Scottish Highlands: A trip unlike any other — through a land unlike any other. If only we could paint, instead of write, a trip description. The name itself conjures images of rich green hills, towering peaks, stone castles, mysterious lochs, wild heather, and villages seemingly untouched by time. Travelling one of Scotland’s best-known hiking routes, you’ll fall in love with both the Scottish terrain and the warm welcome of its people. What’s more, you’ll form strong friendships with your group mates and revel in your shared accomplishments in this deeply historic country.
The West Highland Way, Loch Lomond & the Scottish Highlands
Arriving in Edinburgh, we’ll head to the southern shore of Loch Lomond and the West Highland Way. We’ll break out our boots and strap on our packs as we set out on the Way along the “bonnie banks” of Loch Lomond. The transition into the Highlands proper is subtle and spectacular as we work our way north towards the villages of Inversnaid and Bridge of Orchy. We’ll pause for a rest day in the village of Tyndrum before making our way over Rannoch Moor, the “remotest and wildest section of the whole Way.” We’ll be awed by the wild beauty and enormous scale of the mountains around us as we pass the Kings House Hotel, an inn that has been serving kings and travelers since the 1600’s. We’ll climb up and over the “Devil’s Staircase” to make our way through the charming village of Kinlochleven and into Fort William, the “Outdoor Capital of the United Kingdom,” and the very end of the West Highland Way.
Fort William, Sea-Kayaking & Edinburgh
Camping in beautiful Glen Nevis, we’ll rest tired legs with a magical day of sea-kayaking among resident seals and nearby castles. Returning to Edinburgh, we’ll walk the famous Royal Mile together as we explore the wonders of this beautiful, storied city and reminisce about our 13-day, shared Scottish adventure.
Please see our General FAQ page for many more frequently asked questions and answers!
How physically challenging is SH?
Given a rating of Challenge Level 6 (out of a maximum of 10), we consider SH to be an intermediate hiking trip. We do believe that any moderately fit, motivated student can successfully rise to the challenge of this trip. Compared to similar hiking trips, we believe SH is a step above California Mountains and Coast (because the group will hike longer mileage and will be carrying their full packs with them at all times) and slightly less challenging than our Alps Explorer (mainly because SH is a shorter trip – though the long mileage days and challenging terrain are comparable). The group will hike around 15 miles on their most challenging day, while their daily mileage typically spans 7-10 miles. Please note that all of Apogee’s Challenge Levels are not scientific and are subjectively calculated by the Apogee staff.
How much training should my child do ahead of time?
As SH is one of our most challenging hiking trips, we have a training and preparation protocol which we share with enrolled families well ahead of the trip. Please contact the Apogee office for specifics regarding pre-trip training.
What is the difference between front-country and backcountry hiking? What will the backcountry portion of SH be like? How much weight will my child carry during this portion?
Generally speaking, the front-country is any area that is easily accessible by vehicles and day users. Hiking in the backcountry, on the other hand, involves hiking and camping in more remote locations without running water. Hiking and camping in the backcountry requires more preparation because of the need to carry in all food and equipment, and to treat drinking water prior to consumption. Very few portions of the West Highland Way are truly backcountry, our groups will be passing through towns and settlements daily. That said, there are portions that will be rugged and not readily accessible to auto traffic. Your child will be carrying their personal gear (sleeping bag and pad, clothing essentials, personal toiletries), along with their allotted portion of group sleeping and cooking gear and food. For the most extended portion of hiking on our SHX trip, your child should expect to be carrying between 30 and 40 pounds in their pack.
What should my child expect in terms of weather and environmental factors on this trip?
The Highlands can be a damp place in the summertime. We encourage you to follow the packing list closely, as it will prepare you adequately for the elements. Groups can expect to encounter rainy days on this trip as well as ares of concentrated “midge flies.” We have found that these factors do not significantly impact the trip if students are properly prepared.
Aside from the trip cost, what are the additional expenses for this trip?
Apogee’s tuition costs are meant to be all-inclusive and include all meal, accommodation, and activity fees. The most significant additional expenses on our Scottish Highlands trip will include travel to and from Edinburgh, Scotland, a sleeping bag and sleeping pad, a backpacking pack, and hiking boots.
In addition to hiking boots, what other footwear should my child bring?
We highly recommend only one set of footwear in addition to hiking boots. Comfortable, lightweight camp shoes, such as Crocs, Chacos, or Tevas work very well. A light pair of running shoes is okay, too, but please do not bring anything bulky or heavy and please limit the number of shoes to two pairs total!
How often will my child call home?
Parents can expect a phone call home about once a week on SH, usually corresponding with the group’s rest days. Students will also call home at some point on arrival day, depending on schedules and arrival times.
Should I send my child to Scotland with an international phone plan or a calling card?
We encourage families to send their child with a phone for pre- and post-trip communication. Because Apogee does not permit the use of cell phones by students while on trip, however, we do not recommend signing up for a European phone plan. You are welcome to send a calling card with your child, but they will also be able to use their leaders’ phone to communicate over WiFi. We’ll likely recommend parents download a free app, such as WhatsApp or Viber, to facilitate calls home. Look for this information in the spring.
This trip starts outside of the United States. What do I need to know before traveling internationally?
In addition to needing a valid passport, we encourage you to coordinate travel with other attendees. To that end, we’re happy to put you in touch with other enrolled families from your region. To aid in international travel planning, we have a flight information table which details arrival and departure airports and times for each of our trips. We will provide enrolled families with a Travel Information document covering details specific to traveling to and from Scotland.
What luggage should my child check on the plane? What should be carried on?
This question is addressed in detail in our Travel Information document for enrolled students. Generally speaking, however, your child will be checking a soft-sided duffel containing the majority of their gear (including their empty hiking backpack), while carrying-on their sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and a few other travel essentials.
Is this trip van-based?
No, this trip is not van-based. When necessary to cover long distances quickly, e.g., from Fort William to Edinburgh, the group will make use of Scotland’s terrific public transportation system. Otherwise, our groups be walking everywhere they go! This means that every pound matters – sticking to the packing list is essential.