Glasgow is a fantastic city to live in. I’ve been here two years now, and I still can’t quite believe my good fortune in ending up somewhere so brilliant. The most brilliant thing of all, though, isn’t even in the city; it’s the fact that we’re so close to some of the finest walking in the world, and you can get to lots of it by public transport!
Anyway, here are my top five hill walks accessible by public transport from Glasgow.
1. Beinn a’Bheithir, Ballachulish
Beinn a’Bheithir (pronounced ‘Ben Vare’) rises over Loch Leven, behind the village of Ballachulish, just west of the point where Glen Coe meets the sea. A steep climb from the village leads to a long swooping ridge and the twin Munro peaks of Sgurr Dearg and Sgurr Dhonuill. As you’d expect from its maritime location, the views from the top are astonishing, from the giants of Lochaber and Glen Coe in the north and east, to Loch Linnhe and the sound of Jura in the south. It’s a bit of a relentless slog to start with, but the ridges are surprisingly easy.
Total climb: about 1300m.
Total distance: about 15.5km.
Total time: seven hours.
Transport: The 916 to Uig leaves the Kersland Street bus stop at 07:08 and arrives at Ballachulish tourist office at half nine. The last bus back leaves from the stop opposite at 19:37 (back in Glasgow at about ten), so there’s plenty of time to linger over the fantastic views, and have a pint or two before your return journey.
2. Ben Cruachan, Lochawe
Ben Cruachan is a massive horseshoe-shaped hill rising above the northern end of Loch Awe. It contains a massive hydroelectric power station, which – by generating lots of electricity at peak times, and then buying it back to pump water back up the hill to a high reservoir – fine tunes the capacity across the whole of the UK National Grid. If you can tear yourself away from the visitor centre (great cakes!), the hill path takes you up through a beautiful hanging wood, round the reservoir, and then up for an airy tightrope walk along the ridges and peaks.
Total climb: about 1400m.
Total distance: 14 km.
Total time: seven or eight hours.
Transport: The 976 to Oban leaves Kersland Street at 08:30 and arrives at the Cruachan visitor centre at 10:47. The last bus back leaves at 18:46, and gets back to Glasgow at about nine. There are also trains to Falls of Cruachan halt, a request stop; the last one leaves at 18:43.
3. Ben Lui, Tyndrum
Ben Lui sits to the west of Tyndrum. There are various ways of combining it with neighbouring peaks; my favourite route walks up Glen Cononish from Tyndrum, ascends into Lui’s amazing eastern corrie. From below, this looks impossibly steep and rocky, but there’s a clear path winding up the crags and rocks to the lofty summit (at 1130m, one of the highest in the southern Highlands). The best return route follows the ridge south and east, crossing Ben Oss and Beinn Dubhcraig, before descending through ancient Caledonian pine forest to Tyndrum.
Total climb: 1750m.
Total distance: about 26 km.
Total time: eight or nine hours.
Transport: The 916 (departing Kersland Street at 07:08) arrives in Tyndrum at 08:36; the last one back leaves at 20:25. There are also trains: the last ones back (in case you miss the bus) are from Tyndrum Upper, at 21:52 (21:05 on Sundays).
walkhighlands.co.uk/munros/ben-lui (you’ll find my route described in some of the users’ walk reports)
4. Tulloch to Corrour
The West Highland railway line follows the A82 as far as Bridge of Orchy, then sweeps off on a lonely route across Rannoch Moor to the north and east. There’s lots of good walking here – the stroll round Loch Ossian from Corrour station is a particular favourite – but the best route starts at Tulloch station, climbs elegant Stob a’Choire Mheadhoin and Stob Coire Easain to the south-west, descends rough terrain south to the head of Loch Treig, and then finishes with a gentle climb up estate tracks to Corrour, the highest railway station in the country. If you hurry, you’ll have time for beer and haggis in the station house before you go back to Glasgow!
Total climb: about 1200m.
Total distance: roughly 20km, I think.
Total time: eight or nine hours.
Transport and accommodation: It’s a long trip, and you don’t want to rush the descent because it’s a bit hard to find your way, so travel out to Tulloch on the evening train (departs Queen Street at 18:20, arrives at 21:35), spend the night in the bunkhouse there (http://www.stationlodge.co.uk/), have a hearty breakfast, then enjoy the walk back in time for the 18:25 from Corrour to Glasgow.
walkhighlands.co.uk/fortwilliam/easains.shtml (follow this as far as the second peak, then strike off by yourself south along the ridge – as long as you get down to Creaguaineach Lodge at the head of Loch Treig, the track from there up to Corrour station is easy)
5. Around Glen Nevis
The 916 bus goes all the way to Skye, and there’s wonderful walking territory almost the whole way. Fort William does seem to mark a natural boundary for shot hops out from Glasgow, though. The bus takes about three hours, and the train a little under four; moreover, the last buses go only as far as there. So, hop out on the last bus (18:10 from Kersland Street) or train (18:20 from Queen Street), and walk out in the twilight to stay for a few nights at the excellent Glen Nevis youth hostel (http://www.syha.org.uk/hostels-in-scotland/highlands/glen-nevis.aspx). You’re within easy striking distance here of lots of great hills. Don’t just climb Ben Nevis (though if you do, eschew the tourist path in favour of the back route via Carn Mor Dearg; much more exciting). Leave the crowds behind and visit the gorgeous Mamores, a long winding ridge of eleven peaks south of the Ben. They’re not as tall, but they’re much more exciting, with plenty of opportunities for scrambling along knife-edge ridges. For the seriously keen, the Ring of Steall takes in four Munros on a long and tiring day. For those of us without legs of steall, a route over the western three Mamores (Mullach nan Coirean, Stob Ban, and Sgurr a’Mhaim) still has plenty of variety and excitement.
Ben Nevis via Carn Mor Dearg
Total climb: about 1600m.
Total distance: about 19km.
Total time: ten hours.
The Ring of Steall
Total climb: about 1700m.
Total distance: about 16km, plus 10km on the road to and from the hostel.
Total time: ten hours (about twelve including the road walk). Probably longer if you want to take your time over the narrow ridges.
The Western Mamores
Total climb: about 1500m.
Total distance: about 15km, plus 6 km on the road.
Total time: eight hours (about nine and a half including the road).
walkhighlands.co.uk/fortwilliam/stobban.shtml (I reversed this route, and continued on over Sgurr an Iubhair to Sgurr a’ Mhaim)