………geek out on Highland Weather.

Plan your tour of the famous NC500 with a little forewarning of the weather, and top tips on how to deal with what the weather might do to your vehicle.


The Highlands – notorious for changeability making it a photographers dream. You don’t like the weather now? Wait 10 mins!
The ever changing light makes the same hill look like a whole new landscape multiple times in a day. It means that everyone’s experience is incredibly unique and incomparable, and that’s what keeps everyone coming back for more.

There’s another phenomenal thing about the Highlands; micro-climates. You might only need to drive over a hill to find a completely different day taking place so even if the weather is awful it’s not likely to the theme of your tour.

But what if this is your first trip? How do you plan to get what you want in such a fluid environment?
Below is a description of what the NC500 weather year is like here in the Kyle of Sutherland on the East Coast of the NC500.

Make sure you read my TOP TIPS on what to keep in the car for touring emergencies with bad weather in mind.

Awful, really bad, just nasty. Ice definitely, snow maybe – but it will most likely be that it snows and melts three times a day, high winds daily – that means anything from a “put the washing out” 35mph gust to an actual 149mph hurricane that blows the windometer away (true story). Daylight about 9am to 4pm.
Best you can expect? For photography, that ever changing light, and the dusting of snow on hill tops, means January is an awesome month. For sight seeing it really isn’t the best. Temps vary madly, but it’s not likely to even get as high as 6c. Rogart recorded the lowest ever temp one year at -32C, back in the 90’s. The coldest that I have recorded it on the actual coast in the last 10yrs was -18C. The Kyle of Sutherland froze over and looked INCREDIBLE….buuuut…..at that temp so will your diesel start to freeze and you definitely can’t use your skooshers to clean your windscreen and the engine heat may never thaw it. You might be lucky enough to experience something called Snow Thunder – an electric storm whilst it’s snowing.

See January, except there can be about four days of good weather ranging with temps from 2C to 20C around about the 19th. I remember about 5 years ago chatting to a friend whilst it snowed on us in Feb. Both of us had sun burnt noses because the day before it had been 22C; so when I say changeable, I mean extremely so. If you get the good weather it’s an excellent opportunity to see the Northern Lights.

Some improvement, but now you are going to get lambing snows. Again it’s almost 10yrs since we had a 3ft+ dump (that gives you 5ft drifts on the A9) which means it’s overdue or never happening again. It’s most likely going to be 3-6 repeatedly melting snow showers a day on bad days, but towards the end of the month you can get Summer for a week or so.  Best part is that you’re about 6 weeks away from any leaves appearing on trees so the views from the car are fab and you don’t need to get out a lot!
Daylight extends to 6.30pm after which it will be Baltic. Sunrises on the East are magnificent. The earliest of the oil seed rape is flowering with intense yellow all over the Black Isle and up the A9. It’s the most uplifting thing to see after long dark nights for the past 6 months. Some patches won’t have seen sun since October so could still be icy on the roads.

See March, but you are more likely to encounter the Highland Summer. It will have more dry and sunny days towards the end of the month, but will still have a nip in the wind, yet the wind is less likely to be over 30mph. Not impossible, but less likely. There is still not a lot of leaves on the trees so views are great, but there’s some obvious signs that the frozen North is thawing back to life. Great month for spotting wildlife as everything goes looking for a mate, and lambs are bouncing round the fields.

This is the only month I would happily guarantee you will see Summer! Day light is stretching incredibly, the leaves are coming out, there’s no midgies yet (well only a couple and they’re not very well practiced, a squirt of smidge should do the trick), and those stormy winds have died down. This is when you can get 28C weather and very sunburnt.  It is still possible to get snow and Summer in the same day. I’ve regularly had snow here in late May and you can still expect morning frosts and icy patches. If it is very warm and dry we have huge risks of wild fire. This year May and June saw 4 wild fires in the Highlands that went on for multiple days and would have been devastating to wildlife as this is when everything is having a baby.

Is all about the midnight sun. At 11pm you will have enough daylight to see the place like it’s daytime, sit outside and read a book, or go for a long hike. The sun will really only go low for a few hours and you can’t really consider it pitch dark at any point. It will be warmer at roughly mid to high teens. It will be changeable and very probably wet, but not likely to last all day. The Scottish schools go on holiday for the summer at the end of this month, and this is the month that we start heading back into Winter. Everything is very green and lush and we are finally free of frosty mornings.

