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10 Munros for Hillwalking Beginners
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10 Munros for Hillwalking Beginners

Are you new to hillwalking or visiting Scotland’s mountains for the first time? Have you heard about Munro bagging, and are looking for a way to get started? Are you looking for a new challenge in the outdoors and to push your skills and experience a bit further?

Mountains in Scotland over 3,000′ (914.4 metres) in height are known as the Munros. Named after Sir Hugh Munro, the first person to compile a list of the peaks back in 1891. With improved mapping and measuring techniques, the list has grown and contracted over the years, but the most recent revision puts the total number of Munros at 282.

In addition to the Munros, there’s also Munro Tops. These are summits over 3,000′, but considered a subsidiary top of a nearby Munro. There’s currently considered to be 227 Munro Tops.

A good day out in the hills.

Below are 10 of my picks for the most straightforward Munros, and dare I say some of the easier ascents, which are ideal for beginners to Munro-bagging or for a short day out walking in the Scottish hills.

Read: A Beginner’s Guide to the Munros

All of the routes listed have very evident paths to their summits, though they will not be waymarked. On some of the routes it will be possible to continue further and to bag additional peaks on your walks.

10 Munros for Hillwalking Beginners

Cairn Gorm
  • Summit height: 1,245 metres (4,084′)
  • Distance: 6.5 km (4 miles)
  • Ascent: 650 metres (2,133′)
  • Approximate time: 3 hours
My ranger colleague Blair heading for the summit cairn on Cairn Gorm.

Though Cairn Gorm is the sixth highest summit in Scotland, and lends its name to the entire mountain range, it is easily accessible and an ideal peak for those new to hillwalking. The summit cairn is at 1,245 metres high, but hikers can start their ascent from the Cairngorm Mountain ski centre at a height of around 600 metres. The Windy Ridge path makes a gentle rise directly to the summit, where you’ll have views across the sweeping plateau, Arctic tundra vegetation, hidden lochs, snow buntings and perhaps even a reindeer or three. The route is relatively easy in clear summer conditions, but be aware with the height and location of this mountain, conditions can change rapidly and dramatically at any time of year.

Find the route here.

The Cairnwell and Càrn Aosda
  • Summit heights: The Cairnwell 933 metres (3,061′); Càrn Aosda 917 metres (3,008′)
  • Distance: 5 km (3 miles)
  • Ascent: 450 metres (1,476′)
  • Approximate time: 2 hours
Snow fences and piste markers in the bealach between The Cairnwell and Càrn Aosda.

The Cairnwell is a prominent cone when viewed from the south on the drive through Glenshee up to the Cairnwell Pass. The starting point for the walk is the Glenshee ski centre, which sits at around 650 metres above sea level, surrounded by several Munros. The Cairnwell is usually paired with neighbouring Càrn Aosda in a short half-day hill walk, and both are ideal for beginners as there is little ascent and routes on the two peaks have excellent tracks. They are not the most picturesque, as communication masts, ski lifts and tows, and piste markings are scattered across the area, but these prove useful for practising navigation skills in low visibility conditions. Look out for ptarmigan and mountain hares too.

For hillwalkers looking for a bigger challenge, there are lots of options to combine The Cairnwell and Càrn Aosda with other hills, including a hill race taking in a total of nine Munros in one go.

Find the route here.

Ben Chonzie
  • Summit height: 913 metres (2,995′)
  • Distance: 12.5 km (7.75 miles)
  • Ascent: 712m (2,336′)
  • Approximate time: 4.5 hours
Ben Chonzie from Glen Turret. Photo credit: Richard Webb on CC BY-SA 2.0

Of all the 282 mountains of Munro height in Scotland, Ben Chonzie has the somewhat unfair reputation as being the most dull. Or at the very least, it’s usually considered a contender for one of the top three most boring Munros. And it’s true, there’s no sensational, show-stopping summit to this rolling plateau of heather moorland and most of the easiest route follows a straightforward hill track from Glen Lednock, picking up fence-posts all the way to the summit cairn. But the views of Glen Lednock and into Glen Turret and across to Ben Vorlich are beautiful, and there’s a great chance of spotting wildlife including mountain hares and ptarmigan among the heather.

Find the route here.

Meall nan Tarmachan
  • Summit height: 1,043 metres (3,422′)
  • Distance: 7km (4 miles)
  • Ascent: 700m (2,300′)
  • Approximate time: 3 hours
A winter view of Meall nan Tarmachan from the south. Image in the public domain.

