Scotland | Climbing Lochnagar

The great mountain of Beinn Chìochan in the Cairngorms National Park, more commonly known as Lochnagar- same as the loch which falls in the magnificent corrie. It is believed that Lochnagar is perhaps the finest mountain in the Cairngorms.

A steady walk in summer months will take between 6- 8 hours return, covering 12 miles (19km). The summit of Lochnagar is at 3,789ft.

This post will cover how to climb Lochnagar and the near by Loch Muick in the summer months only. (Other seasons will have snow, special clothing will need to be worn and there is risks of avalanches)

The drive to the base of Lochnagar is around 20 minutes from the town of Ballater, and is over 1 and half hours drive from the closest city of Aberdeen.

There is a large car park at the end of the public road up Glen Muick; of which there is a charge (which goes towards path restoration). You can also take the bus from Ballater (July- September only)

After parking walk across a bridge, pass visitor centre and toilets. Walk across the gravel road, of the flat floor of Glen Muick when you get to houses walk through some woodland starting your ascent, pass and eventually cross over the stream (there is stepping stones to help cross over) there is gorse and heather along-side the gravel path with slopes either side. When the path starts to flatten out you will see a split in direction, to the right takes you to another summit, to the left the path starts winding back down hill, you will want to follow this. This will take you roughly 1 hour to reach this point.

After the decent you will start to climb back up hill with large stone steps to guide your way. You may be fooled (like us) in thinking you are near the top as you climb this part as it looks like the highest point, but when you reach the top you will be greeted with a large expanse of land, to the right is another summit- Meike Pap- which is worth the climb to see more views. Below you will see Loch Nagar, to the left is a mass of large boulders, you will want to climb these to the summit. Once there you will see the ladder, a relatively flat / small gradient walk which joins this part of land to the actual summit of Lochnagar which you have spotted since reaching the large expanse of land. This stage will have taken another hour.

Spot Pam climbing up the boulders

After the flat bridged ground, you will climb what only looks like a hill until you reach the flat land at the top, the peak is a further walk across the headland. This section will have taken around 40 minutes.

Sit and enjoy the views, the loch below, the land stretching to infinity. Eagle eyes will spot Ballater and perhaps even Balmoral Estate way down below in the distance.

On the descent you can choose to go back the way you came from, or when you get to the bottom of the ‘hill’ part take the path down towards the valley instead of left (where you came from). On a non-cloudy day, you will be able to see the path, so you will know where to go. The path is a mixture of gravel and stone steps, your descent will have you following a stream with the mountains reaching up high above you. The walk down is easier for a while than the climb up was. The stream continues and then you will see the waterway opens and the path will be next to a large waterfall. Not only is the waterfall pretty but after walking through the same terrain for a while it’s a welcome treat. Follow the waterfall down its tiers and then you will spot Loch Muick at the base of the mountains. You are now on the final descent as you walk down the hill side to reach the loch, passing a lush forestry area. This part of the walk will have taken around 1 hour 10 minutes.