Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

These wonderful walkers are breathing fresh air into social media

Matt Gill and his wife Anna's Instagram page has over 21,000 followers. They are pictured sharing their wonderful news that they have a little adventurer on the way. All photos supplied by Anna Gill.
Matt Gill and his wife Anna's Instagram page has over 21,000 followers. They are pictured sharing their wonderful news that they have a little adventurer on the way. All photos supplied by Anna Gill.

It’s impossible not to feel a sense of calm and serenity when scrolling through the Aberdeenshire Walks Instagram page.

Positively brimming with stunning photos of beautiful walks they’ve enjoyed on their doorstep, Anna Gill and her husband Matt from Pitmedden are an invigorating breath of fresh air when it comes to social media.

Since starting their Instagram page Aberdeenshire Walks back in January 2021 – amidst a coronavirus lockdown – the couple have amassed more than 21,000 followers who are captivated by their posts sharing the best walking spots, tips for staycations and day trip ideas.

“Me and Matt set up the Instagram page up on 2nd January 2021,” says Anna.

“We’d just gone into the second lockdown and there were restrictions on where you could go.

A beautiful photo of Anna and Matt at the top of Bennachie.

“So we just started walking because we had nothing better to do and we wanted to explore places we hadn’t been before.

“We started sharing our photos online and it built a lot of traction very quickly.

“I think a lot of people were looking for new things to do.

“We have always enjoyed a walk but it was through this that we really got into walking.”

Good for the soul

Anna is happiness while walking.

It wasn’t long before Anna, who works in digital marketing, and Matt started to receive heartfelt messages from strangers saying that their page had helped them through their struggles with mental health.

“What really matters is to see how much of a difference we’re making to people’s lives,” says Anna.

“We frequently get messages saying thank you so much you’ve inspired me to find new places.

“We’ve even had people message to say that they really struggle with their mental health but that the page has given them motivation or a checklist of things to do.”

The Balmoral Cairns walk is one of Matt and Anna’s favourite strolls especially as you get to see the grand memorial pyramid for Prince Albert.

Collieston Beach

Originally from Kilmarnock before moving to the north-east to study business management at Aberdeen University, Anna met her lifelong hiking buddy Matt during Freshers Week and the pair have been inseparable ever since.

“One of our special spots is Collieston Beach as it’s really pretty and it’s somewhere we went when we first started dating,” says Anna.

“Matt would drive us there in his wee Corsa and we would get an ice cream.”

This photo shows Anna enjoying an 8.5k walk from Forvie Sands Visitor Centre in Collieston to Hackley Bay.

But their shared passion for walking only started during the second lockdown in January 2021.

“I think what’s really nice is that it’s a love that’s grown together,” says Anna.

“It wasn’t like we met and we were super into hill walking.

“It’s a hobby and a passion that we found together.”

From Mount Keen to Lochnagar

One look at their vibrant Instagram grid – photo gallery – and it’s like a love letter to Aberdeenshire and Scotland as a whole.

From sunny strolls up Mount Keen and windy walks scaling Bennachie to tenacious treks up snow-capped Scolty hill and autumnal jaunts around Haddo House, the couple have documented their journey in breathtaking style.

“My absolute favourite and I know that Matthew has said the same, is Lochnagar, it’s stunning,” says Anna.

“It was Matt’s first Munro and it’s a really exciting as you’ve got a corrie at the top and the loch down the bottom.

“It’s absolutely beautiful and I don’t think we’ve found anywhere that can match it yet.

“We also really like Clachnaben and Bennachie.”

This photo shows Anna taking in the view over Tarlair open air pool.

Switching off

For Anna and Matt, one of the best things about walking is getting the chance to switch off from the stresses of everyday life.

“Both of us can be quite bad with our phones, especially with my work being all online,” says Anna.

“I really think it should be an essential part of everyone’s day to go for a walk and leave your phone in your bag.

“It’s so important to just enjoy life.”

And very shortly Anna and Matt will have a tiny trekker accompanying them on walks as they are expecting their first child, a little girl, next month.

“We’ve got a wee girl on the way so we’re excited now and really looking forward to the changes,” says Anna.

Matt enjoys the scenery around Loch Muick.

Tough times

While Anna and Matt are super positive people, something which shines through on their Instagram page, they are keen to stress that they too have got things going on in the background.

