Schiehallion west to east Walking

Standing on its own in the heart of Scotland, the giant lump of Schiehallion can be name dropped from hills all over the Highlands. Viewed end-on from west or east it pretends to be a classic cone, and looks its best as a picturesque backdrop looming above the wooded shores of Loch Rannoch or Loch Tummel. But that's a bit of a con. The mountain is really a single drawn-out ridge, several kilometres long, steep-sided and almost uniformly regular in shape. Thanks to its isolation and symmetry Schiehallion was famously used in 1774 to gauge the mean density of the Earth by painstakingly measuring the mountain's gravitational pull on a pendulum. For their sums the tweed-coated boffins had to calculate the volume and density of their mountain; and so the contour line was born. Nowadays most people just climb Schiehallion for the view, which is as all-encompassing as its location, height and independence suggests. I'm tempted to suggest that the best thing about Schiehallion is distance itself - whether you're looking out from it at a great swathe of mountains, or recognising its lines from an unexpectedly far-flung viewpoint. Following a purpose-built path, the trade route from Braes of Foss is the most popular way up and back down, and barely needs a route description. However a circuit is generally better than a linear route, and the one described here takes you along Schiehallion's full length from west to east. The Braes of Foss path might be busy year round, but the rest of the hill is almost deserted by contrast, which is always a bonus in my book. Pick a clear day and the point of plodding up Schiehallion will be obvious.

Sunshine and snow flurries, Schiehallion summit  © Dan Bailey -
Sunshine and snow flurries, Schiehallion summit
Fetching Map

Detailed description

NN7532655688 Instead of making a beeline for the summit path return to the road and follow it west through the somewhat desolate Strath Fionan, with the bulk of Schiehallion exerting a gravitational pull to your left.

NN7241956731 Leave the road at its high point and go left through a gate, taking a quad bike trail up past a little tree-fringed waterfall on the Allt Leathan. The track soon leaves the burn and makes as if directly towards the summit of Schiehallion. Leave it at will and ad-lib west(ish) on a rising traverse over heathery ground, with occasional traces of deer path. Rejoin the Allt Leathain for a while, then follow the line of least resistance up onto the little top of Tom na Fuine (not named on 1:50k map). Meet an old stone wall here for the climb onto the shoulder of Cnoc na h-Iolaire (again, unnamed on 1:50k), right under the steep northwest flank of Schiehallion.

NN7050255498 Bear left to pick your own line up rough ground. A vague path soon appears underfoot, and as you gain height the mountain's west ridge begins to take shape. It's bouldery up on top, and at the summit cairn the ground even feels slightly airy, with the steep south face right under you and lonely Gleann Mor a long way below. There are superb views over Loch Tummel and west along Loch Rannoch to the distant Lochaber skyline. On a clear day you can play spot that peak for ages.

NN7137954767 Continue east down the rocky summit ridge, which soon broadens. You're now on the Braes of Foss path, and the way is obvious. Beyond a level section on the ridge is the final long descent down the east flank. At about 780m altitude the rocky trail turns into an excellent purpose-made path, with a series of stone-stepped zigzags winding down through the heathery outcrops. This was built by landowners the John Muir Trust to replace a previous badly eroded informal trail, and their restoration work is ongoing on the mountain (see UKH news here ). Gradually easing, the path leads on over the lower slopes to the Braes of Foss car park.

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