Summit Ben Nevis in Scotland

Rate this Adventure United Kingdom Glen Nevis Visitor Center

Added by Matthew Stanfield

Hike the tallest peak in the United Kingdom.

Must do when visiting Scotland. A popular climbing spot, Ben Nevis can be hiked in one day via the tourist route. In Scotland, hiking is called "walking", mountains are "bens", valleys are "glens" and lakes are "lochs" . But don't let the etymology fool you. Although not terribly high in altitude, or technically difficult, this 10 mile "walk" should be taken as a serious mountain outing that will test your mental stamina and physical fitness.

At a mere 4,409 ft, Ben Nevis (Scottish Gaelic: Beinn Nibheis) is the highest summit in the UK. It is near beautiful Fort William in the Grampian Mountains. Fort William is a sea level town, so this is a true hike where you earn every step of the 4,000+ft. Referred to as "The Ben" by Scots, summit attempts are made in the 100,000s every year using the rocky and well constructed tourist path (presently called "the walking track").

The path begins at the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre. Definitely stop in to pick up a trail map. Plan on a 6-8 hour round trip for this 10mi hike. Heads up- there are no bathrooms- pack a shovel! Weather is a huge variable here and may delay or prevent your summit attempt altogether. The trail itself passes several small trickles of water, and the Nevis River. You will see iconic highland sheep, and of course fog. You will pass and walk over several scree slopes, and strewn about stones which create a lunar landscape. The rocky and broad summit of Ben Nevis features several "cairns", or stacks of rocks, and the ruins of an observatory dating back to the 1800s.

Kick back on a cairn and take in the incredible views (if possible). Don't forget that going UP is only half the battle, and descending will require a lot of energy and concentration. The hike will definitely feel like an epic experience of more than 10miles. I liken this experience to that of hiking Half Dome in Yosemite, sans cables.

For climbers and serious mountaineers, head to the 2000+ft cliffs of the north face. Some of the best scrambles and rock climbs are found here. This is one of the finest locations in the British Isles for winter ice climbing (not accessible from the tourist route).

Whatever you do, be wise when trip planning and use caution when attempting this hike! Severe weather and dangerously dense fog have precluded many a trip up Ben Nevis. Up to 80% chance of fog on the mountain will derail your summit attempt. The average number of clear days can be as low as 1 in 10. The fog has been so dense (even in the summer months) that people have either gotten lost, or have literally walked off the mountain and fallen to their deaths, due to poor visibility. Plan your trip accordingly or risk a very expensive rescue from the Royal Air Force!

If you are among the fortunate, and you have clear skies, take in the sun because it is rare!
Enjoy!

Directions:

Fort William by car is 130miles from Ediburgh, and 100miles from Glasgow. If you are extra adventurous, I recommend adding a motorcycle rental to your trip. Scots don't drive too fast, and some of the most beautiful scenery in the world can be found along this drive. Check out nearby Glencoe. Just type in "Glen Nevis Visitor Centre" into your iPhone or GPS.

Pack List

  • Water 
  • Proper layered clothing (including wind/rain/emergency gear) 
  • Proper footwear (runners/trainers not recommended, although I did it in a pair of Saucony trail sneaks) 
  • Hat/sunscreen 
  • Trail Map and compass 
  • Food (to sustain up to 9hrs of exertion) 
  • Flashlight 
  • Camera 
  • Toilet paper and trowel
  • Day-pack to carry gear
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Activities:

Hiking

Skill Level:

Intermediate

Season:

Summer

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

10 Miles

Elev. Gain:

4409 Feet

Features:

Scenic

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