Mountain hiking is a popular pastime in Scotland, the country’s rugged beauty proving an inspiration to generations of walkers. And among these fans of the outdoors, one activity is particularly prized - the Munro. The term applies to any mountain in Scotland with a summit higher than 3,000 ft (or 914 meters) - and there are a great many of them. No fewer than 282 peaks qualify and hiking up them - known as ‘bagging’ - is a great way to enjoy Scotland’s fine scenery. But, with such an extensive list, where does a Munro bagging novice start? Here are 10 of the easier mountains to set you on your way.
1. Ben Lawers
Even though these are among the easier Munros, those seeking to bag one need to be fit and prepared for the terrain and weather. Conditions on the peaks can change in an instant. So make sure you take a backpack with water, proper hiking clothes, a map and compass (and know how to use them) and you’ll enjoy many a fine walk among these 10 suggestions.
The first Munro on this list is also arguably one of the easiest to complete despite being one of the tallest summits in Scotland. This is thanks in no small part to the starting point of the climb. The car park for the walk up Ben Lawers sits above sea level, meaning that a sizable chunk of the mountain’s 1,214 meter (3,983 ft) ascent is already behind you before you even set foot on its slopes. The mountain is located to the north of Loch Tay in Perthshire and sits in a rich area for Munro bagging - its summit is on a long ridge that contains no fewer than seven of these mountain tops.
Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve
Website: Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve
2. Mount Keen
The most easterly of Scotland’s Munros, Mount Keen sits on the fringes of the county of Angus. There are two main routes up to the mountain’s 939 meter (3,081 ft) summit - from Glen Tanar in Aberdeenshire to the north, and via Glen Mark to the south. Some walkers enjoy taking it on as a linear walk starting in one of the glens and ending in the other - but both sites are ill-served by public transport, so unless you have someone prepared to drop you off on one side and pick you up on the other, it is advisable to return via the route you came.
From the south side, access to the peak begins at a free car park at Invermark and follows a very clearly defined track up past Glen Mark until you reach the Queen’s Well - an ornate monument erected to mark a visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the 19th-century. From there the path ascends steadily up the flanks of Mount Keen via a well-defined track to the summit.
Website: Mount Keen
3 & 4. Driesh and Mayar
Why bag just one Munro on your first outing when you can climb two for minimal additional effort? Mayar and Driesh are located side by side off glens Clova and Doll in Angus. Leaving your car parked in the dedicated car park at Glen Doll, where there are toilets and a mountain rangers base, the climb to the summit of Driesh is made via the well-defined Shank of Drumfollow path. This emerges onto the summit plateau roughly midway between the two Munros.
Driesh lies off to your left, while Mayar sits to your right and can be bagged by following the remains of an old fence westward. After bagging both peaks descend from Mayar’s cairn via Corrie Fee - a spectacular corrie which is home to alpine plants and a beautiful waterfall - and back to the rangers base. The Glen Clova Hotel, south of the car park, is a great spot for food and drink after your hike, and offers a range of accommodation.
5. Ben Hope
Scotland’s most northerly Munro, Ben Hope offers spectacular views across the wild and empty far north. The islands of Orkney are easily visible from the summit on clear days. Access to the walk is in Strathmore via a minor road that runs between the north coast and the tiny village of Altnaharra. The village of Tongue has several accommodation options. The climb up the Ben from the car park at Muiseal is short in length but steep and wet and follows a well-marked route for much of the way, emerging above the crags and turning north towards the trig point that marks the 927 meter (3,041 ft) summit.
Website: Ben Hope
Schiehallion is one of the more famous of Scotland’s Munros, in part for its iconic outline and also for its location almost slap bang in the middle of the country. Its relative isolation from other peaks and regular conical outline also meant it played a fascinating part in 18th-century efforts to figure out the ‘weight of the world’ - the deflection of a pendulum by the mountain’s gravity was used to estimate the Earth’s mass. Its central location and the relative ease of the climb also make it hugely popular among walkers. Many of them head out from a car park at Brae of Foss - owned by Forestry Commission Scotland - and follow a route southwest and then west up the main ridge of the mountain.
