Beinn a’ Chreachain, Beinn Achaladair and Beinn Mhanach: An Unconventional Route

Nov 25, 2018 | Hiking, Scotland

This hike was a bit of a monster in terms of distance but don’t let the length of it put you off. The vast majority of the miles were along the flat forestry track we took to get to the hills. We happened to get an absolutely stunning day for November so the views were among the best I’ve experienced.

Beinn a’ Chreachain is the furthest east of the Bridge of Orchy Munros. While the peak itself isn’t as spectacular as its neighbours, you are rewarded with some stunning views over Rannoch Moor. Also, if you’re coming up or down Beinn a’ Chreachain from its northern slopes then you’ll be able to see its impressive northern corries and small lochan.

Beinn Achaladair has a much finer summit and I felt could be appreciated much more from a distance than Beinn Chreachain. It has another spectacular north side and the views from the summit are arguably better than those from Beinn Chreachain.

Beinn Mhanach is perhaps the anomaly in this set of hills but we decided to throw it in for good measure. It’s quite unspectacular and from a distance just looks like a big grassy mound. We climbed up just for bagging purposes but it’s not one I’d rush up again.

 

Contents


 

Munros Climbed


  1. Beinn a’ Chreachain – 1081 metres (3547 ft) – pronounced BAYN-A-HICKIN
  2. Beinn Achaladair – 1038 metres (3406 ft) – pronounced BAYN-AHAL-ATARE
  3. Beinn Mhanach – 953 metres (3127 ft) – pronounced BAYN-VANACH

You can read more about Scotland’s mountains and their different classifications here.

Getting There


Our starting point was slightly different to normal (because these mountains are usually tackled separately). We started off at a layby almost exactly in between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy. If you’re heading north then it’s a case of following the A82 all the way up past Loch Lomond and through Tyndrum.

After Tyndrum, the layby is right at the start of the very long straight. You can see the exact location below. If you’re coming from the north then again it’s a case of following the A82 right to the southern tip of Glen Coe.


 

Difficulty


On this hike the peaks themselves aren’t overly challenging, the toughest part was the sheer distance. You’re walking for over 4 miles until you actually start climbing and this section on the return feels like it goes on forever.

Between the end of the forestry track and the ridge of Beinn a’ Chreachain it’s a bit of a pathless slog but this doesn’t last too long. Once you’re up on the ridge there’s a clear path between Beinn a’ Chreachain and Beinn Achaladair.

rocky face and lochan on beinn achaladair

This section could have been avoided with slightly better planning

There’s another tough section between Beinn Achaladair and Beinn Mhanach. We probably made this slightly more difficult that it should be by going straight off Achaladair towards Beinn Mhanach and crossing the grassy moor between the two. With a bit more thought and planning we could have missed the steep, rocky section and taken an easier route. Again, the hike up Beinn Mhanach from the west side is pathless and grassy.

 

Duration & Length


Duration: 9 – 12 hours

Length: 20 miles (32.2 km)

viewranger screenshot of my route

Our recorded route according to Viewranger

As previously mentioned, if you’re not used to particularly long hikes then I’d recommend you break this one into two hikes.

 

Where To Stay


If you’re coming from afar then there are plenty of accommodation options in the vicinity.

Budget:

 

Mid Range:

 

Expensive:

 

Camping:

 

The Hike


Starting at the layby on the A82, follow the road that passes down through the hamlet of Auch and over the river Allt Kinglass. Instead of crossing the river again over the next bridge, follow the track to the right. You’re going to stay on this track for the next 4 miles or so.

sun rising over the munros

The initial long walk in is over easy terrain apart from the occasional river

There are a few slightly precarious river crossings depending on how much rain there’s been. There was one that was quite a challenge but we still managed to form a kind of passage with some rocks. The water wasn’t too deep so if your boots are relatively high at the ankle then you will be able to walk through part of it.

After about 3.5 miles of walking along this track, you’ll come to some farm-like buildings (where it says Sithean Beag on the OS map) and soon after here the track forks. You want to take the left fork where it starts to wind uphill. Looking back down the Glen you get to truly appreciate the distance you’ve come, especially in conditions like we had!

view looking back from the track

This is what we had just traversed

The track begins to get steeper and we decided to follow it right up to the end. We were initially following the GPX somebody had uploaded online but started to deviate from it because it didn’t seem to be the most efficient route (there was lots of unnecessary traipsing through bogs and pathless terrain).

Once the track ends, however, there’s no choice for a while but to climb up the grassy slopes towards Garbh Meall. Luckily it’s not too boggy and we found plenty of firm ground meaning it wasn’t too exhausting. You can see from the Viewranger screenshot above that we headed almost directly northeast towards Garbh Mheall which then joins on to Meall Buidhe where there’s a path.

view of my shadow and garb mheall

The terrain was very much like this heading up to the bealach

If you really wanted, you could easily head west first and bag Beinn Achaladair but we thought it would be a better use of our time to get Beinn a’ Chreachain out the way.

