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Hillwalking in Scotland

Posted by Beppo Buchanan-Smith on Apr 6, 2013 5:58:00 PM

Spring and a middle-aged man’s thoughts…

Each year I look up the method by which the date of Easter is derived but, try as I might, I can never commit it to memory. It does feel like Easter is early this year however. We have passed the equinox (equal periods of night and day) and longer days are coming our way. The clocks have sprung forward, so it is fair to say that spring is with us.

Spring, the season when a middle-aged man’s thoughts turn to hillwalking.

Hillwalking options in Scotland are legend. In a nutshell Scotland has 284 mountains over 3,000ft above sea level. This dwarfs the four in England, eight in Wales and seven in Eire. At this stage it is worth pointing out that the measurement and classification of mountains is an activity that is fraught and there are various (generally quite tedious in my view) disagreements regarding definitions. Using any definition of what constitutes a mountain Scotland has many more.ben nevis

There are some alluring aspects to the Scottish hills. The most important is that they are invariably set in scenic locations. Their remote nature restricts the numbers of visitors, so they are a great place to enjoy a little solitude. Most of the summits can be reached on foot without any technical climbing, and virtually all of them can be undertaken as one-day trips. Many of the hills are relatively family friendly and the summits are accessible for both the young and the old. Caution is required however, as the weather can change rapidly in the hills making the environment hostile.

Many readers will have already hiked in the Scottish mountains and know a fair amount about their history and location, and therefore might like to skip the forthcoming passage. The Scottish mountains that are over 3,000ft (913m) and are known as ‘Munros’. Sir Hugh Munro was the author of the first table of Scottish mountains back in 1891. There is a distinction between ‘Munros’, which are the separate mountains, and ‘tops’ which are all of the pronounced points or peaks that exceed 3,000ft.

What constitutes a separate mountain has been the subject of many heated discussions.

There is no definitive set of criteria and such distinction as does exist is based on the drop in height, the distance between adjacent summits, their character, the nature of the intervening ground and the time taken to travel from one to another.

snow on ben nevis resized 600Walkers who are in the process of ticking off, or bagging each peak are often called ‘tickers’ or ‘baggers’, whilst those that have achieved the feat are called ‘completers’. Munro managed to climb most but not all of the peaks. It is widely held that the first person to complete the list was the Reverend A.E. Robertson, however some interesting detective work from my former University colleague Dr Robin Campbell has cast doubt on this fact. Therefore Ronald Burn might be the first person to have completed the Munro list.

This Easter we experienced a fantastic spell of weather that was ideal for Scottish hill walking. A high pressure system seemed to have parked itself over Scotland. We managed to get to the summit of several Munros that we had not visited previously. Despite there being some very cold easterly winds, the skies were blue and we could see for miles. On the way home from this trip we dropped in to visit our family on the Isle of Eriska.

ben sgulairdEriska is a fantastic base from which to undertake some hillwalking day trips. Beinn Sgulaird is a short drive from the hotel. One guide book describes this as ‘an easy traverse for a lazy afternoon with fine coastal views of Benderloch and Appin’. The views are indeed spectacular but the ease of this trip will depend on your fitness, it is about 4 miles and 3050ft of assent. The four Munros that tower above Loch Awe (Ben Cruachan, Stob Diamh, Beinn a’ Chochuill and Beinn Eunaich) also make for easy day trips from the hotel. Slightly longer drives clockwise to Glen Coe, or anti-clockwise to Tyndrum open up a wealth of other options for bagging Munros.

There are a number of quaint Munro related records. These include the fasted completion, completing the list multiple times and the first completion in a single winter. A while ago I was told that most people finish their Munro list on Ben More on Mull which is also easily accessible from the hotel. I wonder who will be the first completer to celebrate at Eriska?

Vernon Gayle EON ( Eriska's Official kNowledge)

Topics: History, Scottish Weather, scenery