Braes of Foss car park
Address: PH16 5NN is the nearest postcode. The map grid reference is NN 752 557
Contact: +44 1350727284 or [email protected]
Website: Braes of Foss
7. The Cairnwell
As with Ben Lawers, the Cairnwell is among the easier climbs partly due to the height of the start point. In this case the large car park at the Glenshee Ski Centre on the road between Braemar and Spittal of Glenshee. The route to the summit is via a well defined track and, as with Mayar and Driesh, you can bag two Munros for the price of one by including neighboring Carn Aosda on your trek, should you wish. Why not spend some time at the ski centre before or after your walk? In winter it boasts up to 36 runs (snow permitting) and has 22 lifts. It is also geared up for all standards of skier. However, if there is snow on the ground expect the car park to fill up rapidly as people make a beeline for the slopes.
Glenshee Ski Centre
Address: Glenshee Ski Centre, Cairnwell, Braemar, Aberdeenshire, AB35 5XU
Contact: +44 1339741320
Website: Glenshee Ski Centre
8. Ben Lomond
Scotland’s most southerly Munro is located immediately to the east of Loch Lomond. It is among the most popular Munros to climb, owing to its proximity to the busy central belt cities as well as the spectacular views it affords of the loch. One benefit of this popularity is the very well-defined ‘tourist path’ from the National Trust for Scotland car park at Rowardennan and up the gradual ascent of the Sròn Aonaich ridge before a later steeper stretch towards the 974 meter (3,196 ft) summit. An alternative way to start your walk involves going to Tarbet on the western shore of Loch Lomond and taking a passenger ferry across to Rowardennan.
Website: Ben Lomond
Rowardennan car park
Address: The nearest postcode is G63 0AR. It is located at grid reference NS 359 986
Contact: +44 3000676600 or [email protected]
9. Ben More
Ben More is the isle of Mull’s only Munro and to get to the island you’ll need to take a Caledonian MacBrayne ferry. Unlike some others, this walk begins at sea level at Loch na Keal, so you’ll be bagging the full 966 meter (3,169 ft) height of the Munro. However, the climb is more gradual and straightforward than many, making it among the easier to climb, if boggy in places. There’s two things to beware of however.
Firstly, the rocks on parts of Ben More are magnetic and can give off faulty compass readings, so be careful in low cloud or mist. Secondly, Mull’s Ben More is not the only mountain of that name in Scotland. Its name translates from Gaelic as ‘big’ or 'great mountain’. Naturally this means that several other peaks bear the name 'Ben More’ or the Gaelic 'Beinn Mhor’, so make sure you’ve got the right mountain when buying maps or researching your route.
Website: Ben More
Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries
Contact: 0800 0665000 (domestic), +44 1475650397 (international) or email [email protected]
Website: Caledonian MacBrayne
10. Cairn Gorm
This mighty Munro makes the list owing to the variety of start points, which offer differing levels of difficulty - from a ‘cheat’ that few would count as a true bag, to a proper challenge. After driving to the main base station car park at the Cairn Gorm Mountain ski centre, a funicular railway journey will take you to the Ptarmigan cafe and visitor centre. The centre offers short 90 minute guided walks from it to the summit at Cairn Gorm.
Few folk would dare try to claim it as a proper ‘bag’ but, as an introduction to the kind of vistas you can enjoy from the summits of Scotland’s Munros, the view out from the summit will certainly whet the appetite. And, of course, there are ways to climb it the 'proper’ way, including one that starts from the ski centre’s base station car park.
Cairn Gorm Mountain
Address: Cairn Gorm Mountain Ltd, Cairn Gorm Ski Area, Aviemore, PH22 1RB
Contact: +44 1479861261 or [email protected]
Website: Cairn Gorm Mountain
See you on the mountains!
With so many Munros out there waiting to be conquered, this list offers but a snapshot of the many varied vistas and walking experiences out there. But one thing can be guaranteed - their individual characters make Munro bagging an exhilarating and addictive pursuit. So much so, that many people have gone on to bag all 282 peaks - and are known as ‘compleaters’. Will you be one of them?
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