Pan Ross Environment

The Mountains of Ross-shire


Ben Wyvis

Ross and Cromarty Heritage Society is grateful to Jim Macdonald and David Ritchie for permission to reproduce their outstanding photographs.

Sadly, David Ritchie died on 22 May 2015.  The photographs in this section reflect his skill with a camera and love of his native mountains. Ross and Cromarty Heritage Society members remember him with affection and gratitude for the work he did as a volunteer.  


David Ritchie 1950-2015

Physical Geography

The Mountains of Ross-shire


Slioch

Introduction:
The county of Ross and Cromarty covers some 3080 square miles and, unlike most of Scotland's counties, spans the country from the Atlantic on the west to the North Sea on the east. It is a physically spectacular county with a rugged, indented coastline and mountainous interior. With only around 20% of its landmass comprising the lowlands of Easter Ross and the Black Isle, it is one of the most mountainous counties in the UK.

Ross and Cromarty's mountains are some of Britain's most iconic. An Teallach, Beinn Alligin, the Five Sisters and Liathach would appear near the top of most lists of the top ten mountains in the country. These mountains may be the jewels in the Ross and Cromarty crown but there is a multitude of 'lesser' peaks that are superb in their own right and would be lauded in any other part of the UK.

The nature of the county's geography means that the bulk of its population lives on the coastal fringes. The mountainous interior is very sparsely populated and has very few permanent inhabitants and hardly any roads. As a result, some mountains are particularly inaccessible. A'Mhaighdean, for example, lies at the heart of the Fisherfield Forest, many many miles from the nearest road or settlement, and it and its neighbours are highly prized tops for the serious hillwalker.

This section is not intended as a guide to the county's mountains. There are now a large variety of books and websites that show the routes on these mountains. The most detailed books are the Scottish Mountaineering Club's guides to the "Munros" and the "Corbetts", with a new book on the "Grahams" due in the near future. An explanation of these three terms appears in the seciton "Mountain Classification".

David Ritchie
January 2011

Mountain Classification System

The first attempt at classifying Scotland's mountains was done by Sir Hugh Munro (1856-1919). An avid hillwalker and founder member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club, he undertook the huge task of compiling a list of Scotland's 3000 ft mountains. His tables of mountain heights over 3000 feet were first published in the 1891 edition of the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) Journal.

The 1990 edition of the Tables listed 277 Munros and 517 Tops; a Top being an elevation above 3,000 feet which did not qualify as a Munro because ' the point was of insufficient rise or definition to merit qualification'. Furthermore, some Munros are not listed because of uncertainty in the SMC publication as to ' what can be considered distinct and separate mountains'. An Teallach (The Forge) has been called Scotland's most beautiful mountain, and, although it does not appear in Munro's Tables as a Munro, it has two constituent peaks which do, Bidean a'Ghlas Thuill and Sgurr Fiona. The same may be said for some others such as Beinn Alligin where its Munro peaks are Sgurr Mhor and Tom na Gruagaich. It will be seen that some names occur more than once because distant communities had no contact with each other at one time.

Some hill groups contain several Munros linked together, e.g. the Fannaichs with nine separate Munros.

In the 1997 edition a measure of 914.4 metres is taken as the equivalent of 3000 feet, and the numbers were amended to 284 and 511 respectively. Over the last few years the Munro Society has undertaken 'heightings', using the most up to date technology, of several mountains close to the 3000 ft mark. This has resulted in only one change, the demotion of Sgurr nan Ceannaichean to 913m and Corbett status. So the total is now 283. It is quite possible there will be further changes in the future.

Munro's Tables enumerate heights in order of altitude where Ben Nevis becomes Number 1, that is the highest in Scotland at 1344 metres (4406 feet). These Tables have initiated a sport where participants have the aim of climbing all listed Munros. Once successful they can give their name to the 'Clerk of the List' and by 2009 the total number of 'Munroists' had reached more than 4000.

The District boundaries in Scotland often use mountains as convenient markers, and these have been counted when they are Munros. The fact that the first nine Munros are over 4,000 feet, and Nos 10 and 11 are very close to that figure, puts Carn Eighe (No 12 at 3881 feet or 1183m) in perspective. The total number of Munros within Ross and Cromarty, or on its border with Inverness-shire, is in the list below, being more than one quarter of Scotland's 283.

While the name Munro is associated with the 3000ft-plus mountains, the name Corbett is associated with the first group of hills below the 3000 ft mark. The Corbetts are all those hills of height between 2500ft and 2999ft with a drop of at least 500ft between each hill in the list and any adjacent higher one. John Rooke Corbett compiled the list and it was passed to the SMC when he died. As with the Munros, the Corbett list has undergone changes over the years due to OS remeasuring. The present list contains 221. Ross and Cromarty contains 43 Corbetts.

The next list, for those hills between 2000ft and 2499ft, with a drop of 150m all around, is known as the Grahams in memory of Fiona Torbet (nee Graham) who compiled one of the early lists of these mountains. There are 224 Grahams in Scotland with 38 in Ross and Cromarty.

The next pages contain lists of Ross and Cromarty's Munros and are followed by Corbetts. Where an (*) is beside a name it indicates that the mountain lies on the old county boundary between Ross and Cromarty and Inverness-shire.

David Ritchie
March 2010

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