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Scotland's Greatest Corbetts - A Top 20

© Dan Bailey

You'll hear a lot of good things about Munros, but it's sometimes claimed the Corbetts are equally spectacular. So how true is that? Check out our pick of the peaks, and decide for yourself. Which would make your personal selection?

To qualify for the Corbett list of 2500-2999 foot Scottish hills, a summit needs a drop of 500 feet on all sides, a high bar that guarantees each a real sense of prominence. Versus the 282 Munros, the fact that you only get 222 Corbetts also suggests a degree of exclusivity. And there's no denying that most are quieter. But can they really compete with the biggies for sheer, craggy presence? Well we're not sticking up for the Grampian heather lumps, but we do feel our Top 20 more than hold their own. And let's face it, a top 10 would be nowhere near enough...

The Cobbler

Poster child for the sub-3000-ers, and proof that the best things needn't come in big packages, this Southern Highland upstart is perhaps the single best reason to take Corbetts seriously. Its Munro status neighbours may be taller, but The Cobbler is head and shoulders the star attraction hereabouts. The only really Alp-like thing in the Arrochar 'Alps', and an odds-on contender for the most fun to be had on any Corbett, this triple-topped rock peak has the jagged profile of a mini Chamonix Aiguille, in a scenic sea-loch setting just a stone's throw from Glasgow. It's easy to see the attraction.

January morning on The Cobbler  © Dan Bailey
January morning on The Cobbler
© Dan Bailey

Arranged around a rugged central corrie, it's an instantly recognisable skyline, with cliffs of rippled mica schist that offer spectacular climbs and scrambles. This is a walker's hill too of course. The North Peak's improbable overhanging fins belie the fact that if approached from behind it's actually the easiest of the three summits to climb; in contrast the topmost blocks of the highest Centre Peak require a short but fairly tricky scramble, while the rocky molar of the South Peak is a (Moderate) graded rock climb best avoided by walkers.

Quinag

A key landmark of the northwest coast, Quinag has the sculpted form and stand-alone seaside character typical of all Assynt's ruggedly individualistic hills.

Quinag from Suilven  © Dan Bailey
Quinag from Suilven
© Dan Bailey

It's a many-topped massif rather than a single entity, with three main summits each distinct enough to qualify separately for Corbett status. The full traverse may be among the more manageable multi-Corbett days, but it's also a walk of real drama.

Baosbheinn

Torridon's famous 3000-footers win the plaudits, but tucked away in the remote hinterland to the north is a brace of peaks of equal yet far less hyped charisma.

Baosbheinn - sunshine, scenery, and wide blue space  © Dan Bailey
Baosbheinn - sunshine, scenery, and wide blue space
© Dan Bailey

If it made Munro height there's no doubt Baosbheinn would be many people's favourite, but despite its complex multi-summit form, and stirringly wild setting, this fascinating hill never seems busy. Baosbheinn can be combined in a long circuit with neighbouring Beinn an Eoin, or even a massive Corbett triple-header yoking in Beinn Dearg too (more of that later); but even the single-Corbett day is a big one:

Garbh-bheinn, Skye

There is of course way more to Skye than the Cuillin. Would it be wildly controversial to suggest that some of the best experiences for non-climbing hillwalkers can in fact be had by looking at this fearsome range from afar, rather than getting scared up close? Cuillin views don't get much more comprehensive than the one you can enjoy - cloud permitting - at the summit of Garbh-bheinn, from where the crazy skyline of the Main Ridge out to the west is arrayed in full jagged glory.

We're gonna need a bigger lens...  © Dan Bailey
We're gonna need a bigger lens...
© Dan Bailey

Often driven past by people speeding to the nearby Cuillin, but less often climbed, this is a dramatic peak in its own right, with a scrambly summit ridge that provides a more accessible flavour of the rather more spicy adventures to be had over on the big stuff. Climbed alone, this craggy Corbett makes a manageably exciting half day; it's also a good one to combine with other Red Cuillin peaks.

