Climbing a proper mountain has been on my bucket list for a while now. Bennachie and Arthur's Seat make for good days out, but both are classed as hills and I really wanted to "bag a munro"! Mountains over 3000 feet in Scotland are considered munros and the popular hillwalking challenge of climbing all 282 of them is known as Munro bagging. After reading Love From Scotland's recent adventures, I was inspired to get off my backside and get out and do it!
As our first attempt, we wanted to pick a fairly easy option. Mount Keen was our choice, due to it's location - it's the most easterly munro, only an hour's drive from Aberdeen. Despite it's moderately easy reputation, at 3081 feet Mount Keen its almost double the size of Bennachie and a bit of a challenge for beginners like us.
Keeping an eye on the weather forecasts, we took advantage of my day off and the warmest day in October and made our way to Invermark, Glen Esk. From a car park in the hills, we made our way through the iron gate and followed the path through the picturesque glens.
I'd read up on the route before we headed, and knew to look out for the Queen's Well to check we were on the right track. What I hadn't realised was just how far along the walk the well was! Eventually we reached it after a good 45-60 minute walk. The story goes that Queen Victoria herself stopped at the spring while pony trekking in the Angus glens and so these grand granite arches were built over it.
Only after reaching the Queens Well, the mountain comes into view and the path finally starts to ascend and become increasingly harder.
We took a few pit stops along the way to take photos and quench our thirst. The weather was more than kind for an Autumn day in Scotland. I'd wrapped up extra warm thinking the temperature would drop the higher we climbed, but it was so warm I was dripping in sweat (attractive, sorry) and had to carry my jacket until we were just about at the summit!
Just as you turn the corner and think you've almost reached the summit, you realise there's another twist and the climb just keeps on going! It was at this point that Gordon pretty much lost the will to live. He'd made the mistake of wearing work boots (who does that?!) and his feet were suffering!
Finally, the end was in sight and we climbed the last few steps to the bouldery top of our first munro! It took us 2 and a half hours from the start. A trig point marks the summit, and offers stunning views across the glens with Lochnagar to the west. If you look closely you'll even spot Bennachie! Finding shelter among the rocks, we tucked into a little picnic before heading back down.
The descent was almost as fun as the climb. Although Gordon might disagree - he had blisters for days afterwards! And that ladies and gents is why you should always wear sensible climbing footwear. My normal gym trainers were just fine. In total our walk lasted about 5 hours. Despite being a relatively small munro, the hour long walk from the car park to the base of the actual hill adds a fair bit of time to the trek.
On the way back down we encountered lots of sheep and even spotted a herd of deer on the hillside! Apparently its common to see them roaming around the moors here, especially at this time of year. Not only is munro bagging good exercise, it's a great way to get out and explore our beautiful country. Scotland's hills, glens and lochs are breathtaking. You can't help but feel all Mel Gibson in Braveheart out there.
Our calves ached for days but it was well worth the pain! I loved climbing our first munro and spending time with my husband, just the two of us out in the wilderness. We're already planning to tick off a few more in 2017.
Have you ever bagged a munro?