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As the winter season creeps in, we can feel the morning chill and the shorter days.  We know it’s coming; we expect it and try to prepare for it. But it always feels like a surprise when you’re out scrapping your windscreen in the morning.  If you’re planning a visit to the Scottish Highlands in the winter, then here are a few tips to consider before you set off.

Pack well

The Scottish Highlands are notorious for wet and cold conditions in the winter.  But what people don’t always realise is that the temperature reported on all our devices isn’t necessarily all you need to look for.  In the Scottish Highlands there are a lot of valleys that cold wind will whistle through and cause wind chill.  Make sure you pack well, bring appropriate water and wind chill resistant clothing and footwear.  In your car always keep a set of waterproof clothing and a spare set of warm clothing just in case you do get wet, and layers…lots of layers!  Bring a torch and a map – we always rely on our mobile devises now so have a backup plan just in case.  A good torch won’t run out of battery quickly and a map doesn’t need a good signal.

Plan your routes

In the Highlands of Scotland you will come across many mini climates, therefore you’ll find it will be raining in one place but sunny 2 miles down the road.  As you travel across the Highlands you will notice the change in weather quite frequently.  We always recommend you check the forecast for the route you’re taking, the whole route!  Because of the mini climates the weather can be difficult to predict.  Therefore, we recommend checking the forecast on the day of travel as on the day the forecast will be quite accurate – there is no point looking a week before you’re meant to take the journey.

Road conditions

Due to the cold weather and the sharp winds you may come across black ice or snow on the roads, this is not an uncommon thing in the Scottish Highlands. You will probably find that snow will mainly keep to the highs of the mountain peaks and not the roads.  This does depend on where you are travelling too and how busy the roads are that you plan to travel.  There are a lot of single-track roads in the Highlands that are not as busy as the main roads.  This is where you may find snow on your path.  Ice on the roads is the main thing to be aware of due to the cold and wet weather.  Thankfully, the Highland Council have a large team of gritters who work across Scotland.  But the best thing is they have a website you can visit and track the gritters so you can plan your route accordingly.  You can find the details on the Traffic Scotland website.  They also name their gritters, names such as ‘Sir Grits-a-lot’ which adds a comical value.  Which gritter are you planning to follow?

Before you leave

In the morning before you leave, double check the opening times of where you plan to visit on that day.  In the Highlands it’s rare to find that everything you want to see on your holiday is just around the corner, a lot of things will need travelling too and in the winter the daylight hours are a lot shorter.  It can be quite disappointing travelling for a few hours just to find that the place you wanted to visit is closed due to the hours being different in the winter season.  Or even the weather causing an unexpected closure.

When visiting the Scottish Highlands, plan, prepare, and think safety first.

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Post by Dan Mitchell

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