© Alan Dawson 1992
I owe the title of this chapter to a magazine article by John Perriment in which he argued convincingly in defence of the practice of peak bagging. The basic case was stated with honest simplicity:
Many people indulge in pointless leisure activities like collecting stamps, coins, old bottles, cigarette cards - whatever.
I just happen to collect hills.
There is a clear parallel between collecting objects of a certain type and the practice of climbing all the hills in a given list or category. Most hill walkers would argue that there's a bit more to it than that - the views, the open air, the solitude, the scenery, the wildlife, the exercise, the escape from the pressure or routine of everyday life, and so on. All are reasons why so many of us enjoy hill walking, but the fact remains that people climb the Munros because there is a well-publicised list of them, and not because the Munros always offer a better walk than slightly lower hills, which are visited much less often. This doesn't mean that collecting hills is competitive. There are no prizes for completing a list or medals for the fastest finish. In most cases there is just great personal satisfaction at achieving a long-held ambition, and doing so in a harmless, healthy and enjoyable manner.
This chapter unashamedly caters for the hill walker who admits to being a collector, or at least an enthusiast. It contains a collection of statistics and other less serious information about the 1542 Marilyns (the Sweats and County Tops are ignored). The obvious place to start is with a comparison of Marilyns and Munros.
There are currently 277 Scottish mountains that have been granted Munro status. 202 of these qualify as Marilyns. However, there are 205 Marilyns in Scotland over 3000 feet, which is explained by the fact that three Marilyns are categorised only as Munro tops. These three are:
In the 1981 edition of Munro's Tables, the third of the Torridon giants, Liathach, was elevated to two-Munro status, yet for some reason Beinn Alligin and Beinn Eighe did not receive the same treatment. In fact, the drop between the two Marilyns on Beinn Alligin and Beinn Eighe is much greater than that on Liathach, which only has two Marilyns by virtue of a generous application of the 15-contour rule (explained in Chapter 4).
The 75 Munros that do not qualify as Marilyns are listed below.
Region Metres Munro Nearest Marilyn
1 946 Beinn Tulaichean Cruach Ardrain 1 940 Beinn a'Chroin An Caisteal 1 916 Beinn a'Chleibh Ben Lui 2 981 Creag Mhor Carn Mairg 2 968 Meall Garbh Carn Mairg 2 1103 Beinn Ghlas Ben Lawers 3 953 Meall Dearg Aonach Eagach - Sgor nam Fiannaidh 3 998 Stob Diamh Ben Cruachan 4 1221 Aonach Mor Aonach Beag 4 1115 Stob Coire an Laoigh Stob Choire Claurigh 4 1106 Stob a'Choire Mheadhoin Stob Coire Easain 4 1055 Na Gruagaichean Binnein Mor 4 1001 Sgor an Iubhair Sgurr a'Mhaim 4 981 Stob Coire a'Chairn An Gearanach 4 939 Mullach nan Coirean Stob Ban 4 976 Stob Coire Sgriodain Chno Dearg 4 1114 Aonach Beag Geal-charn 4 1100 Beinn Eibhinn Geal-charn 4 924 Creag Pitridh Geal Charn 5 975 A'Mharconaich Beinn Udlamain 5 936 A'Bhuidheanach Bheag Carn na Caim 6 933 The Cairnwell Carn a'Gheoidh 6 917 Carn Aosda Carn a'Gheoidh 7 1064 Cairn of Claise Glas Maol 7 1019 Carn an Tuirc Glas Maol 7 987 Creag Leacach Glas Maol 7 958 Tolmount Glas Maol 7 957 Tom Buidhe Glas Maol 7 947 Driesh Glas Maol 7 928 Mayar Glas Maol 7 1118 White Mounth Lochnagar 7 1047 Carn an t-Sagairt Mor Lochnagar 7 1012 Cairn Bannoch Lochnagar 7 998 Broad Cairn Lochnagar 8 1019 Mullach Clach a'Bhlair Sgor Gaoith 8 1113 Monadh Mor Beinn Bhrotain 8 1004 The Devil's Point Cairn Toul 8 1245 Cairn Gorm Ben Macdui 8 1155 Derry Cairngorm Ben Macdui 8 931 Beinn Bhreac Beinn a'Chaorainn 9 930 A'Chailleach Carn Dearg 9 926 Geal Charn Carn Dearg 9 920 Carn Sgulain Carn Dearg 9 1006 Carn Liath Creag Meagaidh 9 1053 Stob Poite Coire Ardair Creag Meagaidh 10 1004 Sgurr an Lochain Sgurr an Doire Leathain 10 987 Druim Shionnach Aonach air Chrith 10 981 Maol