A culturally significant region of Scotland, the Scottish Highlands is a sparsely populated world of rolling hills, haunting lochs, glens and mountains. A wander through any part of this region is sure to put some fire in your kilt, or perhaps just a smile on your face, provided the weather holds out. One particularly handsome part of this fair land is Ben Lawers, located not far from the historic village of Killin.
The highest mountain in the southern Scottish Highlands and the 10th highest mountain in Britain, Ben Lawers is also a veritable biologist’s wonderland. Providing the perfect altitude for plants, old Ben is considered to have the richest collection of flora in all the British Isles. It’s also a favoured perch for ravens, red grouses, curlews, the European wildcat and mad folk.
In 1878, a group of 20 men spent an entire day building a large cairn (man-made stone stack), to elevate the 3,983 foot mountain into the list of Munros – Scottish mountains higher than 4,000 metres. Of course the Ordnance Survey dismissed the temporary addition. Ben Lawers was also a significant prehistorical site, as it contains numerous ruins and boulders stained with ring and cup marks, suggesting, perhaps, it was the favoured haunt of rampant booze hounds.
Okay, maybe that last bit was a stretch, but the ancient cup marks exist, and if ever there was a place to drink some good firewater, this is it – particularly in the winter months.
Climbing Ben Lawers
The easiest way to reach Ben Lawers’ summit is from the carpark, which is conveniently located a short way up the mountain. From here, the walk takes around 5-6 hours return and you might want to keep your eye on the helter-skelter weather, which can quickly fill your socks with soggy clouds and mountain anxiety. Follow the trail, continue at a steady pace, enjoy the views and chances are you’ll enjoy a very fine walk indeed.
I climbed Ben Lawers with family – my brother, his wife, my two nephews, and their friends. In all, we ranged from about 10 to 50 years old, so unless you’ve got some chronic health problems, Ben Lawers lies within your reach. Along my journey I saw shards of metamorphic stone and colourful meadows that peeled off the path and rolled towards Loch Tay – a freshwater loch that surrounds the southern slopes of Ben Lawers.
The views are beautiful, forlorn, and the air is invigorating. Numerous alpine plants skirt the path edges and ruins lie in various parts. I stood gazing across the green hills, enjoying the fine weather, imagining what it would have been like standing here thousands of years ago, not knowing what we know of the world today.
Once you’re near the top you’ll likely cross Beinn Ghlas. If, like me, you’re lost in the highland clouds or not paying attention, you could stride over this significantly tall neighbour of Ben without noticing.
Ben Lawers is just a spec in the seductive realm of the Scottish Highlands, although a very accessible one that’s well worth your time.