Early July is when we have the driest spells this month. It can be so changeable temp wise it’s nuts – I’ve had it snow here in July, I’ve also had it 28C here in July. July is a real pot luck month, but over the past 2 years it’s been the best I’ve known. You may encounter amazing electric storms, small tornado’s (very rare – only one that I have encountered on the NC500 was about 13 years ago near Elphin and it tipped my car on a 45 degree angle and made a water spout as it went over the burn next to me. Terrifyingly amazing. I have encountered worse ones elsewhere in the Highlands), flash floods and diversions which could potentially be hours long, but you still have that night time daylight so going off piste for a bit is just part of the adventure. The barley for the Whisky is starting to ripen, but it’s almost 6 weeks away from being able to be harvested. Bring Smidge.

Early August is very often rubbish. It rains a lot and gets cold and windy– under 10C. I know this because I am a temperature nerd being a musher; I can’t work my sled dogs in harness at temps over 10C and I have had many years here where it was cold enough to run them in Aug, but not November. Fact.
This month you may encounter electric storms, flash floods, and diversions.
Mid Aug the kids will go back to school and you can guarantee as soon as their behinds hit a seat in the classroom the sun comes back out. The barley will begin to dry off, and if the weather holds dry long enough for the fields to drain the combines will get out and harvest everything in about 15mins before it rains again. You’ll see them working 24hrs round the clock, and it can cause the odd hold up on the A9 getting them to fields and the grain to the dryers at the plant and store at Tore. It is our biggest export so just try to enjoy your part in the process and seeing it going on around you. On the East Coast there are very many distilleries to enjoy.
The best bit of August is the evening. It’s getting dark about 10.30 now, but as the sun goes down the colour of the light across the stubble fields and the sea is exquisite. The heather is blooming and the North turns purple.

Normally this is my second month for good weather. We usually have a fab month in September, and again temps up in the late teens to early twenties are not uncommon. Everything is still pretty leafy, but the view is now what those leaves are doing. The colours of September are out of this world – russets, purples, greens, browns, and truly jaw dropping bursting orange sunsets at about 9.30pm. Harvest will still be over now in most places. The first morning frosts will appear and you might get the first of the “put the washing out” winds. The midgies are almost completely gone.

Now we’re approaching tattie harvest and the Tattie Holidays for kids, so named because they were traditionally given 2 weeks off school to help their families harvest this very important staple. It used to be when you could guarantee the first snows when I was a kid, but this is getting rarer. Again it would be flurries that quickly melt if it did, but it would be wise to expect a bit of ice afterwards, especially if it melts late in the day before 6.30pm sunsets. Towards the very end of the month (once the kids are back at school of course) you can get a few great days like Feb. It won’t be very warm with low teen temps, but it will be sunny and dry, and that light is exquisite for sight-seeing. The Hills go red as the sun sets on them.
You’ll start to get the first proper high winds too, but their exact arrival is unpredictable.

Is either a joy or a curse. It can be 17C in November, it can be dry, it can feel like a bonus month to get the hatches battened before midwinter; or it can be wet, cold, windy and generally very like January. It’s usually not quite as bad – if I had to choose between them it would be November every time. If you get good, hard, frost, it can be STUNNINGLY beautiful with too many photo ops to fit into a month. But it has to be consistently below zero for a few days to get that. Ice is likely, snow is possible, and camping or MCing will be pretty miserable. You may be forgiven for thinking the sun isn’t rising at all if it’s the bad kind of November.

see November, although if we are going to get proper snow it is usually just before Christmas. Three times I have gone to bed on Christmas eve with cold, wet, weather and woken to a white winter wonderland – magical stuff!
The snow increases the daylight substantially, and walks on snow rather than mud are far preferable, but please dress properly. It is possible to get hypothermia very quickly even in the centre of town when it’s cold – I found this out to my detriment once when I went out for a “quick run” with my dogs in jeans instead of a snow suit. If you have room for lined waterproof trousers bring them. If you don’t, then make room. If you don’t use them you can ebay them afterwards. Wellies are not footwear for snow – you’ll lose toes and probably slip. Wellie’s are not footwear for hill walking either whilst we’re on the subject.
Shortest day without snow lying will be 9am to about 3.30pm of daylight, and the day after that, Summer begins!

