Rocks, ridges and ravines

By Andrew Jarret

The rugged horse-shoe ridge of the Tarmachan range, while outdone for sheer bulk by its more illustrious sister, Ben Lawers, provides the hiker with a much more rewarding experience in this particular trekker's view.

The fact that the majority of visitors to this area opt for the Lawers group also means that Meall nan Tarmachan climbers can usually avoid the mountain track traffic that the Ben inevitably generates in summer.

The walk starts near a little bridge just north of the visitor centre on the Lochan Na Lairige road where there is ample parking for a few cars. Cross the bridge over the Allt a' Mhoirneas, pass through a gate and pick up the Land Rover track which heads off in a southerly direction. After a few minutes a smaller track branches off to the right and leads up across boggy moorland to reach the southern flank of Meall nan Tarmachan.

The way begins to climb steadily and the track curves around the ridge, passing some rusty metal pylons before you are presented with a prominent and shapely knoll. The path strikes up the knoll fairly relentlessly but once at the top you will have broken in the lungs and legs for the task ahead. You will also be given a grandstand view of the Lairige dam down below.

From the top of the knoll, drop down into the ravine at the other side and pick a route up through the crags of Cam Chreag. Even in summer some of the ascent routes here still hold snow so spotting a way up through the rocks should not be difficult.

Once at the 1044 metre summit, savour the view which, on a cloudless day, will be one of the most striking anywhere in the land. Meall nan Tarmachan translates into Hill of the Ptarmigan but we never saw hide nor hair (or should that just be feathers?) of the little critter on our visit. We did see some strange and colourful flying objects though which turned out to be a husband and wife enjoying a day's paragliding!

From the top of Meall nan Tarmachan it is almost inevitable that the pointed zenith of Meall Garbh to the south west will prove irresistible.

The path continues to wind along the top of Cam Chreag towards Meall Garbh where there literally is only room for one person to sit on the summit rock. The hiker is then presented with another wonderful challenge as the way to Beinn nan Eachan sits atop a very narrow winding ridge which, on a windy day, is definitely not for the faint-hearted or heavy-footed!

Those who brave the ridge then have their scrambling skills tested as the path disintegrates down into a rocky ravine where care should be taken, especially in wet or wintry conditions.

Once safely though the rocks, the way begins another gentle climb to the summit of Beinn nan Eachan which provides a nice view of the ridge just traversed. From here another half hour of easy walking will take you to the top of Creag na Caillich where your gaze will be drawn down into the valley where the pretty little town of Killin lies.

Retrace your steps a few hundred metres and drop down into the col between Caillich and Bein nan Eachan to make your escape via the Coire Fionn Lairige. Up ahead an old quarry and an attendant stone building lie on one branch of the Land Rover track you started the day on. Join this track and enjoy the views as you make the long trek back to the bridge.


Distance 9 miles/14.5km.
Map OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 51.
Start/parking Bridge over the Allt a' Mhoirneas (grid ref 603382).
Grading A testing traverse of an undulating and rocky ridge which, even in summer, can present a number of challenges. In bad conditions the ability to navigate competently is a must due to the narrowness and steepness of some sections. Not a walk for beginners.