The Highest Mountains in Scotland (and the UK)
By Dave Roberts
Posted in Walks in Britain and Ireland
The Highest Mountains in Scotland (and the UK)
The highest mountains in Scotland are traditionally the Munros, but if we stuck to those then this would just be a list of the highest Munros – what’s the fun in that? Instead, we’ve narrowed the list down to the highest summits in Scotland with a prominence of at least 150 metres – also known as Marilyns. As the only solid definition is that a Munro needs to be over 3,000ft in height, this at least means that the list of Marilyn Munros below is clearly defined.
Incidentally, this is also a list of the highest mountains in the UK, as the lowliest mountain on this list is still over 40m taller than Yr Wyddfa / Snowdon.
1 Ben Nevis (1344.53 metres) , Highland , Fort William to Loch Treig & Loch Leven
Beinn Nibheis requires no introduction being the highest mountain in Scotland. Most will ascend Ben Nevis via the Mountain Track, which had to be renamed from the Tourist Path as too many people assumed they could walk up in flip flops, carrying pina coladas and having a generally easy time of it. It’s still a tough path, involvling around 1300m of climbing. Those who relish a challenge, and have the experience, should ascend via the CMD Arete. This is a grade 1 scramble on a grand scale, and one of the very best hillwalks in the UK.
2 Ben Macdui [Beinn Macduibh] (1309 metres) , Aberdeenshire/Moray , Cairngorms
Beinn Macduibh is the only other summit higher than 1300m in the UK. That’s still over 300m higher than England’s Scafell Pike and 200m higher than Snowdon. The walk to Ben Macdui from the Aveimore Ski Centre is reasonably straightforward in good conditions, but these mountains are unlike anywhere else in the UK during full on winter conditions. Keep an eye out for the Am Fear Liath Mòr, or the Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui, who is said to haunt this high plateau. The Grey Man is said to stand 10 foot tall with olive skin, usually accompanied by footsteps, or more often is just heard, or even just a menacing presence. Rationally thinking, it’s more likely to be a Brocken Spectre, but you can easily imagine the lonliness and atmosphere on the high Cairngorm Plateau firing up the mountaineer’s imagination and convincing those individuals that the’ve seen the legendary Grey Man.
3 Braeriach (1296 metres) , Aberdeenshire/Highland , Cairngorms
The third highest Munro, and mountain in Scotland, is also in the Cairngorms. However, there’s no cutting corners and starting high up like with Ben Macdui and you’ll earn every single metre climbed! The walk up Braeriach starts off via the Lairig Ghru, a vast glacial valley that cuts through the heart of the Cairngorms and separates it from Ben Macdui.
4 Cairn Toul (1291 metres) , Aberdeenshire, Cairngorms
Staying in the Cairngorms, and only a few kilometres south from Braeriach one finds Cairn Toul. The main summit is accompanied by the Munro of Sgor an Lochain Uaine (The Angel’s Peak) to the north and the Munro Top of Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir to the south, making it a productive trip for Munro Baggers.
5 Aonach Beag (1234 metres) , Highland , Fort William to Loch Treig & Loch Leven
Strangely enough, Aonach Beag is higher than Aonach Mor – though only by 13 metres. Aonach Mor is dominated by the ski slopes to the north, but Aonach Beag is relatively off the beaten track in comparison. Approach the summit from Glen Nevis and you’ll see neither a clear path or another person all day (probably!)
6 Carn Mor Dearg (1220 metres) , Highland , Fort William to Loch Treig & Loch Leven
The fine arete of Carn Mor Dearg has been mentioned previously as the best route to the summit of Ben Nevis. It may be 6th on our list, but only the 9th highest Munro. The name roughly translates into Big Red Mountain, for obvious reasons! It also boasts an interesting East Arete that can be accessed from Glen Nevis, for those looking for an alternative route. While we don’t dwell on imperial measurements, this is the final mountain in our list to exceed 4,000 ft.
7 Ben Lawers (1214 metres) , Perth and Kinross , Glen Lyon to Glen Dochart & Loch Tay
Ben Lawers finally brings us a summit that’s neither in the Cairngorms or near Ben Nevis. It is the highest mountain in Perthshire and was once thought to be over 4,000 ft tall before it was measured accurately and found to be just short. Being reasonably accessible by road, and the highest mountain in the southern highlands, Ben Lawers is understanderbly popular. It is usually ascended on an eroded path via Beinn Ghlas. Those looking for a longer day can set off from Lawers and bag the Munros of Meall Greigh , Meall Garbh , An Stuc and Beinn Ghlas on one epic mountain day and 5 Munros. There are a further two Munros to the north of Ben Lawers, Meall Corranaich and Meall a’Choire Leith that can be tagged on for keen and fit baggers.