So to recap:

Good weather months = a few days of Feb(if you’re lucky), end of march, end of April, May, beginning of June, beginning of July, end of August, most of September, end of October, a few days of Nov (if you’re lucky), a few days of Dec (if you’re lucky).

Snowable months = Jan, Feb, March, April, May, June, July – yes July, Oct, Nov, Dec.

Flash Flood months = end of July, beginning of Aug.

Icy and Windy months = Oct – April.

Midnight sun = May , June and July.

Northern Lights = September – April, but go for those times when you are most likely to get a clear sky. Ideally you want those 4 amazing days in November and February.

Firstly get all terrain tyres on your car, and get a spare wheel and tyre because a repair kit isn’t going to be a lot of use up here. Make sure you know how to use your jack and where you can put it on your car. Make sure you know where your towing points are. Replace all your coolant with antifreeze and make sure your skooshers for cleaning the windscreen contain a HEAVY dose of antifreeze too.  Take out roadside recovery. The two companies that operate up here on behalf of Green Flag, AA and RAC, are fabulous and if you do have a break down will take exceptional care of you.

5 gallon container with emergency fuel.
Flask of hot drinks/Jet boil and drink making stuff, and lighter.
Thick wool blankets.
Road Map.
If you are worried about getting help after dark in the middle of nowhere with no phone signal check out GPS devices you can text message from.
Ice scraper.
Fold up snow shovel.
Small bag of rock salt – so if you find yourself spinning on snow you can melt it.
Strong string or twine – a good few meters. (For tying up bumpers and exhausts when you take them off avoiding traffic or skidding).
Small tool kit with sockets and screw drivers is never a bad idea – even if you think you would never know how to fix a problem a passer by very well

Things that freeze that you might not expect to;

Locks – both the bit the key goes in and the actual mechanism itself. Always double check the door is closed properly and the grease in the mechanism hasn’t started to solidify making it stick or doors will pop open round corners. Same goes for the boot. Always use defrost spray on keyholes, never hot water.

Skooshers – always run your engine for a while and heat it up if it’s been really cold to help it to thaw. Check it is thawed before you set off. If it is frozen and you use your wipers to get rid of salt and grit from cars in front, you can quickly scratch the windscreen permanently. I’ve had to replace windscreens after driving in conditions that caught me out.

Wiper Blades themselves – often freeze, not just to the bonnet, but the rubber freezes, and spray on anti freeze won’t do much about that. What happens is they don’t make proper contact with the screen and might affect your visibility, and lead to permanent damage of the screen, as above, or even tear off. When frozen to the bonnet don’t use the motor to move them, run your engine and fan and once the ice is off the screen they will usually move. To thaw the blade use warm, not hot, water just before you get on the road.

Radiator coolant – coming to the Highlands in January with a low amount of antifreeze in your radiator will kill your car. I never put water, only antifreeze, in my radiators.

Diesel – OK it’s been a lot of years since this has happened to me, and it’s only happened a few times, but just good to know it CAN happen I think. If you have a diesel vehicle and you are worried about it freezing you can put additive in the fuel tank to stop that. If you get caught out, you can heat the tank for a while with a blow torch, drive a bit until all that fuel is used, and repeat. Tedious in anything other than an emergency – then it’s still tedious (if not actually upsetting) but what else you gonna do?

Wing mirrors – in very cold weather they will keep freezing if not heated. Not difficult to sort and I recommend a heavy spray with defrosting spray.

If the Police start to recommend that you don’t drive – don’t drive. It’s probably because the council are not sending out gritters. On a Sunday only A roads are gritted. Tune into MFR, local radio, 97.5fm for road and weather updates. On the East there are lots of parts of the A9 and bridges that get closed in high winds and floods. Diversions are always in place.
If you hit a massive pothole and damage a wheel or tyre, make sure you can pull over safely and are not at risk in live traffic, get the depth of it measured and get a picture of it.  Send it to Highland Regional Council and they may give you the damages. Do not expect that to be a speedy process! At least a 6 month turn around.
I’m sure lots of other locals will have other information, some of it may contradict what I have written here, but remember this is for MY microclimate at the Kyle of Sutherland on the East Coast. I’ve spent many years of outdoor hobbies and businesses being a weather nerd so I am fairly confident in my predictions. If you find otherwise, or likewise comment and let me know, and if you are local and can think of anything else to share then also please add it in the comments.

