Alex Langfield

Feet in the clouds — hiking Scotland's Charlie Ramsay Round

Schoon17 (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Feet in the clouds — hiking Scotland's Charlie Ramsay Round

Hiking Collection by Alex Langfield

6

Tours

38:06 h

66.8 mi

22,250 ft

The Charlie Ramsay Round is the wildest and arguably the most spectacular of the three Big Rounds of England, Scotland and Wales. Starting at the youth hostel in Glen Nevis, it takes you across some of the Scottish Highlands’ most celebrated mountain ranges: the sinuous Mamores, the wild hills above Loch Treig, the rugged splendour of the Grey Corries, the gigantic Aonnachs and finally finishes on Ben Nevis.

In total it includes 23 Munro summits and many subsidiary tops during its traditional 57 miles (92 km). This Collection contains a couple of hikers’ detours to overnight lodgings, bringing the total distance to almost 67 miles (108 km) with a whopping total ascent and descent of 22,025 feet (6,713 m).

This is a pilgrimage for expert hikers only. If you’ve got plenty of hill experience under your belt, solid mountain-craft, navigational nous and a certain amount of grit, you’ll absolutely love taking on the challenge of completing the Charlie Ramsay Round. Lack of accommodation along the route means you’ll be wild camping and bothying for at least some of the time. It all adds to the adventure, the sense of getting away from it all and the freedom of the hills.

Incredibly, elite runners take on the challenge of the Round to complete it in a single day. Devised as Scotland’s parallel to the original Bob Graham Round in England’s Lake District and Wales’ Paddy Buckley Round, as its name suggests it was the brainchild of Charlie Ramsay. He took the foundation of the previously existing Tranter Round and extended it so that the route was comparable to the Big Rounds south of the border.

The record for running the Round is held by Finlay Wild. He completed it on 31st August 2020 in a simply astonishing 14 hours and 42 minutes. The fastest female to have completed the Round is Jasmin Parris, who set a blistering time of 16 hours and 13 minutes on Saturday 18th June 2016.

To give yourself the biggest chance of completing the route, summer is undoubtedly the best season, with long daylight hours and the most favourable weather. Bear in mind that the midges can be rampant, so May or September may prove the most pleasant. It goes without saying that you will need to be extremely self-sufficient, carrying a tent and many provisions with you. A water purifier would be a huge boon, as you can refill and hydrate from the many mountain streams you will encounter, saving having to carry litres of water.

Other essentials include a first aid kit, midge repellent, navigational aids with traditional backups when batteries run dry, a fully charged battery pack, a head torch and a spare, waterproof boots, waterproof clothing and warm layers. Gaiters would be useful for the stream crossings. Make sure that someone knows your planned itinerary and (when signal permits) message them with regular updates. The what3words app is a good tool in case you need to give mountain rescue your location in an emergency.

There is some debate as to which way to do the Round, some preferring to go clockwise, with the gentler mountains in the latter half. In this Collection, I have opted to go anti-clockwise, starting on the Mamores and finishing on Ben Nevis, because it pays homage to Charlie’s original. It also gets the longer days on the Mamores and the remote section to Fersit out of the way early and saves the roughest, highest and most spectacular terrain for last. It is fitting that Ben Nevis should be the climax of such an inspiring journey.

I have split the route of the Round into six sections. The first three are longer but on easier terrain and closer to civilisation. My route tries to stick as close as possible to the runners’ route but occasionally makes a detour with comfort in mind. You might choose to wild camp throughout. Alternatively you may choose to descend to Kinlochleven after stage one, or make for the youth hostel at Loch Ossian before tackling the Loch Treig hills. These options add comfort, but also add miles to the itinerary and substantial additional elevation gain. There are also three bothies en route where shelter can be sought.

The start point, Glen Nevis youth hostel, is easily reached from Fort William, which has a mainline train station with links to Glasgow and Edinburgh. It is even possible to take the Caledonian Sleeper train from London, on which you can fall asleep somewhere near the English capital and wake up in the majesty of the Highlands. Corrour and Tulloch stations also offer access to the middle sections of the Round.

By road, Fort William is at least a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Glasgow and over three hours from Edinburgh. The closest airports are Inverness (about two hours away by car) and Glasgow.

For the Bob Graham Round, see here: komoot.com/collection/1045880

For the Paddy Buckley Round, see here: komoot.com/collection/1080334

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    06:19
    10.1 mi
    1.6 mph
    4,500 ft
    1,525 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    The first stage has you traversing the spectacular western Mamores. At the end you have a choice of wild camping (Coire nam Miseach being the ideal choice) or a straightforward …

  • Difficult
    08:31
    13.9 mi
    1.6 mph
    3,950 ft
    5,950 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    The remainder of the Mamores are tackled in what is a big hill day, with an intimidating 4,000 feet (1,200 m) of ascent ahead and a knee bashing 6,000 feet …

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  • Difficult
    08:37
    18.0 mi
    2.1 mph
    4,050 ft
    4,350 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The trek from Meanach Bothy to Fersit contains around 4,000 feet (1,200 m) of ascent and descent. It is a slightly longer hike than the previous stage at 18 miles …

  • Intermediate
    03:19
    7.45 mi
    2.3 mph
    2,875 ft
    2,150 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    A slice of bite-sized wilderness. This is the shortest stage of the Round, as you start to get to grips with the rugged Grey Corries range, before descending to the …

  • Difficult
    05:50
    11.0 mi
    1.9 mph
    4,950 ft
    3,700 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Here is a magnificent mountain day. The traverse of the quartzite ridgelines of the Grey Corries awaits. More remote, rougher and higher than the Mamores, with spectacular views to the …

  • Difficult
    05:31
    6.49 mi
    1.2 mph
    1,925 ft
    4,600 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    The climax of the Charlie Ramsay Round is Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain. There’s superb entertainment to be had on the traverse of the Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête …

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    6
  • Distance
    66.8 mi
  • Duration
    38:06 h
  • Elevation
    22,250 ft

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Alex Langfield

Feet in the clouds — hiking Scotland's Charlie Ramsay Round