True Highlands Blog
Since delving head first into my photography at the start of this year, obsessing over learning my way around my camera, I’ve had my sights set on Ben A’an.
I wanted my first time to be me, the only one there at sunrise and have the summit all to myself. Sadly, this visit I didn’t have time on my side, but I grabbed the chance to pull on my walking boots, charge my camera batteries and get to the top to see those incredible views over the Trossachs. It was a weird day, one of those where the clouds can’t decide whether they are going to let the sun through or not. I drove from Glasgow up to Callander and made my way through Duke’s Pass, the winding roads towards Ben A’ an and every turn bringing a new perspective and wonderful views. I had with me a backpack with lots of water, food, snacks (my camera of course) and my walking boots.
With its own designated car park off the A281, hugging the shores of Loch Achray, the starting point of Ben A’an is hard to miss. If you get there any time after 10am, there is likely to be many cars already there. It costs £3 for all day parking…and I didn’t know this until I got there. The risk was £50 fine, but the nearest shops were half an hour away in Aberfoyle, the car park already full (I had parked in a big mud puddle everyone else wasn’t so keen on) and I didn’t have all day so, I risked it. I felt the rewards outweighed the fine; mental maybe, but passionate about photographing Scotland, yes. So, walking boots on and camera at the ready, off I went buzzing to get to the top.
The trail starts with a sharp incline up from the car park into the forest where it opens, only for a second to give you your first view of Ben A’an itself. Continuing upwards you will come to stone steps up to a wooden bridge, which crosses over the tumbling river below.
Once you get across, up over the other side you enter a forest which has sadly been felled, but it clearly outlines the trail all the way up to the other side, offering a lovely view of the pointed summit of Ben A’an. The lack of trees means that you begin to see the stunning views that this hike has to offer, glimpses of Loch Katrine below and across to Ben Venue.
Once you’ve made your way through the felled trees, you come to another forest and the beginning of a bit of a scramble to the top. Now, the first mistake I made on this walk, and I found that out at this part of the trail, was that I forgot to put on midge repellant. Don’t ask me why, I still don’t know, but I certainly paid for it waking up in the middle of the night scratching both arms at the same time in my sleep!
As you scramble up through the heights of the forest, the views are worth your efforts, and the calf burn! As you begin to climb higher than the trees, the views are wonderful – rolling hills, vibrant autumn colours and flowers growing on every surface.
As I looked out over Loch Katrine, Loch Achray and the Trossachs, I couldn’t help but think and be thankful for the fact that this place was less than 2 hours from my house. In the car park, while I was sitting in my car lacing up my boots, I spotted a father and his daughter at the top of the steep incline setting off together. The wee girl couldn’t have been older than 8 and I was so impressed with her determination to get to the top. I wasn’t too far behind them though wondered if I would catch up. It was only until an hour later, when I emerged from the forest and on the last exposed scramble to the top, that I saw them again. It was lovely to see them helping each other over the precarious rocks, admiring the views as they went.
When you reach the top of this scramble, Ben A’an begins to create a shadow over you, looming next to you as you follow the trail to the summit. You will come to 2 wee paths, the stepping stones on the left take you up to the summit, the path to the right takes you to a quieter spot with breath taking views over Loch Katrine and you are more likely to have this to yourself; I suggest you take both paths regardless which one is first.
There is much more mud/bog type ground up here given the amount of foot traffic, with one last (and short) rocky section then that is you at the summit. The views are breath taking and it is a stunning spot to just sit and watch Scotland do its thing. Even though I am born and raised in Scotland, travelled all over (yet still endless places on my bucketlist) and fully appreciate the beauty of our country, it still gets me every single time – and Ben A’an did not disappoint! The rocky summit of Ben A’an is a truly wonderful viewpoint, with the moorland summit of Meall Gainmheich off to the right and almost the full length of Loch Katrine in view below; Ben Venue is rising above the woodland below and Ben Lomond the prominent summit away to the west. I was lucky to catch the Steamship Sir Walter Scott on Loch Katrine and just sat for a while taking in the views, and enjoying capturing my experience through my camera.
The return to the car park is the same way you came up, much easier on the way down though take care on the steep scrambles. A wonderful, modest afternoon hike with views that only be understood when you witness them yourself. And a modest selfie from the summit, chuffed with my day out and the stunning views I got to enjoy. Oh, and some cows on my way home looking over Loch Achray.
Blog by Chiara Guarino
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chiaraguarino__/Tags: loch lomond hills, route on Ben A'an, walk highlands, walking trossachs