Chinn-dearg Aonach air Chrith 10 947 Creag a'Mhaim Aonach air Chrith 11 1180 Mam Sodhail Carn Eige 11 1111 Tom a'Choinich Carn Eige 11 982 Mullach na Dheiragain Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan 11 920 An Socach Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan 11 959 Saileag Sgurr a'Bhealaich Dheirg 11 1002 Sail Chaorainn Sgurr nan Conbhaireann 11 957 Carn Ghluasaid Sgurr nan Conbhaireann 12 1049 Sgurr Fhuar-thuill Sgurr a'Choire Ghlais 12 992 Carn nan Gobhar Sgurr a'Choire Ghlais 12 999 Sgurr Choinnich Sgurr a'Chaorachain 14 1059 Sgurr Fiona An Teallach - Bidean a'Ghlas Thuill 14 954 Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich Sgurr Mor 14 949 Meall Gorm Sgurr Mor 14 923 An Coileachan Sgurr Mor 14 934 Meall a'Chrasgaidh Sgurr nan Clach Geala 14 923 Sgurr nan Each Sgurr nan Clach Geala 15 977 Meall nan Ceapraichean Beinn Dearg 16 987 Conival Ben More Assynt 17 958 Bruach na Frithe Sgurr nan Gillean 17 935 Am Basteir Sgurr nan Gillean 17 973 Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh Sgurr Dearg - Inaccessible Pinnacle 17 918 Sgurr a'Mhadaidh Sgurr Dearg - Inaccessible Pinnacle 17 965 Sgurr na Banachdich Sgurr Dearg - Inaccessible Pinnacle 17 948 Sgurr Mhic Choinnich Sgurr Alasdair 17 944 Sgurr Dubh Mor Sgurr Alasdair 17 924 Sgurr nan Eag Sgurr Alasdair
The numbers in each region are roughly proportional to the number of Munros, with the exception of Region 7 (14 Munros, only 3 Marilyns over 3000 feet) and Region 17 (13 Munros, only 5 Marilyns over 3000 feet). These two regions are worth further comment. The Munros in Region 7 are spread over an extensive high plateau, so presumably Sir Hugh was fairly generous with separate mountain status because of the large distances between summits, even though there is little height difference. In contrast, 11 of the 13 Munros in Region 17 are along the Black Cuillin Ridge of Skye. These summits are not far apart in terms of distance or height, but because of the steepness and difficulty of the terrain they are well separated by time, i.e. the time it takes most walkers to get from one summit to the next. These two regions illustrate that measures such as distance and time may be as relevant as height when assessing mountains. The Marilyns, though, are judged strictly by relative height, and the numbers of them in Regions 7 and 17 simply reflect this.
The definition of Corbetts is the same as that of Marilyns, over a limited height range (2500-2999 feet), so there is an almost perfect correlation between the 220 Scottish Marilyns in the 2500-2999 feet band and the 221 Corbetts listed in the 1990 edition of Munro's Tables. The only discrepancy concerns the treatment of Gairbeinn and Corrieyairack Hill (Section 9B), which are both 896 metres high but are not separated by the required 150-metre drop. These are listed as one Marilyn (Gairbeinn) but two Corbetts.
Some of the mountains in this category appear to be less stable than we might imagine, and are liable to soar or diminish in height in the time it takes to produce a new map. For example, Sron a'Choire Chnapanich (Region 2) appeared from nowhere to leap into the Corbett chart at 837 metres in 1984, while Cook's Cairn (Section 21A) dropped out shortly afterwards when a new map showed that it had slumped from 774 to 756 metres, though it still qualifies as a Marilyn. By contrast, Beinn Teallach (Section 9C) was quite a slow mover when it rose by only two metres in 1984, but this was sufficient to promote it from Corbett to Munro status and thereby ensure that it became host to a vast increase in footprints. And even at the time of writing it seems that further orogenesis may have taken place, as the status of Foinaven (Section 16B) is still unclear; its newly-discovered height of 914 metres puts it firmly on the Corbett/Munro boundary, and the Ordnance Survey seem unwilling to commit themselves as to whether it has actually risen above the magic 914.4-metre mark. All aspiring Munroists are advised to climb it just in case.
