WEARY Highland walkers are to be offered help in the unusual form – of a herd of llamas.
The trio – called Jet, Atticus and Brad – will haul tents, camping gear and other heavy equipment on treks through the Cairngorms starting next year.
The hardy animals – used to the freezing temperatures and high altitudes of the Andes range, will spring across Scottish slopes carrying up to 25kgs (55lbs) each.
The llamas were introduced to the Glenshee Ecocamp last year and have proved a huge hit with tourists taking half-day treks through the Perthshire countryside.
Owners Simon and Fiona Calvin are taking their idea to the next level by offering more demanding two- and three-day treks through the Cairngorms National Park, which includes four of Scotland’s mountains over 4,000ft.
A familiar site in the Andes for thousands of years, llamas have never before accompanied campers on Scotland’s most famous mountains.
Simon, 48, said: “The idea will be to go out with five people and use llamas to carry packs.
“People would just be carrying packed lunches while llamas carry the bulk of the camping gear. I would go along as a guide.
“There would be nothing cooler to see three llamas walking through the Cairngorms, that would be fantastic.”
The straight spines of llamas mean they cannot be ridden like horses and the British Llama Society recommends a limit of 25kg of luggage per llama.
Jet, aged four, is the herd’s most senior member and two-year-olds Brad and Atticus follow his lead.
The animals have been turning heads since moving into their Glenshee farm home last year.
Their owners insist hillwalkers have nothing to fear from the llamas biting or spitting at them. Their gentle nature means such outbursts are extremely rare.
Simon, a former primary school teacher, said: “A lot of people assume they’re going to kick or bite or spit.
“They can be a bit standoffish but that’s it. People are surprised at how big they are.”
Simon, who has been running the Ecocamp with Fiona for two years, also hopes to organise llama treks for children with learning disabilities.
He said: “Because of the nature of llamas they would lend themselves to autistic children.
“Llamas like things done a certain way, they like routine. I think that would strike a chord with them.”
The camp itself offers year-round accommodation in wooden “eco pods.”
Llamas can fetch hundreds of pounds in the UK, and can live to 30 years if cared for properly.