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9 Alternative Must-Climb Hills To Ben Nevis In Scotland

There are many different hills to climb in Scotland – from the tricky to the quick, the furthest north to the highest, but all with stunning views from the top.

You’ve probably heard of Ben Nevis – the highest mountain you can climb in Scotland – but why not follow your own path and try one of these alternative must-climb hills instead? Whether you’ve already completed Ben Nevis, or you want to find a quieter alternative and get away from the popular hotspots, this list is for you.

Read on to find out more on these hills to climb in Scotland, with details on how long each climb will take, options for the route to the top, and other things to do in the area so you can make a trip out of it.

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Helpful information

First time climbing a hill at all?

Check out our Munros for beginners, with details of 11 mountains specifically suitable for beginners. There’s also a full list of what to wear, and what equipment to take with you.

Or why not find an experienced guide who’ll give you a guided walk up the mountain? Also see Walkhighlands outdoor holidays and guides for more ideas.

How to climb hills responsibly

  • Try and pick lesser-known hills to climb. Popular mountains and hills like Ben Nevis might not have space for you to park, and the paths might be busy with climbers and animals.
  • Read and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code with tips on how to look after your group, your dog, small communities, farm animals, wildlife and our landscapes.
  • Check out Mountaineering Scotland for safety advice and Walkhighlands for full details of the routes, as well as further info on the starting points and terrain, before you decide which matches your walking ability.
  • Wear the right clothes and bring the required equipment, including a map and a compass – see our Munros for beginners for more information.

Ben Loyal

Looking across a beach to a body of water, with mountains and hills in the background

Looking across the Kyle of Tongue to Ben Loyal, in Sutherland

Where?

The far north coast of the Highlands, west of Thurso, in Sutherland.

Grade

A harder hill walk.

Distance

8.5 miles (13.75 km)

Time

Around 6 hours.

Why climb?

This striking Corbett (Scottish hill between 2,500 ft and 3,000 ft) in the middle of nowhere looks pretty imposing – but it’s actually a fairly straight-forward walk. From a small building at Cunside, follow a path that leads to the peaks of Sgurr Chaonasaid, Sgor a’ Bhatain, and eventually leading to An Caisteal, Ben Loyal’s summit. An alternative, rockier and steeper ascent route heads up the slopes of Sgor a’ Chleirich, which is not recommended as a descent route.

Did you know?

Ben Loyal is known as the Queen of Scottish hills, and is one of the most iconic mountains in Sutherland. It casts a near perfect reflection in Lochan Haken, if you’re there early enough to see the sun rise.

Other things to do

Afterwards, relax and watch the sunset at Kyle of Tongue, which is absolutely out of this world. There’s some great nearby accommodation if you’re staying over, and stunning sandy beaches for a relaxing stroll on the sand after your hill walk. There’s a lovely coastal walk on the Talmine peninsula which takes you to the beautiful Achininver Beach.

Find out more on climbing Ben Loyal.

Plan a trip to Caithness and Sutherland.

 

Dun Caan

The sky reflects off the loch water, under Dun Caan, Raasay

Dun Caan, Raasay © Isle of Raasay Distillery

Where?

Isle of Raasay, an island next to Skye, in the Highlands.

Grade

A moderate hill walk.

Distance

9.75 miles (15.5 km)

Time

Around 5 hours.

Why climb?

This hill on the west of Scotland offers absolutely sensational views out across Skye and the Wester Ross peaks. Surrounded by the sea, you’ll feel on top of the world as you stand on its distinctive flat top.

Did you know?

Dun Caan might only be 444m, but the views delighted the Scottish biographer, James Boswell, so much, it’s said he danced a jig of delight when he got to the top!

Other things to do

Look out for red deer on the island, and make sure to visit the Isle of Raasay Distillery for a tour, a sample of gin and maybe a pre-order on their whisky! Raasay House on the island is not just a sustainable hotel – it also offers activities including RIB trips, loch kayaking and archery.

Find out more on climbing Dun Caan.

Plan a trip to Skye & Lochalsh.

 

Tom a’ Choinich and Toll Creagach

Where?

Glen Affric, which sits south-west of Inverness, in the Highlands.

Grade

A harder hill walk.

Distance

10.25 miles (16.5 km)

Time

Around 7 hours.

Why climb?

These two Munros offer a straight-forward hill walk near Glen Affric, one of the most stunning glens in Scotland. The two peaks contrast – Tom a’ Choinich is a shapely peak with rocky ridges, while Toll Creagach is a rounded mountain with mossy upper slopes. You’ll get variety in the view as well, between the mountains to the west and the waters in the east.

Other things to do

While you are in Glen Affric, don’t miss the stunning Dog Falls nearby, or Plodda Falls, near Tomich.

Stay in nearby Inverness and you’ll be surrounded by more amazing hills to climb, the sealife of the Moray Firth, and other places to visit such as the historic attractions of Culloden and Fort George.

Find out more on climbing Tom a’ Choinich and Toll Creagach.

Plan a trip to Inverness.

 

Mount Keen

Where?

Sitting at the edge of Angus, Aberdeenshire and the Cairngorms National Park, north of Forfar.

