Are you dying to climb your first Munro but don’t know where to start? Hiking the highest mountains of Scotland is no easy feat, but with 282 peaks to choose from, there are plenty of routes that are suitable for new baggers. Here are 13 Munros for beginners and some tips for first-timers.
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Climbing your first Munro is an incredible achievement. When you reach the summit, a feeling of accomplishment is bound to overcome you. By the time you’re back down and all the hardship of the ascent is forgotten, you’ll want to do it all over again.
But hang-on – what even is a Munro?
A Munro is a mountain in Scotland that is over 3,000 feet tall (that’s just over 914 metres). There are 282 of them across the mountain ranges of the Highlands and Cairngorms. Attempting to climb all of them is called Munro-bagging. You can find out more about the Scottish Munros here.
But not every Munro is beginner-friendly. Hiking a Munro as a beginner can be overwhelming – physically and mentally. Too steep an ascent, too long a route, too challenging terrain, bad or simply no paths – some hills are not made for first-timers.
That’s why it is important to choose your first Munro wisely.
In this article, I will walk you through how to spot a Munro for beginners, tell you about my first time and suggest some great Munro hikes that are great for beginners and first-timers. PS: My first Munro is not among them!
- My first Munro hike
- What makes a beginner-friendly Munro?
- Great Munros for beginners
My First Munro
When I hiked my first Munro, I was ill-prepared. To be honest, I didn’t even know what a Munro was – I just said yes to accompany a fellow New Scot on a hike in the Arrochar Alps.
We took the train to Arrochar & Tarbet, hitchhiked from the train station to Butterbridge and started our ascent of Beinn Ìme, the highest peak in the Arrochar Alps. The most common route starts in Succoth and follows a path past the Cobbler and up the south-east face of Beinn Ìme.
From Butterbridge however, it was a mostly pathless ascent up the north-west side of the mountain.
Luckily it was a sunny day and I was reasonably fit – otherwise I might have not dealt with the conditions we encountered. Basically no path to follow, a rough scramble to the top and still plenty of snow on the way down.
Read: This was not a beginner-friendly Munro.
Even though it was largely an enjoyable day out, it took me a while to start bagging Munros again. It just didn’t seem like something I could do on a regular basis.
If only I had started with a more suitable Munro for beginners… Lesson learnt!
How to choose a beginner-friendly Munro
Now, let’s dive into choosing your first Munro.
Every person is different. Some hikers prefer a short, but steep ascent over a long walk in or out. Others might want the path to climb gradually and don’t mind the extra mile or two. This makes it practically impossible to rank Munros on an entirely objective difficulty scale what’s “easy” for one person, might not be “easy” for another.
Keep in mind that climbing a Munro is never “easy”. These are the tallest mountains in the Scottish Highlands after all. The popular hiking platform Walk Highlands uses a 1-5 rating to score the difficulty of hikes. No Munro scores less than 3, most rank 4 or 5.
A Munro is not a walk in the park. Even if I might say that a Munro is beginner-friendly, you still have to prepare physically and mentally for a challenging hike. Click here for some tips to prepare and a suggested packing list.
That said, there are some key features that most hikers in Scotland would agree make a Munro more beginner-friendly than others. Here is what to look out for when choosing your first Munro (or one of the first):
- Is there a path?
Choose a Munro with a clear and easy-to-follow path and no technical terrain (like scrambling sections). You will find this information in most hiking guides.
In general, trails in Scotland are not waymarked – apart from maybe a few signposts near the car park. A map is therefore essential, even if there is a clear path because it might intersect with different routes.
- Is it a popular hill?
Even though you should have all the skills you require to be self-sufficient on the mountain, hiking a popular route means that there are more likely to be other hikers you could ask for advice, reassurance or help.
You can spot a popular Munro by looking up which hikes have the most route reports on platforms like Walk Highlands.
Arrive early to secure a parking spot, especially on a weekend.
- At what elevation does the hike start?
Munros with a high starting point usually mean that the ascent is shorter and you have to gain less elevation. You will find this information in most hiking guides or by consulting a map.
- Are you familiar with the area?
Choose a Munro in an area that you are familiar with and feel comfortable in. Start by exploring the lower-lying routes of the area and work your way up to the Munro.
Great Munros for Beginners
You can find detailed hiking guides for all of these Munros on Walk Highlands.
Keep in mind that these easier Munros are all pretty popular. Parking is often limited. It’s essential to arrive early, especially on weekends, and have one or two alternative routes in mind if the car park is already full.
Route planning is everything when it comes to hiking a Munro. Plan your route on your phone (I use Viewranger and Komoot) and bring a paper map as a backup. If you hike with others, make sure that everyone in the group has a plan.
7.5 miles, 4.5-6 hours, 990m ascent
Ben Lomond (3,195 ft) might just be the most popular first Munro in Scotland. The path is easy to follow. The ascent is gradual and never too steep. The final section along the ridge and the summit offer stunning views on Loch Lomond.
It is the southernmost Munro and is only about an hour from Glasgow. The car park in Rowardennan gets incredibly busy, so plan to arrive early.
