Top tips for bagging your first Munro as we reach peak hiking season

Scotland has 282 Munros waiting to be bagged by willing hikers
-Credit: (Image: Getty)

For lovers of the great outdoors, Munro bagging is unrivalled. With our rolling hills, atmospheric lochs, and gorgeous glens, there really is no other place like it.

And for those who enjoy hiking, there is a very popular pastime that can take you to some of the most scenic parts of the country. We are, of course, talking about Ben Nevis.

Munros are Scottish mountains that stand over 3,000ft (914.4m) tall and are named after Sir Hugh Munro, who first catalogued the 282 peaks in his 1891 'Munros Tables'.

Scaling just one of these towering peaks is an impressive feat, with many Scots - and visitors too - attempting to climb - or 'bag' - as many of the 282 as they can. Those who hit the 282 Munro milestone are known as 'compleaters'.

If this is something that appeals to you but you haven't yet tackled your first Munro, we've provided a little guide full of top tips to ensure you are fully prepared and equipped for your first bagging expedition.

Bagging your first Munro

Every Munro is different and should be treated as such. Some, like Lomond - the tallest mountain in the UK at 4,413ft (1,345m) and, therefore, the biggest Munro - require a lot more skill and effort. As a beginner, it's probably best to start out with smaller and easier climbs.

Stuart Johnston MIC, a distinguished mountaineering authority and co-author of the Mountain Skills Training Handbook, has some advice for novices eager to tackle Scotland's Munros. He suggests starting with Ben Perthshire (3,195 ft/974 m) in the Trossachs and Schiehallion (3,547 ft/1,083 m) in Perthshire.

Schiehallion is a popular starter Munro
Schiehallion is a popular starter Munro -Credit:Perthshire Advertiser

He said: "Ben Lomond and Schiehallion are less technically challenging. Though every Munro is challenging in their own way in terms of safety, these are Munros that have more clearly defined pathways to the summit."

For those new to hillwalking, the Scottish website recommends the dual Munros of Ben Lawers (3,984ft/1,214m) and Beinn Ghlas (3,619ft/1,103m) in Perthshire as a good option for beginners.

Climbing enthusiast Finlay Greig believes The Cairnwell Munros - Càrn Aosda (3,008ft/917m), Càrn a' Ghèoidh (3,199ft/975m), and The Cairnwell (3,061ft/933m) - are a good place to start. He said: "They are by far the easiest Munros to climb. If you're fit and in a hurry you can climb all three in three hours.

"While the two Munros which make up Buachaille Etive Beag are by no means the easiest Munros, they offer beginners a chance to sample the craggy delights of Glencoe. The terrain is steep but forgiving and views of more ruthless neighbours are majestic."

For those looking to start with something a bit easier, popular hills like Conic Hill near Loch Lomond provide an excellent opportunity to build confidence.

Make sure you have the right equipment when going hill climbing
Make sure you have the right equipment when going hill climbing -Credit:Getty Images
What equipment you'll need

For starters, please avoid climbing Munros underprepared in T-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops. It is not only dangerous but can also lead to embarrassing rescue situations.

Having the right equipment is crucial and Stuart emphasises the importance of using proper gear - starting with robust boots. He said: "When you are going onto a mountain the terrain can quite quickly change so sturdy footwear is very important. They should feel like slippers on your feet but they give you the upper ankle support that you really need."

Affordable yet quality pairs can be found at outdoor shops such as Tiso and Cotswold Outdoor, which also offer fitting services to ensure the perfect fit.

Clothing is equally crucial. Consider two layers - a comfortable inner layer and a removable outer one to keep you warm or, more likely in Scotland, dry. This includes hats, jackets and gloves, given the unpredictable Scottish weather.

A good rucksack is also important. Opt for something comfortable and easy to carry that fits snugly against your back without hindering movement.

It should also be large enough to accommodate extra clothing, food and drink, and essentials like torches, first aid kits and other items you might need along the way.

Finding your way around

Beginners are advised to stick to well-trodden paths. Stuart said: "On your initial walks try to stick to paths and well-worn routes to reduce the complexity, however there is no substitute for learning how to use a map and compass in the right way."

For those of you keen to take hillwalking up a notch, Stuart recommends investing in a reliable handheld GPS device, not just relying on your mobile phone which can often lose signal or run out of battery.

As a further bit of advice, Stuart added: "Know when to turn back. It's not just about making it to the top, its about having a nice day out.

"If the weather becomes challenging then feel comfortable stopping, turning around and heading back, you will still have achieved something and had a good day out and that's part of hill walking - knowing when to stop when the weather demands it."

Other things to bear in mind

Websites such as the WalkHighlands and here are great resources for tips and advice for getting started.

Munro enthusiast Finlay's top tip is: "Live and breathe the WalkHighlands website. Routes are meticulously researched, and fellow hikers will be all too happy to answer beginners' queries on the site's forum."

If you're not confident tackling the challenge alone, there are plenty of excellent hill walking and mountaineering clubs in Scotland, both national and regional. You can find a list here.

Regardless of how high you climb, it's highly likely you'll encounter Scotland's biggest nuisance at some point. Midges can be a real pain during the summer and early autumn months, so it's worth investing in an effective insect repellent - or even a flamethrower (we're only joking, of course).

Littering is a big no-no. It's important to leave no trace of your visit behind, except perhaps for your footprints. There's nothing worse than seeing beautiful spots spoiled by discarded cans and wrappers.

Try to carry all your rubbish in your rucksack and, if you're feeling particularly conscientious, pick up any litter you spot along your route to dispose of properly when you return.

If you're planning on visiting more than one area of Scotland, it's crucial to wash your boots or at least disinfect the soles. This helps prevent the spread of diseases that could harm local plants as you move from one part of the country to another.

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