After meeting on a walking holiday and going on to complete a year-long walk across Europe, guidebook authors Helen and Paul Webster decided to move to Skye. Their work running holiday chalets brought them into contact with many visitors to the island, who often asked for walk recommendations. With the aim of providing comprehensive information about walking routes, as well as a cost-effective place for smaller accommodation providers to advertise, Helen and Paul decided to set up Walkhighlands in 2006.
The site now acts as a free resource with route descriptions and marked maps for thousands of walks across Scotland; it is remarkably well-researched and accurate, with options ranging from easy strolls to real mountaineering.
I caught up with Helen to indulge in some of the insight she has gathered while walking and working in the Inner Hebrides for over a decade.
Where did it all start?
We’ve always loved walking, having met on a walking holiday to Arran organised by friends. In 2004, we returned from a life-changing year-long 4,000 mile walk across Europe and a year later moved to the Isle of Skye where we ran some holiday chalets and enjoyed exploring the island on foot.
Our visitors were always asking where they could walk, and we also found that it was hard to find cost-effective places to advertise our holiday accommodation so we decided to combine the two – linking free, well-researched, fully described walking routes with OS maps to places to stay and other local activities.
What are your proudest achievements with regards to the website and your other related work?
Walkhighlands attracts over 25,000 daily visitors and we get immense pride from hearing how the site has helped people plan their holidays, climb all the Munros, find romantic beaches for the ultimate proposal and discover places at their doorstep that they never even knew existed.
The website has a lively forum where people share their Scottish walking experiences and organise meet ups for day walks and longer trips. We have had at least two weddings of couples who met through Walkhighlands, and it’s great to know that many people have made lifelong friends through the site.
Are there any routes that you are particularly proud to have completed?
We’ve been a part of the promotion of the Skye Trail, a 128km hiking route that follows the spine of the island and provides a taste of its varied scenery and settlements. It makes a fabulous week’s walking holiday, whether staying in B&Bs and hotels, or backpacking with a tent.
In general, just the sheer wealth and variety of walking routes that we have discovered on these islands will hopefully make people realise they can easily spend a week in each place and return time and time again to find new places to explore.
Do you have a favourite island on the Inner Hebrides?
Colonsay stole our hearts; it’s the perfect size to explore on foot and it has everything from spectacular sandy beaches, wildlife, seafood, a great bookshop, a brewery and gin distillery and a close-knit community who host a series of festivals for locals and visitors alike throughout the year.
Do you have any advice for people who are only just starting to get into hiking?
Start small, check the weather, take snacks and waterproofs and let the adventure begin – there’s a lifetime of walking out there and be warned it can get addictive!
More walking expertise can be found in our Inner Hebrides guide: