Between Core Lightning, LND and Eclair, which would you recommend for a first time node runner?
I get the feeling that Core Lightning is more advanced and LND more popular.
It really depends on what you prefer, they have slightly different features, although over time they tend to implement similar things.
If you want to tinker with the source code, you might consider the language they are written in:
Core Lightning is written in C
LND is written in Go
Eclair is written in Scala
Thanks! I can't program (much) so I wont be tinkering with code.
I'm leaning towards LND first to get to grips with channel management, and then move to Core Lightning and hopefully automate the management with the use of plugins.
Would coding be needed for that?
https://plebnet.wiki is a great place to start. most of the material involves LND on umbrel.
Before starting to run a node I would strongly recommend to ask yourself: WHY do you want to run a node and depending on the answer, act accordingly. There are many ways and solutions.
I wrote several guides and articles about running node, as I am an old LN node runner too, from beginnings of 2019. Inside my guides you will find more LN documentation and tutorials.
As LN implementations, my experience was this:
I find LND to be the easiest to set up and get it up running.
If you have little or no experience at all with deploying software on Linux via shell, I can recommend Zap Desktop. Basically it is just LND with a Neutrino back-end but with an easy 'click Next' installation, and can get you up and running lightning in no time.