The Mountain's Silhouette

Hiking and backpacking in the mountains of Scotland

The Falloch Four

Distance: 15 miles
Time: 8hrs 30mins (including many stops)
Ascent: 1,977m (6,486ft)
Mountains: Beinn a' Chroin (Munro 942m), An Caisteal (Munro 995m), Cruach Ardrain (Munro 1,046m), Beinn Tulaichean (Munro 946m)
Weather: Early clear blue skies with drifting cloud developing, warm out of the cold northerly wind
Route: View on OS Maps

A slightly later start than usual had me slightly concerned that I was missing out on the early weather window promised by MWIS and the Met Office. Although it was slightly overcast in Aberdeen at 6:30am, as I drove down the A90 the cloud retreated from the coast until it hung over the Angus hills, leaving me in bright sunshine. Dundee and Perth were only just waking up as I sailed through and it was only the usual combination of tractors, road works and weekend drivers that slowed me down on the A82. Loch Earn looked spectacular and after that it was short blast south towards Stirling before turning off the main road and making for Balquidda.

Everybody was heading out of the village, presumably going for milk and a newspaper, but once on the single track road beyond the village it was quiet and I didn’t have any other vehicular problems. The drive along the winding road beside Loch Voil is beautiful and the sunshine and blue skies only emphasised the scenery. Towards the west end of the loch there were a few campers and when I arrived at the walkers car park at Inverlochlarig shortly after 9:20am there were already quite a few cars parked up. A couple of walkers left heading for the Stob Binnein path as I booted up.

The walkers' car park at Inverlochlarig

The car park is excellent with ample space for 10-15 cars and a notice board with maps and information. Well done to this particular estate for being so welcoming to hillwalkers.

Once on the way I had my usual navigational difficulties getting through the farm areas. I should have just continued on the main farm track but got nervous and doubled back to follow the track signed for Beinn Tulaichean. As I left the farm I released this was talking me up the Larig glen so went through a gate and crossed open land to return to the road which runs alongside the river Larig!

Beinn Tulaichean

The watchful coo

Once this was sorted and I was comfortably on the correct track I settled down to enjoy the morning sunshine, the blue skies and the wonderful views in this peaceful glen. There were cows lower down, and as I drew level with Stob a’ Choin on the south bank of the river, sheep became more populous.

Stob Binnein summit from the Larig road

The River Larig

Away in the distance I could see a couple of walkers heading further down the road. After crossing the Ishag burn I left the road at NN412176 and struck out north across open hillside which soon steepened into the lower slopes of Beinn a’ Chroin.

Beinn a' Chroin from the Larig road

From the road this is a steep hill with a dominant terrace of crags about 400m up. The map suggested that heading west would take me around them but as I climbed I started to pick out a line through the crags which would be more direct. I passed over a gate at around NN406179 and then climbed up the outfall of a gully.

Looking west up Glen Larig

Unfortunately as the gully narrowed it became apparent it wasn’t going to work out. I scrabbled around trying a few different ways but with wet rock and loose grass it was a no-go. I retreated and followed the crags around a short distance to the west. The next gully I came to was much wider and I was able to scramble up its upper reaches to emerge on top of the terracing. There were now views onto Beinn Tulaichean and behind me to the Corbett Stob a' Chroin.

Beinn Tulaichean

Stob a' Choin

This was the first of three balconies that I moved up from one to the next, moving left and right through outcrops of stone until finally I came out just to the east of this rounded subsidiary peak. Across a narrow expanse of peaty ground was the final climb up onto the summit of Beinn a' Chroin

Beinn a' Chroin's south-east summit

A peat bog on Beinn a' Chroin

To the north and east the views had opened up spectacularly. I could look up and down the long glen of the Larig and to the west Arrochar’s peaks could just be seen as well as Ben Lomond.

Looking over Glen Larig

I eagerly crossed the bog and climbed quickly up the final steep slope to emerge at the summit of Beinn a’ Chroin, a small cairn on a large rocky tor marking the point.

Approaching the cairn on Beinn a' Chroin

The place was deserted. Out of the shadow of the hill I now felt the first effects of the chilling northerly wind. Once at the cairn I dropped down onto the sheltered southern side and paused for a few minutes to soak up the views and enjoy a spot of tea. I could see clearly my other targets for the day, An Caisteal to the south and Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean to the east. I also lathered on some suncream.

An Caisteal

Looking west along the Crianlarich Hills

Looking north towards the central Highlands

From here I was on a track which wound its way along the numerous tops of Beinn a’ Chroin. The path is excellent, picking its way across steep sided gullies (some still holding a bit of snow) and over a number of cairn-marked summits. The views all around were brilliant – Ben Lomond and Arrochar to the west, and to the north all of the central Highlands basking in the sunshine.

