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Meet The Grahams: Accessible Yet Challenging Scottish Peaks

Scotland is celebrated for its dramatic mountain ranges, which draw hikers and climbers from all over the world thanks to their combination of technical challenges and amazing views. The highest peaks such as Ben Nevis and the Skye Cuillin Munros are on the bucket list of amateur and professional mountain walkers alike.

However, Scotland has hundreds of equally delightful but much less well known mountains. Among these are the Grahams, which are peaks of between 2,000ft and 2,500ft, compared to Corbetts (over 2,500ft) and Munros (over 3,000ft). 

Grahams might not have quite the grandeur of the highest peaks, but they offer an excellent challenge for beginner and intermediate hikers.They were first listed by Alan Dawson in his 1992 publication The Relative Hills of Britain, and are named after Fiona Torbet, who helped to compile the list and whose maiden name was Graham. 

A metric revision of the qualifying height criteria in 2022 has increased the number of Grahams from 219 to 231. Some of the new mountains added to the list include Sgorach Mor and Cruach nam Miseag in the south west Highlands, and Lady Lea Hill and Corwharn in the East Highlands.

Great reasons to grapple with the Grahams

The Grahams are an ideal challenge for people who want the achievement of tackling a mountain hike, but find the prospect of a larger mountain overwhelming. This may be because they do not have much previous hillwalking experience, or because they do not feel that they are at the peak of their fitness, or just have limited time at their disposal. 

Smaller mountains are easily scalable within a day, whereas less experienced walkers may have concerns about getting down a higher mountain within daylight hours. Many of the Grahams offer easier accessibility, and are just as rewarding to climb in terms of their biodiversity and panoramic views over the surrounding hills, glens and lochs.

Many of the lesser-known Grahams may be in more isolated locations, but this can be an advantage for those hikers who want to venture off the beaten path, and escape the hordes that can be found on some of the more popular peaks. 

This is particularly relevant on weekends and Bank Holidays, so if you treasure peace and solitude on your mountain walks, seeking out some of the quieter but no less beautiful Grahams is an excellent option.

Grahams that are well worth exploring include Beinn Talaidh, the highest Graham on the Isle of Mull, which offers spectacular views for more experienced walkers. For a Graham that is suitable for walkers of all abilities, a superb choice is Càrn na Coinnich, which rises above the banks of Loch Ness in the western Highlands. 

Staying in the Highlands, Ben Mór Coigach is a short distance from Ullapool, and offers a challenge to experienced walkers. It is noted for its diverse wildlife, and you may be lucky enough to spot golden eagles. 

UK Hillwalking reports that the accomplished mountaineer Lorraine McCall is currently planning a four-month journey to conquer all 231 Grahams. She has previously achieved a self-powered Munro round, and has also conquered the Corbetts in similar style. Now aged 59 and recovering from cancer treatment, she has set herself a new challenge. 

Discussing her upcoming adventures, McCall said: "The body is older and a bit more worn out after dealing with three different cancer diagnoses over the past 12 years. It has changed my life but there is strength in dealing with life's knocks. A sense of humour and a little stubbornness can go a long way."

She added: "I know how many people are affected by cancer, and I hope that my being out there on this journey might help to inspire others. If it encourages one more person to get out there then of course it's worth it."

McCall describes how she enjoys the simplicity and rhythm of mountain walking, which she finds to be a meditative experience. 

She said: "I miss being out there. Journeying is important to me. It is the best form of mindfulness. Life becomes very simple – where you are going that day, what you are going to eat and where you are going to sleep. Very soon slipping into a rhythm, living in the moment. What's not to like!" 

The therapeutic power of walking and being outdoors is instinctively understood by many people, whether they are tackling Scottish mountains or a stroll in their local park. 

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