A quick guide to Munro-bagging in Scotland

A skier looks over to the Fannaichs, a region of 10 Munros, including Sgurr Mor. Picture: Jamie Johnstone
A skier looks over to the Fannaichs, a region of 10 Munros, including Sgurr Mor. Picture: Jamie Johnstone
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Munro-bagging was a term first coined in 1974, but its enduring popularity means it was no flash in the pan. Find out all about it from this at-a-glance guide

What is Munro-bagging?

Munro-bagging is the increasingly popular feat of successfully climbing 282 Scottish mountains with a summit of at least 3,000ft.

A Munro was first established by Sir Hugh Munro, an original member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) after he published an article with a definitive list of all Scotland’s mountains over 3,000 feet. His original list featured 538 summits, 282 of which were “Munros,” classified as being of “sufficient separation” from their neighbouring tops.

The concept of “Munro-bagging” was popularised by the publication of Hamish’s Mountain Walk, by Hamish Brown, in 1974. The book documented Brown’s four-month journey around all the Munros. Following on from the book, STV broadcast a series called the Munro Show presented by Muriel Gray in the early 1990s, which inspired many people to take up hillwalking.

According to the Scottish Mountaineering Club, almost 5,690 Munro walkers have completed a first round to date, with many going on bag all the Munros up to six times.

The coveted ‘compleation’ of a round is when a walker has climbed all 282 Munros - ‘compleate’ is the archaic version of complete.

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How many types of hills are there?

Munros, of course, aren’t hillwalkers’ only destinations. The Scottish countryside is full of different peaks, suitable for experienced or novice walkers. The nation’s hills can be split into various categories:

Munros: 282 Scottish mountains with a summit of at least 3,000ft

Munro tops: Munro tops are summits that are over 3,000ft, but considered to be a subsidiary top of a nearby Munro. There are currently 227 Munro tops

Corbetts: A Corbett is a separate mountain over 2,500ft. Corbetts must have a 500ft drop on all sides. They are named after John Rooke Corbett, who became the first person to climb all the 2,000ft-high peaks in Scotland

Grahams: Graham is a Scottish mountain between 2,000ft and 2,499ft which must have a drop of at least 150 metres all round. The Grahams are named after Fiona Torbet (nee Graham) who published her own list of these peaks in the early 1990s

Donalds: Donalds are mountains in the Scottish Lowlands which measure in at over 2,000ft

Murdos: Scottish hills over 3,000ft with a minimum drop of 30 metres on all sides - all Munros are Murdos, but not all Munro tops are Murdos

Why should I start?

Munro-bagging or hillwalking is a great form of exercise and is arguably better than going to the gym (not only because you get to take in some Scottish scenery). Hillwalking is ideal for toning up your legs and works muscles more intensively than an average workout or a brisk walk. Also beneficial is the fact that it’s less likely to cause foot or knee injuries common to runners.

Hillwalking can also benefit mental health and has been found to help people concentrate better at work, be more creative and has proven to be “an effective intervention for depression,” by researchers at the University of Stirling.

What equipment should I take?

Regardless of which time of year you’re heading out, it’s essential to take the right equipment.

As far as footwear, flip-flops or regular trainers are a no-no. Firm soled shoes with ankle support are best. Waterproof jacket and overtrousers are fairly essential items for Scotland’s perenially unpredictable weather. Get yourself a fleece or jumper, hillwalking trousers (not jeans) and a hat and gloves if it’s a cold day. For convenience, pack some walking poles, a compass, a map, midge repellent and, if appropriate, some sun tan lotion