Want to go on a day hike in the Scottish Highlands that includes multiple Munros, some light scrambling and stunning mountain views? The hike up An Caisteal and Beinn a’Chroin near Crianlarich might just be the route you’re looking for! This hiking guide includes a detailed trail description, highlights to expect on the way, a suggested packing list for day hikes in Scotland and more!
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The area around Crianlarich is a hiker’s paradise. Seven Munros are waiting just south-east of the village and offer stunning views of the hills in the Trossachs and Loch Lomond to the south, and as far as Ben Nevis in the north. While some eager adventurers manage to hike all seven in a day, why not start with a challenging double-Munro hike up An Caisteal and Beinn a’Chroin?
These two neighbouring Munros are easily combined for a day out in the hills as you don’t lose too much elevation on the descent and reascent between them. However, since both summits require quite a bit of scrambling, this is definitely not a hike to complete beginners or leisurely hill walkers. Make sure to read on to evaluate whether you’re up for the challenge!
Read for a detailed guide to this day hike in the Scottish Highlands including:
- a detailed description of the route,
- what terrain to expect,
- what beginners should consider before going on this hike,
- transport information for the area,
- a suggested packing list for your day hike.
and lots of tips to make this a fun day out.
An Caisteal and Beinn a’Chroin Hike FAQ
Where is this hike located?
An Caisteal and Beinn a’Chroin are two Munros just south of Crianlarich in the southern Highlands. Nearby beauty spots include Loch Lomond, Loch Tay and Bridge of Orchy.
How long is the hike up An Caisteal and Beinn a’Chroin?
The route is approximately 14 km (9 miles) and takes around 6 to 7 hours to complete.
If you hike in a group always give yourself a little extra time as you usually hike a bit slower. It took us around 8 hours to complete this hike, including plenty of stops for snacks and to take in the sunshine.
Is the path marked?
No, this trail is not marked. In the boggy sections (first ascent up An Caisteal and back out of the glen) the path is a little faint, although still fairly straight forward to follow. Higher up, the trail is much clearer and easy to spot.
Is this trail suitable for beginners?
Hiking An Caisteal and Beinn a’Chroin is a challenging day in the Scottish hills. Beginners who are fit and up for the challenge might be absolutely fine as long as they go in a group with more experienced hikers, but I do not recommend this hike for a group of beginners, your first Munro or your first solo hike.
This has a variety of reasons. First of all, the terrain is pretty rough – lots of bog in the beginning, quite a bit of scrambling up the first peak and then again on the descent and reascent of the second summit, then lots of bog again at the end. You definitely want to be physically and mentally fit enough to deal with difficult terrain and be comfortable with scrambling.
Navigation skills are not necessarily required (the path is pretty clear to follow), but if visibility is bad, you might have to navigate with map and compass to stay on track.
However, if you are at the level where you want to start to challenge yourself with more difficulty ascents, An Caisteal and Beinn a’Chroin is a great route to get into more advanced Munro bagging. This hike is for you if you…
- are comfortable with scrambling,
- have a good mindset to get through boggy sections,
- want to start bagging multiple Munros in a day,
- have good stamina for a 9 miles hike with almost 1,000m ascent.
Getting to Crianlarich
The nearest train station/bus stop to the start of the hike is Crianlarich, some 2 miles north of the trailhead. The bus goes by the starting point though, so the bus driver might be able to pull over to let you out – no guarantee though as this is a busy road. Theoretically, it takes around 40 minutes to walk from Crianlarich to the trailhead, but since the A82 is a busy country road without a pavement, I do not recommend this.
The best way to get to the beginning of the hike up An Caisteal and Beinn a’Chroin is to drive. From Glasgow, it takes approximately 1.5 hours to drive to Crianlarich.
There is a spacious layby on the eastern side of the A82 around 2 miles south of Crianlarich (right-hand side coming from the south). Park your car here and pick up the trail at the northern end of the layby.
This hike is a great addition to my popular 8-Day Scotland Itinerary – just add a night in the area to make time for a day in the hills!
Trail description: An Caisteal and Beinn a’Chroin
Ascent of Sron Garbh
The hike starts with a steep ascent up Sron Garbh, the first lump on the ridge of An Caisteal. From the northern end of the car park follow the path that leads under the railway and continue on the wide gravel track until you reach a big gate.
Immediately after passing the gate, head up the grassy path to the right and follow it all the way to the first top of Sron Garbh.
The ascent is pretty tough going at points, both because it is both steep and boggy. However, there are plenty of breaks between the steeper bits and stunning views to take in and rest.
