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Mountaineering Scotland navigation courses 

18-25 and want to learn to navigate? Check out our special courses for young people - Going the Extra Mile

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.

Learning to navigate in the hills above Loch Lomond. Photo by Neil Reid

Course fitness rating

Low level navigation

Hill navigation

Mountain navigation

This year we are offering three levels of navigation course, so you can choose the right course for your interest and physical ability.

Low level navigation. (Fitness grade 1) This is an entry level course delivered primarily in woodland close to Drymen. It is suitable for people who are new to walking and would prefer a more relaxed approach. This course will be delivered 'on track', involving a maximum distance of 8km and maximum ascent of 200m.

Hill navigation. (Fitness grade 2)  This course is 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. The courses are run in the Ochils, Moffat Hills and Pentland Hills. At times the course will be off track on the open hillside. Maximum distance 12km and maximum ascent 600m.

Mountain Navigation. (Fitness grade 3) These navigation courses are delivered in the Arrochar Alps, Cairngorms or Glenshee hills, and are aimed at our members who regularly ascend Munros (or equivalent).  Your day's training will involve an ascent of one of the numerous Munros or Corbetts in the Arrochar Alps, Braemar area or Glenshee hills. Expect to be off track, on potentially steep/rough terrain. Maximum distance 14km and maximum ascent c900m. These courses are physically demanding.

A one-day Mountaineering Scotland navigation course will give you a firm grounding in practical mountain navigation skills. 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 hill/mountain navigation course?  Yes, if you sign up for the 'two boot' or 'three boot'' 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.

Low level option. (One boot course) For those of you who would prefer a more mellow option and a less physically demanding day, we offer a low level option. The low level navigation course will be outside for 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.

One day navigation course: £TBC 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
  • 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, with four issues a year 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
  • 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.
  • Cancellations more than 4 weeks before the course date will incur a £10 admin fee per booking to cover admin costs.
  • By booking a place on one of our courses, you are agreeing to our booking and cancellation conditions - please read them before you book.

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.