There are a further thirty-two Marilyns of Corbett height located in England and Wales, but these seem to be in a relatively stable condition, with little recent height change recorded as a result of metrication, re-surveying or geological upheaval.
It seems strange that with all the attention paid to the 2000-foot summits in England, Wales and Southern Scotland, there is no tradition of climbing all the equivalent summits in the rest of Scotland. Perhaps it has been generally assumed that there are too many of them to make it a feasible proposition. This proves not to be the case. Remarkably, there are almost exactly the same number of Scottish Marilyns (222) between 2000 and 2499 feet as there are Corbetts. This group of hills may be referred to as the Lesser Corbetts, which can be conveniently abbreviated to Elsies. They include some of the finest and most distinctive peaks in the country, such as Stac Pollaidh, Suilven, The Storr and Ben Stack, as well as popular hills like Tinto and Ben Venue. A few of these are described in the Scottish Mountaineering Club guide book The Corbetts and Other Scottish Hills, but many of the others are in remote settings and must have been very rarely visited. Certainly the Elsies will present a worthwhile challenge to Munroists and Corbetteers, and will provide a good incentive to head off into relatively uncharted territory, with few paths and fewer people. A concise list can be easily abstracted from Chapter 4 (610 to 761 metres) though committed Scots will probably ignore those in Regions 29 to 42. Most of the 65 Elsies in England and Wales are well-documented and fairly well-worn but are still capable of providing enjoyable and worthwhile excursions.
The tables below show the number of Marilyns in each of the 42 regions, subdivided into different height categories; first in metres and then in feet.
Region 150-499m 500-999m 1000+m Total
1 9 68 6 83 2 1 24 16 41 3 7 45 10 62 4 1 28 17 46 5 0 13 1 14 6 2 19 7 28 7 6 18 2 26 8 1 13 11 25 9 12 26 2 40 10 5 64 9 78 11 2 16 12 30 12 9 31 6 46 13 7 27 3 37 14 1 28 5 34 15 9 26 2 37 16 29 54 0 83 17 48 38 0 86 18 11 36 0 47 19 30 26 0 56 20 16 14 0 30 21 16 19 0 35 22 20 0 0 20 23 9 0 0 9 24 55 15 0 70 25 6 0 0 6 26 18 5 0 23 27 31 30 0 61 28 25 33 0 58 29 4 1 0 5 30 21 50 2 73 31 24 13 0 37 32 24 15 0 39 33 4 6 0 10 34 19 37 0 56 35 4 25 0 29 36 9 8 0 17 37 5 0 0 5 38 18 5 0 23 39 5 0 0 5 40 6 1 0 7 41 10 1 0 11 42 14 0 0 14 Total 553 878 111 1542 Scotland 386 716 109 1211 Isle of Man 4 1 0 5 Wales 69 78 2 149 England 94 83 0 177
Region 500-999' 1000-1999' 2000-2999' 3000+' Total
1 1 16 49 17 83 2 0 3 16 22 41 3 2 12 26 22 62 4 1 6 15 24 46 5 0 1 8 5 14 6 0 4 11 13 28 7 1 10 12 3 26 8 0 2 12 11 25 9 1 16 19 4 40 10 2 12 42 22 78 11 0 4 12 14 30 12 1 13 20 12 46 13 1 8 19 9 37 14 0 5 16 13 34 15 3 13 15 6 37 16 2 45 33 3 83 17 14 44 23 5 86 18 3 16 28 0 47 19 7 35 14 0 56 20 4 18 8 0 30 21 2 23 10 0 35 22 18 2 0 0 20 23 6 3 0 0 9 24 31 34 5 0 70 25 3 3 0 0 6 26 6 16 1 0 23 27 9 37 15 0 61 28 3 42 13 0 58 29 2 2 1 0 5 30 9 24 34 6 73 31 1 32 4 0 37 32 5 26 8 0 39 33 1 6 3 0 10 34 5 23 24 4 56 35 0 8 21 0 29 36 2 14 1 0 17 37 2 3 0 0 5 38 5 17 1 0 23 39 3 2 0 0 5 40 3 3 1 0 7 41 6 5 0 0 11 42 14 0 0 0 14 Total 179 608 540 215 1542 Scotland 121 443 442 205 1211 Isle of Man 2 2 1 0 5 Wales 15 82 46 6 149 England 41 81 51 4 177
