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Luxury Highland Pony Picnics - Unique Scottish Experiences

Queen Victoria Balmoral - Luxury Highland Pony Picnics in the Scottish Highland - Luxury Scotland Experiences

Balmorality. "Scotch air, Scotch people, Scotch hills, Scotch rivers, Scotch woods, are all far preferable to those of any other nation in or out of this world". - Queen Victoria, ca. 1849. 

Queen Victoria was right. One only need read her journal entries. Time in the Highlands of Scotland surrounded by wild and rugged nature, accompanied by Highlanders of noble character is hard to beat. What can be better than hearing stories of old from a loyal estate ghillie who's been fishing the river for the past 55-years, or walking through a grand glen with a tweet-clad pony-man, who for decades has been working with kind-eyed, native Scottish ponies?

Our pony picnic luncheons immerse guests in this old world. Sandgrouse Travel & Expeditions take very lucky guests on a time-travelling journey to the glorious Victorian and Edwardian eras, when Highland escapes were all the rage! Rediscover what made that time so very special - reconnect with nature for a few tranquil hours in the company of real Highlanders and enjoy a delicious picnic luncheon. 


Luxury Highland Pony Picnics - Wild Experiences. Garron Pony - Working Hill Pony.('MacNab', a native Highland Pony, often referred to as a Garron, stands in a remote glen). 

One of the numerous things that sets Sandgrouse Travel & Expeditions apart from our competitors in Scotland and further afield, is that we seek out and work with the very best. In whatever field of interest, we love connecting people! Luxury travel in Scotland is to us, as much about people and connections as it is about polished, high-end accommodation and Range Rover Vogue transfers.

Here in Scotland particularly, we have worked hard to find both absolute experts and captivating local characters. By featuring, finding and working with the real local people, those that live and breathe what they do and are passionate about it, we believe we are adding real depth to our clients trips. 


Queen Victoria at Balmoral - Highland Pony Picnics - Luxury Scottish Experiences(Carl Haag’s "Luncheon at Cairn Lochan" depicts the royal family picnicking in Scotland. John Brown, a Scots hunting and fishing guide (or ghillie) kneels as he serves Queen Victoria. Victoria’s personal servant or ghillie in Scotland at Balmoral Estate, of whom she writes, “always attends me when I go out—walking, riding and all our travelling expeditions.”  “Invaluable, shrewd, and trustworthy man.” )

"On your magical walk through aromatic Caledonian pines, or along the banks of a peaty, fast-flowing river that races down the glen, you will hear stories of old that bring to life the traditional Highland way of life. Your pony-man and guide, will enthrall you with tales from the Victorian era when Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort, Albert, would have enjoyed the very same activities with guests on the Balmoral Estate.

At Sandgrouse Travel & Expeditions, the list of our unique experiences and connections is of course as varied as our clients interests, however we should admit that we do have our favourites. One of these has to be slowing down and reconnecting with Scotland's beautiful natural world. 


Guests are invited to head out to a stunning Scottish Highland location in a time old fashion, a way in which Queen Victoria, along with family and favoured guests would have once so enjoyed on Balmoral Estate - embarking on a traditional luxury Highland Pony Picnic. Today, activities on Balmoral Estate remain similar. Indeed, the estate is perhaps the ultimate model of a working Highland estate, its role relatively unchanged as the Scottish holiday home of a family that has never been happier than when pursuing its favourite outdoor activities in the wilds. 

Balmoral Castle museum exhibit traditional Highland Pony Panniers (Balmoral Castle Museum showcases how traditionally, the Queen's Highland Ponies would carry wicker grouse panniers into the hills, led in-hand by pony-men. Often the estate pony-men were in fact young boys working their way up through the ranks to one day be head stalkers or rangers). 

Luxury Scotland Experiences - Highland Pony Picnics (Today our traditional wicker 'Grouse Panniers', which have been handed down through the generations, are still being carried deep into the heather-clad glens. Loaded with delicious Scottish produce, guest enjoy a picnic to remember whilst surrounded by the grandeur of mountains and moorland).  

Luxury Highland Pony Picnics - Wild Experiences that Reconnect with Nature(Heading deeper into the Scottish mountains - Unique to Sandgrouse Travel, this is perhaps the most memorable way to traverse the Scottish Highlands. Led by local experts and real Highland characters, you will set out to find a great spot for an open-air picnic). 

Lucky guests embark on what is in this day and age is a totally unique offering. A slower adventure with a local expert who will bring to life your day adding real memories to savour. Your pony-man, dressed in traditional Scottish estate tweeds, will take you together with native Highland ponies (led in-hand) on a guided walk into the majestic Scottish Highlands.

