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Hill Walking & Trekking In The Highlands & Cairngorms

Part 2: The Southern, Central, Western
and North Western Highlands and Cairngorms
by Matt Watts from Alba Outdoors.

   

Scotland has much to offer those with a sense of adventure and desire to explore breathtaking landscapes and coastlines.

Activities such as mountain biking, hill walking and kayaking are environmentally friendly ways to discover the natural beauty of Scotland’s wild places. Hill walking (or hiking, trekking and tramping as commonly referred to across the world) is amongst the most popular of all leisure activities and for good reason too.

It offers the combination of fresh air, a sense of freedom and escape from the pressures of daily routines, open vistas, hearty exercise and adventurous exploration to suit all levels of ability and fitness.

With its vast range of majestic mountains, stunning landscapes,
diverse ecology and geology, Scotland really is a walker’s paradise.

The hill walker is truly spoilt for choice, as Scotland boasts over 284 Munros (separate mountains over 3,000 ft/ 914 m), a further 511 Munro Tops (subsidiary summits to Munros over 3,000 ft), 220 Corbetts (separate mountains over 2,500 ft / 762m) and countless summits above 1,500 ft / 600m – enough to last a lifetime and more. Summiting all of the Munros and Corbetts is becoming increasingly popular for people of all different ages.

In this second article for Luxury Scotland by Matt Watts, founder of Alba Outdoors, describes a small selection of some of Scotland’s classic mountain routes which can be accessed by car from Luxury Scotland properties located in the Highlands.

Scotland has so much to offer those with a sense of adventure and desire to explore breathtaking landscapes and coastlines. Activities such as mountain biking, hill walking and kayaking are a perfect way to help discover the natural beauty of Scotland’s wild places.

If you would prefer to have the peace of mind of an experienced mountain guide then we would recommend contacting our partner Alba Outdoors www.albaoutdoors.com who specialise in delivering a range of outdoor activities.

   

 

Alba’s packaged and bespoke outdoor experiences are typically designed for the discerning traveller, couples, families and small groups who appreciate our finer touches and value the services of a personal guide.

Whether in winter or summer, when venturing into the mountains it is essential to have the correct clothing and equipment including the knowledge of how to use it, navigation skills and pre-walk preparation to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable day out.


The Southern Highlands

   

Ben Arthur (884m)
commonly known as The Cobbler

Moderate (5 – 6 hours)

Suggested Hotel
Cameron House on Loch Lomond &
Crinan Hotel

 

Three jagged rock peaks gives The Cobbler distinctive character making it one of the most striking mountains of the Southern Highlands. Its great rock peaks resemble a cobbler bent over his last. The mountain has for a long time been the haunt of many walkers and climbers. During the 1930’s and 1940’s many young Clydeside apprentices and their unemployed counterparts took up the largely middle class sport of rock climbing, in order to escape the dreariness of the dole or mundane work. The Cobbler was also where Hamish MacInnes, the famous Scottish mountaineer and leading mountain searcher and rescuer, started experimenting with climbing aids such as pitons an other pieces of ironmongery, probably much to the dismay of the traditionalist.


   

Ben Lomond (974m) Beacon Hill

Moderate (5 – 6 hours)

Suggested Hotel - Cameron House on Loch Lomond & Crinan Hotel

 

This hill is one of the highest in the Scottish Borders and the seventh highest of the Donalds (Scottish mountains exceeding 2,000 ft).  It is located just outside the attractive and historic market town of Moffat.  According to author Nikolia Tolsty, author of A Quest for Merlin, his was the site of the Arthurian figure Fergus’ ‘Black Mountain’ and at one point was the home to Merlin the magician himself.  Today, the only memorial of this legendary wizardry is the hill’s lower shoulder named Arthur’s Seat.


The Central Highlands

   

Ben Nevis (1344m)
possibly venomous hill or cloudy hill

Strenuous (8 – 9 hours)

Suggested Hotel - Inverlochy Castle Hotel


This mountain is the highest in the British Isles and is known to walkers and climbers simply as ‘The Ben’. Its superior height over its nearest rival Ben MacDui (1309m) was finally established in 1847 after initial measurements in 1811 were disputed by MacDui devotees. The summit of ‘The Ben’ lies only a few hundred feet from the permanent snow line and is in the cloud for an average of 300 days of the year. The views are spectacular when the hillgoer is afforded good weather. The popular ‘tourist route’ up Ben Nevis gives little impression of its great mountain architecture, and one has to go round to the north-east of the mountain, to fully appreciate its grandeur and scale.

 

For the fit and competent hillwalker, combining the traverse of The Ben with its neighbour Carn Mor Dearg provides a taste of mountaineering amongst some of the finest scenery to be found on the mainland of Britain.


   

Buachaille Etive Mor: The Big Shepherd of Etive – Stob Dearg (1021m)
Red Peak

Moderate (5 – 6 hours)

Suggested Hotel - Inverlochy Castle Hotel, Cameron House on Loch Lomond or Crinan Hotel

Buachaille Etive Mor, and in particular its highest peak Stob Dearg (Red Peak), is one of the grandest and best-known mountains in Scotland. On the approach to Glen Coe from the east it rears up abruptly above the flat expanse of Rannoch Moor like a huge arrowhead, bristling with popular climbing routes. The Buachaille’s defences can be breached by the hillwalker via Coire na Tulaich, directly behind the mountaineering hut at Lagangarbh. This hut has been frequented by many of Britain’s great mountaineer’s such as Sir Chris Bonington, Doug Scott and the late Dougal Haston. Today the hut continues to be used by members of the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC).


