdoors companies, such as us (!) Glentrek, people can discover a wealth of new places to go walk or cycle.

But there are also a host of other activities that will get you fit and have you grinning, too. Multi-activity days and holidays are becoming increasingly popular in Scotland. Afterall this country is voted as Europe's number one outdoors capital. In Angus, holidaymakers could combine a few hours of cycling or walking with a morning or afternoon of other great outdoors activities, such as canoeing, sea kayaking, canyoning, high ropes, gorge walking, climbing and coasteering.

These activities are for a range of abilities, from novice to experienced, and for all ages and fitness levels. Until you try you'll never know how much you'll enjoy being active! Just ask us at Glentrek for further info (we can help you to sign up to many of these activities) or check out Outdoor Angus.