8 Beinn a’ Bhuird [Beinn a’ Bhuird North Top] (1197 metres) , Aberdeenshire/Moray , Cairngorms
Beinn a’ Bhuird brings us well and truly back into the remotest parts of the Cairngorms. The shortest approach is from Allanaquoich near Braemar, and is still a 30km yomp that’ll test the fitness of most walkers. Definitely one for wild camping, with the 30km making it a stready 2 day trip.
9 Beinn Mheadhoin (1182.9 metres) , Moray , Cairngorms
Beinn Mheadhoin is even tougher to get to than Beinn a’ Bhuird being located in the heart of the Cairngorms. Located SE of Cairn Gorm and NE from Ben Macdui, the shortest route is actually up and over the main Carin Gorm plateau. The route isn’t as bad as it sounds, at around 18km and 1400m of ascent, making it a typical Munro bagging trip in our book.
10 Carn Eige [Carn Eighe] (1182.8 metres) , Highland , Loch Duich to Cannich
Carn Eige is the highest mountain in Northern Scotland (north of the Great Glen) and is the second most prominent mountain in the UK. Carn Eige is another remote Munro, with the cirular route from Glen Affric coming it around 23km and bagging the nearby Munro of Mam Sodhail and optionally Tom a’Choinich in the process. The approach from the north is even more problematic as Loch Mullardoch prevents any practical access by foot, making an approach by boat the most practical option.
11 Stob Choire Claurigh (1177 metres) , Highland , Fort William to Loch Treig & Loch Leven
Stob Choire Claurigh is the highest point on the Grey Corries ridge. The traverse of the Grey Corries is one of the best walks in the UK. It’s not difficult to see why once you see the striking quartzite screes that give the ridge their name. Their proximity to Fort Willaim also helps, making the walk easily acccessible via rail or road.
12 Ben More (1174 metres) , Stirling , Loch Lomond to Strathyre
Ben More near Crianlarich, is the highest mountain in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park. There is no higher ground in the UK to be found south of Ben More. Even so, there’s a reasonably straightforward path from Benmore Farm just outside Crianlatich on the A85 that then takes the Munroist up the steep NW ridge. It’s only around 5km in length, but challengingly steep. the Munro of Stob Binnein is only a few km to the south and is usually combined with an ascent of Ben More as the whole route is not much longer than 10km. It’s worth noting that the feature called – Cuidhe Chrom (Crooked Wreath)- to the north of the summit is the location of a snow patch that often lasts into early summer.
13 Ben Avon – Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe (1171 metres) , Aberdeenshire/Moray , Cairngorms
Ben Avon is situated opposite Beinn a’ Bhuird in one of the more remote sections of the Cairngorms and is often ascended directly from there. The summit – or Leabaidh an Dàimh Bhuidhe (bed of the yellow stag) is a granite tor on a wide summit plateau. An easy scramble up this tor is requires in order to reach the true summit.
14 Stob Binnein (1165 metres) , Stirling , Loch Lomond to Strathyre
Stob Binnein is found just south of Ben More as mentioned above and is only 9m lower in height than it’s more illustrious neighbour.
15 Beinn Bhrotain (1157 metres) , Aberdeenshire , Cairngorms
Beinn Bhrotain is yet another remote Cairngorm mountain, with a round trip from the Linn of Dee and including the neigbouring Monadh Mor coming it at a whopping 36km. Like many of the nighbouring mountains, the summit is relatively flat, which combined with the altitude can make the conditions interesting in winter.
16 Lochnagar – Cac Carn Beag (1156 metres) , Aberdeenshire , Braemar to Montrose
The summit of Lochnagar, Cac Carn Beag can be found to the far south of the Cairngorms National Park. Lochnagar is actually the name given to the Lochan, and now popularily applied to the mountain, while the summit proper is known as Cac Carn Beag. That translates as either “small cairn of faeces / little pile of s**t” or the more respectable “little cairn of the slope”. While an alternative name is suggested as Beinn Chìochan (mountain of breasts) – so take your pick! Incidentally, this is another example of the beag (small) being taller than the mor (big), so there’s a big pile of s**t to match the smaller one.