FAIL to PLAN and you PLAN to FAIL ……and all that jazz 😉

……go East?

NC500 East v’s West Part 1
(There really are too many advantages to put in a single post).

I recently started a group on Facebook for the NC500 to allow those of us living up here to give tourers tips on accommodation and events as well as promote our own little independent businesses. Once you’ve done the NC500 it’s pretty obvious how difficult it is to make a living up here, and how dependent on agriculture and tourism we are. There are no big companies to work for with the exception of supermarket chains, and there aren’t even many of those on the West. Traveling to work can involve hundreds of miles a week if you don’t work from home. Of course this scarcity of people (Sutherland is the largest county in Scotland and has the smallest population of any county in Britain at just 12,000 people) is why you want to come visit, it’s part of the attraction, but it was important that those of us living here had a platform to inform visitors that we exist without looking like we’re just trying to ‘milk it’. The group is really popular, with around 4000 people joining in the first six months, and it was through moderating this group I saw that the general advice handed out to people planning their first trip was do it anticlockwise and save the best to last because ‘West is Best’.

Undeniable – the West has got some amazing scenery. There’s no two ways about it, no one can deny it, or challenge it; it’s breath taking.
BUT to say ‘West is Best’ is only true if you are doing the NC500 purely for mountainous scenery. If you get a day of thick set, low cloud or mist then oftentimes those mountains aren’t viewable, or safe. All coasts can boast the same opportunities to eat great food,  stay in wonderful accommodation, go to gala’s, music festivals, Highland Games and rub shoulders with interesting locals, and wildlife. Yet each has it’s own very distinctive culture, accent, and quirks – you can only “go up E road” if “E road” heads to or along the North Coast for instance, and even I have only just found out what a “Tina Bowlie” is!
The diversity of microculture is one of the things that makes the NC500 such an interesting route. If your plan is to just go get miles under your belt by doing it like a race, you’re actually missing the point of it. It would be like going to the Tower of London and saving time by cutting out the room with the crown jewels. People always come back for another go, no matter how much time they take on the NC500, and one of the parts that they NEVER planned well for was exploration.

I love all of the Highlands. I was the first “Stacie” born in Dingwall, raised in Lochaber  and Inverness Shire. I did what most Northern Highlanders do and tried out a couple of places south and some city dwelling, but it wasn’t for me so I decided to settle in the Kyle of Sutherland. I chose my croft here because I have all the very many benefits of easier East Coast living with more amenities and faster roads for ferrying my kids about, but I am only 45 minutes from Assynt  (North West ).  My favourite hill, Suilven, is over in Assynt which I can see from the top of the hill above my house – in fact I can see seven counties, two coasts and the Cairngorms from the hill above my house.
When I came here I worked as a self catering property inspector for Scotland’s largest independent agency and covered an area including the NC500. There were always far less properties for rent on the North East as it was less popular, but as I have explored it further over the past 13 years I have come to realise that it caters for a different type of tourist – one that’s getting more and more interested in the NC500. If you are into agriculture, adventure activities, gin, beer, whisky, golf, archaeology, or are taking a young family with you then the North  and East is where you will spend most of your time. If you have hired a motorhome then going Anti Clockwise and taking it up the A9 before trying out the twistier single track West might be a better way to acclimatise to your new abode. It’s not a characterless drive though as Berriedale Braes have steep drops and hairpins to rival Bealach na Ba.
So before you go away believing that the route is really all about the West, and the rest are just miles making up the numbers,  lets have a look at some of the delights the East and North Coasts have to offer.

“Go oan, take a drink…..”
If you are a fan of the alcoholic beverage then these are the coasts for you. Starting with the Black Isle Brewery just North of Inverness, and then Cromarty Brewery also on the Black Isle (try their coffee infused stout making good use of the grounds from a local artisan coffee shop – best kind of recycling you can get in my book!), you can progress onto whisky at Teanninich and Dalmore at Alness, then onto the very famous Glenmorangie at Tain complete with its seafood restaurant, if you take a detour over the Struie you can come out at Edderton and Balblair distillery which was made famous by the film “The Angels Share”. Continue on to Clynelish at beautiful Brora, and make sure you go to Old Pultney and Wolfburn ( a new distillery offering a 3yr old Malt) as the most northerly distilleries. Then finish the whole thing off with a botanical Gin at Rock Rose in Dunnet Bay. All the while you drive between these distilleries you’ll be watching the barley that makes the Whisky ripen in the fields that line the A9. There is no better ground, and no better sight, than the patchwork of crops planted on the Black Isle viewed from the other side of the Cromarty Firth.