An Caisteal Ridge + Summit
From Sron Garbh the trail climbs consistently up the wide ridge of An Caisteal (called Twistin Hill on the OS map). The trail becomes much clearer and less boggy the higher you climb. After a gentle section, the trail becomes steeper again and every now and then there are rocky sections that require a bit of scrambling.
The highlight of the ascent is a deep cleft that requires some use of your hands to get up.
Soon, the trail reaches the summit which is marked by a cairn (= a pile of rocks) – Munro no 1: An Caisteal (995 m).
Descent to the Bealach Buidhe
Continue down the other side of the ridge where the trail becomes steeper and rockier again. The descent to the Bealach Buidhe requires some scrambling and use of hands, especially if the rocks are wet and slippy.
The drop to the Bealach is about 140m in elevation – not too bad for a multi-Munro day.
Ascent of Beinn a’Chroin
After passing a tiny lochan at the flattest bit of the Bealach Buidhe, the path starts its steep ascent of the plateau of Beinn a’Chroin.
The OS map shows a possible zig-zaggy detour to the left and another detour to the right, which apparently spares you the scrambling. We went right for the mid-line of attack and scrambled up the rocky sections.
Once past the scramble, the trail emerges at the top of the plateau which makes up the wide ridge of Beinn a’Chroin. From here to the summit it is very easy going – and super scenic.
Beinn a’Chroin Ridge and Summit
Along the ridge you pass several small lochans and can enjoy stunning views back towards An Caisteal, down the glens on all side and towards the lochs in the Trossachs.
We spotted Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine glistening in the sunshine and wondered whether the tall peak to the south could be Ben Lomond.
The trail across the plateau is very easy to follow and dips up and down a bit every now and then.
There are three “summit cairns” on Beinn a’ Chroin. The first one is the true summit, the second is a bit lower and the third is usually regarded as the actual summit of the mountain. The latter requires a bit of ascent to reach – Munro no 2: Beinn a’Chroin (942 m).
Descent of Beinn a’ Chroin
From the third cairn, come back the way you came and take the first path that trails off to the right to begin the descent of Beinn a’Chroin. There is a second trail veering right further down, but if you reach that you’ve gone too far.
The trail begins fairly clear and rocky (but never scrambly), but becomes increasingly boggy as you descend. A bit like a slip and slide from time to time. Even though it is faint at times, it is fairly easy to follow.
At the bottom of the descent, you pass a small tree and begin the long walk out of the glen.
Walk out of the glen
The last section of the hike is walking out of the 3-mile long glen. From above the trail looks very clear, but in reality, it can be so boggy that you often have to veer to the left and right and choose your own line of attack.
The bog continues for about 1.5 miles and requires lots of crossing little streams and creeks, especially after a few days of rain.
The final 1.5 miles of the walk see you back on the gravel track you walked on in the beginning of the day – a bit monotonous, but a great break for the legs after a long day in the hills. Pass the big gate once again, follow the track under the railway bridge and you’re back at the car park.
Suggested Day Hike Packing List
What to wear for this hike
The ascent of An Caisteal and Beinn a’Chroin is a proper day in the mountains and as such proper hiking gear is essential.
- Wear sturdy hiking boots that keep your feet dry-ish in the bog and your ankles protected on the rocky sections.
- Bring layers, especially a waterproof jacket and trousers and warm gloves and a hat. The wind can be bitter cold on the summits.
- If you have them, wear gaiters – protective covers for your legs that clip onto your hiking boots and cover your ankles and calves. This is super helpful on boggy terrain as gaiters keep your trousers dry and clean.
Food & drink
Pack plenty of food and water. The closest place to stock up would be the small shop in Crianlarich (2 miles from the starting point) or the larger Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum (6.5 miles).
We did not come by any usable flowing water to fill up our bottles until the final leg of the hike, walking out of the glen. It’s essential to bring all the water you need for the day. I also had a small flask with hot tea with me, which was great to warm me up in breaks.
I recommend bringing high energy snacks, such as protein bars, nuts, dried fruit with lots of sugar and a stodgy sandwich to fil you up. Rather than one big lunch break, pack enough for a few smaller stops as you need a lot of energy, especially for descending and re-ascending.
What else to pack
I always recommend packing a small first aid kit with blister plasters, painkillers, some ointment like Bepanthen, tape and a tick remover. You might also want to consider packing an emergency shelter or an emergency blanket, should the weather turn.
I recommend bringing walking poles for this hike as the ascent and descent are very steep at times.
Hiking An Caisteal and Beinn a’Chroin is a great challenge for slightly more experienced hikers. If you are up for the challenge, you will be rewarded with fantastic views and two Munros to tick off from your list.
Have you ever hiked in the mountains around Crianlarich, or have I inspired you to try it for yourself?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!