To the west of the Ben Lawers massif, the crags and peaks of the Tarmachan Ridge dominate the skyline above Loch Tay. Meall nan Tarmachan, Gaelic for the ‘hill of the ptarmigan’ is the Munro summit at 1,043 metres (3,422′) and reached by a quick ascent on a well-maintained path. The direct there-and-back route has no scrambling sections, making it a great introduction to hillwalking for beginners. Alternatively, it’s possible to continue along the rocky ridge traverse to make a longer circular route over three further Munro Tops, with superb views. With some rock scrambling on the descent from Meall Garbh to add a little more challenge to the day, the Tarmachan Ridge is one of the finest ridge walks in Scotland, and a firm favourite with many hillwalkers.

Find the route for the Tarmachan Ridge traverse here.

  • Summit height: 1,083 metres (3,061′)
  • Distance: 10 km (6 miles)
  • Ascent: 750m (2,460′)
  • Approximate time: 5 hours
The characteristic boulder field on the summit of Schiehallion.

Schiehallion is one of Scotland’s most distinctive mountains, both as an unmistakable landmark on the Perthshire skyline and in its unusual place in the history of science. The John Muir Trust own much of the land surrounding Schiehallion and have constructed an excellent path up the north-eastern flank of the mountain to manage the erosion that once scarred the side of the mountain. This makes for an easy approach to until around 800 metres, where the route enters a boulder field, becoming more challenging for the final ascent along the whaleback ridge to the summit.

Find the route here.

Read: Traversing Schiehallion: Scotland’s Magical Mountain
Mayar and Driesh
  • Summit heights: Mayar 928 metres (3,045′); Driesh 947 metres (3,107′)
  • Distance: 14.5 km (9 miles)
  • Ascent: 900 metres (2,950′)
  • Approximate time: 5 hours
The view back down the glen from the Corrie Fee track.

Mayar and Driesh are another couple of Munros which are usually walked together as a pair. With well-defined paths starting at the Glen Doll Visitor Centre, leading up through the forest to the rolling grass-covered plateau above, combined with a relatively short total distance, they make a good introduction for beginners or an enjoyable half-day of hillwalking. The dome of Driesh and rocky summit of Mayar are not striking on their own accord, but the views across the Mounth towards the Cairngorms and eastwards are vast, and the ascent through the glacial bowl of Corrie Fee is spectacular.

Find the route here.

Ben Lomond
  • Summit height: 974 metres (3196′)
  • Distance: 12 km (7.5 miles)
  • Ascent: 990 metres (3248′)
  • Approximate time: 5 hours
Ben Lomond as seen from Ben Narnain. Image in the public domain

Ben Lomond is the most southerly of the Munros, located at the heart of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. A good path leads up the mountain from Rowardennan, which has a car park, toilets and a ranger station. Being close to the urban centres of Glasgow and the Central Belt makes it a popular hill for beginners, and it can get pretty busy through the summer, especially at weekends or in the school holidays. My recommendation is to arrive early to guarantee a parking spot, and head up early to find a bit of peace and tranquillity to soak in the stunning views before the crowds arrive. Alternatively, take advantage of long summer evenings and make a later ascent.

Find the route here.

Ben Wyvis (Glas Leathad Mor)
  • Summit height: 1,046 metres (3,432′)
  • Distance: 14 km (8.75 miles)
  • Ascent: 935m (3,067′)
  • Approximate time: 5 hours
The wide summit ridge of Ben Wyvis from the bealach. Photo credit: Stuart Meek on CC BY-SA 2.0

Ben Wyvis is a sprawling whale-backed mountain standing in isolation, a spectacular sight on the drive north from Inverness. Much of the area is owned by Forest and Land Scotland and Nature Scot (formerly SNH), and improvements have been made to the path up the slopes of An Cabar in recent years. The ascent to the wide-open plateau is reasonably straightforward in clear summer conditions, and the views from the summit take in much of Easter and Wester Ross, the Black Isle, and north towards the Flow Country of Caithness. The true Munro summit is Glas Leathad Mor, but taking a little longer to explore on the plateau reveals other lesser peaks and crags to discover.

Find the route here.