Looking west towards Arrochar

The path on Beinn a' Chroin

The track on Beinn a' Chroin

I finally started to meet some people who were on the standard route coming over from An Caisteal. Everyone was very chatty and remarked on the weather.

A Hidden Pool

Towards Stob Binnein

The undulating Beinn a' Chroin ridge

Finally, I dropped down the flanks of Beinn a’ Chroin. The path here turns to cross the face of some crags, faint at first but then firmer until it turns back on itself to drop steeply down the crags. I lost it in some boulders but it was easy to make my way down to the bealach. As I descended I also got views onto the westerly Munro of Beinn Chabhair.

Beinn Chabhair

The bealach and south ridge of An Caisteal

From here, the track is strong and can easily be followed all the way up to An Caisteal. Though initially steep, it soon broadens out onto a gentler ridge which leads up over a number of bumps to the flat summit of the mountain. I passed a few more people on my way up as they descended including three folk all dressed in red and a fair few people in shorts and t-shirts.

The bealach below Beinn a' Chroin

Ben Lomond in the distance

The views back onto Beinn a' Chroin showed what a bumpy mountain it is.

Beinn a' Chroin

Remarkably I had the summit to myself and after visiting the cairn found a sheltered spot to eat my lunch. The views out over Ben Lomond, Arrochar and what I think was Loch Long held me captivated.

Summit cairn of An Caisteal

Looking over Beinn Chabhair towards Loch Long

Towards the Ben Lui hills

Eventually I tore myself away and continued north, dropping off An Caisteal onto Twistin Hill. The path remains excellent and I followed it for some way until I had drawn level with the northern ridge of Cruach Ardrain on the far side of the Falloch. My plan here was to descend into the glen, cross the river and climb up to the ridge on the far side.

Descending north from An Caisteal

Looking south towards the summit of An Caisteal

Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean

The slopes below the bealach, dropping down from NN376208 to NN388209 were delightful – springy grass and a shallow gradient that nevertheless got me down to the path besides the river very quickly.

Beinn a' Chroin and An Caisteal

The River Falloch

I may have confused a few people returning from Beinn a’ Chorin on the book route by crossing the track, dropping to the river and picking my way across the boulders to the other side.

Beinn a' Chroin

Beinn a' Chroin

Here a faint track took me south around the bottom of the western arm of Meall Dhamh. As the track disappeared I climbed steeply up this shoulder, getting wary looks from sheep and deer. On the far side of the allt dropping down from Cruach Ardrain I spotted two walkers – in hindsight their route may have been more sensible. However, I persevered and eventually caught a sight of people moving along the ridge path. I had to climb all the way up to the summit of Meall Dhamh to avoid some final crags but this gave me great views up onto Cruach Ardrain.

Ben Lui from the slopes of Cruach Ardrain

Climbing the west flank of Cruach Ardrain

Beinn a' Chroin and An Caisteal

Having done that off-track section I knew I could now relax and follow a decent path pretty much all the way back to the car. Cruach Ardrain is a hefty mountain from this northern side and the track veers around to the west before finally tackling the summit from the south.

The north ridge of Cruach Ardrain

The bealach below Cruach Ardrain

The track to Cruach Ardrain

A group of walkers descended and paused to play in one of the few remaining snow patches. I continued upwards, to find a crowded summit cairn.

Beinn a' Chroin

The summit of Cruach Ardrain

A crowd on Cruach Ardrain's summit

One person kindly took my summit shot and then I retreated slightly to have a last mug of tea and enjoy the spectacular views. Eventually the people drifted off and I was left to enjoy the golden silence and the late afternoon light.

Ben More and Stob Binnein

The hills south to Ben Lomond

Looking north over the central Highlands

Mountains to the west

I now had a delightful finish to the day; a gentle bimble across to Beinn Tulaichean on a well worn track (overtaking the walking party) and enjoying the views back over to Beinn a’ Chroin and An Caisteal, and east to Ben More and Stob Binnein.

People on the summit of Cruach Ardrain

The track to Beinn Tulaichean

There is hardly any ascent up to the summit of Beinn Tulaichean where I stopped for a final break. Compared to its higher neighbours it doesn’t offer quite the same views but it was highly satisfying to look around at my whole route.

Cruach Ardrain

Beinn Tulaichean summit cairn

Ben Lomond above the Larig River

I then dropped off south, initially following a clear path which faded briefly as some crags appeared on the east side of the mountain. I dropped around to the west and found the track again.

Descending south off Beinn Tulaichean

Glen Larig

This process was repeated a number of times though as I got lower I was able to roughly hold a line heading to the farm at Inverlochlarig. Eventually things levelled out and I hit the track dropping out of the Larig Glen.

View back to Ben More and Stob Binnein

Approaching Inverlochlarig

The view back up Glen Larig

This I followed back across the river, past the farm and back to the car, arriving just before 6pm.

Daffodils by the River Larig