Take A Walk on the Wild Side: Mountain Mending in the Scottish Highlands

Posted by Inigo Atkin on 21/08/2019

It’s a little different north of the border...especially when you’re in the mountains. Inigo Atkin takes us on a journey where Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million has helped leave a lasting legacy on some of the highest peaks not only in Scotland, but in the whole of the British Isles.

The Scottish hills are often claimed to be wilder, more rugged, more intimidating than their southern counterparts, and perhaps with good reason. Of the hundred tallest mountains in the British Isles, just three are outside Scotland. Almost every peak over 1,000m is found in Britain’s northernmost kingdom. When you factor in the remoteness of many areas of the highlands, and the often unforgiving nature of the weather patterns that dominate in these areas, it’s not surprising that they’re often treated with a bit more respect by walkers and mountaineers, not just from Scotland but the world over.

Yet that intimidation factor doesn’t reduce the numbers drawn to ‘Munro-bagging’. Despite the extra challenge of climbing many of these peaks, lots of walkers and climbers remain wholly undeterred in their quest to climb the 282 highest in Scotland. And while some mountains, like the aptly-named ‘Inaccessible Pinnacle’ on Skye, require serious commitment and mountaineering skills, lots just need a pair of walking boots.

WATCH: Mend the Cairngorms on BMC TV

If the extra height, exposure and weather are important factors to consider for those choosing to walk these hills and mountains, spare a thought for those whose job it is to look after them. Individual Munros might not draw the eye-popping numbers of honeypot areas south of the border, like Scafell Pike, but that doesn’t mean the mountainsides are pristine. In fact, there is still such a serious erosion problem here that since 1998, the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland (OATS) has worked tirelessly to protect the highlands. Originally envisaged as a body just for the Cairngorms, its work has rapidly expanded to cover the whole of Scotland, especially the areas in its two enormous National Parks. 

An innovative body, OATS has collaborated on some of the most interesting conservation projects in the UK, like the award-winning ‘The Mountains and The People’, which has been running for several years and focuses on bringing volunteers out and having them work alongside professional path builders, to try and cover the enormous network of rights of way that crisscross Scotland’s mountains. 

The Summit of Carn Liath, in the Beinn a'Ghlo massif. Photo: Shutterstock. 

The Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million campaign has left a lasting legacy on two very different mountains in Scotland, thanks to a partnership with OATS and Mountaineering Scotland. Ben Vane, a true everyman’s mountain, is within touching distance of Scotland’s major population centres and hosts one of the country’s most popular walks. Carn Liath, by comparison, is a rugged and steep-sided march up onto the Beinn a’Ghlo massif, which hosts three Munro tops. Alike in dignity no doubt, these two mountains needed more than £100,000 to repair enormous erosion scars. The MOM team were able to drum up big support for the Scottish mountains, who were not featured in the earlier 2016 campaign, and thanks to the generosity of hundreds of donors large and small, both mountains are now being repaired thanks to the hard work of OATS.

If you want to check on the progress of those two projects, head over to the OATS website and have a look at their recent blog posts about it. To support the BMC’s ongoing charitable access work, consider donating to ACT using the information below.


As the climbing walls, crags and mountains start to open, we wanted to say thanks to every BMC member who supported us through the Coronavirus crisis.

From weekly Facebook Lives and GB Climbing home training videos, to our access team working to re-open the crags and fight for your mountain access, we couldn’t have made it without you.

If you liked what we did, then tell your friends about us: www.thebmc.co.uk/join


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