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1 Jul 2021

Emily & Isla’s guide to family hillwalking fun

Small girl sits looking out over mountains
Isla Bryce (7) takes in the views at Glencoe.
Emily Bryce (Glencoe Operations Manager) and daughter Isla (7) are both keen hillwalkers and have put together some tips on how to take the first steps to hillwalking with all the family.

If you’re anything like us, you’ll be eager to make the most of these longer, brighter days for some summer family adventures.

Emily Bryce, our Operations Manager at Glencoe National Nature Reserve, and her daughter Isla (7) share their top tips for exploring the hills together during the holidays.

Emily says: ‘There has never been a better time to get outdoors and explore Scotland’s wild places.

‘If you’re looking for inspiration to keep your kids amused and help channel a bit of youthful energy, then summer hillwalking in your area could be just the thing for you and your family.’

What Isla loves about hillwalking: ‘I like walking up hills to get good views and have a nice rest at the top. My favourite walks would have lots of rocks to climb on and streams to play in.

‘I feel really proud when I am the first to get to the top and am usually a lot faster than my mum when we walk back down.’

Small girl walks on a path with mountains in the background.
The 1.5 mile walk around our Glencoe Visitor Centre is great for little legs.

Take small steps

Begin with some fun low-level walks, building up the distance over time. There are loads of options at Trust places all over the country, from Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire, to Culzean in Ayrshire.

Get comfortable

When you move on to bigger walks, it can be good to start with routes the grown-ups have done before. That way you know the lay of the land and can focus on the kids not the map. Don’t feel you’ve failed if you don’t reach the top the first few times! It’s something to strive for but knowing when to head home will keep everyone happy as you build up hill stamina.

Weather watch

Nothing will sap enthusiasm for hillwalking more than miserable weather or clouds obscuring the views on your first few outings. Check the mountain weather forecast for your area before setting out – conditions can be different up high and down in the glen. Wait for a mild spell with not too much wind, rain or heat.

Small girl stands by a rock in a mountain landscape
Isla takes a breather on one of her hillwalks.

Kitted out

Kids find it harder to regulate their temperature than adults, so be prepared to put on and take off layers lots of times! You might feel hot while climbing up but can soon cool down when taking a break. Sturdy footwear, gloves, a hat and sunscreen are essentials too. Walking kit doesn’t have to cost a fortune and our friends at Lidl have plenty to choose from at affordable prices.

Hydrate!

Hillwalking is thirsty work, so don’t scrimp on the water or juice. Refillable bottles are a good idea and a flask of something warm like soup or hot choc can provide a well-earned boost if wee ones are feeling chilly.

Small girl eating from a lunch box, with a loch behind her in the distance.
Isla keeps her energy up with some snacks.

Snacks galore

Little and often snack breaks are the key to getting to the top of any hill! If ever there’s a time for a sweet treat, it is now – whether that’s a chocolate bar or fruit (dried apricots and Jaffa cakes are our favourites). Giving these as a reward each time you reach a landmark, or the top of a steep stretch, can be a great motivator. Lidl have put together some ideas for us here on their Lunchbox Tips page.

Games on-the-go

Make time to dawdle, paddle, throw pebbles in water, count wee flowers or search for minibeasts. Games like I-Spy are good or you could bring one of the Trust’s online spotter’s guides. Of course, the Lidl Book of Big Adventures has lots of activities you can do on the go too!

Mountain manners

With more people than ever enjoying our hills, we need to take care of each other and the countryside we love so much. Keeping to paths helps protect busy hillsides from erosion and avoids disturbing the wildlife that thrives there. If other walkers need to pass you and your wee ones, simply step off the path, pause to let them through and then step back on to carry on.

Small girl sitting on rocks in Glencoe
Isla takes her litter picker out on walks to help protect the places she visits.

Leave no trace

Kids are often even more switched on about this than adults. Please come prepared with a waste bag or a sealable box to take away all your litter – that includes used wipes or toilet paper if you need to ‘go’ when you’re out.

Capture the moment!

There’s nothing better than looking back at your photos on the journey home or when tucked up in bed, noticing how everyone’s cheeks got rosier and steps a little less springy as the walk went on. Tag #ForTheLoveofScotland so we can see your achievements on our social media too.

A small girl sits on rocks, in a rugged landscape
What a great picture!

Isla’s top tips

● I like to carry my own rucksack with some toys and my own food to eat, but you need to be careful not to pack too many heavy things or it is not very comfortable after a while.

● After you have been for quite a few walks, you feel less tired when you go up steep bits.

● Be really careful not to drop any litter as it looks horrible and can hurt animals if they eat it or get stuck in it. I have my own litter picker and sometimes when we go for walks we take it to pick up the rubbish we see.

Happy walking!

From Emily & Isla

A woman and young girl pose for a selfie with mountains behind
Emily & Isla at Glencoe