A Spectacular Summer’s day in Argyll: Ben Cruachan & Stob Daimh

With another few days of good hill weather coming up, I was keen to continue making up for the lost time this year and head out into the hills once more. My dad was keen to join me, so we opted for Ben Cruachan and Stob Daimh, something we thought would be a fairly manageable day out without an enormous drive.

[August ’20]

As with the majority of hills in Scotland, the first part of the day involved a drive north. It took us around 2 hours to get from Ayrshire to Falls of Cruachan station, where our route started from. There isn’t a great deal of parking and despite arriving fairly early (around 0745) there were only one or two tight spots left. There is a lay-by a few hundred metres further west on the A85 that could also be used if there isn’t any parking available near the station. We managed to squeeze the car in without obstructing the road or any other cars and got ourselves ready to go, heading off at 0800.

After passing under the railway, we were greeted with an immediately steep ascent up some steps and then on through some woodland – definitely one way to ensure we were warmed up! The effort was worth it though as the views behind us over Loch Awe got better with each metre we ascended. It also meant that we gained height very quickly and were almost at Cruachan Dam within about 40 minutes of setting off from the car.

Under the railway to begin the journey
Loch Awe
Cruachan Dam

Heading towards the dam on a tarmac road, the next obstacle was a metal staircase that leads to the top of the dam. As we reached the top of the dam the views opened up across the water and we were greeted with the dramatic sight of the clouds pouring over the summit of Stob Daimh. This summit was for later in the day though, so we headed left on top of the dam and followed the good track for another kilometre or so.

Cloud pouring over Stob Daimh

At the end of the track, the path up Ben Cruachan heads off up Coire Dearg to the Bealach an Lochain. The ascent wasn’t hugely steep, but it was now getting rather warm and with no breeze to speak of yet, it was hot work!

The real ascent begins

After reaching the bealach, the going became a little rougher. We were first met with some looser rock, which then turned into larger boulders. Again, these presented no real difficulties, but things might have been a little tricker and more slippy in the wind and/or rain.

Rougher section on the shoulder of Ben Cruachan

As we climbed higher, we were rewarded with excellent views across the Southern Highlands towards Ben Lui and beyond. Many of the higher tops were also above the cloud. What a wonderful sight!

A distant Ben Lui above the clouds

At 1126m, Ben Cruachan is a sizeable mountain. The ascent also starts from around 50m above sea level, so there’s not a lot of cheating to be done either. As a result, we reached the summit just after 1100, about 3 hours after setting off from the car. We’d stopped a couple of times for some food and water and given the heat, we were pretty pleased with this progress.

Loch Etive and the surrounding hills stretching off into the distance

The summit was a great place to enjoy a spot of lunch and after some more photos, we set off along the ridge towards Drochaid Ghlas and eventually on to Stob Daimh, the second and final Munro of the day. The going was initially quite steep with a couple of slightly awkward scrambling moves, but these were swiftly negotiated and from here it was a matter of following the good path along the pleasant ridge. There were much worse places to be spending a summer’s day!

Leaving the summit of Ben Cruachan
Looking back to Ben Cruachan
Some pleasant ridge-walking

An hour and 45 minutes of effort saw us reach the summit of Stob Daimh. The cloud was still passing over the summit in dribs and drabs, but when it did lift, the views back to Ben Cruachan were excellent and made the effort more than worthwhile.

Ben Cruachan from Stob Daimh

We had another snack stop on the summit before heading off initially for the minor summit of Stob Garbh. From there, it was a relatively gentle trundle down towards the Lairig Torran. It’s here that the path becomes much less distinct and there were options either side of the burn heading down to the reservoir. We opted to stay north of the burn and slowly wound our way down to the water. Although a little steeper in places and rough underfoot, the most challenging part of the descent was that it was very warm and we were getting pretty tired.

Cruachan Dam and Loch Awe

After almost reaching the reservoir, the path begins again and heads for the eastern edge of the dam, where we joined the tarmac road initially before turning off shortly after to follow the ascent route back to the car. The only issue with the steep ascent on the way up meant that it was also steep on the way down – such fun!

Nearing journey’s end

A few moans and groans later and we were soon back at the car, pleased at bagging another couple of Munros. Having enjoyed another great day in the hills, we got our boots off and headed home with big smiles (until we hit traffic on the A82 of course…!).

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