Ben Alder and Beinn Bheòil Walk
We can thank the power of ice and weather for shaping the Scottish Highland’s central mountain ranges. Experience the incredible craftsmanship of these two natural forces on the 17.0 km Ben Alder and Beinn Bheòil Walk. This challenging hillwalk invites you to explore the very heart of the Central Highlands, ascending two impressive summits and winning yourself unparalleled views over an incredibly remote area of the Cairngorms. The original green shelter (beloved by so many) Culra Bothy is now closed due to asbestos, so make sure to bring your tent along for this hike if you plan to stay overnight (you can find camping permit info under our Insider Tips below.)
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Route Description for Ben Alder and Beinn Bheòil Walk
You know a walk is bound to be epic when it entails an entirely separate walk in itself, just to get there! The Ben Alder and Beinn Bheòil Walk is a superb opportunity to explore the very heart of the Central Highlands and challenge yourself to reach some pretty spectacular heights! Those up for the challenge should be aware that the route contains several pathless sections, and some scrambling is required. The descent from Ben Alder is steep and unforgiving and features an open slope where navigation may be difficult. Due to the peak’s remote position and the somewhat technical challenges they present, only experienced hillwalkers should add this one to the list!
You may have heard of the legendary mountain Ben Adler (1,148 m) in various contexts and conversations. The impressive peak’s remote location and formidable slopes make it one of the lesser-visited locations in the Cairngorms National Park, but certainly not one of the lesser- talked about. Ben Adler was the ominous scene of a suspicious death in 1996 and was also featured in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel “Kidnapped.” In short, the mountain is, without a doubt, a place shrouded in curiosity and mystique. The option to camp out near the old Culra Bothy shelter gives this walk the potential to become an epic backpacking adventure, so if sleeping under the stars is your cup of tea, make sure to pack a tent!
To begin the walk from Culra Bothy, you’ll no doubt be captivated right off the bat by Ben Adler and its two rocky ridges rising magnificently up ahead. Set out on the track that leads away from Ben Adler, walking a short 300 m downstream to head across the bridge above the Allt a’Chaoil-reidhe. Spot the grassy path on the far side, which leads you to join the stalker’s path, which paves the way to Ben Adler. After just over a mile, the path guides you up the scenic moorland on a course headed for Beinn Bheòil. A small cairn marks NN515744, alerting you to a good place to set out across the heather, leaving the path behind.
Continue on the faint path headed across the slope before a slight descent to cross the Allt a’Bhealaich Bheithe (using stones for steps). Ahead you’ll note a slight hummock on the mountain’s ridge, head to the left of it to get to the Long Leachas. When you’ve arrived on the ridge, a more straightforward path soon appears, which you’ll wind your way up on as you rise steeply. When the ridge levels off, you’ll find yourself in an excellent position to take on a second steep rise.
The trail heads to the right and then climbs further up the ridge crest through a gully. Arrive at the stoney plateau where you can catch your breath before continuing across it, making sure you stick to the right of the crags as you climb beyond the ridge of the Short Leachas. Take some time to reward your efforts thus far by soaking up the views of Beinn Bheòil and down over Loch a’ Bhealaich Bheithe. Make your way over some boulders to embark on the final push to the summit of Ben Alder. You’ll arrive at the summit and find yourself greeted by a trig point located in the wind shelter cairn and an additional, more prominent cairn by its side.
Make your way around the edge’s plateau, passing by the gorgeous Lochan a’Garbh Choire. When you reach NN502705, begin to descend the steep slopes alongside a meandering burn to reach the Bealach Breabag. Rannoch Moor and Loch Ericht look spectacular from here, so be sure to pause at this point to take in the views. At this point, do not follow the plateau edge. Instead, descend directly to the bealach.
If you feel you’ve met your match for the day after the climb of Ben Adler, you can head north from the bealach and follow the Stalker's Path all the way back to Culra. However, if you’ve still got some fight in you, continue up a faint path that rises up Sròn Coire na h-Iolaire’s slopes.
Follow the narrow ridge further down towards the bleach and then press on to ascend a rocky knobble. You’ll soon arrive at the summit of Beinn Bheòil, which is marked by a cairn. Enjoy incredible views of Ben Adler (which you’ve already conquered!), spanning the length of Loch Ericht. Walk the ridge for 750 m, then bear left to head down the slope once you’ve passed the screes. Proceed WNW making your way down through the moor on a course that aims to join the Stalker's Path, near the section where it changes direction. Once on the Stalker's Path, continue to enjoy the views as you walk back towards the bridge to cross the river and return to Culra Bothy, where the walk began.
Other Great Walks in Cairngorms National Park
Insider Hints for Ben Alder and Beinn Bheòil Walk
- As mentioned above, the Ben Alder and Beinn Bheòil walk is only accessible by bike or on foot. To make your way to the Culra Bothy shelter where the walk Ben Alder and Beinn Bheòil begins, check out the Dalwhinnie to Culra Walk.
- For information on wild camping in the Cairngorms national park, click here.
- Alternate routes of approach to Ben Adler and Beinn Bheòil are from Corrour Station (from the west) or from Loch Rannoch (from the south). The approach detailed in this route is the best, in our opinion!
Getting to the Ben Alder and Beinn Bheòil Walk Trailhead
There is no vehicular access to the start of the Ben Alder and Beinn Bheòil Walk at Culra Bothy. A separate 15.0 km walk from Dalwhinnie is necessary to get to the trailhead. Please see the Dalwhinnie to Culra Walk for route details.
Ben Alder and Beinn Bheòil Walk Elevation Graph
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Ben Alder and Beinn Bheòil Walk Reviews
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