Many walks in Scotland, particularly those on lower ground, follow built and well-marked trails where little or no specialist equipment or experience is required.
For longer routes and walks on the Scottish hills and mountains, preparation is essential and adequate precautions should be taken whilst on your walk.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland provides useful information on mountain safety which is designed to help both inexperienced and regular hillwalkers get the most out of their walk.
If you're planning to head for Scotland's wintery hills, you can also take a look at the winter safety information.
Before setting out on any trip, check the weather forecast. The weather in Scotland tends to be changeable and it can change quickly. If the weather does change for the worse, you should consider revising your plans. The Mountain Weather Information Service provides detailed Scottish mountain forecasts.
Choose a walk with a grade which is appropriate to you or your group's abilities and the prevailing weather conditions. Leave word of where you are going with someone and remember to tell them when you return.
What to take
Warm, wind and waterproof clothing is essential depending on the time of year. Remember, it will get colder and windier the higher up you go during your walk.
Footwear - your footwear should provide good ankle support and have a firm sole with a secure grip. For rough terrain, hillwalking boots are strongly recommended.
For hillwalking, always carry a map and compass and make sure you know how to use them (Ordnance Survey maps scale 1:50,000 or 1:25,000 are recommended). Carry equipment for use in an emergency, such as a torch, whistle, First Aid Kit and emergency shelter. The emergency signal is six blasts on a whistle or six flashes with a torch.
Food and drink
Take ample food and drink for your group and always take reserve supplies. Simple high energy foods are best as are hot drinks in cold, wet weather.
First Aid Kit
The first aid kit that you carry on the hill should be capable of dealing with a variety of situations. Remember that in most incidents where first aid is required the need is for simple and relatively straight forward treatment.
On your walk
Tracks and paths
Part of Scotland's attraction is the wild nature of the countryside. Mountain paths are not signposted and even those marked on maps can be difficult to trace. Use your map and check your location at all times.
Scotland's varied terrain
The varied terrain you cover makes walking in the Scottish hills exciting but it can make walking slow and exhausting. Rivers and burns can rise rapidly and become impassable. Make sure and consider the terrain when planning your walk.
Every year, tourists, walkers and climbers get into trouble in the Scottish hills due to errors of navigation. If you intend to go into the Scottish hills, it is essential that you plan the walk using appropriate maps of the area.
Get instruction and learn how to use a map and your compass before you go walking, starting in easy situations in good weather and practising until you are competent in poor weather.
If you become unsure of your position, either retrace your tracks to the last known position, or, after working out roughly where you are and if the terrain is safe, head in the direction that will take you back on course.
Do not assume you will find emergency shelter on the Scottish hills. Ensure that you are properly equipped.
You should avoid patches of snow unless you have the skills to cope with them as many accidents result from a simple slip.
Hillwalking in winter should be regarded as mountaineering. Daylight hours are shorter and weather conditions more severe.
Gain experience in summer before venturing out in winter and if you do go out, refer to the Mountaineering Council of Scotland's Winter Safety pages before you go.
If one of your party has an accident and cannot be moved:
- Treat any injuries as best you can
- Calculate your exact position on the map
- If possible, leave somebody to care for the casualty whilst others safely get help
- On reaching a telephone, dial 999 and ask for the police
- Report the map grid reference where you left the casualty and details of their condition
- All those who are injured and immobile are at risk from hypothermia. As a priority, add any extra layers of clothing you have available to the casualty and ensure they are insulated from the ground. If you have a group shelter, ensure the casualty and the rest of the group are under the shelter.