The perfect combination for an adventurous hiker
Scotland has it all, from lush green glens to shimmering lochs, snow-capped mountains and a breathtaking coastline. Each year, it draws hikers like a magnet. So much so, that some of them start to… collect hills. ‘Munro bagging’ has been a national Scottish hobby since the ’80’s, which has recently gained a wider audience. Outdoor enthusiasts from all corners of the UK and beyond get hooked on summiting one mountain after another. Why is that? Could you become one of them? And what are the perks of Munro bagging with a motorhome? In this article, we will explain the nuts and bolts of hillwalking in Scotland and show you 5 itineraries suitable for beginners.
What is Munro bagging?
The term ‘Munro’ is used to describe 282 of the highest mountains in Scotland and all of them are over 3000 ft or 914.4 m. Once you’ve climbed one, you’ve ‘bagged a Munro’. Many ambitious hikers are very keen and they want to reach the ultimate goal: summiting them all.
The benefits of taking up Munro bagging as a hobby
Fitness: hiking is a great workout: an average 6-hour hike burns around 5000 calories!
Mental health: immersing yourself in nature helps you to switch off, de-stress and boost self-confidence.
Social life: it gives you a chance to connect with other outdoor enthusiasts, e.g. by joining a local hillwalking club.
Giving back: multiple charities organise Munro challenges to raise funds for a good cause.
Planning a Munro bagging tour
It is very important that you come prepared, especially If you’re new to Munro bagging, or hiking in general. After all, venturing into the Scottish wilderness is nothing like a stroll in the park. On a good day, you’ll witness captivating beauty. However, if you’re out of luck within just a few minutes you may be lost, soaked, sore and freezing. Therefore, never underestimate the weather conditions in the mountains and keep the following in mind:
|SEASON||Inexperienced hikers should stick to climbing Munros from late spring to early autumn. Winter conditions in the mountains are particularly harsh and require special preparation. Keep in mind that most of the route descriptions found online and in printed guides are summer hikes.|
|WEATHER||Scottish weather is known to be fickle. It could change quite quickly and vary drastically between when you arrive at the car park and when you reach the summit. Check a reliable forecast (e.g. mwis.org.uk) and always be prepared for rain, wind and fog. If you feel overwhelmed by the conditions, turn back and try again tomorrow, as tomorrow is another day.|
|CLOTHING||A Munro bagger’s outfit should tick these 3 boxes: dry, warm & comfortable. Apart from several waterproof layers, do not forget: ✓ Ankle-protecting sturdy waterproof boots ✓ Moisture-wicking hiking socks ✓ Hat and gloves ✓ Sun cream and sunglasses ✓ Midge head net & insect repellent ✓ A spare set of gloves and socks can be a real lifesaver.|
|FOOD & DRINK||Treat yourself to a large high-carb breakfast before setting off. Drink plenty of water to start off well hydrated. Additionally, carry at least 1 litre of fluids (water or tea in a thermal flask). Pack enough high calorie snacks to keep your energy levels up.|
|NAVIGATION||A solid backup is essential. Do not rely exclusively on apps and GPS devices whilst hiking. Instead learn how to use maps and compasses. It may sound old-school, but signal fades, batteries die and all electronic gadgets break.|
|FITNESS LEVEL||The golden rule here is: don’t bite off more than you can chew. Picturesque summit selfies can be misleading and getting to the top requires a lot of stamina! Some Munros have difficult sections involving scrambling or crossing exposed ridges. However, even climbing an ‘easy’ hill will break a sweat. Ideally, you train in advance by hiking on easier terrains, break in your boots or if there are no other options available, you could always walk up and down the stairs with your backpack on.|
What should I do in case of an emergency whilst climbing Scotland’s Munros?
All that said, mountains remain unpredictable and occasionally, despite the best preparation, you may find yourself in a bit of a pickle. If this is the case, remain calm, find a safe place and dial 999. The emergency services can put you through to the Scottish Mountain Rescue.
A Munro bagger’s best friend is a motorhome
What does this actually mean?
Many hikers say that Munro bagging with a campervan adds an extra dimension to the overall experience. It can increase safety and comfort for beginners, whilst allowing the experienced hikers to bag multiple Munros in one go.
Benefits of Munro bagging with a motorhome
Time: camping close to your next Munro allows you to start the hike at the crack of dawn, which increases your chances of success. If you park your motorhome strategically, you may attempt summiting multiple peaks on one day.
Scenery: motorhome sites in Scotland are often located in truly spectacular spots. You may admire the starry sky or enjoy your morning cuppa whilst gazing out onto a beautiful misty lake.
Safety: having a safe base to come back to feels priceless if the weather suddenly turns miserable, or you decide to retreat for some other reason.
Comfort: nothing beats a warm, cosy shelter after an exhausting walk. You may change into dry clothes, boil the kettle, grab a bite to eat, sit back and relax after a long walk.
