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Highland Walk
Buachaille Etive Beag, Glen Coe

County/Area - Highland

Author - Stephen Starkey

Length - 9.0 miles / 14.6 km

Ascent - 3990 feet / 1209 metres

Time - 8 hours 30 minutes

Grade - very hard

Start - OS grid reference NN196563
Lat 56.663583 // Long -4.945182
Postcode PH50 4SG (approx. location only)

Walk Route Description

Photo from the walk - Buachaille Etive Beag, Glen Coe Photo from the walk - Buachaille Etive Beag, Glen Coe Photo from the walk - Buachaille Etive Beag, Glen Coe Photo from the walk - Buachaille Etive Beag, Glen Coe Photo from the walk - Buachaille Etive Beag, Glen Coe Photo from the walk - Buachaille Etive Beag, Glen Coe
Click thumbnails for larger images.

Buachaille Etive Mor is one of the classic mountain walks in the UK. On a wet and windy day though it may not be the place to be. Across the Lairig Gartain however lies it's smaller and much quieter sibling - Buachaille Etive Beag. Surrounded by Etive Mor, Aonach Eagach and Bidean nam Bian, the "other Buachaille" is often overlooked but anywhere else in the UK, this would be a classic walk in it's own right. It has a wonderful ridge between two Munros, great views of both Glencoe and Glen Etive and on a day when the weather is iffy, it is less dangerous and less intimidating than it's near neighbours. As with all initial ascent / final descent routes in Glencoe, the gradients are steep. The route down from Stob Dubh is across short grass and can be very slippery when wet. Go enjoy !

The start is any of the lay bys or car parks between The Study and Altnafeadh on the A82 Pass of Glencoe. Generally the lay by at NN196563 is the quietest. From the lay by, head West along the A82 Pass Of Glencoe road for about 150m. Looking to the left (South), the view is dominated by the bulk of Stob nan Cabar - the North face of Buachaille Etive Beag. The Coire nan Cabar offers an exhilarating but difficult scramble for those so inclined. When an obvious track leaves the road on the right, follow the track and walk around the gate which is in place to stop vehicle access. This is the old military road through Glencoe. The going may seem squelchy in places, but this is a lot better than some of the other paths here abouts. Continue along the military road and, looking to the left again, the Coire Raineach offers another excellent scramble route to the summit of Stob Coire Raineach. About 750m along the military road, it crosses the Allt Coire Meannarclach by means of a bridge that is not too obvious from the path. Conveniently, a very large distinctive cairn near the side of the new road to the South serves as an excellent marker.

If neither the Allt Coire Meannarclach or the River Coe beyond are in spate, leave the military road at this point and follow the Allt Coire Meannarclach to the River Coe which can easily be forded towards the cairn. From the cairn, climb up to the A82 and cross it with care to the "Public Footpath To Glen Etive via Lairig Eilde" sign. If either the river is in spate or you are not comfortable about fording the river, continue along the military road for a further 225m (until almost level with the black and white arrows road sign) then drop down the grass banking to the road and walk back along the A82 to the public footpath sign described above.

Turn to the South to follow the signed footpath in to Lairig Eilde. The path climbs gently at first before descending towards the Allt Lairig Eilde. As you get close to the stream, you will see an obvious path on the far bank accessed by means of some stepping stones across the stream. You should also be able to see a vague and muddy path staying on the Eastern side of the stream. This path is marked on the Harvey map but not the OS map.

Do not cross the stream but battle through the boggy section of path on the Eastern bank, crossing a tributary stream. As the going gets marginally drier, the faint beginnings of a path heading SE up hill away from the Lairig Eilde can be detected. Follow this path to start the long and incessantly steep climb towards the Buachaille Etive Beag ridge. The going is tough throughout this climb and in places the path is non-existent. However, at the time I did this walk (early June 2007), a large number of big white sacks could be seen towards the top of the corrie where the NTS have started to lay a pitched stone path.

Eventually, after a lung busting, calf burning climb, you will arrive at the Mam Buidhe bealach about 450m above the Allt Lairig Eilde. The passage of Munroist boots have formed a path here to start out on the final steep push NE to the summit of Stob Coire Raineach at 925m (the lower of Etive Beag's two Munros). As well as the reasonably clear path up the steep shoulder to the summit, there is also the opportunity to get hands on rock if you wish by staying West of the main path. On a clear day (which it definitely wasn't when I did this walk), the summit offers a superb view of the Aonach Eagach ridge to the North West; Beinn Fhada (one of The Three Sisters) to the West / South West and the Buachaille Etive Mor to the East.

From the summit, retrace your route back to the bealach then continue in a generally SW direction along the broad ridge of Etive Beag, with superb views of Etive Mor to the East. The path goes over a minor top, accredited with a height of 902m, then gradually the going becomes more rocky as you start to climb to the summit of Stob Dubh. Given a clear day, arriving at the summit of Stob Dubh will reveal jaw-dropping views ahead in to Glen Etive, with Ben Starav beyond another peak also named Stob Dubh.

Continue SW from the summit on a reasonably clear path to start a steep descent on the Southern shoulder of Stob Dubh. In places the passage of numerous boots has started to form "steps". In other places the path across the grass is fairly clear though it can be very slippery when wet. As you descend towards Glen Etive, a fence (with a tall wooden gate) marking the boundary of the Millennium Forest For Scotland comes in to view. About 100m before this fence a path running East - West crosses your route. This path from the East is the Lairig Gartain path from Glencoe to Glen Etive. ** Turn right along this path and follow it across the slopes of the mountain to the Allt Lairig Eilde. There are numerous places where the stream can safely be forded before a short climb up the far side brings you to the Lairig Eilde path. However, if you are uncertain about fording the stream, continue down hill, passing through the gate and following the path almost to the Glen Etive road where the Lairig Eilde path doubles back to your right.

You now head in a Northerly direction, climbing steadily (but as easily as it gets in Glencoe) to the high point of the pass. Along the way there are a number of picturesque waterfalls to take your mind off the ascent. As the path starts its descent back towards Glencoe, you have the imposing bulk of Beinn Fhada to accompany you on your left. If you look over your left shoulder you will see the even more imposing Stob Coire Sgreamhach - one of the impressive peaks of the Bidean nam Bian range. Even up to late June it is likely that parts of the Bidean range will be holding snow.

As you progress further North along the valley, views over your right shoulder reveal the ridge to Stob Dubh you walked earlier. The path crosses a number of tributary streams of the Allt Lairig Eilde before fording this stream as well to its Western bank. Eventually you will pass opposite the point where you set out on the tough climb to Stob Coire Raineach earlier. All that remains now is to ford the Allt Lairig Eilde once again, this time making use of the obvious boulder stepping stones, then retrace your outward route back to the car.

** At this point, you could turn left (East) and follow the Lairig Gartain path back to Glencoe which avoids the need to ford any main streams. However, this "path" is much more boggy than the Lairig Eilde path and as a consequence is much harder and slower going and far more tiring at the end of the day. On top of which, you will have a longer walk back to the car and the section of the old military road that offers an alternative to the A82 road side is also very boggy.

Please maintain social distancing - keep at least 2 metres away from other walkers.

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