The mainland of Britain contains 1306 Marilyns, which leaves 236 distributed as follows among 58 other islands:
Region Island Marilyns
17 Skye 48 24 Lewis/Harris 39 17 Mull 25 20 Jura 12 22 Mainland Shetland 11 20 Arran 10 24 South Uist 9 24 North Uist 7 20 Islay 6 29 Isle of Man 5 17 Rhum 5 23 Mainland Orkney 4 24 Barra 3 23 Hoy 3 17 Eigg 2 22 Foula 2 42 Isle of Wight 2 17 Raasay 2 22 Unst 2 27 Ailsa Craig 1 30 Anglesey 1 30 Bardsey Island 1 24 Berneray 1 25 Boreray 1 22 Bressay 1 19 Bute 1 17 Canna 1 18 Carna 1 25 Dun 1 18 Eilean Shona 1 24 Eriskay 1 22 Fair Isle 1 22 Fetlar 1 24 Garbh Eilean 1 17 Gometra 1 25 Hirta 1 30 Holy Island (Anglesey) 1 20 Holy Island (Arran) 1 22 Isle of Noss 1 19 Kerrera 1 24 Mingulay 1 24 Muldoanich 1 24 Pabbay (North) 1 24 Pabbay (South) 1 23 Rousay 1 24 Sandray 1 17 Scalpay 1 20 Scarba 1 24 Scarp 1 24 Seaforth Island 1 25 Soay 1 25 Stac an Armin 1 25 Stac Lee 1 24 Taransay 1 17 Ulva 1 24 Vatersay 1 23 Westray 1 22 Yell 1
A few of these islands are connected by road; Anglesey and Holy Island are linked to each other and to the mainland by two bridges, while North Uist and South Uist are connected to each other by road causeway (via the island of Benbecula). By the end of the century it seems probable that Skye will also have a road link to the Scottish mainland. This still leaves a lot of boat travel for anyone planning to visit all the islands. Many of the small islands in the Outer Hebrides (Region 24) are completely uninhabited, and so of course have no ferry service.
The island with the highest single peak is Scarba (Section 20A), on which Cruach Scarba rises 449 metres above the sea. The smallest island peak is Muldoanich (Section 24D), which at 153 metres is the smallest of all the Marilyns.
It seems common knowledge that in the Inuit (Eskimo) language there are supposed to be over thirty different words for snow, though I have never heard this confirmed by an Eskimo. It is less well-known that the British have over seventy different words for a hill, though not all derive from the same language. The most common of these is 'Beinn', which applies to 234 of the Marilyns. A count of all the words for a hill that appear more than once in the list of Marilyns is shown below.
Beinn 234 Biod 5 Hill 165 Carnedd 5 Meall 88 Crag 5 Ben 74 Cruachan 5 Carn 64 Field 5 Sgurr 63 Mount 5 Creag 44 Mountain 5 Bheinn 41 Rig 5 Fell 41 Tom 5 -val 33 Garn 4 Mynydd 23 Knock 4 Stob 23 Meallan 4 Cruach 21 Spidean 4 Law 21 Sron 4 Cnoc 18 Top 4 Moel 16 Tor 4 Craig 13 Braigh 3 Stac 13 Bryn 3 Cairn 12 Maol 3 Pen 12 Sail 3 Sgorr 12 Sgor 3 Druim 10 Sidhean 3 Mullach 10 Barrow 2 Seat 8 Carnan 2 Charn 8 Cefn 2 Aonach 7 Chreag 2 Beacon 7 Cnap 2 Foel 7 Creachan 2 Head 7 Heights 2 Pike 7 Knott 2 -bhal 7 Mam 2 Down 6 Mheall 2 Dun 6 Mheallan 2 Fan 6 Rhos 2 Moor 6 Ridge 2 Bidein 5 Sgorach 2 Binnein 5 Stuc 2 Wold 2
This leaves 276 Marilyns that have some other kind of name. An elementary knowledge of the meaning of some of these Gaelic words can give a good indication of the character of a hill. For example, a 'Meall' or 'Meallan' will probably be a rounded, relatively featureless shape, whereas a 'Sgurr' or 'Sgorr' is likely to be a distinctive peak. Several of the books about Scottish mountains (see Chapter 8) give a translation of the common Gaelic hill names.
