282 peaks in Scotland pierce the magical 3000-foot marker and many walkers make it their mission to bag the lot. Called Munros after Sir Hugh of that name, the man who drew up the list in 1891, the first one most travellers encounter is Ben Lomond. This most southerly of the Munros crowns the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. There’s a sturdy (and busy) path up from Rowardennan, or you can try the gnarlier line of the Ptarmigan Ridge to 3196ft. One Munro down, 281 to go – or you can sample these highlights picked by our mountain experts.
Long thought to be the summit of Britain, the nation’s secondhighest peak hulks up to 4295 feet at the heart of the Cairngorm plateau. “The sense of space is incredible,” says Keith Fergus, CW writer and author of multiple guidebooks, “as are the views that extend across much of the national park and beyond.” You can approach from the ski centre to the north, and double your Munro count by taking in Cairn Gorm (4085 ft) itself and its spectacular northern corries, or as Keith suggests in his book The Dee: 25 Walks from Source to Sea, you can walk in from the south through gorgeous Glen Lui and bag Derry Cairngorm (3789 ft) on an alternative 17-mile, two-Munro route.
THE RING OF STEALL*
“This round gives superb walking and scrambling around the skyline of a deep corrie and over no less than four Munros – Sgurr a’ Mhàim, Am Bodach, Stob Coire a’ Chàirn, An Gearanach – all in the shadow of Ben Nevis across the glen,” says Ralph Storer, CW writer and author of the multi-volume Ultimate Guide to the Munros. “The route’s name comes from the Anglicised pronunciation (Steel) of the Gaelic name for the high waterfall that drains the corrie (more correctly said Shtyowl). The most exciting parts are the start, with an airy tightrope walk along the Devil’s Ridge, and the finish on an exciting scramble up the last Munro. From there a stalker’s path gives an easy descent to Glen Nevis for a spectacular end-of-day ramble past Steall and down the Nevis Gorge.”
“Lochnagar is one of the truly classic British mountain walks,” says Keith. “Her renowned, brooding cliffs never fail to take the breath away. She is a majestic mountain, an apt description as Lochnagar has been closely connected with Queen Victoria since the 19th century. Outstanding paths line the majority of the route, which begins within the lovely surrounds of Glen Muick, before climbing high onto Lochnagar’s spacious plateau, venturing, at times, along steep cliffs.”
“A big proper Scottish day,’ is how CW photographer Tom Bailey describes this round. “Ben Lui is an iconic peak, and this high horseshoe up one ridge and down another is a good adventure, and there’s nothing too scary about it in clear summer conditions. The shortest route is from Glen Lochy to the west, but I like the approach from the east, where you can focus on the mountain’s elegant arêtes and the rock-bowl of Coire Gaothaich on the long walk down the glen, before the climb to its 3707 foot summit.”
Just three miles from Ben MacDui lies one of Ralph’s favourites: “This route is both spectacular and unusual. Spectacular because it ascends via the hidden Loch Avon basin, the Cairngorms’ most awesome spot. I call it Scotland’s Yosemite. Unusual because the route goes over the Cairn Gorm plateau and down to the lochside before climbing Beinn Mheadhoin (3878 ft). A high start at Coire Cas keeps the total ascent manageable and there’s lots to see on the way: the sandy-shored loch, the Goat Path, the historic Shelter Stone, Mheadhoin’s summit tors, epic scenery everywhere.”
THE CRUACHAN HORSESHOE
“This forms a horseshoe ridge around a deep-cut corrie filled by Cruachan Reservoir,” says Ralph. “The round of the corrie skyline crosses two Munros – Ben Cruachan and Stob Daimh – and is a classic ridge walk with endless views over Loch Awe (Scotland’s longest loch) and the western seascape. The ridge is narrow, adventurous and aesthetically pleasing, with one brief scramble to get the pulse racing. And there are few better ways to end a day on the hill than ‘westering home’ as the sun sets over Loch Awe into the Atlantic.”