HELLO. My name is Ross, and I’m a Munro bagger. For anyone who doesn’t know, a Munro is a Scottish mountain which is

3000 feet in height or higher. They are called Munros because it was Sir Hugh Munro who was the first person to produce a chartered list of mountains of that height back in 1891.

We have 282 Munros, and some people – like me – have set themselves the challenge of “bagging” them all.

The views at the top of a Munro can be magnificent. But of course, hiking isn’t just about the beautiful scenery – it’s about exploring parts of Scotland you may never have otherwise visited.

It’s about the friendships you make, it’s the sense of achievement in reaching the top, and it’s the memories created.

The other undeniable benefit is that it can be extremely good for your health – physical and mental. The latter I can testify to, because Munro bagging is something that helped me when I was going through depression.

It happened around 18 months ago for a number of weeks, and is something that I hadn’t properly experienced before and, thankfully, haven’t experienced again since.

Depression can really knock you to the floor and make you feel like you’re drowning. It’s such an awful thing to go through and it makes you feel really numb to life and what’s going on around you – I completely lost interest in hobbies and passions I had at the time and really just didn’t care about anything.

I still don’t know how I managed to put a brave face on it and go to work. I was unable to concentrate and eventually had to sit my boss down and explain what I was going through.

There were days I would just want to stay in bed. You really just don’t want to face anything. But I did make an effort to try to do some exercise, particularly with my dog, a westie called Dex.

Feeling the benefits of getting exercise I then started going to the gym – something which helped to try to get the stress and anxiety out of my body.

A colleague at work who knew what I was going through convinced me to go Munro bagging with her one Saturday. We took on Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers near Aberfeldy in Perthshire.

There was something about spending a full day walking in the sunshine up mountains that really helped me. The week before, I had been walking around the Lomond Hills in Fife, near where I live – but being up a mountain just makes you feel so cut off from civilisation and the stresses of day-to-day life. It really helps to clear your head.

In the following weekends after Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers, I hiked Ben More, Ben Chonzie, Ben Vorlich, Ben Vrackie (although not a Munro), Meall nan Tarmachan, Mayar and Dreish. Before I knew it, I had taken on a new hobby.

The hiking was a release from everything and the endorphins from the exercise really helped, especially in getting a better sleep at night. It was good for the dog, too!

I’m 33, but 2018 was the best year of my life, no question. I made a lot of amazing memories, hiking 70 Munros in that year, making so many new friends and being the fittest I’ve ever been in my life. Doing a regular hobby like that has also made me much happier in my work and personal life.

We live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Munro bagging has allowed me to truly appreciate that.

For anyone wanting to get into hiking, a great website to use is walkhighlands.co.uk

which has an extensive list of walks in Scotland – not just up mountains! – with maps, starting points and lots of other useful info. Just remember to wear the right clothes and take the right equipment, including a map and compass.

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