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.

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.

Once you reach the loch you can go to the right and walk around the whole lake. This can also be an alternative to climbing Lochnagar, the Loch Muick trail takes 3-4 hours with pretty reflections of the loch to admire. Becoming tired from the climb, we opted not to walk around the loch. The walk we did take stuck close to the shore along a tarmac’d road, it was a long walk and will take around 1 and half hours to reach the car park, having eventually joined back up with the path we took at the start, where we had ventured past the houses, an alternative is when you reach the boat house, walk down to the shore and reach the car park from there.

You can also do this route in reverse of what we done, but we think the excitement of seeing the summit is better viewed from the way we went, as the other way you can’t see the peak until you are almost upon it.

Lochnagar was our first Scottish mountain, our first Munro. We aren’t the fittest of people but were pleased with our time of 6 hours 10 minutes.

What to pack

Be prepared for changes in the weather, even in the summer months, it can be hot in the sheltered areas and bitter in the wind.

Appropriate footwear. Hiking boots are recommended, we both wore trainers and apart from the odd blister were fine.

A rucksack containing-

A waterproof jacket

A map and compass are recommended, we however followed the path and also you can get 4G up on the mountains so use google maps should you need to.

Ensure you have enough water, having too much and weighing you down is better than not enough.

For food, bring snacks such as nuts, and sandwiches, an energy bar is always handy too.

Keep topping up the sun cream, you’ll be exposed out there, even if you don’t feel it.

Midge repellent will also be handy, this is mainly for walking down near the waterfall, forest and loch.

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