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7 reasons to love autumn in the Scottish hills

Thursday 13th October 2022, 12:25pm


Autumn in Scotland is upon us, and while some people might dread the leaves turning, the nights drawing in and the crisp mornings that hint at much colder days to come, for others itís the ideal time to make the most of Scotlandís hills and head out on some #AutumnAdventures

Although many mountain enthusiasts will be waiting for snow later in the year, autumn provides fantastic opportunities for those who love walking, bouldering, camping, climbing, cycling and participating in a whole host of outdoor activities.

Perhaps, like a few of us here at Mountaineering Scotland, you prefer hill walking in the cooler weather. Or maybe you enjoy being out in the quieter hills now that the summer crowds have disappeared. It could be cosy nights spent cooried up in a hut or bothy that you look forward to. Or perhaps pitching your tent for an autumn wild camp under the stars is more your thing.

Whatever youíre up to this autumn, we have all the information you need to be safe and prepared in Scotlandís mountains. And, if you're still searching for a little inspiration for your own #AutumnAdventures, look no further! Weíve rounded up 7 reasons why autumn in Scotland is a great time to head for the hills.

PS Donít forget to tag us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram when youíre out and about this autumn using #AutumnAdventures 

The weather in the Scottish hills in autumn can often (but not always) be more settled than the summer months, with crisp clear air and vibrant colours in the landscape. For many people, the cooler days are a welcome relief after the hot, sticky hikes of summer. Itís also the perfect time for those who love photography, with changing colours across the hills, autumn foliage and better chances to spot wildlife now that fewer people are around.

Keep an eye on mountain weather forecasts and know how to use them to make the best of the autumn conditions. As it gets a bit cooler, donít forget to pack plenty of layers and add some extra warm clothing to your kit. This also applies to any trail runners hitting the mountains this autumn. Three experienced hill runners show what a difference light weight kit can make when it comes to preventing hypothermia from setting in if you become injured or immobilised in wet, windy or cold conditions. 

Watch the hill running safety tips video


Image: Schiehallion from Kinnloch Rannoch (Image: Fiona McNicol)

Autumn is a great time to spot birds and animals Ė from Mountain Hares to Snow Bunting -- both up in the hills and at lower levels as they start to prepare for winter. Listen out for the braying of red deer stags during the rutting season and be sure to check out Heading for the Scottish Hills to find out where estates will be stalking as part of your route planning.

But itís not just wildlife thatís worth keeping an eye out for on the hills during autumn in Scotland. Thereís also plenty of flora worth noting too, with fungi, heather and mosses to see as you make your way through the landscapes.

Mountaineering Scotland's Access & Conservation Officer Davie Black has put together a guide on what to look out for in the hills this season. 

Read our autumn wildlife watching guide


Image: Mountain hare, Ben Chonzie (Credit: Fiona McNicol)

For different reasons, many people hang up their boots at the end of summer, leaving the hills and crags a bit quieter. Itís a great time to get those big hill days ticked off before the days get too short. At the same time, thereís the chance to enjoy some of the more popular hills without the summertime crowds.

Donít forget, the clocks go back at the end of October, which means shorter days and more risk of being benighted. Always pack a headtorch, an extra headtorch (if possible) and spare batteries just in case!

Take a look at Senior Mountain Safety Advisor Ross Cadieís advice on what to add to your rucksack for autumn in the Scottish hills. 

Find out what to add to your rucksack



Image: Autumn colours in Glen Lui (Credit: Neil Reid)

Almost endless daylight is one of the benefits of Scottish summer, but as the nights start to draw in, you can get cooried up in your sleeping bag a lot earlier when youíre wild camping. You donít need to stay up until 2 am to enjoy a bit of stargazing and, with fewer people camping at this time of year, you often find you have the hills to yourself.

Donít forget to follow the Outdoor Access Code regarding wild camping no matter what time of year youíre heading out. You can also check out our top tips for being a considerate camper and see how Ben Gibson, our Mountain Safety Advisor, sets up his own camp when heís out in the hills. 

Watch Ben's wild camping top tips

Club huts are a low-cost way to stay in some spectacular locations and are perfect for an autumn weekend away hill-bagging or climbing across Scotland. 

Mountaineering Scotland members are eligible to book places in many of the huts, where you can cosy up by the fire, swap stories and enjoy a dram after a day well-spent on the hills.

You can read all about the world of climbing club huts in Ma wee helianí hame or click below to download the full list of member-accessible huts 

Download the full hut directory




Image: Glen Brittle Club Hut 

With cooler temperatures, autumn is a great time to introduce your kids to hill walking, climbing or bouldering, without worrying about sunburn or heat stroke. With quieter hills, theyíll also have the chance to spot plenty of flora and fauna on their adventures.

If this is your first time taking your family out on the hills or youíre returning to mountain activities after taking a break, donít forget to read our guide to hillwalking with families. It includes everything you need to know to make sure that big and little kids alike have a great time in the hills.

Read our guide to hillwalking for families

Making the most of the available light and settled weather in autumn is a great way to get yourself ready for winter. You can use this time to improve your fitness and stamina, practice your navigation and other key skills and try out different combinations of clothing and layers.

Now is also the time to book your winter skills course, or join one of our autumn night navigation courses to practice navigating in poor visibility. 

Book a course now