Walking or hiking is one of the best ways to experience Scotland with thousands of superb walks taking in the scenic views of mountains, lochs and beaches. With Paisley’s very own Hillwalking Club cited as one of Scotland’s biggest and friendliest outdoor clubs, you’ll also be in great company too!
Walking is a great way to experience the country at a slower pace, to immerse yourself in the landscape in a way you can’t from behind a steering wheel. Another advantage of walking is that it’s pretty safe. You’re much less likely to get into an accident on foot than in your car or on a bike. That said, if you’re trekking out into the wild, you are running a small but significant risk of taking a fall. It’s nothing to panic about. Just follow these simple tips.
Watch the ground
Most slips, trips and falls occur on rough ground. If you’re walking off-road, by definition the path is rough, and in some cases you might find yourself on hazardous terrain. Loose stones are particularly dangerous. Combined with a slope (known as a “scree slope”) this kind of terrain is best avoided. Large stones are also a hazard. Even stones that seem well embedded in the soil can come loose underfoot and cause a fall. This is a particular risk on slopes or mountainsides. The best way to keep your footig and balance is trekking poles.
Wet or muddy ground is also one to watch out for. Wet grass can be almost as slippery as ice, and slips on wet grass is one of the most common reasons for Mountain Rescue to be called out in the UK. When potholes are filled with water it’s hard to know how deep they are—or even that they’re there at all. Very muddy ground can potentially be boggy, especially in isolated areas.
Wet rock is more dangerous still. Avoid flat rock that slopes away from you, or rock that is covered in moss, lichen or any other vegetation.
Don’t take on steep challenges
One of the best things about walking in Scotland is that so much of the countryside is hilly or mountainous. Mountain walking is rewarding, and great exercise. However, when you’re walking in mountainous terrain it’s important to know when a slope is too steep. An incline can steepen gradually, and it’s not uncommon for a walker to set out thinking that a slope is manageable only to find halfway up that it’s not. Don’t be tempted to tackle it anyway. Go back and find another way through. The gradient of the terrain is marked on OS maps, so you can plan in advance to avoid steep slopes. When climbing a steep slope, walk in a zig-zag rather than straight up to lessen the angle of approach.
Wear the right footwear
It seems obvious, but it’s easier said than done, and even experienced walkers sometimes misjudge what equipment they need. Ill-fitting or poorly-made footwear can cause accidents anywhere, but even good and trusted boots can get you in trouble if you wear them on the wrong terrain. If you’re walking on the roads, choose lighter boots, because unnecessarily heavy footwear can cause you to drag your feet and cause a trip. If you’re carrying a backpack, then boots with ankle support are essential.
Don’t set out on a long hike wearing untested boots. Make sure they fit and that they’ve shaped a little to your foot first. A good pair of walking shoes fits closely all over the foot, but doesn’t feel tight anywhere. Try boots on towards the end of a shopping day, when your feet are a bit swollen, and wear hiking socks. If you can’t find exactly the pair for you, consider buying insoles or even just changing the way you lace your boots. A different lacing can drastically change the fit of a boot in certain ways.
It can be hard to throw away a much-loved pair of walking boots, but beware hanging onto them too long. Particularly on wet or slippery ground, a worn tread can be a serious hazard.
Beware false paths
In places that are popular with walkers, it’s not uncommon to find well-worn paths that lead straight into danger. Why? Because when walkers take that route, they (usually) come straight back again, which means the paths get worn more deeply. The best way to avoid the danger of false paths is to use your common sense. If a route seems dangerous, don’t take it, even if the path which leads up to it seems well-trodden. Don’t assume that a deeply-worn route is the “right” route.
Just as a footballer works on his or her flexibility to avoid injury, anyone who regularly walks long distances should have a stretching regime. Not only will greater flexibility improve your walking and prevent soreness, flexibility can prevent a bad slip or trip becoming an injury. Work with a personal trainer or watch instructional videos to learn some basic stretches. Start within your comfort zone and gradually increase your range of motion. Your leg muscles are your priority, but hip flexors and other core muscles are also essential to good walking technique and posture.
What to do if an accident occurs
If you follow these tips, your chances of suffering an injury through a trip, slip or fall are pretty low. Sometimes, however, these kinds of accidents are unavoidable, and in many cases it’s because someone else has created a hazardous situation that wasn’t your fault. If you’re injured through someone else’s careless or negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Your first step is to contact a legal adviser, who will be able to talk you through your options and handle your claim if you decide to make one. Head over to LegalHelpline.co.uk for further guidance on what criteria you need to meet and what information you’ll need to provide as part of your claim.
Walking adventures continue to be an extremely enjoyable, healthy and sociable way to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors and by taking extra care whilst remaining vigilant to potential risks, you can help minimise the chances of any slips, trips or falls taking place. Happy trekking!