Grade

A moderate hill walk.

Distance

11 miles (17.5 km)

Time

Around 6 hours.

Why climb?

This is Scotland’s most easterly Munro, sitting on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park. The dome of the peak rises above the empty moorland, so you get long, stretching views on a good day. This route climbs from Glen Esk, which sits north of Brechin, passing the curious Queen’s Well monument along the way, but you can also climb up from Glen Tanar, east of Ballater.

Other things to do

There’s lots of walking to be done in the Angus Glens, with five different glens and 10 different Munros to choose from. If you fancy resting your legs though, take the scenic driving route of the Snow Roads, a 90-mile drive between Blairgowrie and Grantown-On-Spey across this beautiful area.

Find out more on climbing Mount Keen from Brechin, or climbing Mount Keen from Ballater.

Plan a trip to Dundee & Angus, or to Aberdeenshire.

 

Ben More

Where?

Isle of Mull, west of Oban in Argyll & The Isles.

Grade

A moderate hill walk.

Distance

5.75 miles (9.25 km)

Time

Around 6 hours.

Why climb?

This is a big climb as you’re starting at sea level, but your efforts will be rewarded by the most stunning island views right out across the west coast of Scotland. There are two options to choose from – from Dhiseig is the more straightforward route without scrambling, and cuts by some nice, cooling pools. The A’Chioch ridge route requires scrambling and takes around 8.5 hours.

Other things to do

Spend some time in the charming town of Tobermory with its colourful harbour houses, or take a boat trip out to Staffa to see one of Scotland’s geological wonders. It’s also a great island for sealife so look out for seabirds such as puffins in the summer.

Find out more on climbing Ben More from Dhiseig.

Plan a trip to Mull.

 

Ben Macdui

Where?

Within the Cairngorms National Park.

Grade

A moderate hill walk.

Distance

11 miles (17.5 km)

Time

Around 6 hours.

Why climb?

Ben Macdui is the second highest mountain in Scotland, so it’s a great alternative to Ben Nevis in terms of challenge. It sits at the centre of the sub-arctic Cairngorms plateau, so it’s much wilder than Ben Nevis, and you’ll need excellent navigation skills to tackle it. Start from Glenmore, which is the shorter of the two routes detailed. The summit doesn’t have stretching views, but you can see and identify many other neighbouring summits, using the viewpoint indicator.

Did you know?

Watch out for the Grey Man of Ben Macdui, who is said to haunt the summit…

Other things to do

The longer walk from Aberdeenshire starts at the Linn of Dee car park. This spot was a favourite picnic location of Queen Victoria and features a gorge, the River Dee and waymarked routes to follow for a gentler walk the next day.

Find out more on climbing Ben Macdui from Aberdeenshire and Glenmore.

Plan a trip to the Cairngorms National Park.

 

Meall nan Tarmachan

Where?

Near Kenmore and Killin, in Perthshire.

Grade

A harder hill walk.

Distance

8 miles (13 km)

Time

Around 6 hours.

Why climb?

Meall nan Tarmachan is one of the easier Munros to climb in good weather – it’s a substantial height at 1,044 metres, but you start high, at the National Trust for Scotland’s Ben Lawers car park, so it’s a quicker ascent. It’s also just the start of the Tarmachan Ridge, a rocky ridge traverse, seen as one of the most interesting in this part of the Highlands. There’s a good path to the Munro summit and the long ridge, an option to scramble on the descent of Meall Garbh, and some rough, boggy ground.

Other things to do

This hill and ridge sit over the 14-mile long Loch Tay, a great spot for activities and watersports from sailing and golf to waterskiing and jet-biking. Stop for a bite to eat in Kenmore, and head over to the Scottish Crannog Centre to find out what life was like 2,500 years ago in reconstructed thatched wooden houses on the water.

Find out more on climbing Meall nan Tarmachan.

Plan a trip to Perthshire.

 

Schiehallion

Where?

Near Aberfeldy, in Perthshire.

Grade

A moderate hill walk.

Distance

6.25 miles (10 km)

Time

Around 5 hours.

Why climb?

Not far from Meall nan Tarmachan, Schiehallion is one of the easiest Munros to climb on a summer’s day. It has a broad ridge, and a famous conical appearance only obvious from across Loch Rannoch. There’s an excellent path most of the way, with the final section to the summit across boulders. The path is looked after and maintained by the John Muir Trust, who keep the mountain wonderful for you, and for future generations to come.

Did you know?

Contour lines were invented on this mountain as part of an experiment in 1774 by British Astronomer Royal Neville Maskelyne, to determine the mass of the earth.

Accessible walks

Schiehallion has a partly accessible route. See the Phototrails website for photographs and descriptions of the Schiehallion route.

Other things to do

Schiehallion sits within the Tay Forest Park, a collection of forests, hills and mountains with amazing viewpoints and lots of tall trees! Explore the Queen’s View Visitor Centre (and admire the view) or stroll through a forest such as Allean, to see an 18th century farmstead and ruined Pictish ring fort.

Find out more on climbing Schiehallion.

Plan a trip to Perthshire.

 

The Merrick

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