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A Guide to Eco-Friendly Hiking in The Scottish Highlands

The Scottish Highlands offer some of the UK’s most spectacular hiking routes, from Glen Coe to the drama of the Aonach Eagach Ridge. The spring is an ideal time to explore these upland environments, when the worst of the ice and snow is receding, and the temperatures are cool but comfortable.

As these areas become more accessible and widely known, it’s crucial to respect the unspoilt nature of the environment, which are havens for biodiversity and rare habitats. Here is a guide to eco-friendly hiking practices that will help to preserve these unique landscapes for generations to come.

Proper planning and preparation

The famous Scout motto ‘Be Prepared’ is just as relevant as ever to outdoor activities. Plan your route in advance to minimise the risk of straying off marked paths. Although Scotland has a liberal Right to Roam policy, sticking to established paths will help to minimise soil erosion and protect sensitive ecological areas.

Advance planning will also minimise the risk of getting lost or accidentally straying into dangerous territory where there may be hidden cliff edges or boggy ground. Always respect signs and regulations and make sure that any activities such as camping are permitted. 

Leave what you find

Leave everything as you found it, even if it appears to be a dead piece of timber or vegetation: this will still provide a wildlife habitat and eventually biodegrade back into the ecosystem. 

Do not pick flowers or dig up plants, or remove animals or rocks from the place where you found them. Do not cause any change or damage to structures and heritage artefacts.

Dispose of waste correctly

Take all your litter, including food waste, home with you. Food scraps that are not native to the environment can harm wildlife and damage the composition of the soil as they erode. Make sure that you pack up all of your belongings after a rest stop and have a good check around before you leave.

Solid human waste should be buried in a hole at least 15-30cm deep, and at least 30 metres from water, camp sites, and paths. 

Respect wildlife and livestock

Scotland is home to many beautiful and rare endangered species, including red squirrels, red deer, and golden eagles. Observe them at a distance through binoculars to avoid disturbing them, and do not attempt to feed them or get too close. Also remain at a distance from farm animals, and do not pet or feed them. 

Respect other countryside users

Show respect to everyone working in and visiting the area. Do not park in front of gateways or at the side of narrow roads, as this may obstruct farm vehicles. Avoid making unnecessary noise, and use headphones if you want to listen to music. Avoid clogging up points of interest such as heritage features by picnicking at a distance. 

If you are in a large group, be aware of any walkers behind you who may wish to get past. Keep an eye out for anyone who may be in difficulty and in need of assistance.

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