A good walk spoiled
The East Coast has long had an affiliation with Golf. Last year Royal Dornoch celebrated 400years of world class golfing – it is ranked Number 1 in Scotland and Number 6 in the world. Dinner from the conservatory restaurant of the Royal Golf Hotel looks over the First Tee, Dornoch Beach and the Firth right out to the Light House at Tarbat Ness. At night the towns of Portmahomack, Inver and Tain’s lights blinking over the waters at you are beautiful.
Across the Dornoch Firth at Tain, is another wonderful links course. Across two Firths is Castle Stuart near Inverness where the Scottish Open was held last year.  In Bonar Bridge is a wonderful little 9 hole course looking down over the ancient woodland of Loch Migdale, that would have been saplings at the time it’s sister course was being created. Further North are Golspie and Brora with well regarded courses and incredible views from every Tee.

Piles of old rubbish.
If you get your rocks off looking at heaps of rocks you’re going to love the Viking long houses, forts, cairn, brochs and crannog found on the East and North East coasts. About 5000 years ago the area surrounding the Dornoch Firth was the most populated part of Britain making it the equivalent of London today. Hut circles and chambered cairns litter the common grazing above Loch Migdale. At the closest end of the Loch is a Crannog ( a man made island that would have had a round house on it accessed by a hidden trail of stepping stones) and in a field nearby is an Amphitheatre. It was also here that ancient jewellery was discovered in a crack in one of the rock faces, known as “The Migdale Hoard” and can now be viewed in the National Museum Scotland. They include an axe head, bangles and anklets, carved buttons, hair ornaments and fragments of an elaborate head dress. On the top of the hill above where this was found was the very recent discovery of a Viking long house when a survey was done before building the second largest sub station in Europe next to Loch Buie.
There are many Brochs, some of the best are at Hope, but the ruins of one sits right next to the A9 between Dunrobin and Brora.
The ancient people of the North East were the Picts, meaning “painted” because they were thought to be fairly fond of getting inked. The Pictish Trail takes you from monument to monument up the coasts to see the incredible intricate designs they carved honouring life, wildlife, and Vikings who eventually conquered them, who were then conquered by the Gaels, who were then conquered by sheep and all of this has left its mark on the land.

Macabre Monuments
There are five that immediately spring to mind, the first is not really associated with death, but it certainly is an example of a long gone era. There are many examples of Victorian “Over the Top” in Scotland, but none are as in your face as the Folly on top of Fyrish above the Cromarty Firth. If you want to go see it, its a couple of hours of steep walking, and surprisingly bad midgies at the top. However it is SO impressive. You can not find a better way to frame the view out to Nigg and the Oil Rigs parked up waiting for refurbishment in the Cromarty Firth, than through those arches. Until you have stood next to them you can never realise how mammoth they are. I always thought they were about the height of a tall man until I walked up there. Nope. MUCH bigger. They are almost as big as the issue of getting parked up there, so week days are best. And if there’s no space don’t be tempted to park in the passing places and on the verge like the other numpties who keep blocking the locals every weekend.

If you come down from Fyrish and take the B9176 over the Struie Hill you can start to see the next monument on top of Ben Bhraggie above Golspie much further up the coast. The Duke of Sutherland Monument on the top of the hill is a shorter walk than Fyrish. Many believe that monument should be removed because it is a giant statue of the man responsible for clearing the surrounding areas during the Highland Clearances. The great forest covering Caledonia – the Rainforest of the UK – was cut down almost completely, save a few acres, to make way for sheep. The crofters were as much a hindrance as the trees were to the progress sought by the upper classes so they were ruthlessly turfed out.  Their homes burnt, taken down, and made uninhabitable there were tens of thousands of homeless men, women and children suffering throughout winter without proper accommodation before walking west to the boats that took them to Canada.
Which brings me to the next monument – Croik Church. Take the B9176 until it intersects with the road between Tain and Ardgay. Turn left for Ardgay and then head up Strath Carron towards Alladale Estate, famous in recent times for trying to reintroduce Elk, Boar, Wolves, Lynx, and Bear. The Elk and the Boar are now gone, none of the rest ever made an appearance, but they are involved in reintroducing Scottish Wild Cat instead (and last year, for some reason, a Racoon was photographed loose on the Estate!). Take the road to Croik, you can’t miss the church. Here you can walk by trail straight across Scotland to the West Coast and Ullapool which is only 24 miles away. When the Duke kicked families out, many of them took refuge in the grave yard around the church. Believing it was blasphemous to stay inside the church itself they camped for NINE SOLID MONTHS in the graveyard. Some of them carved their names into the window panes of the church and they can still be read today.

