Ben A’an April 2019
Helen Rose Outdoors Diary
It is twenty years since I last climbed Ben A’an in the Trossachs. It is a short sharp climb but well worth the effort as there are outstanding views from the top. When I was last there there was a lot of forestation on the lower slopes but this has now largely been cleared much to the detriment of the look of the hill and the quality of the ascent. The very good path starts immediately from the car park and is steep all the way. There is no walk in to loosen up the legs and it is hard on the muscles if you have not climbed anything steep in a while.
The Trossachs’ name is taken from that of a small woodland glen that lies at the centre of the area, but is now generally applied to the wider region. It refers to the romantic area of sparkling lochs, crumpled hills, sleepy forests and welcoming villages east of Loch Lomond and west of Stirling. You might hear it called ‘The Highlands in miniature’ and that is a good description. It is located within the Ben Lomond and Trossachs National Park. Sir Walter Scott visited the area’s wild little glens and was so enthralled that he wrote his epic poem The Lady of the Lake (1810) about a girl who lived here. This work was a phenomenon and became the first international bestseller. The Trossachs became a haven for those seeking romantic beauty with Wordsworth, Coleridge and many famous artists visiting the area.
Ben A’an is one of the most popular amongst Scotland’s smaller hills. Often known as the mountain in miniature, its position at the heart of the Trossachs makes it a truly wonderful viewpoint. The distance on the walk to the top is 3.7 kilometres and it is 340 metres of ascent from the car park. It only took us three hours for the round trip including a stop for refreshments on the way up and a lunch stop on the descent. On the morning of the drive to Ben A’an, the most direct route would have been the Dukes Pass but as it had been icy during the night we took the safer but longer route via Callander. The Dukes Pass rises to 220 metres and can be very dangerous in icy conditions, however, we were able to return to Aberfoyle by this route after our walk.
Ben A’an Path
The path started at Loch Achray and carried on through the treeless landscape. It was unrelentingly steep but excellent underfoot, one of the advantages of being in a National Park. The climb continued and at one point crossed a tumbling stream via a footbridge. The ascent continued up the far side of the burn. We continued up the path, which eventually crossed the now small burn once more, this time via a stepping stone. Further on the trees thinned out as a felled area of forest was reached. The non-native conifers have been removed from this area and will in time be replaced by native trees. We stopped for our refreshments with an excellent view of the steep and pointed summit of Ben A’an rising ahead. The hill looks unassailable and is known for its rock climbing but not for us! It just looked like a rocky pyramid. We could see Ben Venue across Loch Achray.
Reaching the Top
The path swung round the hill and we had the first views of Loch Katrine, a freshwater loch now owned by Scottish Water. It has been the primary water reservoir for much of the city of Glasgow and its surrounding areas since 1859. We have no shortage of water in Scotland as we have a heavy annual rainfall!
The path led fairly easily up to the summit area, with just one last rocky section. The rocky summit of Ben A’an is a truly wonderful viewpoint, well repaying the modest (by hill-walking standards) amount of ascent needed to reach it. It isn’t actually a high-top, as you can now see it is merely a prominent rocky pyramid on the side of the higher but uninteresting moorland summit of Meall Gainmheich, but it is Ben A’an that is deservedly known and loved by so many. There was a chilly wind on the top and we only lingered to take photos of the awesome view of snow covered mountains and lochs.
We were exceptionally lucky with the views as it was sunny with mainly clear skies and the views were stunning, particularly from the top of Ben A’an to Ben Venue. We travelled to Aberfoyle for the post walk refreshments which were well deserved. A short but rewarding walk in excellent weather.
Thanks to Dave Clark for the panoramic photo.
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This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary
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