Once you get up to Meall Buidhe, there’s a clearly defined path heading east along the ridge up to the summit Beinn a’ Chreachain. On the day we chose the views were nothing short of stunning. We got panoramic views over Rannoch Moor and the mountains beyond – including Ben Nevis.

stunning views of rannoch moor

Views like this make it all worthwhile

view from the beinn a chreachain cairn

There was even a touch of frost

From the summit of Beinn a’ Chreachain over to the summit of Beinn Achaladair it’s a simple case of following the ridge southwest. There’s a clear path along the ridge and up to the top of Beinn Achaladair. We took it easy along this part just to make the most of the epic views all around. If you’re not so lucky with the weather then it is quite exposed so you might find yourself battered by cold winds.

path on the meall buidhe ridge

The path along the ridge is clear and quite straightforward

It is relatively easy going until you reach the last stretch where the path suddenly gets very steep with a few rocky sections to negotiate. It’s nothing too taxing and you’ll very quickly be up at the summit of Beinn Achaladair. It winds its way over some rocks and just before you reach the final cairn there’s a grassy path.

Once at the top there are actually two cairns a short distance apart. Logically, we thought the first one was the summit because it is a lot bigger but the map said the smaller one was a couple of metres higher. They’re not far apart though so you can easily reach both of them!

me with rannoch moor in the background

It’s not often you get conditions like this in November

At this point, we were cutting it fine in terms of daylight hours remaining so decided to try and make our summit of Beinn Mhanach quicker. As opposed to following the Beinn Achaladair ridge around to the top of Beinn a’ Chuirn and bagging Beinn Mhanach from there, we decided to cut directly southeast, down the rocky face and across the moorland.

This somewhat backfired and we spent ages trying to clamber down the rocky face as the sun slowly set in the distance. If you do decide to bag these 3 Munros together then I would recommend following the Achaladair ridge over to Beinn a’ Chuirn.

Once we got down, the walk was relatively easy over to the slopes of Beinn Mhanach which, from the western side, is a pathless and pretty boring slog up to the summit.

the hike up beinn mhanach

This is what it’s like up to the top of Beinn Mhanach

The hike up Beinn Mhanach was probably the most tedious part of the day, simply because it felt like it went on forever and you can’t actually see the top until you are there. The ascent is gradual and very grassy. Again though, the pain was worth it because the views as the sun was setting were unreal.

me and the sunset on the summit of beinn mhanach

It was a race against the sun from here back to the car

We didn’t spend much time on the top of Beinn Mhanach because we still had a further 7 miles back to the car. From here, it was a case of retracing our steps down Mhanach and then heading due southwest briefly until we reconnected with the forestry track from the start.

Follow the track for the final 5 miles back to the A82. If you are doing this in winter (like us) then make sure you pack a headtorch because you will need it!

 

Alternative Routes


As I’ve already mentioned, we took a pretty unconventional route to bag these 3 Munros but it turned out to be a success, especially given the conditions. I’d probably only recommend this route for the physically very fit, or if it’s in the height of summer where you’re guaranteed a long day. We were racing against the clock for the last couple of hours and, had the conditions been worse, this wouldn’t have been enjoyable.

Generally, Beinn a’ Chreachain and Beinn Achaladair are tackled together as a two. This entails a loop starting at Achaladair Farm, going up Chreachain first and then following the ridge across to Achaladair.

Being such an uninspiring peak, it would feel a shame to tackle Beinn Mhanach as one solitary hike. That’s why we decided to combine it, just to get it out the way. The typical route for Beinn Mhanach is as described in this guide, only without including Beinn a’ Chreachain and Beinn Achaladair.

 

Nearby Munros


As with most hikes in this region, there’s no shortage of hills in the vicinity. The closest two to this hike are Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh.

To the east of Tyndrum you’ve got Beinn Challum while to the northwest of Bridge of Orchy there’s Stob Gabhar and Stob a’Choire Odhair.

To Conclude


The conditions we had made the hike a memorable one and in terms of visibility, it was possibly the best I’ve ever had in Scotland. As previously mentioned, I’d only recommend this precise route if you’re an experienced hiker and are relatively fit. It’s a long day out so make sure you take plenty of supplies!

While we were cutting it fine in terms of daylight hours, I didn’t mind because we were equipped with head torches and nothing beats the views and effects on offer during a sunset! The orange glow of the hills and surrounding landscape is surreal and makes for a photographer’s dream!

As always, thanks a lot for reading and if you’ve got any questions or anything to add then drop a comment below. 🙂
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2 Comments

  1. This is a nice story blog for explorer and traveler. I think many people will find some helpful information from this article post.

    There is no end of learning and little bit knowledge from experienced person is really helpful. However many people still find more information for their needs. Thanks to it’s author for his effort for writing this article.

    Reply
    • Thanks very much for your comment!

      I’m glad you found it useful. Are you a keen hiker? Have you been to Scotland?

      Reply

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