Backpacking the 40km Scottish Mamores Munro Circuit with Our Two Dogs
Spaniels seem to have almost endless reserves of energy, and with a perfect weather window of sunshine, clear skies, and a slight breeze forecasted for the May bank-holiday weekend, we packed our bags and set off for a 40km hike through the Scottish wilderness.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve enjoyed some amazing overnight hikes in Europe and the UK, but we’ve never spent more than one night sleeping in the tent with Henry and Wally, our two working cocker spaniels.
We’ve been using the Ruffwear Approach™ Pack and Front Range™ Pack for a while, so the boys are used to wearing them when on hikes and walks. So much so, that as soon as Henry and Wally see us organising and packing their hiking packs, they start getting excited and can’t wait to hit the trail!
There are 282 Munros in Scotland (peaks over 3000ft), and we’ve set ourselves the slightly ambitious goal of trying to climb all of them before we turn 30, which is about two and a half years away. This means we have to combine some of them by “bagging” multiple summits in single days in order to reach our goal.
The Mamores circuit is perfect for this. It combines 10 peaks together into a single 40km circuit.
Despite the length and 3400m elevation gain, we expected the hike to be fairly straightforward. Since moving to Scotland, we’ve been trail running regularly with the dogs, and were confident we could all manage, until we put our own backpacks on…
MAMORES CIRCUIT: DAY 1
We started off with a long climb up to the first peak, and whilst we were struggling to get used to the weight of our bags, Henry and Wally were happily trotting ahead of us, sniffing each bush and tuft of grass they could.
After 7km of walking and 2 out of 10 Munros crossed off the list, we made camp next to Lochan Coire nam Miseach, a small tarn which was perfect for refilling all of our water before the next day.
MAMORES CIRCUIT: DAY 2
It gets light so early at this time of year, Henry and Wally were ready to get up and out by 6am, despite our hopes for just 5 more minutes of sleep.
When we’re hiking, everyone has to carry their own food, so the boys had their well-earned kibble for breakfast and we set off for day two, our longest of the three days on the trail.
The day started off great, with a nice breeze to take some of the heat out of the morning sun. We made good progress up munros 3 and 4 before stopping for lunch.
Along the route was some exposed scrambling to get to one of the peaks, and whilst we left our bags behind to give our shoulders a rest, Henry and Wally kept their bags on, and the handle on the back made it easy to give them a helping hand over some of the tricker rocks and obstacles on the dramatically named, “Devil’s Ridge”.
After the fourth peak, Am Bodach, we stopped for lunch, and by now the cooling breeze from earlier had gone and left behind swarms of hungry midges. We’d planned to head down the north-eastern ridge towards the next summit, but were warned by other hikers who’d just climbed up that ridge that it was much harder than expected, and trying to climb down with the dogs and our big backpacks would be risky.
With that in mind, we made sure to fill and refill the boys’ Trail Runner™ Ultralight Bowls, and decided to take the longer route back down, retracing our steps before cutting across, several hundred metres under the peak.
After this unplanned detour, we were now falling behind on our schedule as we started to climb up the next peak with the sun and midges attacking the backs of our necks.
From the summit of the fifth peak, Stob Coire a’ Chàirn we had great views in all directions, with Ben Nevis to the North, and the remaining Munros on our circuit to the East. We also had a great view of the ridge we’d have to tackle if we wanted to reach the sixth peak, An Gearanach.
This part of the circuit is considered to be some of the best ridgewalking in Scotland, but we didn’t feel confident we could summit this peak, as well as the next three we’d have to climb before we reached our planned camp spot for the night.
It was hard not to feel a bit demoralised when we turned away from the ridge and what would have been the sixth peak of the day, especially with the goal of climbing all the Munros before we turned 30, but we knew it was the right decision. We’d under-estimated how hard this walk was going to be. Despite Henry and Wally being keen for any adventure, we could tell they were hoping their dinner and some rest would come sooner rather than later.
There were another three Munros between us and our camp spot next to the water at Coire an Lochain, including Binnein Mòr, which would be the highest point on the whole circuit at 3707ft (1130 metres).
After climbing through the multiple false summits of the first of these three, Na Gruagaichean, we were feeling beat and set off straight towards the camp spot, taking the direct route instead of trying to reach the other two summits along the way.
After reaching camp and setting up the tent, the dogs ate their dinner even quicker than usual and climbed straight into their Highlands™ Sleeping Bag.
Though they didn’t know it at the time, they’d just walked the furthest they ever had in two days than ever before.
MAMORES CIRCUIT: DAY 3
By the morning, any hints that they might be tired from the previous day’s 4 summits were long gone, and they both had plenty of energy for a morning dip in the water before getting their packs on for the last day of our trip.
The last 8km of the circuit is a long and gradual descent though Glen Nevis, one of the most beautiful valleys we’ve seen.
We slowly made our way alongside the Water of Nevis, and took a long lunch break next to one of the many little pools along the side of the river. As usual, the boys were more than happy to show us how much energy they still had, splashing in the cool water whilst we ate.
Only after 40 kilometres of incredible ridges, scrambling up scree slopes, and hopping over boggy pools did Henry and Wally finally curl up and let the weekend’s adventure catch up with them as they drifted off to sleep on the drive home.
We passed plenty of other hikers along this circuit, all of whom were keen to hear about the boys' bags, asking; “What do they carry in there?” and pointing out that “they look like they’re ready for all sorts of adventures!”.
One question came up in particular; “How did you get them used to carrying the bags?” to which the answer is simple:
Get them used to wearing empty backpacks on shorter walks, and then gradually build up the distance
Like distance, make sure you only add weight gradually, and as a general rule don’t fill the bags to more than ¼ of the dog’s weight
Reward them with lots of praise and well-earned treats!
This was our first overnight hike of the season, and our first ever multi-day hiking trip in Scotland. Although we didn’t manage to summit all the Munros we’d planned, we had an absolutely great time hiking the Mamores Circuit.
We were so lucky with the weather, and loved watching Henry and Wally scrambling and running freely in the mountains, knowing their bags weren’t in the way of them having a good time.
Us and the dogs are now 12 Munros down on our goal of reaching the 282 Scottish summits above 3000ft. And if this trip is anything to go by, we’re all about to have the best two years of our lives.
Henry and Wally’s Packing List:
Kibble premeasured in sandwich bags
Treats and snacks
Jacket for colder camping
Dog First Aid Kit
Ruffwear Ambassadors Frida, Leo, Henry, and Wally live in Scotland and love going on long hikes, waking up early purely to take photographs, camping in the middle of nowhere, and always looking for somewhere a little wilder. Follow their adventures on Instagram @somewherewilder and on their website.