One of my favourite things about Glasgow is that it is so close to the southern Highlands, that I can see the hills north of the city from my living room window. On a sunny day that is… Last weekend was yet another glorious sunshine-filled one, so we decided it was time to leave Glasgow behind. A rental car was quickly booked for the day and I already knew where I wanted to go for this perfect day hike: Ben A’an.
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Ben A’an is an incredibly popular hill in the southern Highlands – it is only 1h20m drive from Glasgow, the trail is signposted and well-kept (neither of these are to be taken for granted in Scotland) and it’s fairly easy and quick to ascend to the top. On this sunny day we were by far not the only ones trying to score a spot in the busy Ben Venue car park. There are several trails starting here, but signposts lead the way. Finding the right trail and setting off to the top was no problem at all!
Before you ask – yes the top of that rock in the photo below is the summit of Ben A’an – intimidating right? But it’s really not as hard as it looks!
Trail description: The Path up Ben A’an
The trail starts from the back of the car park close by the shore of Loch Achray. You first hike through a lush forest with tall larch and pine trees. The path is quite muddy down here, so watch your step. After half an hour or so the landscape changes drastically – the pine trees turn into light birch forest and the muddy trail is replaced by rocky steps. Soon you meet the old trail and keep ascending. The last bit in the woods is pretty steep and steps all the way – prepare your thighs and knees for a workout!
After an hour or so you reach the treeline. The path flattens out and you circle around the northern side of Ben A’an. On a sunny day like we had it this means finally some shade!
Just before you climb up the final steps to the summit, take a little detour to the right – there is a little path and you almost can’t miss it. If you do, you might go home without having seen the most amazing view (yes, even better than from the summit). The lake you see is Loch Katrine and in the distance are the snowy peeks of the Highlands. Across to the left you can see the majestic Ben Venue.
The summit is just a little scramble further and there are plenty of spots to have a well-deserved snack in the sun. The prime spot is a pyramid-like rock overlooking Loch Katerine, so feel lucky if you score it but don’t hog it for too long.
Unfortunately, to get back down you will have to step all those steps again as there is only this one path up Ben A’an. The beautiful views make up for it though!
If you fancy a good meal on your way back to Glasgow I can recommend The Faerie Tree Inn in Aberfoyle, where they serve typical Scottish cuisine – steak pies, haggis, you name it. And if you have a designated driver who doesn’t mind to be left out, the Glengoyne whisky distillery is also on your way back and guided tours go all afternoon!
For even more action, check out Go Ape Aberfoyle, which is a tree top adventure park with two of the longest ziplines in the UK.
Some Tips for your day on Ben A’an
For a detailed description of the trail, photos of significant points and map material have a look on Walk Highlands, by far my favourite online resource for hiking in Scotland. The trail can get quite muddy – it certainly was last weekend – so sturdy boots that cover your ankles, best hiking boots, are an absolute must.
The best maps for hiking in Scotland are the OS Explorer maps with a scale of 1:25,000. The map segment OL 46 (available here) covers a pig part of the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, where Ben A’an is located. It’s a good map to have if you plan to go on day trips close to Glasgow more frequently.
What to Pack
As the trail is so short and well signposted you won’t necessarily need to bring a map or a head torch. The main things to put in your day pack are warm clothes for the summit, wind- and waterproofs for the odd shower that could always roll in, plenty of water and energy snacks such as fruit or nuts.
How to get to Ben A’an
The only downside of hiking Ben A’an is that there is no public transport connection to the trailhead. You need a car to get to the beginning of the trail, but seeing that you can rent one from £25/day and it’s only 1h20m drive from Glasgow (you won’t need much petrol) it’s a good investment – especially if you split the costs with friends.
I hope you liked this little glimpse of the Scottish Highlands – as you can see you need neither loads of experience nor days upon days to make unforgettable memories during your Scotland trip!