Stuchd an Lochain and Meall Buidhe: Munros From Giorra Dam

Dec 1, 2018 | Hikes, Munros, Scotland's Mountains

This hike doesn’t win the award for the most exciting in the area but, like so many mountains in Scotland, the view from both summits make it worth the slog. It’s a long drive along some isolated and winding roads so I would definitely recommend doing the two peaks in the same hike.

They are often documented as being two separate hikes but their close proximity and high starting altitude make bagging both in the one day very straightforward. I found the starting point at Giorra Dam to be very similar surroundings to those at the Loch Mullardoch Munros. There were plenty of deer and highland cows happily mixing and sharing the same terrain. It always amazes me how tame some of the deer can be in places like this.

Stuchd an Lochain is the more exciting of the two peaks. The initial boggy ascent is quickly followed by a stunning ridge walk to the summit with fabulous views all around.

Meall Buidhe is a pathless slog for the most part until you get to the ridge which again offers great views all around. The ridge isn’t as epic as its neighbour but is still enjoyable on a clear and calm day. We tackled it in almost hurricane conditions (which I wouldn’t recommend) so the majority of the walk was a battle against the elements.

 

Contents


 

Munros Climbed


  1. Stuchd an Lochain – 960 metres (3150 ft) – pronounced STOOKT-AN-LOCHAN
  2. Meall Buidhe – 932 metres (3058 ft) – pronounced MYALL-BOOYE

For more information on Scotland’s mountains and their different classifications, check this out.

 

Getting There


The hike starts at the Giorra Dam and it entails lots of long and winding roads through Glen Lyon. When you get off the main roads and onto the single track road it feels like it goes on forever!

If you’re coming from the south then there are a couple of ways you can get to the starting point. The route we took (from Glasgow) is probably the quickest. Follow the M80 motorway up to Stirling before turning off onto the A84 to Callander. Head straight through Callander and follow the road up to Killin. Note that the road changes from the A84 to the A85 to the A827. Around 4 miles past Killin, at Milton Morenish, you take a left onto a single track road. 9 miles later you reach Bridge of Balgie where you take a left and a further 5 miles is the Giorra Dam.

The alternative route that may be slightly quicker (but by hardly anything) from the west side of Glasgow is to take the A82 up to Killin and then follow the same directions as above.

Coming from the north you follow the A9 and take a right at Dalnacardoch Lodge (a few miles past Blair Atholl), follow the road through Kinloch Rannoch and eventually to Bridge of Balgie and the Giorra Dam shortly after.

The starting point is on the map below.

Difficulty


This is definitely one of Scotland’s Munro hikes suitable for beginner hikers and even kids. While there are some pathless sections on Meall Buidhe, the hike up to the ridge is not too taxing. What helps for both peaks is that fact that the car park is situated at 400 metres so you’re already almost halfway to the top before even getting out your vehicle!

mossy slopes going up Meall Buidhe

The slog up Meall Buidhe is probably the toughest part of both mountains

Stuchd an Lochain has a much more defined path from the car park all the way to the summit cairn. The initial ascent is steep and boggy but after this, the hike is steady with some spectacular views from the ridge. You can make the hike even easier by just deciding to bag the one Munro.

The beauty of a route like this is that if the weather is poor or you’re not feeling you can manage both, you have to pass the car park en route to the second so it’s easy to throw in the towel earlier than planned.

 

Duration & Length


Duration: 5.5 – 9 hours

Length: 10.8 miles (17.4 km)

viewranger screenshot stuchd an lochain

My route according to the Viewranger App

The time and distance can both be approximately cut in half if you decide to do just one of the Munros.

 

Where To Stay


This one is a bit tougher than normal due to the sheer isolation of these hills.

Budget: 

There’s not really anything very cheap in the nearby area. Your best bet would be the Crianlarich Youth Hostel but this is still a good hour drive from the hike’s starting point.

 

Mid Range:

 

Camping:

There are actually a few camping sites in and around the Killin area. You can check those out here.

 

The Hike


Like I mentioned before, the car park and hike starting point reminded me very much of the dam at the start of the Loch Mullardoch Munros. The surroundings are vast and there was plenty of deer grazing in the fields. There were also a lot of highland cows licking on their salt and mineral molasses.

highlands cows licking molasses

They let me get surprisingly close for a photo!

