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Ross Brannigan hopes to help people unlock the hills with new book Running Adventures Scotland

By John Davidson

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Maol Chinn-dearg on the South Glen Shiel Ridge - Ross's favourite route in the book.
Maol Chinn-dearg on the South Glen Shiel Ridge - Ross's favourite route in the book.

The tantalisingly long South Glen Shiel Ridge comes out as a clear favourite for hill running author Ross Brannigan. The Scot has just penned a new book, Running Adventures Scotland, which includes 25 inspirational routes from the Highlands to the Borders.

And there’s no hesitation when asked if he could pick his personal favourite.

“I do have a clear favourite and that’s the South Glen Shiel Ridge,” he tells me. “It was the starting point for John Broxap’s 24-hour Munro record back in the 80s – and for good reason as well.

“It’s a delightful rolling ridge line that has seven Munros on it, and in every direction you have expansive views. Behind you, if you’re running it from west to east, you’ll have Knoydart and Skye, and just north you’ll have Glen Affric and the rest of the Kintail hills.

“And once you get the initial few kilometres of steep ground out of the way, you then have the best part of nearly 18km rolling along these tops and getting really quite dramatic views across to the neighbouring Munros that are on the ridge.

Ross Brannigan.
Ross Brannigan.

“There’s a particular segment towards the end on the third to last Munro and you’re on Maol Chinn-dearg and you’ve got this incredible view over to Aonach air Chrith that I think is one of the absolute standout points of the route, it’s just phenomenal.

“Each of the routes also has a memory attached to it for me, and that one was one of the earliest ones I ran that ended up in the book, and we just had incredible weather for it. It was October and it was just prime sunny, clear air and it was just a really memorable experience.”

There’s a collection of other memorable routes to be run – or just to admire – in the book, which opens in the north-west Highlands with a trip over the two Munros of Beinn Alligin for starters.

There are some more gentle routes included for those interested in lower-level trail running, but much of the book is focused on getting onto the tops.

For Ross, who is originally from Tillicoutry close to the Ochils, there’s a definite overlap between walking in the hills and running in them.

“I find that running and walking in the hills are not completely different from one another,” he says. “For me, it’s all about moving in the mountains – which sounds a bit groovy, but I think whether you’re taking them at a slower pace or a faster pace you’re still there for the same reason and that’s to enjoy the landscape and see amazing things.

Meall Garbh on the Ben Lawers range.
Meall Garbh on the Ben Lawers range.

“Running in the hills is like tapping into a different rhythm of the hills. There’s a nice pace to it and a really liberating feeling being able to cross further distance and see more and link up routes that are a little but harder to do if you’re just walking, when it can take up a significant chunk of time.

“So really running in the hills unlocks the landscape to be explored a little bit more, I find, and that’s why I enjoy it so much.”

There are plenty of ideas to get you out, with many of the routes in the Highlands. But the book is not your average guidebook – it includes a vast range of information as well as comments for each route from other people involved in Scottish hill running or the outdoors more generally.

There are alternative route suggestions for each run, including for nearby lower-level or shorter routes, as well as spectacular photography, large, clear maps and even some ideas for longer and multi-day routes for those looking to explore further.

“There’s a few in there,” Ross suggests. “There’s the West Highland Way, which is obviously a very popular route with trail runners, there’s the Tranter, which is an iconic 24-hour hiking round that has become quite a famous running round as well. Attached to that is the bigger Ramsay round.

On Schoolhouse Ridge, Beinn a' Bheithir, near Ballachulish.
On Schoolhouse Ridge, Beinn a' Bheithir, near Ballachulish.

“Then one of the routes is a route in the Cairngorms that I literally just came up with and put a bit of a different spin on it, that was linking five bothies, and I think what I’d like to think people get out of the book is that the routes in there are 25 inspirational running routes in Scotland.

“That means that they’re basically a springboard for you to come up with your own adventures and start thinking into the space of, ‘well, that was cool, I enjoyed linking up those bothies and running that linear route, but what could I do?’.

“So, I hope that people take the book as a starting point for them to come up with their own adventures and start exploring the country for themselves.”

Running Adventures Scotland cover.
Running Adventures Scotland cover.
  • Running Adventures Scotland, published by Vertebrate Publishing (2022) is out now, priced £20. www.adventurebooks.com

  • Listen to the full interview with Ross Brannigan on the Active Outdoors podcast via your usual podcast provider or at hnmedia.co.uk/activeoutdoors

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