Ross Brannigan, author of Running Adventures Scotland, shares six incredible Scottish mountain runs perfect for trail runners and Munro baggers.
My upcoming book, Running Adventures Scotland, is the runner’s guide to exploring some of the best of Scotland’s wild places. In the twenty-five inspirational routes, you will get a chance to explore sweeping ridges, climb mountains and weave through beautiful glens.
Heading to Scotland as a trail runner can sometimes feel a daunting task. With incredible access rights, it is sometimes difficult to know where to start, and with such big mountains it can be hard to find routes suitable for a runner.
Below, I have featured six great mountain running adventures in Scotland that can help get you excited to explore more of this fantastic country.
(1) South Glen Shiel Ridge – 28km/2000m ascent
Glen Shiel is a veritable smorgasbord of mountains. With twenty-one Munros right next to the A87 road to the Isle of Skye, it is an amazing location to tick off some Munros and enjoy a long day up high.
The South Glen Shiel Ridge has been a favourite of runners for many years, clocking seven Munros. In 1988, Jon Broxap set a record for the most Munros climbed in twenty-four hours in this area – a record that would stand until 2017. He climbed an astonishing twenty-eight Munros, most of which were in Glen Shiel.
Starting from a layby marked as ‘Forcan Ridge Car Park’ on Google Maps (around 6.5km east of Shiel Bridge), the route heads uphill following the Allt Mhàlagain for a time before a steep section onto the ridge.
Once on the ridge, you have a beautiful rolling run across the seven tops. The real highlight is Maol Chinn-dearg, which is a beautiful ridge to Aonach air Chrith. All the while you have great views across Glen Shiel and even into the remote area of Knoydart.
It is a linear route, so maybe leave a bike at the Cluanie Inn to retrieve the car before returning for a well-earned meal!
(2) Glen Lyon Horseshoe – 19km/1280m ascent
Glen Lyon was apparently described by Sir Walter Scott as the “longest, loneliest and loveliest glen in Scotland”. The Glen Lyon Horseshoe takes in four of its grassy, rolling Munros.
Starting at Invervar, head north beyond the telephone box and buildings. Starting on a gravel track, the trail heads steeply up the hillside to Càrn Gorm, the first Munro at 1029m. The route then bobs along the next three Munros heading east to Meall na Aighean, before descending on a fast and flowing trail back to the track. All the while you have views south across the Ben Lawers Munros (important for its botanical significance) and north to one of Scotland’s famous peaks – Schiehallion.
Once your down, definitely make a pitstop at Aberfeldy’s Habitat Café, or the local chippy!
(3) Ben Lomond via Ptarmigan Ridge – 12km/971m ascent
Alongside Ben Nevis, Ben Lomond is probably Scotland’s most famous mountain, and for good reason. It is an achievable but challenging hike with great views across the famous Loch Lomond.
If you want to run Ben Lomond, you can do it with a slight twist. Starting at Rowardennan, head along the loch towards Rowardennan Youth Hostel. Bear right at the hostel and, beyond a field, you will see a sign indicating towards Ptarmigan Ridge.
Ptarmigans are plump Scottish mountain birds that live at 900m+ above sea level. While I haven’t seen any on Ben Lomond, the Munro’s neighbouring peak must have been home to a colony at some time. Climb gradually up Ptarmigan to the summit at 731m, enjoying expanding panoramic views.
To get to Ben Lomond, there’s a short, fun scramble (using your hands), which just adds a bit of thrill to the day. At the top, savour the views over the loch and the neighbouring Arrochar Alps before zooming down the mountain path back to the car park.
(4) Beinn a’ Ghlo – 22km/1226m ascent
Many of the routes in Running Adventures Scotland feature places of ecological significance. Beinn a’ Ghlo (the Misty Mountain) is one such place. Designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its mountain plants, it is also near the amazing Glen Tilt, identified by James Hutton for its rocks that helped further our understanding of how old our landscapes are.
Featuring three Munros connected with snaking ridges, it is a route easily accessible from the A9 and close to the popular towns of Pitlochry and Dunkeld. Starting from a large car park at Loch Moraig, you have a steep climb up Carn Liath to start.
Over the years, this path has gotten wider as erosion became a problem, but work is underway to repair the erosion scar. Atop Carn Liath, you cannot help but run along the stunning ridge that leads to the second Munro – the complicatedly named Bràigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain.
After a smooth run to Carn nan Gabhar, the return is made on a long vehicle track back to the car park.
(5) Ben Ledi – 11km/747m ascent
If you are looking for a route with a superb view:effort ratio, you need look no further than Ben Ledi.
A favourite haunt of local runners, this shapely mountain (just missing out on Munro status by 35 meters) offers stunning views across the beautiful Trossachs area and over many of Scotland’s famous peaks.
Starting in a car park between Callander and Strathyre, the route follows a straightforward trail with improving panoramic views as you climb to the summit ridge. At the top, you will find an iron cross dedicated to a former member of the local Killin Mountain Rescue Team.
You can head back down here, or you can follow the ridge to descend into the Stank Glen. At the lochside, you then follow the road back to the car park. Make sure to visit the cafes in Callander afterwards!
(6) Five Bothies of the Cairngorms – 64km/1476m ascent
This one is a little cheeky of me, because technically we aren’t going ‘over’ any mountains, but certainly running through them! Also, I feel this route shows how creative you can be with your adventures in Scotland and how you should see Running Adventures Scotland as a springboard for your own ideas!
Bothies are small mountain huts dotted around Scotland. They are free to use, and many are under the care of the Mountain Bothies Association, a charity who help maintain these huts for people to enjoy. The idea of a bothy is to stay a night or two as part of a bigger adventure in the wild.
This route starts at the Linn of Dee, near Braemar, and follows the majestic Lairig Ghru pass, visiting the famous Bob Scott and Corrour bothies. Pay attention as you head to Corrour because you will be passing a regenerating Scots Pine Forest – an ancient habitat that was becoming a dangerously rare sight!
After an overnight stop on the north side (in Glenmore or nearby Aviemore) you have a second day through the Lairig an Laoigh, where you will see Ryvoan Bothy, Fords of Avon Refuge and Hutchison’s Memorial Hut.
I love routes that link up different features of the landscape, so pull out a map and design your own! I’d love to see where your adventures take you, so please share photos of your runs on social media using the hashtags #inspiringadventures and #runningadventuresscotland and join the fun.