Ben Aden

Hard to see, hard to get to, and not altogether a walk in the park to the top, Ben Aden really epitomises the uncompromising character that's a hallmark of a good meaty Corbett.

Loch Quoich from Ben Aden   © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
Loch Quoich from Ben Aden
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com, Jun 2011

Lost in the tangled heart of Knoydart's well-named Rough Bounds, Ben Aden is a mission to reach, and you could almost believe the breathless travel supplement guff about Scotland's Last Wilderness. Bristling with rock outcrops, this knobbly, steep-flanked summit is way more than a mere adjunct to the neighbouring giant Sgurr na Ciche, but do them both together - perhaps roping in a few extra, but lesser Munros too - and you've got the makings of a truly satisfying weekender.

Meall a' Ghiubhais

By way of complete contrast with the lurking monster just described I give you lovely Meall a' Ghiubhais. So accessible it has an actual road at its foot, with a straightforward climb on a waymarked path to its halfway point, this welcoming hill is an attractive  introduction to the delights of West Coast Corbetts.

Spring highs on Meall a' Ghiubhais  © Dan Bailey
Spring highs on Meall a' Ghiubhais
© Dan Bailey

From a start on the shore of Loch Maree - rightly hailed Scotland's most beautiful - up through the rich native pinewoods of the Beinn Eighe National Nature reserve, past lochans in knobbly hollows, then scree to the lofty summit and a perfect panorama over Torridon and Fisherfield; this is an absolute treat of a hill day.

Beinn an Lochain

Looming precipitously over the road pass at Rest and Be Thankful, what Beinn an Lochain lacks in subtlety it more than makes up for with in-your-face presence.

High above Glen Croe on the chunky peak of Beinn an Lochain  © Dan Bailey
High above Glen Croe on the chunky peak of Beinn an Lochain
© Dan Bailey

Airy and exciting, without quite ever straying into hands-on scrambling, the mountain's long, steep-sided northeast ridge is its finest feature and most enjoyable line of ascent. Standing alone, Beinn an Lochain really only makes a half day; but in winter, with snow for atmosphere, it's one of the best half days of nearly-mountaineering in Scotland.

Sail Mhor

A fine stand-alone peak in its own right, but even more so for its coastal position directly above Little Loch Broom, Sail Mhor may only just make the minimum Corbett height requirement, but the views of Scotland's fragmented western seaboard are massive. A relatively easy ascent, rewarded with waterfalls, wild goats, and a nice little rocky ridge.

Looking into Fisherfield from Sail Mhor  © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
Looking into Fisherfield from Sail Mhor
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com

Garbh Bheinn, Ardgour

No other region does sub-3000-foot ruggedness quite like Ardgour, a rocky, boggy, woody wonderland with an untrodden feel. Perhaps it's quiet in part thanks to the fact that it lacks a single Munro to pull in the punters; but for Corbeteers there are rich pickings. For the best in the area - some might even say in Scotland - make tracks for Garbh Bheinn, the prosaically but accurately named rough mountain. Rising in a mass out of the folded and crinkled landscape, this great wedge of gneiss has an equally well deserved reputation among hillwalkers, scramblers and rock climbers.

Heading for Garbh Bheinn's classic Great Ridge  © Dan Bailey
Heading for Garbh Bheinn's classic Great Ridge
© Dan Bailey

Ben Loyal

A unique multi-topped massif of granite crags and turret-like summits, forming a much-admired backdrop to the great tidal inlet of the Kyle of Tongue, Ben Loyal symbolises the windswept isolation of Scotland's far north, an expansive landscape of peat and water, and strange island-like summits. A tour around Loyal's many craggy tops is a fairly straightforward day, but by no means a forgettable one. But if you hanker after a challenge, try combining it with not-so-nearby Ben Hope.