The full name that appears most often in the list of Marilyns is Beinn Bhreac, which means speckled hill. There are 11 of them, plus one Beinn Bhreac-liath (speckled grey hill). The ten most common names of Marilyns are as follows:
11 Beinn Bhreac (speckled hill) 8 Glas Bheinn (greenish-grey hill) 7 Beinn Mhor (big hill) 7 Carn Dearg (red hill) 6 Beinn Dearg (red hill) 6 Meall Mor (big hill) 5 Creag Mhor (big rock) 4 Beinn Mheadhoin (middle hill) 4 Beinn Mheadhonach (middle hill) 4 Meall Buidhe (yellow hill)
There are three Geal Charn, one Geal-charn and one Geal-Charn (all meaning 'white hill'), so maybe these should also be included in the top ten. The most common English name is Black Hill, which occurs three times, though as it happens two of them are in Southern Scotland (Section 28A). The Gaelic names may pose severe pronunciation problems, but we should be grateful for them, as the above hills would sound much less interesting if the English translations were in common use.
Many of the Gaelic names include a word which describes the colour of the hill. There are 26 Marilyns with the word 'Dearg' in their name (plus two 'Dheirg' and one 'Dhearg'), which suggests that there are more red hills than any other colour. However, adding together all the 'black','dubh' and 'dhubh' Marilyns gives a total of 34, so black is the most commonly named colour. As most hills tend to look brownish or greenish in colour, it might seem surprising that so few of them are named accordingly. A little further thought reveals why - most hills were originally named to distinguish them from other nearby hills, so calling them 'brown hill' or 'green hill' would not have been terribly helpful.
The Marilyn with the longest name is Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill, in the far north of Scotland (Section 16B), which translates as 'Grey Hill of McDougall's Corrie'. The shortest name is Gun (Region 36), which is the highest point of the Staffordshire hills known as The Roaches - a popular rock-climbing area.
There are several candidates for the title of most remote Marilyn but no clear winner, as there are different ways of defining remoteness. The St Kilda group of islands (Region 25) are so far away from the rest of Scotland (about 40 miles from North Uist) that they are rarely included in any map of the British Isles. Of the six Marilyns of St Kilda, Cnoc Glas on the island of Soay is the farthest away from the mainland or any civilian habitation, though it is not far from the other five Marilyns in the group.
By contrast, the Marilyns in Central and Eastern England are close to civilisation but remote from each other. Both Bardon Hill and Haddington Hill (Region 39) are over 30 miles from any other Marilyn, but the honour of being the most isolated hill goes to the highest point in the Lincolnshire Wolds (Region 37), which does not appear to have a specific name, and is therefore listed as 'The Wolds'. The summit is over 40 miles from the nearest Marilyn (Bishop Wilton Wold), and over 60 miles from the next nearest.
The most commonly-accepted meaning of remoteness is that of distance from the nearest road. On the Scottish mainland there are a number of hills that are about ten miles from a public road in any direction. It is often reckoned that the most remote Munros are A'Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac Mor (Section 14A). Most of the Knoydart mountains (Section 10B) are even more distant from the road network, but can be made more accessible by taking a ferry from Mallaig to Inverie. Similarly, some of the remote hills in the Ben Alder group (Section 4B) can be approached more easily by using the railway over Rannoch Moor to Corrour Station. In his Handbook of the Scottish Hills, Eric Yeaman rates Caiteshal (Section 24A) as the toughest hill in Scotland, based on a combination of height and inaccessibility. This peak is also about ten miles from the nearest public road but is conveniently near the coast for anyone with their own boat.
