Queen of Scottish Mountains – A Hike up Ben Loyal

We discovered the stunning Ben Loyal mountain range, when we looked for a spot to set up tent one night. We drove down a little dirt road, discovered a nice patch of grass by a lake and there it was: Ben Loyal in all its glory in the evening light. And it’s not only quite a sight from below, you can enjoy the view from the summit with a nice little day hike.

 

Starting point for this roughly 17 km long hike is the tiny village of Tongue, and a car park next to a gate just before the cattle grid on track to Ribigil Farm a little out of the village. From there you follow the well-established path to the farm, and on towards a tiny creek which you cross and head straight for the mountain. The path becomes more and more narrow until it turns sharply right and leads you up towards the summit in a series of switch-backs. The further up you go the more difficult it gets to distinguish the main path from the many other ones that were established by people taking shortcuts or different routes with time. It doesn’t really matter anyway, just pick any trail that looks good to you, and head for summit. You can reach the summit at 764 meters and its spikey cliffs via a bit of easy scrambling. The view from up there is amazing, its a perfect spot for a snack break. And to take pictures.

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Amazing view from the summit of Ben Loyal. Also a well deserved rest after a bit of a scramble.

We continued the hike towards the other summits of the Ben Loyal range. The grassy ridge path is easy, makes for pleasant walking and if you stay close to the ridgeline you can’t get lost. Make sure to keep your eyes open to what is going on below: We saw a huge herd of deer feeding in a valley just below us. When they became aware of our presence they started to move and the whole herd ran over a little hill and on towards the next, better hidden, valley. The bird’s perspective we had from up on the hill was amazing. It felt like watching something on National Geographic just better since this was actually happening right in front of us.

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Deer running over the hill from one valley to the next.

After passing the fourth summit of the mountain range we started our descent, made our way around the last summit, downwards trough a little birch forest (this involves a fair bit of scrambling and it’s rather steep), and then along the treeline through the valley back to the little creek, where the we hit the trail towards the farm again. The last bit of the hike – the descent through the forest and then the very long hike back through the soggy grass – was the toughest bit and not only enjoyable, to be honest. If you want an easier option on this beautiful day hike, I’d recommend heading back down the same way you came up from, making it not a loop-hike, but it still lets you carry on along the ridge as long as you want.

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Quite a view from the summit…

Either way the Ben Loyal ridge makes for a great day out hiking in the Scottish mountains. Make sure to round your day out off with a nice dinner at Brass Tap Bar of Tongue Hotel: Their Steak-And-Ale-Pie is delicious! And if you are not in for roughing it after a hard day of hiking, Tigh Nan Ubhal Guesthouse has a supercozy attic room including two comfortable tartan armchairs, hot showers, hot chocolate in your room and an electric blanket to help stay warm and toasty during the cold Scottish nights. Its surely one of the warmest welcomes we’ve had in Scotland!

… and if you do want to spend the night out under the stars, check out my short guide to wild camping in Scotland.

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The endless Sutherland Highlands…

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