A constant brooding presence on the skyline, the mountain of Ben Wyvis is a local personality. Stand on the summit and you'll feel like you're on the roof of the world, with the Highlands ranged beneath your feet. The mossy cover on the Ben's summit hides many secrets, including summer nesting dotterel and the pure white of a winter-clothed ptarmigan. On the slopes of this mighty mountain there's a unique mix of plants adapted to the harsh conditions.
Wildlife and Flora
The different seasons bring exciting opportunities to spot a variety of wildlife at the Ben Wyvis National Nature Reserve. As winter brings a dusting of snow to the high peaks, you will be lucky to spot the ptarmigan in its winter white plumage or the mountain hare. Come summer time, flocks of dotterel stop by on their way to more northerly breeding sites, and some will stay to breed with the duties of hatching the eggs and tending the young handed over to the male birds. On the lower ground the mosses are also rich and lush in summer and butterflies and dragonflies like the large red damselfly and golden-ringed dragonfly are found around the burns and pools. On calm days, in late October, the mountain resounds with the roaring of red deer stags rutting. In parts of the Reserve the heath is dotted with dwarf birch and a mosaic of dwarf shrubs go from the shiny reds of the cowberry and bearberry, through the dusty blue-black of the blaeberry to the glossy black of the crowberry and mountain bearberry.
On a clear day, the views from the summit are outstanding, with the whole of the Moray Firth stretched out beneath you. Although a popular and relatively easy climb, Ben Wyvis should be treated with respect. The 6.5km / 4 mile route starts from the Forestry Commission car park at Garbat on the A835 between Garve and Ullapool, heads up to An Cabar and along the summit ridge. The average time to the summit and back is six hours.
Check the weather forecast and rethink your plans if conditions change on the mountain. Equip yourself with a map, compass, hillwalking boots and warm, weatherproof clothing even in summer. There is no shelter at An Cabar or on the ridge.
Most visitors approach Ben Wyvis from the Forestry Commission car park at Garbat on the A835 road between Garve and Ullapool. From the car park the path follows the Allt a’ Bhealaich Mhòir stream with aspen, birch and rowan clinging to its banks. After two kilometres it enters the Reserve’s landscape of heather and bog plants. It zig-zags steeply up a staircase of boulders through the scree to An Cabar (946m). There, take the most direct route along the ridge to the summit, keeping to the centre of the eroded areas to prevent further damage. The two kilometre walk rewards you on a clear day with views over the whole of the Moray Firth to the north and east, the Cairngorms to the south and the remote Fannich peaks to the west.
If you have the stamina you can continue on to the summit of Tom a’ Choinnich (955m) before heading down its southwest ridge towards Garbat.