#Beinn Dubh – The Black Hill of #Luss

Sitting near the craggy Arrochar Alps and overlooked by the ever-popular Munro of Ben Lomond, the Luss Hills that rise above Loch Lomond’s western shore are vastly underrated and grant superb walking with wonderful far-reaching views.

Ben Lomond and Loch Lomond from Beinn Dubh

Ben Lomond and Loch Lomond from Beinn Dubh

Bounded by Glen Fruin in the south and Glen Douglas to the north this lovely range of hills reaches its high point of 713 metres on Beinn Chaorach. Glen Luss strikes through the heart of the Luss Hills and when up high the ruggedness of the upland topography, scored with deep v-shaped passes, wouldn’t look out of place in the Lake District. The name Luss, from the Gaelic ‘lus’, means herb.

Clan Colquhoun has held lands in and around Luss since the 1300’s and during the 16th century the family stayed in Rossdhu Castle (now a ruin) on the banks of Loch Lomond. The most infamous episode in the clan’s history happened in 1603 when they met neighbouring Clan MacGregor in Glen Fruin where a bloody battle left the Colquhoun’s with 140 of their clan dead.

Beinn Dubh makes for a fabulous ½ days hillwalk. In general good paths line the walk, which can be steep at times, and as the 642-metre top is approached the ground underfoot becomes a little rougher.

Glen Luss and the Luss Hills

Glen Luss and the Luss Hills

Having left the attractive confines of Luss village it does not take long to gain height. As you climb up Beinn Dubh’s southeastern shoulder a fabulous view across Glen Luss to Coille-eughainn Hill, Beinn Chaorach and Beinn Eich opens out while it is worth looking back for a wonderful view across Loch Lomond, its many islands mapped out below, to Dumbarton Rock and the River Clyde. On a clear day, Tinto Hill, some 50 miles to the southeast, is also visible.

Loch Lomond and the Arrochar Alps from Beinn Dubh

Loch Lomond and the Arrochar Alps from Beinn Dubh

Just beyond the summit cairn the full panorama is complete with a breathtaking view of the Arrochar Alps (Beinn Narnain and the Cobbler in particular), big Munro’s such as Beinn Chabhair and An Caisteal above Crianlarich and a great outlook north along Loch Lomond to Ben Lomond.

Focus On: North #Argyll

To see a selection of this month’s ‘Focus On’ images please click here

Mull from McCaig's Tower, Oban

Mull from McCaig’s Tower, Oban

Sitting with the boundaries of North Argyll is a spectacular portion of Scotland’s renowned west coast (including several beautiful and easily accessible islands), scenic countryside, wildlife rich woodland, forestry and gardens, several iconic hills and mountains, and a litany of beautiful lochs and rivers. The biggest conurbation is the bustling fishing port of Oban, where many of the iconic Caledonian MacBrayne ferries that service the islands sitting off the Argyll coast are caught. Oban is also a fine place for a wander.

Add to this the Crinan Canal, described as the most beautiful short cut in Scotland, a truly exceptional array of flora and fauna and some of the most important historical sites in Scotland and you have a beautiful and fascinating walking destination.

Argyll means ‘Coastland of the Gaels’, referring to the early Gaelic speaking Scots, who populated much of Scotland’s western seaboard. It was where Irish settlers, known as the Scotti, arrived in the 6th century AD, and these people eventually gave their name to Scotland.

300 years later and the Gaels of Dál Riata amalgamated with the Picts of eastern Scotland and established the kingdom of Alba, after which the control and influence of Dunadd rapidly weakened.

The Argyll landscape and its relationship with human beings were inextricably entwined even before the Scotti arrived. Kilmartin Glen, near Lochgilphead, contains several burial cairns and standing stones constructed around 4-5000 years while the rock carvings at nearby Achnabreac are believed to date from the same time.

Furthermore Castle Dounie, near Crinan, and Dun a Cuaiche, above Inveraray, hold the remains of Iron Age forts. More recently the landscape has been moulded by humans for the benefit of agriculture, fuel, timber and tourism.

The landscape of North Argyll has many facets; great muscular mountains like Ben Cruachan, low-lying agricultural plains along its centre and little islands cast adrift from the mainland yet only requiring a short ferry journey into a more peaceful, timeless backdrop.

The elongated sea lochs of Etive, Fyne and Linnhe bite into the coastline while their freshwater cousins, including Loch Awe and Loch Avich, puncture huge swathes of forest and woodland.

Loch Fyne, Inveraray

Loch Fyne, Inveraray

North Argyll is also home to some of the finest remnants of the renowned oak woods that used to cloak much of Europe’s Atlantic seaboard. Superb examples can be found at Crinan, Dalavich and Glen Nant. The history of these woods date back some 9000 years when oak, along with birch, elm and hazel, began to colonise this rough, rocky setting, aided in no small part by a warm, moist climate.

It is a landscape full of wildlife; dipper, kingfisher, pied flycatcher, redstart, woodpeckers, red squirrel, guillemot, tern, redshank, ringed plover, turnstone, golden and white-tailed sea eagle, lichens, mosses, bluebells and orchids just a tiny proportion of what may be seen.

Therefore, wherever you are in North Argyll you travel through history, making walking here an intriguing, enthralling and beautiful prospect.

Loch Etive from Ben Cruachan

Loch Etive from Ben Cruachan

Beinn an Lochain – the finest #ArrocharAlp?

Beinn an Lochain rises sharply above the Rest and Be Thankful, a few miles west of Arrochar in Argyll & Bute, and grants a short, tough but rewarding out and back walk.

It is a Corbett, a Scottish mountain between 2500-2999 feet but of all the Arrochar Alps, with perhaps the exception of The Cobbler, Beinn an Lochain has the most mountain character, with great crags, an airy ridge and several steep ascents; magnificent views emanate from her slopes and summit.

A fine walk begins from either of the 2 lay-bys on each side of the A83, 1.5km north of the Rest and Be Thankful on the wonderfully named Bealach an Easian Dubh (the Pass of the Black Water).

The Rest and Be Thankful sits at 244-metres above sea level, at the junction of the A83 and the B828, and is overlooked by the steep crags of Beinn an Lochain. Its name refers to the inscribed stone that was placed by soldiers when they completed the original military road in the mid-1700’s. Ever since it has provided a welcome break for drovers, travellers and cyclists who have taken the steep climb from either Loch Long or Butterbridge; Thomas Pennant, Boswell and Johnson and Dorothy and William Wordsworth are just some of those who have enjoyed the spectacle.

As height is gained when ascending Beinn an Lochain there are superb views of Binnein an Fhidhleir’s spiky ridge, Ben Ime’s conical outline, and northeast along the length of Glen Kinglas. Below is the Kinglas Water at Butterbridge, spanned by the wonderful old stone bridge, built as part of General Wade’s 18th century military road network.

The higher you climb the outlook north to Ben More, Ben Lui and Ben Oss is remarkable while Loch Restil lies directly below. Beinn an Lochain’s sharp profile rises above and a real sense of its mountain character can now be appreciated – it is a marvellous sight.

The path then follows a line to the left of steep crags up its eastern face to arrive at the summit cairn – the panorama extends to the Arrochar Alps and Ben Lomond, the Cruachan Massif, Glen Etive Hills and, on a clear day, Mull.

Glen Kinglas from Beinn an Lochain

Glen Kinglas from Beinn an Lochain