Our website uses cookies throughout our system and to help us provide a better service. Continue to use the site as normal if you're happy with this, or click here to change your settings

Mountaineering Scotland navigation courses 

Navigation is an essential skill for anyone who intends going into the Scottish hills and mountains, whether you enjoy long walks through the glens or getting on the high tops and Munros.  Mountaineering Scotland runs a number of one-day navigation courses every year to help you learn the skills you need to find your way around the hills with confidence, even in poor visibility.

Course fitness rating

Fitness level 1

Suitable for people who are new to walking and would prefer a more relaxed approach. This course will be delivered 'on track/path'.

Maximum distance of 8km and maximum ascent of 200m.

Fitness level 2

For people who are fit enough to enjoy days out on the hills and high tops, but would prefer to train on terrain that is not too physically demanding. At times the course will be off track on the open hillside. 

Maximum distance 12km and maximum ascent 600m.

Fitness level 3

Aimed at those who regularly ascend Munros (or equivalent) and are used to being off track, on steep/rough terrain. 

Maximum distance 14km and maximum ascent approximately 900m. Physically demanding.

2024 Navigation dates 

Courses will begin at 9am and finish at approximately 5pm.

Course Meeting Points 

  • Arrochar - Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team Base 
  • Cairngorms - Explorer Café at Tiso Aviemore Outdoor Experience, Retail Park, Aviemore
  • Braemar - Braemar Mountain Rescue Team Base, Braemar
  • Pentlands - Craigdon Mountain Sports, The Pentland Outdoor Centre, Edinburgh
  • Campsie Fells - Lomond Mountain Rescue Team Base, Drymen 
  • Ochils - Ochils Mountain Rescue Team base, Bankhead Farm, Fishcross
  • Glencoe - Ballachulish Visitors Centre Café 

A one-day Mountaineering Scotland navigation course will give you a firm grounding in practical mountain navigation skills, no matter which fitness level course you choose. Instructor ratios are 1:6 and there are spaces for 12 people per course. The courses aim to introduce or refresh essential navigation skills.

  • Increase your confidence in finding your way on the hill
  • Learn the skills of map reading and compass bearings
  • Learn how to follow a bearing accurately
  • Pick up handy hints and techniques to locate yourself on the hill in poor visibility

You will need to be equipped for a day out on the hill with food and drink, boots, gaiters, waterproof jacket and over trousers, warm hat and gloves. Maps, map cases and compasses will be provided. Please note a charge will apply for any map cases or compasses damaged or not returned at the end of the course.

See below for more detail of what to bring.

Do you need to be hill fit to do a navigation course?  Yes, if you sign up for the fitness level 2 or level 3 course.  All the courses start with an indoor session, but will then be outside for approximately six hours. It will depend on the location you choose, how much height is gained and distance covered.

For those who would prefer a less strenuous and physically demanding day, we offer a fitness level 1 option which will be outside for around five hours, covering a distance of around 6 - 8 km with ascent of a maximum of 200m. The majority of the day will be on footpaths, but we may venture off path to practice walking on a bearing.

Each fitness level covers the same course content, the main difference is the terrain and environment in which the course takes place.

One day navigation course: £45 for Mountaineering Scotland members 

Not a member? Join us - Thanks to your membership, we can subsidise the costs of our courses and offer them at affordable prices compared to most commercial providers. 

More about membership benefits

Why become a member?

  • Your membership fee goes back into supporting the work we do including our skills and safety course program and work to maintain access
  • You're protected with £15m liability insurance cover for your mountaineering activities
  • Save money on outdoor gear with some fantastic member-only discounts and offers with major brands and retailers
  • Keep up to date with the latest in our monthly members e-news
  • Be inspired by our feature packed members magazine, Scottish Mountaineer, in print or digital format
  • Stay in some amazing location for walking and climbing, with access to national and club huts
  • Get free registration with Mountain Training Scotland to help you on your journey to gaining qualifications

To book onto one of our mountain safety courses, you need to be a member of Mountaineering Scotland and at least 18 years old when the course takes place. Members aged between 14 and 18 can attend a course if accompanied by a parent or nominated adult: phone the office at 01738 493943 to find out more and book this. Thanks to your membership, we can subsidise the costs of our courses and offer you cheaper course prices than most commercial providers.

Please note:

  • Pre-booking is essential
  • By booking a place on one of our courses, you are agreeing to our booking and cancellation conditions - please read them before you book.
  • Cancellations more than 4 weeks before the course date will incur a £10 admin fee per booking to cover admin costs.
  • If you cancel less than 4 weeks before a course date, we are unable to offer a refund or transfer unless we can find a replacement to take your place (£10 admin fee applies).
  • If you cancel less than 7 days before a course date, we are unable to offer a refund.

How to book

  • Use the links above to access the booking for individual courses on our members portal
  • Mountaineering Scotland members can book and pay easily and quickly online in our members’ web portal using your existing member profile.
  • If you are not already a Mountaineering Scotland member, you can create a membership and book your course place at the same time quickly and easily online in our members web portal

Please read the booking and cancellation conditions before making a booking.

What's provided?

Maps, map cases and compasses will be provided but you are welcome to bring your own if you have them.

What you need to bring

You will need to be equipped for a full day out on the hill with food and drink, hiking boots, and a minimum of waterproof jacket and over trousers, warm hat and gloves and a rucksack to carry everything in. 

Here's our suggested kit list for this course:

  • Rucksack - about 25-35 litres
  • Hiking/walking boots (with good soles which will grip on rock, grass and mud)
  • Waterproof jacket with hood (Goretex or similar)
  • Waterproof over trousers
  • Hiking/trekking trousers or leggings (not jeans or cotton)
  • Base layer top (usually synthetic/merino - not cotton)
  • Fleece/softshell warm jacket
  • Spare warm layer e.g. fleece top
  • Warm hat 
  • Gloves
  • Watch
  • Food & drink for the day
  • Emergency survival bag (polythene is OK) 

Optional extras

  • Gaiters (not always essential)
  • Walking poles
  • First Aid Kit (small)
  • Mobile phone
  • Group Shelter
  • A bag to carry home any rubbish

For more information about what to wear and what to take with you hill walking, visit the 'Getting Started' section.

Previous participants said:

  • I think the course was brilliant. I have already had some experience with using maps and navigating but never really knew the theory behind it all. The course was a great opportunity to learn about that and our instructor Ben did a great job at explaining things in a way anyone can understand.

  • We had an amazing day and left feeling that we are now much more confident in navigating the hills. You were so patient and encouraging throughout and all of the little tips/teaching points were very easy to follow and remember.
  • Thanks again to Ben and Kirsty for running the course on Saturday. It was a great day with some really good info and tips for navigating and I feel a lot better about getting the old map and compass out now.”
  • Have already recommended you to friends and will continue to do so.
  • Thanks very much for the course and your superb instruction.  I went out the next day and used the skills I had learnt and actually nearly got lost at the summit but didn't as I remembered all your advice!! (got back safely before the rainstorm). I feel much more confident about going hiking on my own and navigating.