Heading back out onto the NC500 and a short trip North you can find the next monument in the garden of a house on Carnaig street in Dornoch. It commemorates the last time in Scotland that a witch was burnt at the stake. As if getting kicked off your croft and sent on a ship to Canada wasn’t bad enough, women had to endure this awful way to die up until 1727 (the date on the stone is apparently incorrect) when Janet Home was the last to be dealt with this way. If you go for tea in the Court House Tea Room in the town, see if you can spot her in the mural on the wall.

Further North again, and just before Helmsdale is a wee place called Loth. There’s a long layby there and in the middle, and easy to miss, is a stone commemorating the last Wolf shot in Sutherland “by the hunter Polson” about 200yds from the layby around 1700. It certainly seems like losing the wolf was the start of dreadful things to come that century….

Silly names
It is claimed that Berriedale and Helmsdale were the inspiration for Helms Deep in Lord of the Rings where Aragorn wakes the dead army. With so many Viking place names up the East Coast it’s easy to see where Tolkien got the idea for that army from. As soon as you come over the Dornoch Firth and see the sign for the River Evelix you start to feel like you might be in a different country. With towns like Dingwall (meaning Parliament) and Thurso (Thors town), you can tell that this area was popular among the Scandinavians sailing over the North Sea and looking for farmable land. Some of my favourite ones are “Portmahomack” which is a gorgeous fishing village with harbour, beach and excellent restaurant,  all looking over towards the hills of Sutherland, “The Mound” an area near Loch Fleet, an RSPB and seal spotting haven, where you can climb approximately 32 sports climbing routes from grade 4-7 on the conglomerate crags that stick out of the rounded humps obvious on the skyline from as far away as the coast of Aberdeenshire. Pretty much anything with “ster” in it, especially “Lybster” where you can eat in a restaurant at the Portland Arms that has an aga in it giving a real homely feel.
Castles that you can stay in.
If you want to Lord it up on your trip then the only Castles you can stay in are on the East Coast and start at just £54 per night. Starting in Dingwall you can stay in Tulloch Castle, well known for it’s great food. Then after that is Kincraig Castle which has a great collection of Wendy Reeves Pastel artwork of the Highlands and does excellent food at very reasonable prices. Mansfield Castle in Tain is next, and then technically it’s Skibo Castle – but that’s out of the budget of the majority of tourers I would guess. It’s a Private Membership club, and includes amongst it’s members many of the richest and most famous people in the world (Madonna and Guy Ritchie got married here which is why Madonna is in the mural in the Court House too). Tom Jones was recently spotted driving around Ross Shire and Sutherland in a Bentley; he was staying at Skibo.

Whilst you can’t stay in it, you’d be mad not to go and see Dunrobin Castle just North of Golspie on the A9. It’s the largest castle in the Northern Highlands, with 189 rooms, and remodelled in the late 1800’s to Scottish Baronial Style it’s very impressive with 135 ft towers, beautiful French formal style gardens and even a 92ft draw well in the courtyard. It’s got a real Fairytale feel to it and can be seen from quite some distance as you drive up the A9 nestled into the hillside right on the shore. I feel it’s best approached from the sea, and then a picnic on the beach below it gives you time to take in the well crafted architecture untypical of the rugged North, but if you aren’t seaworthy then going in by the road to the rear is still quite a sight. Inside is full of quirks, ideal for something to do on a rainy day.

Family friendly Small hill climbs
 Struie Hill, Fyrish and Ben Bragghie are easily accessible in short amounts of time and have stunning views. They all have that feel of a big hill without the time or effort so if you are travelling with kids and need a leg stretch and a hill walking experience that doesn’t turn to tears and carrying them home, these are the choices for you. Struie Hill especially is good for this as it has good parking and a road to within very close range of the summit. Then the view right across Scotland from North sea to the West Coast hills will knock your socks off.  There’s even a little trad climbing on the crag.