Beinn Dearg (near Blair Atholl)

Beinn Dearg is a fairly remote munro and if you were for example use the route described in the walk highlands site (which is a great site btw) then that will take you on a 18 mile hike – almost 30 Km which you’d have to do without a bike. Unless of course you’re the ultra fit mountain bike kind of person – which I’m certainly not!
So this route, while slightly longer at almost 33 Km will actually take you less time!

  • Distance – 32.8 Km
  • Ascent – 1027 m
  • Height – 1008 m
  • My Time – 9 hours
  • Season completed – Spring
  • Difficulty – 3 / 10
  • Weather – Starting off a little overcast, cloud was variable starting at around 600 m and rising through the day. When approaching the summit is was just about clearing.
  • Just want to see the photos to get a feel for the hike – click here
  • Route map
Beinn Dearg in the distance

Starting point

If you are coming from the south as I was, then as you head up the A9 and not long after you pass the house of Bruar (approx. 1.5-2km) there will be a road going off the right. It’s got a fairly big entry point and should you miss it then there is a turn off for Calvine where you can pull in and turn around.

There isn’t parking as such on that tiny road, but if you drive up a little way then there is enough room for 2 maybe 3 cars on a wide corner where you could park without causing an obstruction. This is before the road rises steeply. I did see some work vehicles head up the road and there are places you could park a little bit higher up, but I was unsure of taking the car up further.

This is close to starting point. My car is parked around 150m downhill from the small hut on the mid-right hand side of the photo. Which is down a reasonably steep road.

Bike time

You can see from the elevation chart that the start does have a bit of gain, but it’s worth it.

The total distance cover while on your bike will be over 25 Km, which means that you only have around 7 – 8 Km of hiking. Being on the bike there and back, it’s a huge time saver.

What’s more is that the track used, although it isn’t a smooth tarmac, it is up to a pretty good standard for a dirt track. There is also a massive virtually flat section where you can just fly along. This comes about 5 Km in and ends after about another 9 Km. It’s got a slight rise, but really isn’t anything. And of course on the way home that ever so slight downhill on a smooth enough dirt track means that you barely have to pedal at all! Bliss!

You can see the long flat road on the other side of the river.

Starting off – pain

So the bike is out and I have to start off walking with it! Yes the very first corner is a steep one, which is why I didn’t want to take the car further than the initial bend on the road. So you may well feel a bit stupid walking with it at the start but it gets better very quickly.

You’ll gain around 80 m pretty quickly after that it eases of a little but you are still climbing until you reach around 400 m. Once there which is at a corner with the forest to your right it is a fairly flattish incline for another 50 – 60 m in height gain – then it’s downhill and at speed!

I enjoyed this downhill section thinking all the time, oh no what about the way home…
It drops down to roughly 360 m from a height of around 460 m, but it is pretty much the same gradient for its entire downhill section. Found that did make it easier to get up on the way home – no constantly changing gears.

This is the viewpoint from the high section right before the road dips down. Beinn Dearg in the distance.

Bleak

The day wasn’t great, very grey and the scenery wasn’t brilliant either. Sure it’s a great cycle, but there really isn’t anything to stop for. Round boring heather hills with zero wildlife to be seen. Really is a shame. On the south side of the Cairngorm national park and the whole day I hardly seen a thing. Maybe 1 or 2 ravens and a cow, that was it all day!

Perhaps one of the most interesting things to photograph on the journey.
A fairly well kept old cottage. Looks likes it’s a storage unit now.

The start has a section of new looking forest on one side, and maybe in 10 years this will be beautiful and full of wildlife, but right now it’s a bit meh. On the other side is open heathery moorland. There are no waterfalls, no rocky outcrops.
After the reasonably steep drop in height the landscape although calling it dull is a bit harsh, it’s all the same.

The grandness of the hills seems to be lost on the monotone landscape. None of this changes until you reach Bruar Lodge

Tried to make it a bit more dramatic with the clouds still quite low.

You do pass a small hydro facility half way along the flat section, but again as you can see it’s anything but dramatic. The main road passes above the small dam.

