Common Ground: Kevin Woods

Our Common Ground interview this month is with mountaineer, film-maker and musician Kevin Woods. Anna Wells’ round of the Munros in a single winter season has made recent headlines; Kevin was the previous person to complete a winter Munro round, back in 2019-2020. He’s made a great film about his experience, Winter282 – you can catch upcoming showings in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Yorkshire over on his website.

Kevin Woods | Photo: Brad Cain

Can you begin by telling us a bit about yourself and your background?

I’m a creative type at heart. I spent my twenties playing drums in various bands which gave a lot of free time between for the hills. I’ve also had one foot in the film and television world, which, because it has more overlap with the mountains than music does, I’ve ended up making a fair few films over the years. Specifically, I did the Munros in the winter of 2020 and released a film about that last year. Otherwise I’m part-way through a fifth Munro round, although I’ll probably get the Corbetts done first. I also enjoy climbing – both winter and rock, and particularly bouldering. I’ve also dabbled in graphic design, animation, photography, painting, web design and writing over time.

How did you first get started in the outdoors? Can you remember your first trip?

My first hillwalks were with my dad – all west of Scotland stuff, Isle of Bute, Kilpatricks, Campsies. My first Munro was Ben Lomond, age 10. I tried climbing early on, but it was the endurance stuff that got right into me. When I was 13, I went to try ice climbing in Kinlochleven, and my parents took me and a pal up. On the way home, an October weather front had passed through, and Glen Coe was dripping in golden light and black shadows in the remnants of the storm. That blew me away more than climbing, and I knew that the hills in whatever form would be a large part of my life.

Kevin Woods in the Écrins, French Alps | Photo: Cameron Wood

Can you describe your ideal day out (or longer excursion) in Scotland?

Getting out on the hill with friends or finding a new hill to climb, which seem to be getting lower and lower as time goes on! Going climbing with said pals in the hills, or out for a day on the west coast rock climbing. Maybe finishing with a sunset and a chippie. Pure bliss. That’s three answers!

What does getting outdoors mean to you?

I just enjoy being out on a regular basis for its own sake. I also mix up activities, and get out locally more than I ever did before.

It’s never just about the hill day, or only ‘Munros’, or only the physical side. Choosing a route and going for a walk doesn’t explain it all. The underlying currents that are revealed on the way are the truly important bit.

When you wire deeply into something and give it your all, the experience starts to resonate back at you – it opens up cracks in the landscape and internally in yourself that you would never have known if the scale of the challenge hadn’t demanded so much of your attention. I’m increasingly convinced it’s all about the direction of attention. Walking is very good for that.

Looking down Loch Nevis | Kevin Woods

On the hills you learn a lot about yourself and about self-sufficiency. You see all corners of your country, you learn the way the hills came to be, and you try to plug into time on a geological scale. You can stand on a mountain at sunset, see the terminal moraines in the glens and imagine the glaciers carving their trails below. You watch the darkness envelop you as the light fizzles out, then put your headtorch on and reluctantly descend to the road.

If you back up observation on the ground with reading, you can contextualise a lot of things in the real world. I’ve always taken an interest in the way that land use has changed over centuries. At first it was broad observations without knowledge to back them up – the treeless-ness of the landscape, or the obvious hydro developments that are such a feature. There were also the shielings eroding down into the soils and the lack of population in the glens, despite historical evidence to the contrary. It wasn’t until I did a massive whack of reading into the history of the Highlands that all the disconnected pieces came together. It doesn’t make for light reading, but it did reveal some truths about the state of the landscape.

The Scottish hills have consumed my entire adult life so far, and I don’t see that changing much in the future!

Have your outdoors’ experiences changed you in any way, perhaps affecting other areas of your life?

That’s probably a hard one to answer because the influence has moulded everything. If I hadn’t got into the hills I’d probably be drumming full time.

Looking forward, if there was one thing you could change about Scotland’s outdoors – whether that be in something in the environment itself, or in the culture around walking and mountains, what would it be?

I see that there is a massive schism between the ownership and use of Scottish land, and a very urbanised Scottish population. The contrast is stark and I’d be happy to see these brought together more closely. I mean it in the broadest sense, greater than just hillwalking or the outdoors, but in the way that land is owned and used. The outdoors world does itself no favours by claiming the mountains as wilderness, for the reality is far more interesting and subtle.

Enjoyed this article or find Walkhighlands useful?

Please consider setting up a direct debit donation to support the continued maintenance and updates to Walkhighlands.

Share on 


You should always carry a backup means of navigation and not rely on a single phone, app or map. Walking can be dangerous and is done entirely at your own risk. Information is provided free of charge; it is every walker's responsibility to check it and to navigate safely.