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SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS

The Southern Highlands cover the mountainous area just north of the central belt in Scotland. The area stretches from Ben Lomond at the southern end to the Ben Lawers group in the north.

There are 58 Top 500 Summits. Of these 23 lie close to Loch Lomond and further west.

1   Ben Lui                                                 3,708ft                       2   Cruach Ardrain                                   3,432ft

3   Ben Oss                                                3,376ft                       4   Beinn Ime                                            3,318ft

5   An Caisteal                                          3,264ft                       6   Beinn Dubhchraig                              3,209ft

7   Ben Lomond                                       3,194ft                        8   Beinn Bhuidhe                                    3,111ft

9   Ben Vorlich                                          3,093ft                      10 Beinn Chabhair                                   3,061ft

11 Beinn Narnain                                     3,038f                        12 Ben Vane                                              3,004ft

13 Beinn an Lochain                                2,956ft                      14 The Cobbler                                         2,899ft

15 Beinn Chuirn                                       2,887ft                       16 Beinn Luibhean                                   2,815ft

17 Ben Donich                                          2,778ft                        18 Stob Coire Creagach                          2,680ft

19 The Brack                                            2,582ft                        20 Beinn Bheula                                       2,556ft

21 Beinn a’ Choin                                     2,525ft                        22 Meall an Fhudair                                2,508ft

23 Cnoc Coinnich                                     2,505ft

There are also a number of fantastic mountains in the area just below the height needed to reach the Top 500 list. These include Ben Venue and the Luss Hills.

Below are my favourite walks in the Southern Highlands

1. The Cobbler and Arrochar Alps

Beinn Ime            3,318ft

Beinn Narnain    3,038ft

The Cobbler        2,899ft

Beinn Luibhean  2,815ft

Summit of the Cobbler
Summit of the Cobbler

On a recent visit we started from the small car park at a bridge on the A83 (reference 243060), just over one mile south of the top of the Rest and Be Thankful pass. From here it is a short but steep climb up grassy slopes to the central and north peak of the Cobbler. We followed a path, at times disappearing, on the south side of the stream.  After just over one kilometre we climbed south east to reach the col between the north and centre peak of the Cobbler.

From the col we followed a good path to the centre peak and summit of the Cobbler. The highest point is the top of a large rock about 12ft high (see picture below). It is possible to ascend the rock by going through an obvious hole to its south side, then continue up an exposed ramp before a short final climb, not exposed, leads to the summit. This final climb should not be attempted without rock climbing experience and a good head for heights.

Arrochar Alps from Luss Hills
Arrochar Alps from Luss Hills

We returned to the col and carried on to the north peak, a short 100ft ascent without any of the difficulties of the Centre Peak, then descended to the Bealach a’ Mhaim, the central point for all four hills in this group. From here a good path led up Beinn Narnain, but it was starting to cloud over and we had no view from the summit. Beinn Ime was considered but the attractions of beer and dinner overcame us and we returned to the car.

There is, however, a very good path which leads to the summit of Beinn Ime, then the walk can be extended to include Beinn Luibhean, to give four top 500 summits in one day, two Munros and two Corbetts.

It is possible to complete the walk over these summits starting from the car park at the head of Loch Long. There is a path directly up the Cobbler from here but the total distance is longer.

2. Ben Lui Range

Ben Lui                       3,708ft

Ben Oss                      3,376ft

Beinn Dubhchraig    3,209ft

Beinn Dubhchraih from Ben Oss
Beinn Dubhchraih from Ben Oss (Courtesy Heather Thomas Smith)

This is an iconic walk up climbing three Munros and one of the great Scottish mountains, Ben Lui. It is best to start at Dalrigh climbing Beinn Dubhchraig then Ben Oss, and finally Ben Lui. The return route goes directly back to Dalrigh via Cononish.

To ascend Beinn Dubhchraig we crossed the bridge over the River Fillan near Dalrigh, then followed a rough road west to a bridge over the railway. We left the road and headed west crossing the Allt Choire Dubhchraig at a footbridge. After following the north west side of the burn through trees, we reached open hillside and climbed south west to the summit of Beinn Dubhchraig.

Ben Lui
Ben Lui (Courtesy Heather Thomas Smith)

The broad ridge is now followed over Ben Oss and onto Ben Lui. The final climb goes north up the south ridge of Ben Lui, 1,500 feet of climbing to the summit.

To descend to Dalrigh via Cononish it is possible to go over the north top and down the steep north north east ridge to Stob Garbh. From here descend south into Coire Gaithach then descend  north east to the Allt an Rund and the private road back to Dalrigh via Cononish. However, this route should only be attempted in clear conditions. An easier descent would be to return to the col between Ben Lui and Ben Oss then return to Cononish from there.

This walk is featured in Ken Wilson and Richard Gilbert’s excellent book ‘The Big Walks’. They recommend continuing over Beinn a’ Chleibh, a fourth Munro but not a Top 500 Summit and down to the A85 between Tyndrum and Dalmally. This is the best route if two cars are available.

3. Ben Lomond   3.194 feet

Ben Lomond from the Luss Hills
Ben Lomond from the Luss Hills

This section would not be complete without a comment on Ben Lomond, one of the best known and most climbed Munros, also the most southerly Munro.

To climb Ben Lomond, drive to the public car park just north of the Rowardennan Hotel. From the hotel a good path leads north east to the south ridge and continues north to the summit. The return route can be varied by continuing north west from the summit then south west to the summit of the Ptarmigan (2,400ft). From there descend south to Rowardennan.

4. The Luss Hills includes 4 Grahams

The Luss Hills in Autumn
The Luss Hills in Autumn

This walk includes no Top 500 Summits but is a classic hill walk over four Grahams from the beautiful tourist village of Luss.

Start from the centre of Luss and cross over the main A82 road by a footbridge.  Turn right over a stile onto open hillside. Follow a good path along a broad ridge to Beinn Dubh then on to Mid Hill, a Graham. On a clear day the views are magnificent. A steep 1,500ft descent then reascent heading west leads to Doune Hill, the highest point of the walk and only fifty feet shy of Top 500 status. The route then continues in more leisurely fashion south then west to Cruach an t-Sidhein before turning south east to go over Beinn Eich, the final Graham of the day.

5. Corbetts in the South

Ben Donich                2,778ft

The Brack                   2,582ft

Cnoc Coinnich           2,505ft

Ben Donich from near Rest and Be Thankful
Ben Donich from near Rest and Be Thankful

This walk takes you over three Top 500 Summits, all Corbetts, starting at the Rest and Be Thankful Pass and finishing at Lochgoilhead. Two cars are best to avoid a long walk back up the road to Rest and be Thankful. The walk has the advantage of adding Cnoc Coinnich to the normal Corbett round of Ben Donich and the Brack, avoiding a later trip to Cnoc Coinnich,  promoted to Corbett status in 2016.

Start at Rest and Be Thankful (high start point of 1,000ft). Ascend the north ridge to the summit of Ben Donich then descend east along a ridge to the Bealach Dubh-lic. From here a 1,300ft climb south east leads to the summit of the Brack. Descend south west to a bealach at 1,650ft and continue south to the summit of Cnoc Coinnich. From here descend north west then west to Lochgoilhead.