We have now wrapped up our 2023 season, and what a fantastic year on the mountains and trails we have had!
From the glorious sunshine of the spring, through the summer warmth, and some tremendous downpours, we have walked, scrambled and wandered our way along countless miles of trail. The views, from the soft and scenic to the rocky and dramatic, were only enhanced by the engaging, varied, and often-times familiar, company of those who chose to walk with Thistle Trekking this year.
We began the year back in early April, as is tradition, with the West Highland Way. Spring putting just that into our stride, we enjoyed returning to the Highlands as the mountains came out of winter.
It wasn’t long before our first Affric Kintail Way was off and running, with a stay in one of Scotland’s most remote Youth Hostels a highlight. Huddled around a warming fire this off-grid experience reminded us that the warmth of summer wasn’t quite upon us yet.
We headed for Skye and the Cuillin put on a show for our Skye Trail walkers. It is a shame we can’t guarantee those Elgol views every time but that is part of the allure of Scottish hiking; when it is good, it is fantastically good!
Into May and the sun kept shining. Our friends from Taiwan joined us for walks on the WHW and the Skye Trail, and we headed to the far north-west for the first of our Assynt and Sutherland hillwalking holidays. It is a place I am personally very fond of, with the ‘cnoc and lochan’ landscape and complex mountains seemingly given motion by the ever changing weather and light.
The sun also shone on the Great Glen Way, which we walked for the first time since 2019. The month of May was rounded off nicely with the always challenging, but equally rewarding, Cape Wrath Trail.
In June we were back on Skye for our second Skye Trail, whilst Harry and Dean headed for Torridon. These magnificent giant mountains of Wester Ross provided engaging scrambling and many a reason to pause for appreciation of the tiered sandstone scenery.
Friends re-united for the next two stages of our Scottish National Trail, with some getting their first taste of wild-camping as we went expedition style through the Cairngorms. Our new recruit, Alex, added a bit of “glamping” to our dehydrated rations, cooking up a breakfast storm of eggs and beans for the whole team and appearing with freshly brewed coffee at all the right moments. After two weeks, we concluded stage 4 in Morvich, from where we will pick up the Cape Wrath Trail northwards next June.
Three back-to-back West Highland Ways followed as two groups from the US joined us to sample the delights of Scottish trekking. Our August open group WHW trek was one to remember, filled with laughter, birthdays and friendships. We also found time to take the ferry across the Firth of Clyde for the Arran Coastal Way, and walked across the sands to Holy Island on St Cuthbert’s Way.
As August whistled by our second new hillwalking holiday took us to Braemar and Upper Deeside. With King Charles threatening to make an appearance ahead of the Braemar gathering, all royal radars were on high alert. No heads of state were encountered on our walks however, although a certain John Kerry did make an appearance in the pub! Regardless, we had a right royal good time bagging ourselves no less than 5 Munros and a Corbett, as as well as many hours of enjoyable conversation on the hill with a well matched walking group.
Autumn is on its way…
September is a month that usually provides some settled spells, excellent for walking. This year was no exception but things certainly changed as it entered its final week where Autumn winds and rains turned our minds to waterproofs and weather forecasts.
A busy end to the month saw us pack in an East Highland Way trek, a loop of the Isle of Arran on the Arran Coastal Way, our second trip of the year for Hillmont Tours, and our first ever Kingshouse and the Buachailles weekender. It certainly felt like Autumn in the mountains of Glencoe, and the sunshine and showers from a blustery Buachaille Etive Beag seemed like a fitting picture on which to close our 2023 season.
Thank you to all who walked, trekked and scrambled with us in 2023; it was a privilege to share the mountains and trails with you. And, a final thank from me to our always enthused and ever reliable team of guides and trek managers. With many of our walkers from this season already signed up for treks in 2024, it is fair to say we very much look forward to walking with you again soon!
We wish you all a restful hibernation,