Bruar Lodge

So you’ve reach the end of the road as far as the bike is concerned. This is perhaps the best bit of seeing something that resembles wildlife. It has some very nice and old Scots Pines trees. It clearly would have been a fenced off area on either side of the lodge at one point in time. The fences have now long gone – which in one sense is great, but on the other you can see the death of this small portion of trees is only a matter of time.
There is zero new trees in and amongst the older ones! I looked and looked and there really is zero.

Zero new growth
Look closely and you can see that anything on the ground that is growing has been nibbled away.

To make matters worse there are numerous trees that are essentially dead as they’ve been uprooted. This really is a shame, such a well established small section of forest being left to die.

On Foot

The bike is now chained up against a fence near the lodge and it’s a quick walk over a tiny stream then off up at a steady but shallow enough angle across the hillside. If you look on the below photo you can see the path just above the tree line. If you were to draw a line along the top of the right side of trees and carry on, that’s the path. If you want the image bigger, click it and it will open up the full photo in Flickr.

So you carry on walking around the hill, there are point in which the path disappears but if you carry on in the general same direction you will find it again. It curves around and continues gradually going up.

If you look on the OS maps you’ll see a path, and that path carries on east and over Allt nan Dearcag. You are not going to do that. Once you reach around 620-650 m, you will head on up rather than across the hill. Although the OS maps do not show a path here, in actual fact there is a worn path which leads up and if anything I couldn’t see the old path mark on the map. So just keep heading up.

Don’t follow the OS path (which isn’t really there anymore anyway)

This photo was taken on the non pathed section and as you can see there is a clear quad set of tracks.

There are some small parts with boulders, but nothing to worry about. The day I did it as well, there was zero bog. The ground was very very dry, as can been seen below.

Straight on to the top

Now you are around the corner of the hill (Meall Dubh a’ Dail-ghairt) and up at roughly 800 m, it’s plain sailing to the top. Just keep going up and with a gain of 200 m that will be you at the summit. It’s a fairly non descript summit. Very round, small path, one false summit around the 900 m mark as seen below.

false summit

Then once at that 900 m mark, if the cloud lifts enough you will be able to see the summit. A fairly respectable shelter built with stones surrounding a trig point awaits if you need it for a break and bite to eat. The views are much like the walk in, nice but nothing spectacular. You can certainly see for miles around, but they’re all round heathery hills. The peace and quiet though can’t be beaten. A remote hill that’s easy to climb and I didn’t see a person all day on the hill.

Gets a little bit rocky towards the summit.
Cloud wasn’t fully lifted, and was coming in and out when I was on the summit.

The Way Back

Of course now that you’ve done it, the route back should be a case of retracing your steps. By now you’ll know that there wasn’t any real issues in climbing. One thing to look out for which you may have noticed on the way up is a rather old and not used TV aerial antenna. The same applies to coming up, but I found it was easier to follow the path on the way up than on the way down. As once you reach a certain point going up, you just head up and the path in places isn’t strong enough to see. So off course you may miss the exact route you took coming up when going down.

So if you come over the crest of the hill looking for the path and don’t see the path, but you can see the TV antenna then you want to be on the left (east) side of the antenna as you go downhill. If you are on the right, then it just means the walk down will be steeper.

Can see a very faint path leading up and way from the antenna.
On the left of the photo just out of sight is Bruar Lodge and the TV antenna is just out of sight up and over the top of the hill.
This junction in the path doesn’t make the up path look like a path, as the long straight path carries straight on, but it is. Easily missed. But not a problem if you do miss it.

If you are at this point now – follow that path back to the Bruar Lodge, grab the bike and enjoy the cycle back. I had a slight wind behind me as a bonus! So until I reach the bottom of the steep section which was as mentioned a good number of kilometres away, I barely pedalled at all! Wonderful.

Hit the hill, stick the bike into it’s lowest gear and a steady yet slow pace will get you to the top. I didn’t time myself, but it really didn’t take too long. Then it’s another downhill pretty much all the way to the car.

Route Map

Route to Beinn Dearg

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