Adventure: touring Scotland by motorhome gives you the freedom and spontaneity to visit different places. If things don't go according to the plan, you can just sit back and enjoy the other perks of being on campervan holiday. After all, you have all you need with you.
Motorhome sites in Scotland vs wild camping
In principle, wild camping on unenclosed land is legal everywhere in Scotland as ensured by the Land Reform Act from 2003. However, some popular destinations and natural conservation areas (e.g. Loch Lomond & the Trossachs) have special bylaws to decrease the strain on local fragile ecosystems. As a result, in some regions camping is only permitted within designated campsites or with a permit. Therefore, before you park your campervan in the outdoors:
Make sure that the area is not subject to wild camping bylaws.
Don’t forget to ask for the landowner’s permission.
Always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, especially when it comes to:
Driving a campervan in Scotland
There are a few things worth keeping in mind when driving a motorhome on Scottish roads:
Inexperienced motorhome drivers should go for a smaller campervan.
A lot of roads in the Highlands are narrow and winding, so drive carefully and adjust your speed accordingly.
You’ll come across many single track roads with passing places on the side of the road. If you are closer to the bay than the oncoming car, pull into the bay and let them go first. Don't forget to wave and say thank you when it's the other way around.
Visitors from outside of the UK should get acquainted with left-hand driving rules and take particular care whilst out and about.
Munro bagging for beginners: tips on choosing your first Munro
First things first: no Munro is really easy. The same mountain may be perfectly beginner friendly in the morning and a snow-capped ankle-twisting trap around noon. Also, even the clearest path becomes barely visible in a thick fog. Now, putting the weather aside, whilst choosing your first Munro ask yourself the following questions:
Does it have an easy-to-follow path? Are there any exposed ridges & scrambling sections?
Will there be other hikers on the trail?
What is the total altitude difference you need to climb?
Is it doable and suited to your current fitness level?
Will you finish your hike before it gets dark?
Views from the summit
What can be seen from the top? Are the sights potentially rewarding or memorable?
Easiest Munros: 5 exciting beginner tours
Ready for your first Munro bagging trip? Check out the following five itineraries, which we’ve handpicked from various scenic corners of Scotland. If you are travelling with a campervan, you may also easily combine a few of them for an extended Highland holiday.
But be careful, you might find yourself getting hooked before you know it!
1. Ben Lomond, Loch Lomond
Being the most southerly Munro in Scotland, this is a classic first peak to bag. Around 30,000 hikers a year follow its clear path to the top, where they’re rewarded with a truly spectacular panorama of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.
12 km/7.5 miles
Panoramic views of the Trossachs National Park
Rowardennan Car Park
2. Schiehallion, Perthshire
Also called “The Fairy Hill of the Caledonians”, Schiehallion is a great mountain to train your rudimentary hillwalking skills. After climbing a relatively easy trail along a broad ridge, you’ll reach a legendary boulder field, which can be a bit tricky if it’s wet.
10 km/6.5 miles
Splendid views across Rannoch Moor to the peaks of Glencoe
Braes of Foss car park
3. The Cairnwell Munros, Cairngorms
Once you’re ready to bag multiple Munros, there’s no better choice than heading to Cairngorms National Park. A huge advantage of this walk is a high elevation starting point and an easy-to-follow path. Within mere, hours you can proudly cross 3 peaks off your list!
Càrn Aosda 917 m, Càrn a' Ghèoidh 975 m, The Cairnwell 933 m
13 km/8 miles
Views to Glas Tulaichean and Glen Shee
Glen Shee Ski Centre
4. Bruach na Frithe, Isle of Skye
If you love dramatic coastal views, try bagging one of the 13 Munros on the Scottish islands. They’re considerably more demanding, therefore prepare well and only climb in good weather. A popular beginner’s choice is Bruath na Frithe, which is considered the easiest peak to reach on the Cuillin Rigde on the Isle of Skye and a real paradise for photographers.
13.75 km/8.5 miles
Panoramic views of the Cuillin range
Lay-by near Sligachan on the Dunvegan road
5. Ben Wywis, Easter Ross
Summiting this bulky peak, rising up from the mysterious moorland landscape, is a great introduction to taking your Munro bagging hobby up north. Stick to the main path to protect the UK’s largest area of woolly hair-moss, a precious habitat for breeding dotterel.
14 km/8.75 miles
Panorama of northern Scotland: Torridon, Black Isle, Easter Ross
Ben Wyvis car park, south of Garbat
Munro bagging with a campervan in Scotland – take your hikes to the next level!
No matter if you are looking for a new hobby, great workout or an antidote for stress – Munro bagging is definitely worth giving a go. It’ll take you to the most picturesque Scottish sites and leave you itching for more. Combine hillwalking and a campervan holiday to make the most of your Highland adventure.