Scotland boasts a vast array of epic, rugged landscapes - the ultimate adventurer’s playground! For hikers (and runners), it is home to some of the UK’s best mountain climbs, as well as the opportunity to go Munro bagging.
With 282 Munros to bag, this unique Scottish challenge is no simple task! That being said, it is possible for regular walkers to take on any Munro for themselves and even commit to trying to conquer them all.
For those unsure of where to get started (or looking for hiking inspiration this summer), who better to help than experienced Munro bagger Bee Leask? Keep reading to discover where Munro bagging began, as well as her recommended Munros to try…
My name is Bee Leask and I am a Shetlander based on the Scottish mainland. I got into the outdoors and Munros a bit later on than most, probably because there are no Munros in Shetland and, as much as I remember going through Glencoe as a kid, the realisation that I could climb to the top of these mountains wasn’t something I understood until I was in my late 20s and, at that point, it blew my mind.
I did my first Munro almost 10 years ago whilst on a camping trip on the Isle of Mull. Ben More is often saved for the final Munro if you’re a ‘Munro bagger’. But this wasn’t something I had even heard of at that point, nevermind thought I could achieve. I climbed Ben More and, to be honest, thought no more about it until a year later when I did a few more Munros and things kind of escalated from there. I never set out to do all of the Munros, but climbing Scottish mountains really gave me the passion for Scotland and being outdoors. It gave me confidence and encouraged me to try new things, from summit camps to winter mountaineering, climbing and hill running. It’s my first love, and what brings me true happiness and contentment whatever is happening in real life. I know, when I am up a Scottish mountain, I am truly grateful and in the moment.
What is munro bagging?
Munro bagging is the activity of climbing all 282 Scottish mountains over 3000ft/914 metres. The list was first created by Sir Hugh Munro, who originally identified 283 summits known as ‘Munros’ and 255 further summits now known as ‘Munro Tops’. The list was published in the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) journal. The list has been reviewed several times and, currently, there are 282 Munros and 226 Munro Tops.
Munro bagging takes you to some absolutely spectacular and, sometimes, remote places in Scotland. If you are lucky enough to climb to the summit of all 282 Munros, then you get to call yourself a ‘Completist’ or a ‘Munroist’. Whichever you fancy! The current number of people who have ‘completed’ all of the Munros is 7392. Fun fact: I know number 7392 and joined them for their final Munro Slioch earlier this year.
Gleouraich & Spidean Mialach | Approx 7.5 miles and 1130m of ascent | Best for winter sunset views
The 15-mile drive down the single track road to Loch Quoich is where the walk starts and, if you think the drive there is stunning, then wait until you see the views from the summits. The walk takes you up to the summit of Spidean Mialach first, with views back over the Loch before taking you down to the bealach and back up to the higher summit of Gleoraich. Along the way, there are amazing views on to the South Glen Shiel ridge, Kintail and Knoydart, but the real treat is on the way back down, as you look across Loch Quoich and onto Sgùrr na Ciche, one of the most distinctive Munros.
If you time it right and get a winter sunset, then you’ll see the amazing glow as the sun drops below the Knoydart peninsula. These hills are also meant to be a bit boggy at the start but, if you wait for a good winter day, then conditions can be perfect.
The Five Sisters of Kintail (Sgùrr na Ciste Duibhe, Sgùrr na Càrnach & Sgùrr Fhuaran) | Approx 9.25 miles and 1385m of ascent | Best for stunning ridges and scrambles
Often overlooked as just the road to Skye, Kintail is one of my favourite places to hike/run or mountaineer in Scotland. It has the South Glen Shiel ridge, which is 8 munros in a day, perfect for Munro baggers, but it also has single Munros, perfect for a slightly easier day. It also has the Five Sisters of Kintail, which is a stunning linear route; over 5 summits (3 Munros) with fun scrambles, narrow ridges and amazing views.
