The walk The Hill of the Caves
© CROWN COPYRIGHT 2018 ORDNANCE SURVEY. MEDIA 059/18
Location: Ben Venue, Trossachs Grade: Moderate hill walk Distance: 7 miles/12km Time: 5-6 hours
AWAY to the west, streaks of yellow light lit up the darkening sky and below our feet Loch Katrine stretched itself through the rough and tumbled landscape of the Trossachs. In the north-west the Crianlarich hills bowed their heads to the higher tops of Stob Binnein and Ben More and further east the Ben Lawers range all but dwarfed its neighbouring Tarmachans. The twin tops of Stuc a’Chroin and Ben Vorlich stood clear, their highest slopes still topped by the winter’s snow.
Darkness was probably less than an hour away yet we lingered, eager to tease out every moment we could from our eyrie on the summit of Ben Venue, one of the finest viewpoints in the southern Highlands.
Ben Venue is sometimes said to be “the Hill of the Caves” and, with its twin tops, western outliers and craggy countenance, it lords over the rugged landscape of the legend-rich Trossachs. There are whispers of the past in every notch and cranny of these hills. The slopes that tumble from the summit of Ben Venue down towards Loch Katrine are breached by the Bealach nan Bo, the Pass of the Cattle, an ancient trade route for stolen cattle, driven back from the lowlands to the Macgregor lands at Glengyle. And below the bealach lies knobbly Coire na Urisgean, the corrie of the goblins.
Sir Walter Scott, who found so much inspiration in the Trossachs, depicted the goblin’s corrie as a retreat for Ellen Douglas and her father after they had withdrawn from Roderick Dhu’s stronghold on Eilean Molach. An even older account suggests this corrie was the meeting place for all the goblins in Scotland. According to Scenery of the Southern Confines of Perthshire (1806), “the solemn meetings of the order were regularly held in this cave of Benvenew”.
Most people climb Ben Venue from Ledard Farm on the B829 Aberfoyle to Inversnaid road, and from the roadside signposts point the way – seven miles to the Trossachs via the summit of Ben Venue.
A good track runs past Ledard Farm and passes a little pool and waterfall where Scott apparently liked to come to work on his notes for Rob Roy and Waverley. A footbridge crosses the Ledard Burn but we weren’t to keep our feet dry for long. In its lower stretches this path can be extremely boggy, but we found it does improve considerably as you climb higher With the trees left behind, the hill gradually rose as we climbed northwards onto the eastern slopes of one of Venue’s outliers, Beinn Bhreac. Here, a wide bealach introduced us to the craggy slopes of Ben Venue itself and, even at this point, the first views of the day begin to impress themselves on us.
On steeper ground now, the footpath begins to switchback,