Mountain Culture

14 June 2018


Photo: Clisham by Peter Stenzel via CC

Scotland has a rich history of mountain culture with visitors being drawn to its majestic peaks for hundreds of years. Mountains mean different things to different people. For some the attraction is in passively soaking in the views, while others seek to actively engage with the terrain. There are a number of festivals every year that celebrate the diversity of the mountains and all that you can do on them, from gentle rambles to full blown epic expeditions. Here are a few of our favourites where you will find something to appeal to almost everyone.

The Isle of Harris Mountain Festival is now in its 7th year and is firmly established as one of the biggest outdoor events on the Hebrides. Organised by the North Harris Trust and as this is officially the year of young people the focus for 2018 is on family friendly activities. There are mountain bike coaching sessions, coasteering days out as well as the Reinigeadal Hill Race and a host of evening speakers. Rather than being a commercial organisation, this is run by the community to showcase the amazing scenery of the area and highlight the huge amount that North Harris has to offer. Tamana Cottage sits right in the middle of this landscape and has its own hot tub, staying here is an immersive experience in more ways than one.

Crieff & Strathearn Drovers’ Tryst is a walking festival with a difference. It celebrates the life and work of the people who made Crieff the cattle-droving crossroads of Scotland in the 1700s and is built around a programme of guided walks in the stunning scenery and autumn colours of the surrounding areas of Perthshire. As well as excursions over some classic mountains many of the walks have a historical theme such as walks along old drove roads or around archaeological sites. Transport is provided to and from the start, where necessary, and in the evenings there are social events such as whisky tastings and a ceilidh. Strathlyon Cottage is a brilliant base for exploring the wider area of Perthshire being central as well as cosy and close to local amenities.

The hills of the Borders are often overlooked by hikers but this is a shame as they can provide some of the most magical mountain experiences in the country. The Borders Walking Festival is one of the longest running in the country having been operating for 24 years and this September will be based in and around Hawick. It will promote the huge variety of walking available in the area from gentle strolls along the river, forest ambles and more strenuous long circuits of the nearby hills. One of the highlights will be a walk that will cross the border and focus on historical legends and tales of the Border Reivers. It’s a fantastic way to appreciate the scenery as well as learn about the fascinating history of the area. With walks limited to small numbers it is also a relaxed and sociable way to explore when on holiday. Gateshaw House almost feels like part of the landscape of the Borders as it nestles in two acres of gardens in the midst of the Cheviot Hills. This Georgian country house is great for extended families or walking groups to stay.  There is enough things to do so that everyone can go their separate ways during the day and return to dine together in the evening or just sit round the fire and relax with a dram while swapping tales of mountain adventures.

The Moray Walking and Outdoor Festival takes place on the weekend closest to midsummer and has some unique events predominantly on the themes of wildlife and nature. Bushcraft and foraging also feature as well as challenging excursions along the Dava Way and the Moray Coast Trail. For those less mobile there is even a ramble along the River Findhorn for motorised scooter users that ensures that nobody is left out of the fun. A personal highlight would be the guided midsummer night walk into the hidden valleys of Glenlivet that offers a unique perspective on this most under-appreciated corner of Scotland. The Lookout sits right on the Moray Coast Trail but still has easy access to the mountains, truly the best of both worlds for those who enjoy the great outdoors.