Buachaille Etive Beag
5 miles, 5-6 hours, 900m ascent
Buachaille Etive Beag is a mountain with two Munro summits, Stob Dubh (3,143 ft) and Stob Coire Raineach (3,034 ft). You could hike them both, or just one of them.
The path from the Beehive car park is straight forward, but the ascent to the bealach (= low point) between the peaks is pretty steep. From the top of Stob Dubh, you will get magnificent views down Glen Etive and Loch Etive at the end. Throughout the hike, look across the glen towards Buachaille Etive Mor – a challenging double-Munro to save for a later day.
The peaks of Buachaille Etive Beag are great Munros for beginners – my favourite hiking guides from Girls on Hills frequently take their groups up there on their first Munro courses.
Beinn na Lap
6.5 miles, 3-5 hours, 560m ascent
Despite its remote location at Loch Ossian, Beinn na Lap (3,067 ft) is one of the easiest Munros to climb. The start point lies at 400 m, which means the ascent to the summit is pretty short.
Note that there is no road access to the start point at Corrour station, but the West Highland Line train stops here on the wat from Glasgow to Fort William.
Beinn na Lap makes for a great day out or you can check in at Loch Ossian Youth Hostel and make a weekend out of it!
6.5 miles, 4-6 hours, 730m ascent
Schiehallion (3,553 ft) is widely considered one of the easiest Munros to climb and a popular hike for first-timers. The path is easy to follow for the first section of the hike. The last part of the route leads across a large boulder field. The path is clear, but be mindful of where you step so you don’t twist an ankle.
I advise against attempting Schiehallion on a day with bad weather as the path across the boulder field can be hard to spot with poor visibility. On a fine day though, the views of Loch Rannoch and Rannoch Moor are fantastic.
8 miles, 4-5 hours, 710m ascent
A lone Munro near the small town of Crieff, Ben Chonzie (3,054 ft) is a fairly straight-forward Munro with a clear path. The ascent is never super challenging, but the final stretch along the shoulder of the mountain to the summit can feel long -especially as it is super exposed to wind.
Ben Chonzie is the first Munro I did on my own, but it would also make for a great first Munro overall.
Ben Vorlich (Loch Earn)
6 miles, 2-3 hours, 900m ascent
Ben Vorlich at Loch Earn (3,231 ft) is a very popular first Munro. The ascent follows probably the most straight-forward path I’ve ever seen on a Munro, but it is super steep. The views back towards Loch Earn are a good excuse to stop frequently.
The downside is that on a sunny weekend, the path up Ben Vorlich feels a bit like a hiking motorway – lots of people and very limited parking.
For a more challenging hike, you could continue on to Stuc a’Chroin (3,198 ft), but since this involves a challenging scramble, I’d wait until you are more comfortable in the hills.
12 miles, 6-7 hours, 930m ascent
While most of the Munros in the Cairngorm mountain range are pretty challenging (and many require a very long walk in and out, Lochnagar (3,789 ft) is considered one of the best Munros for beginners.
Apart from one boulder field, there is a clear path all the way from the car park to the top. Since Lochnagar is the highest peak in this area, the views from the top are hard to beat.
Ben Lawers & Beinn Ghlas
7 miles, 4-6 hours, 940m ascent
The Lawers Range north-west of Loch Tay offers 7 Munro peaks – 8 if you also count the neighbouring Tarmachan ridge. (It’s not technically part of the ridge, but the hike begins from the same car park.)
The name-giving Ben Lawers (3,982 ft) is the 10th-tallest Munro in Scotland, but at the same time a great choice for your first Munro. The ascent is straight forward, if a little steep at times. You will reach the peak of Beinn Ghlas (3,618 ft) along the way and since there is only a small dip between the two peaks, this is a pretty simple double-Munro hike.
The Ben Lawers car park gets super busy because so many different hikes leave from here. Plan to arrive early.
The Cairnwell Munros
8 miles, 5-6 hours, 595m ascent
The Cairnwell Munros is a group of three Munros that can be hiked in one fairly easy day. The start point of the hike is at the Glenshee ski centre – about half-way up from sea level.
You will reach the first summit after a short, but steep ascent in about 45 minutes – Càrn Aosda (3,008 ft). Traditionally, you will next take on the long walk towards summit 2, Càrn a’Ghèoidh (3,198 ft) and finish off with Munro number 3, The Cairnwell (3,061 ft).
There is hardly a dip in elevation between those peaks, which makes it one of the easiest multi-Munro hikes and a great choice for beginners who are in for a little challenge.
Of course, there are many other Munros in Scotland you could choose from – remember, there are 282 of them!
In my experience, it’s best to start with a few Munros that are a bit easier to bag. That way, the positive feeling of accomplishment will always outweigh the challenge in the end. You’ll be hooked in no time.
Going in too hard too early might have the opposite effect and could put you off the more challenging hikes entirely.
With this in mind, I hope you will give one of these Munros for beginners a try soon!
Want to add another recommendation to this list? Share your experiences in the comments below!
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