The gentle and steadfast Highland Ponies (the original tractor and backbone of the Scottish Highlands) will be carrying their traditional 'grouse panniers' - wicker baskets once used to carry game off the moorland to the estate larders. Today however, the pony panniers will be loaded with a sumptuous Highland picnic. Expect fine sandwiches, Highland delicacies and artisanal specialities, along with Scotch whisky, champagne, tea and coffee!

Queen Victoria and guests enjoy a Highland Picnic on the Balmoral Estate(A recreation of Queen Victoria and her entourage including esteemed guests out enjoying a rather lavish, Highland Picnic luncheon. Lunch in the mountain air tastes so much better and a good walk helps work up a great appetite).

On your magical walk through aromatic Caledonian pines, or along the banks of a peaty, fast-flowing river that races down the glen, you will hear stories of old that bring to life the historical Highland way of life. Your pony-man and guide, will enthrall you with tales from the Victorian era when Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort, Albert, would have enjoyed the very same activities with guests on the Balmoral Estate.

Today, learn how our pony-man still hunts in the area from horseback, flying his specially trained eagles and hawks, working in union with his two pointer gundogs (our pony-man once bred falcons for the Saudi Royal Family - he is a true Highlander, a John Brown type and Gentleman).  

Scottish Safaris with Sandgrouse Travel - Highland Estate Holidays(Tea and coffees safari style in the Scottish 'bush' or heather-clad mountains). 


Luxury Highland Pony Picnics - Wild Experiences that Reconnect with Nature(Highland ponies or Garrons are a hardy, docile breed of working hill ponies. They are nowhere more at home than in the rough and rugged terrain of Scotland. Indeed, they still out perform modern ATV's and all-terrain vehicles on many traditional Highland estates).

Highland Ponies are the largest and strongest of mountain and moorland breeds in Great Britain. As a worker the Highlander is immensely strong and very docile. It has always been used to carry deer for stalkers in the Highlands, and has been a great stand-by for the crofters in those parts. The pony is first-class for hill work on account of its sure-footedness, and is a well balanced walker. 

Prehistorically domiciled with the Gael, in their joint homeland, was an indigenous pony whose ecology awaits exploration. The animal's merits of character, we think, deserve recognition - an unsung hero in the Scottish story. In partnership with a spartan people, this Caledonian horse has a history of adventure to fill the mind. It has, too, a future of popular recreation to be relished by those rediscovering nature and her ways. 

Highland Pony or Garron with traditional panniers. Luxury Scotland Travel Experiences

Fossil remains dated 60,000 BC have revealed that a smaller predecessor of the Highland Pony flourished in Scotland then, to be lost in the Ice Age. The pure-bred Highland Pony today has ingredients of various early horse types but its basic lineage traces to a primitive Northern race of horse. 

The types most numerous today feature the lighter "Western Isles' specimens and the larger, heavier "Mainland" type. "Garron" is the name of Gaelic origin, for the gelding of either type. This name is now erroneously applied, fondly and respectfully, to all Highland ponies, whether "cut" or not. It is a title more than a name. 

Leaping Salmon in Scotland's highland rivers and steams - Luxury Scotland with Sandgrouse Travel (Sat by a roaring Scottish river, keep your eyes open for Scotland's majestic wildlife, from leaping salmon, to Golden eagles and Red deer - time immersed in nature offers rare and sacred gifts)

Scottish Thistle - surrounded by Scotland's nature enjoy your luncheon in the mountains in fine company.

In the Scottish Highland - Luxury Travel Experiences with Sandgrouse Travel are unique!("...everything is picturesque in the extreme. It is without any exception the most delightful sort of life I have ever seen or experienced" - Charles J Matthews, September 1833). 

Call now on 01764 664 236 or alternatively email

Sandgrouse Travel & Expeditions is a luxury travel company based in Edinburgh, Scotland. We specalise in tailormade holidays to Scotland, Scandinavia and Africa and bring a wealth of first-hand experience to each of the bespoke trips we carefully create for our clients.

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Suzanne says: September 20th, 2020 at 10:24 am

Hi I’m perusing the web dreaming of what I’ll do as my next ‘venture’ after my imminent departure from my last (work)! I found a wild camping with horses idea when Sam told me that you do something with ponies.....I’d love to do this....would you send me some details....I might get a group of my fun, fit friends together if it’s for groups exciting! We live nearby and since my dog died, I have often thought of saying hello across the fence....

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