It's easy to see why this Corbett has earned a loyal fan base  © Dan Bailey
It's easy to see why this Corbett has earned a loyal fan base
© Dan Bailey

Cir Mhor, Arran

Arran is Scotland in miniature, they say, but when you're perched on top of Goat Fell gazing over the depths of Glen Rosa at the gnarled gothic spire of Cir Mhor you'll probably conclude that they made a serious understatement. This granite wonderland is Scotland at its most monumental, and the only little thing here is you. The summit elevations may not be breathtaking – only four peaks on the island merit Corbett status – but few mainland Munros can compete for sheer spectacle. Buttressed with crags of an almost Alpine scale and grandeur, the spearhead of Cir Mhor is a summit like kids draw - and there can't be a higher accolade than that.

Centre of attention again, stunning Cir Mhor.  © Garry Robertson
Centre of attention again, stunning Cir Mhor.
© Garry Robertson, Jun 2018

Beinn Dearg Mor

Living up to its romantic alias the Great Wilderness, Fisherfield is rightly renowned for stirring isolation. Numbered among the rugged Munros in this raw, road-free slice of the northwest are two of Scotland's all-time classics, A' Mhaighdean taking prime spot for remoteness and An Teallach topping the rankings in scenic majesty.

Shenavall, the classic bothy location, and mighty Beinn Dearg Mor  © Dan Bailey
Shenavall, the classic bothy location, and mighty Beinn Dearg Mor
© Dan Bailey

What do you get if you cross them? Beinn Dearg Mor, perhaps. An improbable precipitous presence looming above secluded Strath na Sealga, it's best combined with semi-detached Beinn Dearg Bheag to give you a two-hit Corbett expedition of the highest quality. Wild, challenging, and achingly beautiful, this is everything you might wish a Scottish mountain to be.

Askival

Rum is the wildest of our major islands, a National Nature Reserve for the last half century and home to only a handful of permanent human residents. Rearing straight out of the sea to a distinctive sawtoothed skyline, the traverse of Rum's Cuillin is a worthy, if less technical, counterpart to its better known namesake on nearby Skye.

Askival (left) and Ainshval from Hallival  © Dan Bailey
Askival (left) and Ainshval from Hallival
© Dan Bailey

If you've made it this far then you're probably in for a Rum full house, but while it's a classic route that's greater than the sum of its parts, the main peaks each considered individually are still top hills in their own right. Highest point on the island, and a big sculpted chunk with an airy feel and some optional hard scrambling, Askival is arguably the pick of a very fine bunch.

Foinaven

Not a single peak, but a complex and fascinating mountain range, Foinaven is a big day out, far in from the road whichever way you come at it. The high point, Foinaven - Ganu Mor, only just undershoots Munro status - a good thing, since it helps keep the place quiet.

On Foinaven  © General Roebuck
On Foinaven
© General Roebuck, Apr 2018

A mountain of mysterious crags and hidden corners, its long summit ridge disintegrating into scree, Foinaven offers a tremendous, challenging traverse in a stark far-northern landscape.

Beinn Dearg, Torridon

Back south a bit now, for this seriously underrated beast of a hill. Everyone loves nearby Munros Beinn Alligin, Liathach and Beinn Eighe - hell, you've probably done each half a dozen times. Add just half a metre or so to its height, and Beinn Dearg would be gatecrashing this 3000-foot hall of fame - and very much holding its own.

In snow and ice, Beinn Dearg isn't one to underestimate  © Dan Bailey
In snow and ice, Beinn Dearg isn't one to underestimate
© Dan Bailey

With its layered sandstone flanks, topped with a weather-bitten crest, it's got the classic Torridon vibe - minus only the crowds. A bit of light scrambling adds some oomph to a summer traverse, while in winter conditions this airy ridge takes on a mountaineering aspect almost as stern as its Munro brethren.

Fuar Tholl

The Coulin Forest Munros may be cracking hills, but by way of proving the point of this article, pride of place here goes to two very fine Corbetts. We'll get onto Beinn Damh shortly. First up, Fuar Tholl.