The summits which appear to be most remote from access by road, rail or boat are Beinn Bhreac (Section 6A), An Cruachan (Section 12B), Carn Ban (Section 15A) and Creag Mhor (Section 16D), with Beinn Bhreac possibly top of the list. However, distance does not always correspond exactly with time or difficulty of access, as a good track or path can make some of these very remote hills more easily accessible than those in other areas such as Knoydart.
Another possible measure of remoteness is that of relative height. The hills of the far north of Scotland (Region 16) are not amongst the highest in the country, but many of them rise quite individually from the surrounding land and so have an impressively monolithic appearance. For example, Cul Mor (Section 16F) has a drop of over 600 metres on all sides before the terrain rises towards the next nearest Marilyns, while Ben Hope (Section 16B) has a drop of over 660 metres all round. This gives Ben Hope a second claim to fame, as it is also the most northerly 3000-foot Marilyn. In England and Wales the summit with the greatest drop all round seems to be Moel Siabod (Section 30B), which is about 490 metres clear of the slopes of any other Marilyn.
The question of what is remote obviously depends on what criteria you use and where you start from. For a resident of Lerwick, the Cornish Marilyns are the most remote. The four Marilyns at the extremes of the country are:
|Northernmost:||Saxa Vord (Region 22)|
|Southernmost:||White Downs (Region 40)|
|Westernmost:||Cnoc Glas (Region 25)|
|Easternmost:||North Downs (Region 42)|
On mainland Britain, Sgribhis-bheinn (Section 16A) is the most northerly Marilyn, while Beinn na Seilg (Section 18A) is the most westerly. It is also worth mentioning Beinn na Lice (Section 19B) which is at the southern tip of the Kintyre peninsula, near the Mull of Kintyre, and is about 100 miles by road from the nearest hills in any other mainland region.
Yeaman's Handbook of the Scottish Hills gives an energy rating of 0.00 to Wideford Hill on Orkney Mainland, which is supposed to mean that it requires no energy at all to ascend, as a road leads all the way to the summit. However, this only makes it easy if you happen to be on Orkney Mainland in the first place. Yeaman's book covers only Scotland of course, but some of the most easily attained Marilyns are in England and Wales. My own nomination for the easiest summit goes to Bishop Wilton Wold (Region 37) which is the highest point in the Yorkshire Wolds and the county of Humberside. The triangulation point on the summit is on exactly the same level as the main A166 road from York to Bridlington. However, there are two mounds belonging to the local water authority that are a few feet higher than both the triangulation point and the road (even the smallest hills seem to have two tops). This means that anyone driving past on the A166 has not reached the highest point, whereas someone sitting upstairs on a passing 841 bus can reasonably claim to have bagged the summit!
Most hills over 1000 feet high have boggy areas at some point on their slopes, but it is only popular hills with flattish tops that manage to maintain their boggyness all the way to the summit. I have only once been prevented from standing on the highest point of a hill by the depth of bog surrounding it. This dubious honour belongs to Waun Fach, which is the highest point in the Black Mountains of South Wales (Section 32A). When I visited this summit it had no triangulation point, but just a little concrete platform set in the middle of a sea of very deep ooze (I still regard the summit as bagged, as my head was higher than the highest point). I have heard great tales of the quagmire on the summit of The Cheviot (Region 33) but have not yet managed to inspect it personally. The highest point in Region 36, which is on the summit plateau of Kinder Scout (not the triangulation point), is also highly regarded for being both difficult to locate and adrift in a sea of peat hags, though when I managed to find it during a very dry spell some years ago my feet emerged dusty but dry. The best tactic seems to be to catch this type of summit in winter when the bog is either frozen or snow-covered.
Boringness is quite distinct from boggyness, as a boggy summit may have superb views, whereas the only satisfaction provided by a truly boring hill is that of ticking it off a list. There are several strong contenders for the title of Britain's most boring hill.
