On the Isle of Mull – [# 236]

Ben More (966m)

  • Pronunciation:             Ben More
  • Translation:                  Big Mountain
  • Total distance:              13.4km
  • Total time:                     4hrs 44mins
  • Total ascent:                  1133m
  • Weather:                        Bright, but with hill fog covering the summits.
  • Start / end location:     Grassy expanse on the roadside by the small bridge over the Abhainn na h-Uamha river (on the south side of Loch na Keal). [OS Map Sheet 48 – Grid Ref: NM 508 368]
  • Map:                                 A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.

View west from Gleann na Beinne Fada on Ben More to Dunan nan Naighean at the mouth of Loch na Keal

We’ve come to Mull for a few days to climb the only island Munro outside of Skye. We’ve left the ‘van back at Fort William and are staying at a delightful Bed & Breakfast in Tobermory instead.

A' Chioch (L) and Ben More (R) from a muddy path in Gleann na Beinne Fada to the north

Elaine ascending the NNE ridge of A' Chioch with Glen Clachaig in the background

From our base in Tobermory (recently made famous by the BBC CBeebies Balamory kids programme) we headed south to Salen and then SW to the head of Loch na Keal. After travelling a few kilometres along the south side of the loch we parked by a stone bridge that crosses the Abhainn na h-Uamha river. This river flows down from the glen formed by a huge corrie bowl situated between Beinn Fhada and Ben More.

The walk up the glen was along an indistinct path that was fairly boggy for most of the way. After a couple of kilometres we were flanked on either side by the impressively precipitous cliffs of Ben More to the south and the steep ridge of Beinn Fhada to the north. Unfortunately we didn’t really get good views of either due to the mist skirting along the summit tops. A kilometre further on and we began the long, but easy ascent of the corries headwall.

As the gradient steepened the conditions underfoot were a little dryer. We aimed our course to intersect the lowest point on the ridge that connected the A’ Chioch to the SE end of Beinn Fhada. Once on the ridge, which was broad to begin with, we turned right (south) to begin the ascent of A’ Chioch. The ridge quickly narrowed as we climbed higher over a series of straightforward craggy obstacles to reach the summit at 867m.

Looking ENE from A' Chioch down Glen Clachaig

We actually managed to get some great views from the summit as the mist parted in places. To the north we caught glimpses of Beinn Fhada, which looked like it would have provided an excellent alternative ascent route from our one along Gleann na Beinne Fada (note the difference in spelling!). To our east we noticed Creag Mhic Fhionnlaidh: a great escarpment of boiler-plate cliffs, which seemed to flow over a section of steep ground. Occasionally, we caught sight of Loch na Keal and the islands of Eorsa and Ulva. Unfortunately, Ben More’s summit, only 100m higher than A’ Chioch, always remained shrouded in mist.

East from A' Chioch to the escarpment cliffs of Creag Mhic Fhionnlaidh

Cameron at the summit cairn of Ben More on Mull

From A’ Chioch we descended SW for 100m before ascending the NE ridge of Ben More. Ascent of this ridge is classed as a grade 1 scramble – but you’d have to go out your way to find technical obstacles that would be at that grade. Instead, we found the scramble to be a pleasant and generally straightforward climb, and we soon reached the summit of Ben More at 966m or 3,169ft. A tiny cairn surrounded by a low-walled stone circle marked the summit, where we found a few groups already sheltering from the chilly wind. We joined them “inside” the stone circle and ate our lunch. As we ate other parties, all of whom had ascended the hill by the “normal” route, soon joined us.

After a quick lunch we descended west and then NW by the “normal” route. The path was quite well constructed as it dropped down the NW flank into Coire nam Fuaran where it then followed the course of the Abhainn Dhiseig river back to the road by the shores of Loch na Keal. We met many more people climbing up as we descended.

From Dhiseig looking NW to the isles of Ulva (L) and Eorsa (foreground R) and with NW Mull in the background

At around 750m we dropped below the mist and were rewarded with some stunning views across Loch na Keal to the isles of Ulva, Staffa (home of Fingal’s Cave) and the Dutchman’s Cap (or Bac Mor), the latter being part of the Treshnish Isles. Once we reached the road by Dhiseig we turned right and walked 1.5km back to where we’d parked the car.

[We stayed a couple of nights at the Oakfield Cottage B&B in Tobermory. Technically, the “cottage” was part of an impressive Victorian mansion and was available for self-catering hire. We stayed in the main part of the house as B&B guests and you couldn’t have asked for a friendlier or more welcoming reception than we got from the proprietors, Jean and Alastair MacLean. Their business website can be found here: http://www.oakfieldcottage.co.uk. We would certainly recommend staying here if you are ever visiting Tobermory.]

The view across Tobermory Bay

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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