The Cairngorms

   

Lochnagar (1155m)
Loch of the Noise

Moderate (7 – 8 hours)

The vast plateau of the White Mounth ends abruptly in the north where the great granite peak of Lochnagar towers over the rivers and forests of Deeside. Walkers, climbers, poets, artists and royalty have long been attracted here by the dramatic scenery of the north-east corrie, a spectacular crescent of cliffs enclosing the dark lochan that gives the mountain its name.

Contained within the Queen’s Balmoral Estate,
members of the royal family have enjoyed Lochnagar
since Victoria and Albert bought the estate in the nineteenth century.


   

Mount Keen (939m)
from Gaelic monadh caoin, meaning gentle hill

Strenuous (7 – 8 hours)

This is the most easterly Munro and one of the most solitary. There are two commonly used approaches to reach Mount Keen and both offer highlights along the way. From the north via Glen Tanar one is afforded a lovely walk or cycle in through pine woods, a fine remnant of the Great Forest of Caledon. The southern route starting at Glen Esk passes the Queen’s Well monument where, apparently, Queen Victoria stopped for refreshments during one of her excursions to Mount Keen in 1861.


   

Ben MacDui (1309m)
MacDuff’s Mountain

Strenuous (8 – 9 hours)

Suggested Hotel - Rocpool Reserve and Boath House Hotel


Ben MacDui is the second highest mountain in the British Isles. Until well into the last century it was thought to be the highest, and this may account for the historical popularity of a mountain that lies well hidden in the centre of the Cairngorms National Park. Famous ascents include those by William Gladstone (UK Prime Minister), Queen Victoria (on a pony in 1859) and Professor Collie, the celebrated mountaineer, one of many who have fled from the mountain’s legendary spectre, The Big Grey Man. It is certainly an eerie, desolate pace and testaments to The Big Grey Man are plentiful, but the undeterred walker will find the ascent of constant interest that shows the Cairngorms landscape in all its many forms.

 

The Western Highlands

   

The Saddle (1010m)

Moderate (8 – 9 hours)

Suggested Hotel - Inverlochy Castle Hotel


With no fewer than 21 Munros accessible from the A87 road which runs down its length, it’s no wonder that Glen Shiel is popular with hillwalkers. The Saddle is generally recognised as being the finest mountain in the area, and its long eastern ridge, known as the Forcan Ridge, is a classic scramble in its own right. The summit offers splendid views down Glen Shiel where on 10 June 1719, a battle between the British government and an alliance of Jacobites and Spaniards took place. Resulting in a victory for the British forces, this battle was the last close engagement of British and foreign troops on mainland British soil.

 

   

Streap (909m)
climbing hill

Moderate (7 – 8 hours)

Suggested Hotel - Inverlochy Castle Hotel

The wonderfully named Streap is the high point of a long ridge stretching from Glenfinnan to Loch Arkaig. The final section of the ridge narrows considerably which may be rather intimidating to the inexperienced hillwalker. Glenfinnan is a small village in Lochaber, an area of the Scottish Highlands. The Glenfinnan Monument situated at the head of Loch Shiel was erected in 1815 to mark the place where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard, at the beginning of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. At the start of the walk there are good views of the Glenfinnan viaduct which recently came to prominence in the Harry Potter films.


The Northwest Highlands

   

Ben Wyvis: from Gaelic fuathas, meaning terror - Glas Leathad Mor (1046m)
big greenish-grey slope

Moderate (6 – 7 hours)

Suggested Hotels - Rocpool Reserve and Boath House Hotel

Ben Wyvis is Inverness’s mountain, just as Ben Lomond is Glasgow’s and just as generations of hillwalkers from the Central Belt of Scotland first scuffed their boots above the bonnie, bonnie banks, many local folk have battled up the heather clad slopes of Tom a’Choinnich, Glas Leathad Mor and An Cabar, the summits which collectively make up Ben Wyvis. The main physical features of the hill are the two great corries which are gouged out of the eastern flanks of the hill, the dark side if the mountain which is relatively unseen and unfrequented. It is here the snow lies late into the summer. Mountaineer John Mackenzie, Earl of Cromarty, explains that his ancestors used to rent their land from the Crown on condition that they could gather a snow ball at any time of the year.


   
  • An Teallach (The Forge)
  • Sgurr Fiona – Peak of the wine (1060m)
  • Bidein a’Ghlas Thuill – Peak of the greenish hollow (1062m)

Strenuous (8 – 10 hours)

Suggested Hotel Rocpool Reserve and Pool House

An Teallach is regarded by many as the finest peak in Scotland, and certainly, when viewed from the A832 Dundonnell road, it is an awe-inspiring sight, a sturdy wedge of old red sandstone whose sharp tops tower over the moorland. When struck by the rays of the setting sun, or when the mist curls like smoke around its pinnacles, it admirably suits its evocation Gaelic name. The traverse of the whole mountain involves some sensational situations on a succession of rock towers although these can be avoided by a lower path. Feral goats are often seen roaming the high tops.


   
  • Beinn Eighe: File Hill
  • Spidean Coire nan Clach – (993m) Peak of the stony corrie
  • Ruadh Stac Mor (1010m) Big Red Peak

Strenuous (8 – 9 hours)

Suggested Hotel - Rocpool Reserve and Pool House


Beinn Eighe is the easternmost of the Torridonian mountains, but unlike its two neighbours it is characterised by the pale quartzite screes and rock of the long ridge which links its several peaks on the north side of Glen Torridon.

It has seven peaks higher than 914m, two Munros, and a clutch of remarkable north facing corries, of which the finest, Coire Mhic Fhearchair, is arguably the most impressive corrie in Scotland.

 

Luxury Scotland
Tel: +44(0)1383 825 800 
Fax: +44 (0)1383 825 700
E: jeremy@luxscot.co.uk

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