Briefly follow the road towards the dam where it starts to climb up to the point you can walk across the dam. The forestry track continues briefly afterwards before there’s a small cairn showing you where the path up the hill begins. The path up Stuchd an Lochain is clearly defined for the most part and quite easy to follow.

view of the giorra dam

The dam was created for the Breadalbane Hydroelectric Power Scheme in the 60s

We went the day after some really heavy downpours so the path kind of merged with a shallow river in some sections but it wasn’t impassable at any point. The path climbs steeply up to the ridge of Creag an Fheadain and you’re rewarded with increasingly impressive views back towards the dam and over the Loch an Daimh reservoir.

cairn on slopes of stuchd an lochain

Cairn guiding you up towards the ridge

giorra dam from the hillside

The views get better as you climb up the initially steep slopes

Once you get up to the ridge and pass the two small cairns on Creag an Fheadain the ascent becomes much more gradual. Follow the ridge over a couple of smaller tops all the while enjoying the stunning views of the Coire an Lochain cliffs which hang over the pretty Lochan nan Cat.

beautiful views from the ridge

The effect of the sun coming through the clouds was spectacular

The ridge turns into a plateau which is easy going with the final climb being a short but steep stretch up to the summit. When we did this there were almost hurricane force winds which made it slightly more difficult!

ridge going around to the summit

The ridge itself is steady and quite an easy walk

We didn’t hang around for long on the summit because of the winds but the views don’t disappoint. To the south, you’ve got the Ben Lawers hills while over Loch an Daimh to the north is the extensive Rannoch Moor. On a clear day you’ll even be able to see as far as Ben Nevis.

me and the cairn of stuchd an lochain

I could barely keep my eyes open because of the wind!

The way back is as simple as retracing your steps! I’m never a huge fan of this and always prefer some kind of horseshoe or loop but it’s not really possible due to this hill’s location.

Once you’re back at the car park you’ve got two options:

  1. Finish for the day.
  2. Tackle Meall Buidhe.

This, of course, works as well if you decided to climb Meall Buidhe first – it makes no difference.

For us, it was a no-brainer to bag the second one while we were there. The weather was decent and the hike up Meall Buidhe is actually even shorter than going up Stuchd an Lochain.

This will possibly be the shortest description on my site so far but there’s really not much to talk about for this one. It’s not one I’ll be racing back to do and we were glad to get it over with.

From the car park, there’s a forestry track heading north which you follow for less than half a mile before a cairn leads you on to a very faint path.

 

forestry track before the slopes of meall buidhe

Follow the slopes directly north towards Meall a’ Phuill. When we did it there was a very faint path which seemed to disappear and reappear at times so I wouldn’t rely too heavily on it.

meall buidhe path

The path is initially like this but it doesn’t last long

Once you’re up on the ridge it’s a short walk around to the summit cairn. The views are equally as impressive as those from Stuchd an Lochain.

cairn on the summit of meall buidhe

As before, it’s a case of retracing your steps back to the carpark! You have to be more careful on this one, I jarred my knee a couple of times in some of the boggier patches.

 

Alternative Routes


This route is by far the best and most convenient for both these Munros. You could potentially tackle Meall Buidhe from the north by coming over Garbh Mheall but this would be an incredibly long walk.

 

Nearby Munros


These are some of the most isolated hills in the area (in terms of access) so there’s not a huge amount of choice in the immediate surroundings.

We were going to do Meall Ghaordaidh on the way back but we ran out of daylight hours. This would be an option on a longer summer day because it’s on the same road.

The closest hills after this will be the Ben Lawers range to the southeast where you have plenty to choose from!

 

To Conclude


I would say these are two contrasting hills in terms of enjoyability. Stuchd an Lochain is a pleasant ridge walk with excellent views on offer. Meall Buidhe doesn’t have as inspiring a climb but the views from the top make the short slog worthwhile. They are some of the more difficult hills to access in this area and in the depths of winter you may find the road to be blocked because of snow/ice.

Definitely two hills that can be attemped by beginner hikers. It wouldn’t even be out of reach for families with younger kids who are getting into hiking.

As always, thanks a lot for reading and if you’ve got any questions or something to add then please leave your thoughts in the comments box below. 🙂

 

 

4 Comments

  1. I would love to visit Scotland to see this place, but I think it is going to be quite stressful and costly since it is said that there is nothing cheap in the area. I will be ready to pick crianlarich youth hostels.I would love to see the dam at loch mullardoch munros I believe the dam was created for the breadalbane hydroelectric power scheme in the 60s. There are lot of places to be seen in Scotland hoping am going there for vacation.

    Reply
    • Thanks a lot for your comment!

      Scotland is a beautiful country and somewhere you should definitely visit :). Scotland in general is quite expensive, especially during tourist season, but there are some budget options if you dig a little deeper. Couchsurfing is also a decent option. 

      Reply
  2. This was such an interesting post. My husband and I loved hiking when that was possible, mostly on Table Mountain.The photography was beautiful and although you say it was an easy hike it couldn’t have been too great in the  blizzard like conditions.

    I have shared this article on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook as I think that there will be a lot of people who would be interested, especially if they are visitors to Scotland and are into hiking.

    Reply
    • Thanks a lot for your comment!

      Table mountain sounds like it would be an amazing hike! I’d love to visit South Africa and the landscape looks truly incredible. 

      Thank you so much for sharing! It’s very appreciated 🙂

      Reply

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