Scotland’s greatest hits
Between the Central Belt and the Great Glen lie the vast hills of the Grampians.
The best bits in the bulging middle, including Glen Coe and Ben Nevis.
Top of the world
This great swathe of Scotland is where the rocks start to reach for the sky, a mountainous region known – to some – as the Grampians. Confusingly, the OS has applied the name to various groups of peaks over the years, but here we mean all the country from east coast to west, from the Highland Boundary Fault north to the water-pooled diagonal of the Great Glen. For walkers it’s a Shangri-La, home to both of Scotland’s national parks, the Cairngorms, and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, and the nation’s deepest glens, biggest lochs, and highest summits, including the king of them all.
Ben Nevis is one busy spot in summer (in winter it’s all ice and dangerous cornice and best admired from lower altitudes) and June days see a ribbon of walkers working up from Glen Nevis to Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, then zig-zagging up to cross the bouldery plateau to the summit. This Mountain Path (AKA Pony Track)* starts close to sea-level making it a proper haul to the top, and the rubbly upper reaches take very careful navigation. But to stand at 4411 feet (1345m) on a sunny day, with those Grampians, and in fact the whole of Britain, below your boots, is mesmerising.
For experienced hillwalkers, there’s an alternative ascent: the long scythe of the Carn Mor Dearg* arête. “This is as exciting as walking gets before you have to hang on to rock and scramble,” says CW photographer, Tom Bailey. “It’s a great tour of the Ben with views into the shattered cliffs of its north-east face, and the ridge itself is spectacular. The descent loops down by the Mountain Path for a big, chunky mountain day.”
The Carn Mor Dearg arête curls to the top of Ben Nevis, an alternative ascent for the adventurous. The views fly far across this National Scenic Area, Scotland’s equivalent to an AONB. OUTSTANDING Find a full route guide and map for every walk marked...