Hill of Fare, just up from Banchory, is an ideal venue to teach hill and navigation skills. Just a short drive from Aberdeen, it's easily accessible but has all of the features you'd expect to see in the higher remote hills, woodlands, heather moors, rolling hills, changing contours, path and stream junctions. You can spend a full day on the hill and not cover it all. 

Relocating position

Relocating position

The start of the walk takes you through a changing forestry plantation, parts shown on the map, some of it gone, new trees coming through on the hill. A steady climb takes you past plenty of path junctions where you can discuss confirming your position on the map. Once out of the trees you have a better opportunity to cover the shape of the land, swapping between 1:25k and 1:50k maps, you can start to visualise the contours on the map.

The highest point on the hill is 471m and hosts a small hidden cairn on top. With no path to the cairn, you have to walk through the heather on a compass bearing to find it. By learning and practicing this skill earlier on the hill, finding the cairn is just one of the achievements for the day. Views from the top are superb on a clear day, taking in all the surrounding Aberdeenshire hills, into the Cairngorms and down to the sea.

Finding the cairn

Finding the cairn

Map and compass skills are essential should you wish to venture out into the remote areas of Scotland. Relying on a GPS or smartphone to guide you could be a costly mistake as these devices fail. Typically you need to use the devices in poor weather, the cold saps the batteries, you let rain in when changing batteries, they get dropped or lose satellite signal. I carry a spare map and compass inside my bag should the map get blown out of my hand or I break my compass, I use my smart phone as back up. I have a GPS but rarely take it with me now, I take it in winter.

On the walk home, new skills in the bag!

On the walk home, new skills in the bag!

There are plenty of places to go and practice the required skills, navigation strategies, timings, pacing, bearings etc, etc. If you're unsure of your skill level the safest option is to take a guide. Not only are they qualified navigators, they can be informative and pass on knowledge to help build your confidence. The second best option is to book yourself on a skills course!

Happy walking!