The start of the walk is also the start point for The 3 Brothers, another ridgeline, which goes west to east, but our walk takes us from east to west. It starts with what seems like a near vertical and sometimes boggy ascent to the bealach, but this is where the fun begins as it’s now full of scrambles and narrow ridges, great if you like some exposure, not ideal if you prefer a plateau. The ridge has lots of elevation and lots of drops between summits, but the views will definitely keep you distracted. The final summit drops you down towards Morvich and you have great views over Loch Duich. Drop a bike at the end point for your return or make sure you’ve got a lift organised, otherwise it’s a long walk back along a busy road.
Beinn Alligin (Sgùrr Mòr and Tom na Gruagaich) | Approx 6.5 miles and 11190m of ascent | Best for exposed scrambles, summit camps and sunrise
Beinn Alligin was my halfway point of my Munros, so it made sense to do a summit camp to celebrate. It’s a steep slog up the gully to the summit of Tom na Gruagaich, but the views looking onto Sgùrr Mòr and the Horns of Alligin, soon make you forget that. There are plenty of places to camp on the plateau at the summit, which will give you amazing sunrise views over the ridge in the morning.
The descent to the bealach is steep and a tad scrambly, made a bit trickier if carrying a big bag. Then, it's another steep climb up to Sgùrr Mòr. Make sure you don’t miss the Eag Dubh on your way up. It's a stunning gully in the hillside. Now, it’s hard to believe it but doing the 2 Munro summits are not the best part of the day, especially if you like scrambling as you now get to scramble over the horns. They are great fun and have plenty of exposure. There is a bypass path if you would rather avoid or you can return the way you came, but I highly recommend the full route if you have a head for heights and enjoy a scramble.
I enjoyed it so much I went back a few months later to do it all again without the heavy rucksack. After the final horn it's a steep descent back down to a great path which leads you back to the start and, if you are feeling particularly energetic, there are lovely wee pools along the Abhainn Coire Mhic, perfect for a wee dip before heading back to the car.
Beinn a’Ghlò (Càrn Liath, Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain and Càrn nan Gabhar) | Approx 13.75 miles and 1239m of ascent | Best for new hill runners
I love this route. It was one of the first hill days I decided to hike/run or, as I like to call it, ‘scamper’. Situated in the Cairngorms National Park, these hills are fantastic if you are just getting started on hill running and don’t want any crazy exposure to put you off or slow you down.
The start is a great track before you turn off to a slightly boggy bit before a steep climb up to the first summit of the day, Càrn Liath. There is a great path which makes for easy going. The ridge to the second summit of the day is perfect to test your hill running skills. Great views, lovely wide ridge and another 2 Munros ahead. Once at the bealach, it gets a bit steep again, but after such a lovely run downhill, it's almost nice to be going back up again and it doesn’t seem like long before you’re at Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain, summit number 2 of the day. The route to Càrn nan Gabhar is a bit slower going as it's a bit rockier, but the views en route are amazing.
The descent is back down to the bealach and then down to a lovely track, and a 5km jog back to the start point. I opted to go over Airgiod Bheinn, a Munro top, on the way down, which was a steeper and rockier descent, so I was very glad of the gravel track on the return.
Ben Lomond | Approx 7.5 miles and 990m of ascent | Best for beginners
The most southerly Munro and one of the most popular with over 30000 people climbing this Munro every year is Ben Lomond. With its stunning location and views, and accessible a short drive from the central belt, then it's easy to see why this Munro is so popular.
Parking at Rowardennan (remember to pay for your parking), the path to Ben Lomond summit is marked with signs which take you straight to the start of the hike. The most common route is known as ‘the tourist route’, which has a clear path right to the summit. The views at the top look down over Loch Lomond and onto the Arrochar Alps, which will give you plenty of ideas for your next Munro bagging trip.
If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, then head down towards the Ptarmigan ridge, which is a rockier, steeper route back but, with breathtaking views of Loch Lomond, it’s easy to see why many people descend this way.
Hear more from Bee on our ‘Scottish Adventures with Bee Leask’ podcast. For even more hiking ideas, don’t miss our recommended UK hikes from #TeamMontane, featuring handy OS Maps.