In his continuous journey over all the Munros (described in Hamish's Mountain Walk), Hamish Brown reckoned that the area he called 'The Grey Wasteland' was probably the 'least notable of all'. This is in Section 6B, and includes the Marilyns (and Munros) of Carn Bhac, Beinn Iutharn Mhor, Carn an Righ and Glas Tulaichean. Irvine Butterfield, in The High Mountains of Britain and Ireland, agrees that these hills 'lack topographical interest and stimulating views' and have 'long plods between the summits'. However, he seems to take greater exception to parts of Region 2, for he describes Beinn Mhanach as a 'tedious lump' and Meall Ghaordaidh as 'quite the dullest hill in the Southern Highlands'. He is also contemptuous of Meall Chuaich (Region 5), which is described as 'a boring hill with an equally drab outlook' and all of the Monadh Liath Hills (Section 9B), which he rates as 'unrelentingly tedious'. The good news is that only one of the Monadh Liath Munros qualifies as a Marilyn; the bad news is that there are several Corbetts and lower Marilyns in this area that may be equally tedious. W. H. Murray, in Scotland's Mountains, switches attention to Section 16D, where he describes Ben Klibreck and Ben Armine as 'dull mountains in a dreary bog'.
Some walkers would argue that all of the Scottish hills are full of interest compared to parts of the English Pennines. There are certainly plenty of boring summits in England, but fortunately not many of them qualify as Marilyns (beware of Section 35A in Chapter 5). In Classic Walks in the Yorkshire Dales, Walt Unsworth claims that Rogan's Seat (which is a Marilyn) is the worst of all; it has been described as 'so bad it just has to be collected'. In Wales there is the featureless flat top of Cyrniau Nod (Section 30E) to be reckoned with. It is one of the Berwyn Hills that Terry Marsh (in The Mountains of Wales) believes would be immensely popular were it not for the heather, which is so thick that 'a considerable portion of them fall at best into the category of "sheer purgatory"' . This description does not apply to the highest peak in the range, Cadair Berwyn, which can offer an excellent walk over easy terrain with fine views, but few of the lesser summits in this area are interesting enough to justify thrashing through the heather jungle to reach them.
All these candidates for being the most boring hill in Britain are over 2000 feet high, so it would seem that there must be some lower Marilyns with outstandingly uninteresting qualities that have yet to be recognised. Of course, the lack of merit has to be balanced against the effort involved in reaching the summit. To be significantly boring a hill should be at least a couple of hours walk from the nearest road, so that a full sense of anti-climax can be experienced on reaching the top.
One of the provisional titles for this book was 'The Viewpoints of Britain', as the majority of Marilyns provide splendid views in favourable weather (there aren't really all that many boring ones). But this title would have been a little misleading, as many fine viewpoints are not on the summits of Marilyns. For those more interested in views than hills, hundreds of these lower viewpoints have been identified by the Ordnance Survey and indicated on their Routemaster maps (1:250000) by a small blue sun symbol.
The quality of any view is entirely subjective and weather-dependent, so there can be no consensus of opinion about which is the best. The man who has probably climbed more Scottish hills more often than anyone else is Hamish Brown, and so his opinion must be respected when he rates the summit of A'Mhaighdean (Section 14A) as providing the finest view of any among the Munros. He also considers it to be the least easily reached Munro, so there is an admitted elitism in his judgement, but Irvine Butterfield agrees that A'Mhaighdean and neighbouring Ruadh Stac Mor provide 'outstanding vantage points'.
Different views have contrasting qualities. W. H. Murray asserts that the view from the top of Foinaven (Section 16B) is 'unmatched in scale for its kind - glittering desolation', while for a 'vast spread of sea and mountains' he recommends the summits of Garbh Bheinn and Ben Resipol (Section 18B). Then of course there are the very well-known but still magnificent peaks of Glencoe such as Buachaille Etive Mor and Bidean nam Bian (Section 3B), which in good conditions provide dramatic mountain skylines in all directions.
There are a host of superb viewpoints in the Lake District, Snowdonia and other parts of England and Wales, but it is generally agreed that they can not compare in scale or grandeur with the best that Scotland has to offer. My personal nomination for best viewpoint goes to Bla Bheinn on Skye (Section 17B), with its 360-degree panorama of jagged ridges, green valleys, shimmering seas, scattered islands, extensive coastlines and countless distant peaks. This judgement was naturally influenced by a rare combination of cloudless sky, haze-free horizon and wind-free warmth. Such days make up for dozens of damp and chilly expeditions to lesser summits. They can provide unforgettable memories to treasure for all time, and if you are in the right frame of mind they can even help to put the rest of your life into some sort of perspective.