Fwarr Tholl - and this is the less imposing side  © Dan Bailey
Fwarr Tholl - and this is the less imposing side
© Dan Bailey

Rising boldly over Strath Carron, in a breakneck leap from glen floor to 900m+ summit in just a couple of kilometres, it's already making a compelling case for a top 20 slot. But get around to its less visible northern side and you'll see what the fuss was really about. With big, chunky crags, a fine high corrie, and the abrupt prow of the Mainreachan Buttress, Fuar Tholl puts on a display of mountain architecture worthy of a 60s brutalist.

Beinn Bhan

Part of the huge sandstone rampart that almost makes an island of the Applecross peninsula, Beinn Bhan is a mountain of contrasts - grassy and insipid to the west, flat on top, but carved to the east into a series of monumental corries of a scale matched by very few other Scottish hills of any height. For the best of the scenery, combine a traverse along the clifftops with a wander through the corries below them. You'll end the day with a stiff neck.

Atmospheric morning in the corries of Beinn Bhan  © Dan Bailey
Atmospheric morning in the corries of Beinn Bhan
© Dan Bailey

Streap

An intriguing hill of chiselled crests and sharp peaks, Streap misses the Munro bus by a whisker, and is all the better for it. Airy but not quite scrambling, its long summit ridge is a joy to stride - but imagine the crowds and path erosion if this spiky upstart had made it into that other list.

View West from Streap  © mountainstar
View West from Streap
© mountainstar, Mar 2006

Rois-bheinn

Like neighbouring Ardgour (see Garbh Bheinn) just across the narrow ribbon of Loch Shiel, Moidart is a region entirely devoid of crowd-magnet Munros, but bursting with promise if you prefer your hills unabashedly rugged, light on footfall, and Corbett-sized.

Slightly undermining the premise of this article, Druim Fiaclach isn't even a Corbett   © Dan Bailey
Slightly undermining the premise of this article, Druim Fiaclach isn't even a Corbett
© Dan Bailey

A full traverse of the lot from the Beinn Odhars westwards is a long hard day or overnight backpacking journey of real quality; but if we're narrowing things down to the best of the best then look to Rois-Bheinn. OK I'll admit we're cheating, since this is actually a range with three Corbetts, and you're liable to do them all (plus, if you've any sense, the wonderful scrambly east ridge of Druim Fiaclach). Counting your ticks is beside the point here, but fans of west highland ridge walking and island-dappled views will be in their element.

Beinn Damh

Muscular yet elegant; big but easy to access, Beinn Damh sits in a prime scenic spot above the head of Loch Torridon, sufficiently separate from the surrounding hills of Applecross, Coulin and Torridon to serve as the central point of perhaps the ultimate panoramic 360. With its feet in the sea and its lower flanks softened by pretty scots pine woods, this is a Corbett on which to rediscover your love for hillwalking.

Why? Because its damh fine  © Dan Bailey
Why? Because its damh fine
© Dan Bailey

Bidean a' Chabair

Maths whizzes might object to our numerical laxity, but the fact we've stretched to 21, and could carry on for some time yet, shows the depth of quality on offer among the Corbetts. What no Beinn Lair or Sgurr Domhnuil? Only one Arran entry? Or how about Sgurr Coire Choinnichean? 

It's one you really have to earn...  © Dan Bailey
It's one you really have to earn...
© Dan Bailey

Though less well known, Bidein a' Chabair muscles into our list on account of its sheer gristly awkwardness. Hidden away in an inaccessible position above the remote heads of Lochs Nevis and Morar in Knoydart's Rough Bounds, this steep-sided knobbly ridge is worth a full traverse, rather than the 'quick' linear bagger's hit from Loch Arkaig. You'll probably get to enjoy it in solitude, which is really the point...



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Yes, the top 20 Corbetts are as good as some pretty good Munros. But the bottom 100 Corbetts are humps covered in heather and bog. Taken as a whole, the Corbetts are less stimulating and exciting than the Munros, just as the Cobbler, fine peak as it is, doesn't compare with Liathach, Bidean, Ben Nevis or Sgurr nan Gillean.

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