Distance: 15 miles
Time: 8hrs 30mins (including many stops)
Ascent: 1,977m (6,486ft)
Mountains: Beinn a’ Chroin (Munro 942m), An Caisteal (Munro 995m), Cruach Ardrain (Munro 1,046m), Beinn Tulaichean (Munro 946m)
Weather: Early clear blue skies with drifting cloud developing, warm out of the cold northerly wind
Route: Click to view
A slightly later start than usual had me slightly concerned that I was missing out on the early weather window promised by MWIS and the Met Office. Although it was slightly overcast in Aberdeen at 6:30am, as I drove down the A90 the cloud retreated from the coast until it hung over the Angus hills, leaving me in bright sunshine. Dundee and Perth were only just waking up as I sailed through and it was only the usual combination of tractors, road works and weekend drivers that slowed me down on the A82. Loch Earn looked spectacular and after that it was short blast south towards Stirling before turning off the main road and making for Balquidda.
Everybody was heading out of the village, presumably going for milk and a newspaper, but once on the single track road beyond the village it was quiet and I didnâ€™t have any other vehicular problems. The drive along the winding road beside Loch Voil is beautiful and the sunshine and blue skies only emphasised the scenery. Towards the west end of the loch there were a few campers and when I arrived at the walkers car park at Inverlochlarig shortly after 9:20am there were already quite a few cars parked up. A couple of walkers left heading for the Stob Binnein path as I booted up.
The car park is excellent with ample space for 10-15 cars and a notice board with maps and information. Well done to this particular estate for being so welcoming to hillwalkers.
Once on the way I had my usual navigational difficulties getting through the farm areas. I should have just continued on the main farm track but got nervous and doubled back to follow the track signed for Beinn Tulaichean. As I left the farm I released this was talking me up the Larig glen so went through a gate and crossed open land to return to the road which runs alongside the river Larig!
Once this was sorted and I was comfortably on the correct track I settled down to enjoy the morning sunshine, the blue skies and the wonderful views in this peaceful glen. There were cows lower down, and as I drew level with Stob aâ€™ Choin on the south bank of the river, sheep became more populous.
Away in the distance I could see a couple of walkers heading further down the road. After crossing the Ishag burn I left the road at NN412176 and struck out north across open hillside which soon steepened into the lower slopes of Beinn aâ€™ Chroin.
From the road this is a steep hill with a dominant terrace of crags about 400m up. The map suggested that heading west would take me around them but as I climbed I started to pick out a line through the crags which would be more direct. I passed over a gate at around NN406179 and then climbed up the outfall of a gully.
Unfortunately as the gully narrowed it became apparent it wasnâ€™t going to work out. I scrabbled around trying a few different ways but with wet rock and loose grass it was a no-go. I retreated and followed the crags around a short distance to the west. The next gully I came to was much wider and I was able to scramble up its upper reaches to emerge on top of the terracing. There were now views onto Beinn Tulaichean and behind me to the Corbett Stob a’ Chroin.
This was the first of three balconies that I moved up from one to the next, moving left and right through outcrops of stone until finally I came out just to the east of this rounded subsidiary peak. Across a narrow expanse of peaty ground was the final climb up onto the summit of Beinn a’ Chroin
To the north and east the views had opened up spectacularly. I could look up and down the long glen of the Larig and to the west Arrocharâ€™s peaks could just be seen as well as Ben Lomond.
I eagerly crossed the bog and climbed quickly up the final steep slope to emerge at the summit of Beinn aâ€™ Chroin, a small cairn on a large rocky tor marking the point.
The place was deserted. Out of the shadow of the hill I now felt the first effects of the chilling northerly wind. Once at the cairn I dropped down onto the sheltered southern side and paused for a few minutes to soak up the views and enjoy a spot of tea. I could see clearly my other targets for the day, An Caisteal to the south and Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean to the east. I also lathered on some suncream.
From here I was on a track which wound its way along the numerous tops of Beinn aâ€™ Chroin. The path is excellent, picking its way across steep sided gullies (some still holding a bit of snow) and over a number of cairn-marked summits. The views all around were brilliant â€“ Ben Lomond and Arrochar to the west, and to the north all of the central Highlands basking in the sunshine.
I finally started to meet some people who were on the standard route coming over from An Caisteal. Everyone was very chatty and remarked on the weather.
Finally, I dropped down the flanks of Beinn aâ€™ Chroin. The path here turns to cross the face of some crags, faint at first but then firmer until it turns back on itself to drop steeply down the crags. I lost it in some boulders but it was easy to make my way down to the bealach. As I descended I also got views onto the westerly Munro of Beinn Chabhair.
From here, the track is strong and can easily be followed all the way up to An Caisteal. Though initially steep, it soon broadens out onto a gentler ridge which leads up over a number of bumps to the flat summit of the mountain. I passed a few more people on my way up as they descended including three folk all dressed in red and a fair few people in shorts and t-shirts.
The views back onto Beinn a’ Chroin showed what a bumpy mountain it is.
Remarkably I had the summit to myself and after visiting the cairn found a sheltered spot to eat my lunch. The views out over Ben Lomond, Arrochar and what I think was Loch Long held me captivated.
Eventually I tore myself away and continued north, dropping off An Caisteal onto Twistin Hill. The path remains excellent and I followed it for some way until I had drawn level with the northern ridge of Cruach Ardrain on the far side of the Falloch. My plan here was to descend into the glen, cross the river and climb up to the ridge on the far side.
The slopes below the bealach, dropping down from NN376208 to NN388209 were delightful â€“ springy grass and a shallow gradient that nevertheless got me down to the path besides the river very quickly.
I may have confused a few people returning from Beinn aâ€™ Chorin on the book route by crossing the track, dropping to the river and picking my way across the boulders to the other side.
Here a faint track took me south around the bottom of the western arm of Meall Dhamh. As the track disappeared I climbed steeply up this shoulder, getting wary looks from sheep and deer. On the far side of the allt dropping down from Cruach Ardrain I spotted two walkers â€“ in hindsight their route may have been more sensible. However, I persevered and eventually caught a sight of people moving along the ridge path. I had to climb all the way up to the summit of Meall Dhamh to avoid some final crags but this gave me great views up onto Cruach Ardrain.
Having done that off-track section I knew I could now relax and follow a decent path pretty much all the way back to the car. Cruach Ardrain is a hefty mountain from this northern side and the track veers around to the west before finally tackling the summit from the south.
A group of walkers descended and paused to play in one of the few remaining snow patches. I continued upwards, to find a crowded summit cairn.
One person kindly took my summit shot and then I retreated slightly to have a last mug of tea and enjoy the spectacular views. Eventually the people drifted off and I was left to enjoy the golden silence and the late afternoon light.
I now had a delightful finish to the day; a gentle bimble across to Beinn Tulaichean on a well worn track (overtaking the walking party) and enjoying the views back over to Beinn aâ€™ Chroin and An Caisteal, and east to Ben More and Stob Binnein.
There is hardly any ascent up to the summit of Beinn Tulaichean where I stopped for a final break. Compared to its higher neighbours it doesnâ€™t offer quite the same views but it was highly satisfying to look around at my whole route.
I then dropped off south, initially following a clear path which faded briefly as some crags appeared on the east side of the mountain. I dropped around to the west and found the track again.
This process was repeated a number of times though as I got lower I was able to roughly hold a line heading to the farm at Inverlochlarig. Eventually things levelled out and I hit the track dropping out of the Larig Glen.
This I followed back across the river, past the farm and back to the car, arriving just before 6pm.