A day of hiking in the Highlands outside Glasgow

22 October 2021

Oh, Scotland. Beautiful, endless mountain sceneries filled with tranquil lochs and enchanted forests, never far from the dramatic North Sea.

The beauty of the Scottish Highlands – the UK’s biggest and highest mountain range – can be almost beyond comprehension. And they’re very accessible.

It takes some time to make it up to the famed island of Skye or road trip the bucket list hit NC500.

But there are tons of equally stunning Bens and Glens (peaks and valleys) that take much less commitment to explore.

The Arrochar Alps

The Arrochar Alps are a handful of peaks around the tiny village of Arrochar, situated at the end of the fjord-like Loch Long.

Because of their rocky character, they’re named after Europe’s famous mountain range and make for an exhilarating hiking day.

One of their best assets: it takes roughly an hour from Glasgow by bus or car to Arrochar, making it the perfect weekend getaway out of the city.

Be wary of the weather

But before getting into the hike, one piece of advice: the Scottish Highlands are notorious for their inconsistent weather, so be sure to check what the forecast looks like before you go.

The Mountain Weather Information Service does an excellent weather report specifically for hikers.

As always in the mountains, you’ll need to follow basic safety rules: bring a map or a phone with GPS, clothes for changing weather conditions, and stay together with your group.

Getting there

Our journey starts in friendly Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city.

Hiking with your partner or maybe this is a super active first date? We recommend taking the role of the early birds and get on one of the first buses leaving from 6.15am, for two reasons: you’ll most likely have the mountains to yourself which fits perfectly with the sublime emptiness of the Highlands. Also, depending on the season, you’ll get to see a sunrise over Loch Lomond that’ll leave you speechless. Very romantic. 

But regardless of the time, the journey to Arrochar is already a highlight.

You’ll be driving the A82 which closely follows the shore of pretty Loch Lomond, Scotland’s biggest loch which is widely regarded as a must-see in the country.

Across the loch you’ll see Ben Lomond, the Southernmost munro (a mountain over 3,000 ft) that's another popular day trip for hikers.

Up through the forest

Once you arrive in Arrochar, look for Succoth car park, right next to the trailhead. If you’re arriving by bus, it’s just ten more minutes of walking.

The trailhead itself is near unmissable; two portable toilets signpost the path that leads into the forest. Following a zig-zag path, you’ll walk gently uphill for a while.

Don’t forget to stop and look behind you every so often.

You’ll see how quickly you’ve gained altitude and get a first idea of what’s to come: picture-perfect panoramas of Loch Long dissolving into the distance, spectacularly reflecting the many mountains behind.

Along the stream

After roughly an hour, you’ll leave the forest behind you and enter typical Highland territory.

The trail now clearly follows a stream coming from up the hill. Here’s a gorgeous spot to have a breather, enjoy the views, and listen to the sweet sounds of nature.

Across a few smaller streams, you’ll pass by an unusual amount of large rocks called the Narnaid boulders.

By now, you’re high enough to see Loch and Ben Lomond in the distance again.

Which path will you take?

Further up, you’ll arrive at a junction, and this is where the summiting really begins. You have three peaks waiting for you and you’re free to decide which one to tackle first. If you're a competitive bunch, this is where it's going to show!

To your left, you have the Cobbler, the lowest of the three, but surely the most dramatic peak with a steep but manageable path upwards.

Taking a right and then a left shortly after is Beinn Ime, the highest of the three but easiest to summit, following a similar path to what you’ve been walking so far.

To the right is Beinn Narnain with the most difficult trail of the three.

At times it’s pathless, rocky, and requires light scrambling, but arguably offers the best views.

With each summit taking between one and two hours, it’s really up to you.

The Cobbler

We suggest tackling the Cobbler first. With the characteristic outline of the peaks of the Cobbler always ahead, take a left at the junction.

The trail steeply zigzags up the mountain. Because of this, it doesn’t take long for you to reach a mountain pass which leads to an alternative descent down to the A83.

Take a right at that pass up a rocky section towards the middle peak. It’s the highest and the only one accessible without rock climbing.

A few minutes later, you’ll reach the summit plateau, clearly marked by a large rock pinnacle. While most will find the plateau itself exciting enough, thrill-seekers with a head for heights can try to scramble up the pinnacle.

The way down the Cobbler is the same way as up, returning to the junction between the three mountains.

Beinn Ime

With an altitude of 1,011 metres, Beinn Ime is the highest summit in the Arrochar Alps, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like that.

If you don’t plan on hiking up all three summits, we recommend skipping this one, as the other two just feel slightly more rewarding.

But if you want to face the challenge, take a right at the junction to the Cobbler and then a left at the one shortly after – the trail to the summit is easy to follow and not very steep.

Once at the top, you might see a sheer endless array of mountains, if clouds aren’t blocking the view.

On a clear, beautiful day, you might even spot Ben Nevis in the distance!

Beinn Narnain

Taking two rights from the first junction brings you on the trail up Beinn Narnain.

It begins as a clearly discernible trail of stone steps. Once you reach a stone field, it disappears completely, and you’ll have to find a way up the stones yourself.

But don’t worry, you’re nearly at the top and it’s only a short scramble up the rocks to reach the last summit of the day.

Up Beinn Narnain, the view beyond both Loch Lomond and Loch Long is simply glorious. After a few moments taking it all in, check out ‘The Spearhead’, an impressive rock formation overlooking Loch Lomond.

If it’s not too windy, you can even head up the Spearhead for what most likely will be the best picture of the day.

The descent

From here, you have two choices. Either descend on the same trail you’ve already walked or use the other, slightly more difficult trail behind the Spearhead.

This involves more scrambling but promises more stunning vistas on Loch Lomond. Both lead to the car park where the hike started, so you’ll be fine with each option.

If there’s been a lot of rain lately, the path behind the Spearhead can at times feel like a riverbed – you’d be wise to choose the other one.

Once you’ve reached the car park, hop on a bus or drive back to Glasgow and call it a day – you deserve it, and your feet will thank you

Snaps taken by Luis on his hike