The term Munro is often bandied about when talking about Scottish mountains but perhaps less well known are Corbetts and Grahams. But what do all these terms mean and who were they named after? Each are hills of a certain height but unfortunately, Corbetts are not named after Ronnie, the diminutive comedian.
Sir Hugh Munro was an original member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) and in 1891 he wrote an article for their journal with a definitive list of all the mountains in Scotland over 3,000 feet. He created the list using maps and by taking barometer readings at the top to check the heights of mountains whose summits were of “sufficient separation” from their neighbouring tops. He did not define exactly what “sufficient separation” was and this has led to a great deal of debate.
His original list was made up of 538 summits with 282 being “Munros”. It is not clear when these mountains first became known as Munros, but the popularisation of “Munro-bagging” seems to have started with the publication of a book by Hamish Brown, Hamish’s Mountain Walk, in 1974. It documented his four-month self-propelled journey (apart from some ferry crossings) round all the Munros.
By the 1980s Munro-bagging was becoming a very popular hobby. So much so that there was even a BBC series called the Munro Show presented, in a light-hearted manner, by Muriel Gray in the early 1990s. Many found the pronunciations of the tricky mountain names by Sorley MacLean, a great poet from Raasay, very memorable.
The first person to complete the Munros is said to be the Rev. A.E Robertson of Rannoch in 1901, but there is some doubt if he did them all. The first confirmed completion (plus the tops) was in 1923 by Ronald Burn.
Corbetts are hills between 2,500 and 3,000ft (762-914.4m) with a 500ft (152.4m) drop between them. They are named after John Rooke Corbett who was a very active member of the SMC between the two World Wars. He climbed all the hills in Scotland over 2,000ft and in 1930 completed all the Munros and tops, only the second person to do so. There are currently 222 Corbetts.
Grahams are hills between 2,000 and 2,499ft (610-761m) with a 150m drop between them. They used to be known as Lesser Corbetts (LCs or Elsies) but had the name Graham conferred on them in memory of Fiona Torbet (nee Graham) who published her own list of these hills in 1992. With more accurate measuring some hills go up a level others down, currently, there are 282 Munros and 509 tops. But the best advice is to forget the classification and look at the hills on their own merits as all three have some cracking days out. There are currently 219 Grahams.
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