Lochnagar is also known for it’s impressive NE Corrie which includes Eagle Ridge and The Pinnacle.
17 Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan [Sgurr nan Ceathramhnan] (1151 metres) , Highland , Loch Duich to Cannich
Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan is the second summit from Glen Affric to make the list, and is found a short distance to the west of Carn Eige. It’s regarded as one of the finest mountains in the country, with sweeping ridges, two other Munro summits in – An Socach and Mullach na Dheiragain, as well as being one of the most remote Munros. The shortest route is from the Glen Affric Youth Hostel at Alltbeithe, which is only a few kilometres from the summit. However, you’ll need to either walk in or use a mountain bike in order to get within striking distance of the mountain. The Affric Kintail Way passes this way, which at least means the walking from the end of the Glen Affric road is reasonably straightforward, but lengthy at 13km one way!
18 Sgurr na Lapaich (1151 metres) , Highland , Killilan to Inverness
Sgurr na Lapaich is situated to the north of Loch Mullardoch and there’s no higher ground to the north of it in Scotland. It can be approached from either Glen Strathfarrar or Glen Cannic, but the former route depends on a 17 mile private road being open. The Munro of An Riabhachan is linked by a high pass to the west.
19 Bidean nam Bian (1149.4 metres) , Highland , Loch Linnhe to Loch Etive
Bidean nam Bian is a fine mountain, the highest of the Glencoe summits, but keeps itself to itself. Three ridges emanate north east from the summit to culminate in three mighty buttresses known as the Three Sisters of Glencoe and as well known a landmark on the A82 as the summit of Buachaille Etive Mor. Keeping the covert theme, there’s even the Lost Valley of Coire Gabhail that nestles between the sisters of Beinn Fhada and Gearr Aonach.
20 Ben Alder (1148 metres) , Highland , Loch Treig to Loch Ericht
Ben Alder is located between Corrour and Dalwhinnie, and close to neither, making the trip out to this Munro a serious undertaking. It’s marginally closer to Corrour, and can be climbed from there in a long day. Alternatively, it makes a good 2 day trip, especially if you make use of one of the two bothies on Ben Alder’s flanks. Ben Alder Cottage to the south is said to be haunted by the ghost of a ghillie who killed himself, and suited for an approach from the south whilst Culra Lodge can be found to the NE of Ben Alder.
The summit plateau of Ben Alder boasts the Lochan a’ Garbh Coire which is one of the highest bodies of water in the UK.
21 Geal-charn (1132 metres) , Highland , Loch Treig to Loch Ericht
Geal-charn, the White Peak, is separated from Ben Alder by the Bealach Dubh, and simliarly has a wide flat summit. It is also the highest point of a shapely ridge of Munros that includes Aonach Beag and Beinn Eibhinn that can walked from Corrour in a long day.
22 Ben Lui [Beinn Laoigh] (1130 metres) , Stirling , Inveraray to Crianlarich
Ben Lui is the highest of four Munros in the far north west of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park. The shortest approach is from Glen Lochy to the west, but the eastern approaches are longer and more scenic. The other Munros in the Ben Lui group include Ben Oss , Beinn a’Chleibh and Beinn Dubhchraig which can all be included in a single tough walk, but will invariably involve an awkward leg to bag an outlier or a linear route if two cars are available.
23 Binnein Mor (1130 metres) , Highland , Fort William to Loch Treig & Loch Leven
Boinnein Mor is the highest point in the Mamores, an extensive ridge of Munros to the south of Glen Nevis. The entire range starts off from Fort William, includes one of the best walks in the UK in the Ring of Steall and a whopping TEN Munros. Binnein Mor can be found towards the eastern end of the range along with the accompanying Munros of Binnein Beag and Sgurr Eilde Mor. While it can be ascended from Glen Nevis, you’ll need a long walk in or alternatively, you can set off from Kinlochleven.
24 An Riabhachan (1129 metres) , Highland , Killilan to Inverness
An Riabachan can be found to the north of Loch Mullardoch near Sgurr na Lapaich and due to the remoteness of these summits, probably best tackled on the same trip.
25 Creag Meagaidh (1128 metres) , Highland , Loch Lochy to Loch Laggan
Creag Meagaidh is a complex and extensive mountain to th north of Loch Laggan. It has a flat summit plateau surrounded by a number of impressive corries that are renowned for winter climibing with Coire Ardair being the most spectacular. It’s also reasonably accessible as it’s just off the A86 between Spean Bridge and Newtonmore.