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What To Expect Hiking In The Scottish Highlands In Spring

The spring can be a wonderful time for mountain hiking, particularly in the Scottish Highlands when the daylight hours are already in excess of ten hours a day by April. The more challenging winter conditions are easing, although pockets of snow and ice can linger on the upper slopes until well into May. 

The diverse flora and fauna of the region is also bursting back into life, making it a wonderful time to visit and plan some hill walks. Here’s the lowdown on what you can expect for springtime hiking in the Highlands. 

The weather in spring

The worst of the winter chills have passed by April, with an average temperature of 10°C, rising to 12°C in May. The weather is generally drier than the winter months, although be aware that mountain climates can be very changeable and it is not uncommon to have cold snaps and even spells of sleet and snow.

Therefore you should always keep a close eye on the weather forecast before you set out, and bear in mind that even if conditions are mild and dry at the base, high altitudes can be unpredictable. Even on a clear sunny day, it is still advisable to pack spare warm clothes and waterproof layers for those unexpected downpours. 

The best approach is to wear lightweight breathable layers of clothing, that can be removed or added to as the weather conditions shift. 

If you do encounter snow covered slopes, proceed with caution, particularly if you do not have any specialist equipment such as crampons and ice axes. If possible, seek out advice from experienced mountain guides on the current conditions, as they will often post updates on their website or social media pages. 

Flora and fauna to look out for in spring

Spring is a spectacular time to witness the rich biodiversity of the Highland mountains. If you are really lucky, you may be able to spot birds of prey such as golden eagles. The vast majority of the UK’s population of golden eagles live in the forests and mountains of Scotland, particularly in the remoter areas that are not easily accessible by vehicles.

The birds can have a wingspan of over six feet and are a light golden brown colour. They tend to soar and hover above open land as they hunt, so pack some binoculars and scan the sky every now and then. Ospreys are migratory birds that begin to return to the Scottish lochs from about late March, so keep your eyes peeled around water bodies.

On the ground, you are likely to see red deer and red squirrels around woodland areas. More rarely, you might spot a pine marten scurrying around forestry, especially during spring when the first litters of youngsters are beginning to explore the world.

The slopes are coming to life with yellow-flowered gorse, and in wooded areas you will find Scots Pines and a carpet of bluebells. 

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