Beinn Achaladair and Beinn a' Chreachain Walking

From Beinn Dorain in the south to Beinn a' Chreachain in the east, the Bridge of Orchy hills form an impressive arc of high ground, a huge earthwork guarding the southern rim of Rannoch Moor. If you're not going to traverse the lot in one go (a fairly big ask) then Beinn Achaladair and Beinn a' Chreachain make a great pair to start on, a scenic ridge romp above remote craggy corries, with vast views out over the waterlogged expanse of the Moor. The walk described here is spiced with a scrambly ascent of Achaladair's little known north ridge. It's not a route mentioned in many books, but particularly worthwhile under snow, when it just about merits being called a grade I winter climb. A long tough finish through the beautiful native pines and impenetrable sapling thickets of Crannach wood rounds off this classy Southern Highlands day.

Beinn a' Chreachain (left) and Beinn Achaladair, a huge wall looming over Rannoch Moor  © Dan Bailey -
Beinn a' Chreachain (left) and Beinn Achaladair, a huge wall looming over Rannoch Moor
Fetching Map

Detailed description

NN3136743810 Take the track towards Achallader farm. Ignore the boggy turnoff signed 'hill path' and stay with the track to pass the farm. Near an old fortified tower (site of the previous walkers' and climbers' car park) go through a gate and follow a grassy track beside a drystone wall to a stony ford across the Allt Coire Achaladair. This is normally easy to cross, but if the water is high there's a bridge not far upstream. Continue on the grassy track through pastures, then along the Water of Tulla. Not far short of the bridge over the river at NN338452, turn off right and climb open slopes to a footbridge over the railway (NN340448).

NN3404144778 Cross the railway here to enter an area of newly planted woodland, an extension to the Crannach pine woods that hasn't yet found its way onto the map. The steep wedge of Beinn Achaladair now looms directly overhead. Follow a 4WD track, initially straight uphill towards it, and then curving east. Cross several small burns to reach a gate and stile at the perimeter of the wood. Before meeting the Allt na Crannaich head straight uphill towards the craggy corrie of Meall Buidhe, then bear right up a long easy-angled shoulder to the foot of Beinn Achaladair's steep north ridge. This gives an enjoyable ascent, with some scrambly interest on rock tiers if you go looking. The ridge leads directly to a cairn on Beinn Achaladair's airy northeast top - the marginally higher main summit is a short easy stroll away.

NN3444643188 Return to the northeast top, then bear right to descend around the cliff edge towards a col before Meall Buidhe. Just above the col the slope steepens; in poor visibility or hard frozen conditions some care is needed to find the safe line down though little rock outcrops. From the col it's an easy plod up beside the corrie edge onto Meall Buidhe.

NN3595543828 Follow the broad, level ridge crest, then descend briefly to the shallow col below Beinn a' Chreachain. Continue up the stony slopes of Beinn a' Chreachain to reach a corrie edge just north of its summit cairn.


Head back north(ish) along the cliff edge, then bear right onto the surprisingly narrow ridge between Coire Dubh Beag and Coire an Lochain. It's a lovely bit of mountain, but sadly over too soon.

NN3765344703 At the col before an outlying minor top (spot height 961m) turn left, descending open slopes into Coire an Lochain, an impressive bowl of crags cupping a high lochan. The Allt Coire an Lochain leads downhill out of the corrie; before it cuts into a gorge cross it where safe, to reach a deer fence and stile at the boundary of Crannach wood. Don't enter the enclosure, but instead follow an arrow marker pointing a path that runs on downhill between the fence and the burn. It's possible to cross the railway at an underpass, and then ford the Water of Tulla (perhaps not in spate conditions) to reach the farm track in the bottom of the glen. However this would mean missing out on the bulk of Crannach wood, a beautiful relic of native scots pine forest, so if you're up for a bit of bushwhacking then stay south of the railway instead. Occasional arrows mark the path as it heads southwest through the woods, soon entering a dense thicket of whippy new-growth saplings that all want to poke you in the eye. It's hard to keep track of the trail here, and you'll soon be cursing me and wishing you'd packed the machete. But persevere and the woods eventually open out. The path winds on through the granny pines to reach a footbridge over the railway (NN349454).

NN3490645467 The trail gets steadily better as it continues down through the woods to the Water of Tulla. Follow the riverbank, boggy in places, to meet the grassy farm track near the bridge at NN338452. A final 3km or so brings you back past Achallader farm to the car park.

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