Ben Vorlich and Stùc a’ Chròin
  • Summit height: Ben Vorlich 985 metres (3,232′);  Stùc a’ Chròin 975 metres (3,199′)
  • Distance: 14.5 km (9 miles)
  • Ascent: 1145 metres (3,757′)
  • Approximate time: 7 hours
The northern ridge of Stùc a’ Chroin. Photo credit: Stuart Meek on CC BY-SA 2.0

These two prominent peaks near Loch Earn mark the southern fringes of the Highlands, and are located not far from Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Stirling. The easiest ascent up Ben Vorlich is from the shore of Loch Earn, through the woodland on a fine track to the base of the mountain, to find a good path to the summit. Stùc a’ Chròin is a slightly tougher challenge, the route crossing steep rocky ground, with some scrambling required to reach the ridge. Combining the two Munros into one day of hillwalking is possible, and might be the next step for beginners towards becoming fully-fledged Munro baggers on the way to compleation.

Find the route for Ben Vorlich and Stùc a’ Chròin here.

Ben Nevis
  • Summit height: 1,345 metres (4,413′)
  • Distance: 17 km (10.5 miles)
  • Ascent: 1,340m (4,400′)
  • Approximate time: 7 hours
Ben Nevis as seen from Banavie. Image in the public domain.

Though it’s the highest mountain anywhere in the British Isles, Ben Nevis is often the first (and equally sometimes the only) Munro many people tackle, and thousands of people will make the summit every year. The mountain has two distinctive characters, in addition to the rounded dome seen from Glen Nevis there’s the abrupt cliffs and sharp ridges of the north side, and often experiences challenging weather conditions and poor visibility. The route known as the Mountain Track takes a straightforward though strenuous route from Glen Nevis, weaving back and forth as it ascends, and is the only one suitable for beginners. Always bear in mind conditions can vary greatly between the start of the walk and the summit.

The John Muir Trust, who own the peak, and the Nevis Landscape Partnership look after the mountain, maintaining the paths, carrying out conservation work in the area, and clearing up litter left behind. Help them by picking up anything you find to put into a bin later, or drop a few coins in the donation box by the start of the trail.

Find the route here.

Alternative Options

A few more fairly easy Munros which just missed out on being in the top 10 selection:

  • Glas Tulaichean, Glenshee, Perthshire
  • Geal Chàrn, Sherramore, Badenoch
  • Ben More, Isle of Mull
  • Ben Hope, Strath More, Sutherland
  • Mount Keen, Glen Esk, Angus
Important Note

Though the Munros listed here are considered to be some of the easier ones to attempt, it’s important to note that conditions in the Scottish hills can change rapidly. Please make sure you’re properly equipped before heading out, check in with how you’re feeling during the hike and remember that sometimes the best decision you make is the one to turn back.

The pyramid shape of Mount Keen seen from the west.


Tips for hillwalking in Scotland

Whether plan to hike one of the Munros on this list, or one of the many others Scotland has to offer, there’s a few things to bear in mind.

  • Plan your route ahead of the walk. Not every route is waymarked, so you need to form an idea of what to expect. ViewRanger or Komoot with Ordnance Survey Maps is invaluable for reading the terrain, and the Walk Highlands website has excellent route descriptions and photos.
  • Check the weather. An essential part of preparation, which can make the difference between a rewarding hike or an endurance slog. I use the Mountain Weather Information Service website and the app.
  • Wear the right clothing. Scotland can specialise in experiences of all four seasons in one day. Layering clothing important, and a waterproof jacket and trousers are almost always worth their weight in your pack.
  • Take enough water. It’s important to stay hydrated during physical activity, and you may be out for longer than expected.
  • Take a map and compass when you head out; not all trails are clearly defined, and you may need to rely on navigation skills in poor visibility. And GPS is not infallible.
  • If you’re hiking alone, be sure to let someone know where you’re going, when you plan to return, and when you’ve returned safely.
Read: What to pack for day hikes in the UK

Winter in the Mountains

Scotland’s mountains are serious business in winter, and it’s important to be properly prepared before venturing out. Though the hills aren’t especially high, conditions can be wild, days are short, and there’s a range of additional hazards that might be encountered. Experience counts for everything here.

It’s essential to spend time assessing all available information about your chosen route; mountain weather forecasts, reports of the terrain and underfoot conditions, and avalanche forecasts. And remembering that sometimes the best course of action is to wait for another day.

Looking for More walks in Scotland?

Take a look at some of the other posts I have with suggestions for some of the most spectacular day hikes across the country, or for the best small hills to get you started on the build up to tacking your first Munro.

Read: 10 best day hikes in Scotland
Are you bagging the Munros? Or collecting all the Corbetts? Or just brand new to the whole idea of hillwalking? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.
Did you find this information useful? Pin it to your hiking boards for later.

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