“It’s important to note that we have such a positive outlook but it’s also good for people to know that even though it seems that everything is going well and we’re in a really good place there’s also a lot going on in the background of our lives,” says Anna.

“My mum is about to go through chemotherapy for breast cancer.

“Its been a hard few months as we found out she had cancer in the same week that we found out I was pregnant.

“She’s been so strong through it all and so positive.

“It’s not been easy but we’ll get through it.”

Anna pictured with her mum Laura.

Royal approval

Anna and Matt’s Instagram page has even inspired her mum, Laura Strong who lives in Strichen, to start her own blog, documenting her cancer journey.

“I think she’s seen the impact that Instagram blogs can have on people and how it can actually support them,” says Anna.

“At the end of the day, it’s real-life people and real-life stories.”

Anna says her mum is so proud of her especially when she was invited to a special carol service hosted by The Duchess of Cambridge at Westminster Abbey back in 2021 to recognise her role in bringing the community together during lockdown through Aberdeenshire Walks.

Anna was invited to a special service at Westminster Abbey to recognise her role in bringing the local community together during lockdown.

“It was amazing and I was so taken aback when they phoned up to ask if I’d like to come along.

“It was quite surreal.

“There were a lot of celebrities there like Tom Felton who played Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter and the singer Ellie Goulding so seeing them there was really special.

“Kate Garraway even said Merry Christmas to me.”

Wee walker

Samson and Flora won’t be the only little walkers with Anna and Matt soon.

With the imminent arrival of her little one, Anna is taking a breather from walking but is already planning hikes after their bundle of joy arrives.

“We’re already planning what baby carriers to get,” laughs Anna.

“I’ve also got a YouTube camera so I’m looking forward to using that on walks and I’m also planning to write a blog too.”

Wellbeing check-in with Anna Gill

Anna Gill and her dog Samson walking near Pitmedden House. Image: Kath Flannery, DC Thomson

What’s your favourite hill walk and why? 

Lochnagar. This was Matt’s first ever Munro so it was special for that reason. But also the views are STUNNING! We want to go back and complete all five White Mouth Munros there.

Where’s best for a leisurely stroll? 

We love Haddo House. This walk is very accessible but pretty, and also has a great coffee shop with good cakes on the estate…

Any funny walking moments? 

A lot of our funny moments are in the small things at the time such as getting stuck when crossing over streams or slipping straight into mud. We are always laughing on walks – it is just such a good way to spend time together!

What snacks are in your rucksack? 

We take snacks very seriously on bigger walks, making sure to have at least cereal bars, crisps, bananas and chocolate as well as a good lunch.

Any scary walking experiences? 

After Storm Arwin we decided to walk up Meikle Tap, Hill of Fare. The path on the way down from the summit was closed due to trees having fallen, however, we decided that couldn’t stop us! Turns out that was a terrible move – the fallen trees were so bad that we kept getting lost and the dogs needed carried. Hours later in the dark at -3°C, we finally found the car and recovered with an Indian takeaway!

What are your three best tips for hill walking? 

  • Layer up with good clothing and wear comfy boots.
  • Pack a spare pair of socks, water, and plenty of snacks
  • Plan your route in advance and keep a map on you. Don’t attempt to take paths that look like shortcuts – we’ve made that mistake too many times.

Any advice on the best clothing to wear? 

We do generally find that you pay for what you get with outdoor clothing, however, that does not mean you necessarily need the most expensive items. Our personal favourite clothing brands are Rab, Mountain Equipment and Montane.

What footwear is best?

This completely depends on your feet, requirements and budget. The best thing you can do is go into your local outdoor wear shop and try on some different pairs to see what is best for you. We personally like Salomon and Meindl boots most.

Who are your walking/outdoor heroes? 

I LOVE hearing stories like that of Nirmal Purja who climbed all 14 mountains over 8,000 metres in seven months. However, I am so inspired every day by other people across Scotland, just living a normal life like you or I, that share their adventures online. For example, James from Scottish Munro Journey and Megan Beaudry who lives in Aberdeen. There is also an amazing lady, Jess, who runs a local business called @bumpsbairnsandbuggies and shares lots of local walks with her three children.

Best walking experience? 

Any Munros – even ones that don’t feel so exciting. Nothing compares to quality time with the people you’re hiking with, and you get the best sense of achievement afterwards!! Mount Keen is a great Aberdeenshire one to get started with.
For more information about Aberdeenshire Walks check out their Instagram page @aberdeenshirewalks.