Expect little and you may be surprised, that was our experience on Ben Wyvis. Intended as a diversion on a drive to Ullapool, it became a surprisingly satisfying afternoon. And we weren’t alone, many others were tackling the hill in varying ways. Seems it’s proximity to Inverness makes Wyvis a bit of a playground, a really social mountain. Good seeing so many enjoying the outdoors. And there were views too, glorious views; we did enjoy Ben Wyvis.
Rising to the Munro ‘top’ at 3,432ft, Ben Wyvis is a large flattish upland ridge situated 35 miles north west of Inverness. The name means ‘hill of terror’ which seems very ill-fitting as from most angles Wyvis looks a great green boring lump. It certainly wasn’t one we were excited about, nonetheless we were heading to Ullapool for a week and fancied a walk along the way. Weather was clear and Wyvis seemed ideally positioned; a new Munro, a new area, and relatively close to the road. Time was limited so we’d just do the standard out and back route, but we’d need to start before 2pm to make Ullapool for evening meal and ale.
- Distance = 9.15 miles (15.3 km)
- Duration = 5 hrs 55 mins, (inc 55 mins sat on top)
- Total Ascent = 3,120 ft (951 m), max height Glas Leathad Mor 3,432 ft (1,046 m)
- Start/Finish = Signposted Wyvis Car park near Garbat, east side of A835
- Date = Sunday 4th October 2015, 1.30pm – 6.25pm
- Random = Wyvis is 85th highest out of 282 Munros
- Click on my Social Hiking Route Map below to zoom in/out
We left Hexham at 8.15am, sailing up the M74 and A9, passing Aviemore at 12.15, through Inverness, arriving at the Wyvis car park for 1.15pm. Almost an uninterrupted drive, very little traffic and far quicker than expected. Good start.
Luckily blue sky and two parking places available, very good start! After the 5hr drive with just one brief fuel stop it was quick a stretch and boots on. A bloke wearing no rucksack set off ahead with his dog, followed by a young couple, then ourselves. It was October, we were in shorts, and it felt great to be walking in the Highlands again!
Alan posing, look at those legs!
Quick scan of the info board then we walked along a straight path parallel with the road crossing a river bridge before turning east through a deer fence gate. Lovely easy path curving through small conifers. Legs were moving at a decent speed, we soon reeled in and overtook the young couple (satisfying). Couldn’t get close to that bloke and his dog though, he was going faster dang it.
Soon through the Forestry Commission section out into open ground with an obvious path ahead, leading invitingly up to the point of An Cabar. The Munro top is hidden from view nearly two miles further north eastwards along the plateau. This felt good, look at that sky.
Into the open, Wyvis and pointy An Cabar looking inviting above. Ignore the old man below, that’s An Teallach in the middle distance!
You’ll really appreciate this well maintained path courtesy of Scottish National Heritage, there’s no temptation to divert here as the surrounding ground looks very heavy going. Course this intensifies the social aspect by funnelling all walkers together, if there’s someone on this mountain, chances are you’re going to meet them either coming up or down. We met a procession descending, including family groups out for a stroll, then some runners impressively running down. We continued our sprightly pursuit of the fast moving Onemanandhisdog, but soon gave up as his pace was relentless (one of Alan’s favourite hill words).
After a few more minutes we suddenly saw Onemanandhisdog coming back down!! Surely he hadn’t made it to the top, surely something was wrong, surely I should ask?? Well it turns out this was his regular fitness route, he walks as fast and far as he can for one hour, then turns back. Not a bad place for a local stroll, lucky man, lucky dog!
The path zig zagged up steeper ground with some helpful steps, before reaching An Cabar – which inevitably wasn’t An Cabar, just the bump below. Nice spot for some views back. Looked like the weather was changing from the south though, a lot more cloud around.
Windproofs on now as we rather unsocially met a cool breeze. We angled left missing out An Cabar, before at last reaching the skyline and a flattish mossy walk north eastwards.
The top looked close, too close, and sure enough it was a false one, with the Munro cairn twice as far. Now what some might consider a featureless grassy mossy plateau only served to frame the views. Instead of watching out for your feet you could gaze around at the mountain horizons, I even ended up walking backwards, never usually recommended!
Above – looking north to the Munro. Below – looking east out to sea
The Munro top Glas Leathad Mor is the highest bit of gently sloping grass, featuring a small weathered cairn shelter and trig point. No other features up here so most welcome.
On arrival two guys were already taking photos on a tripod, so we left them to it and carried on past the cairn to take in the panorama.
A cold breeze soon cools you down when stationary, particularly when wearing shorts. We relocated to the sheltered side of the cairn and were soon layering up as we intended to linger. Binocs out (good packing decision) and fervent scanning of distant horizons.
We loved the views up here, immensely satisfying especially having just arrived in the Highlands. Although a southern haze had blotted out the Cairngorms, there was still numerous shadowy peaks in the south west. To the east, river estuaries snaking out to the Moray Firth with ships and seascape (I do like a bit of blue sea in my views). Around us were Wyvis’s rolling green outlying bumps, looking worth a revist. As if to emphasise this a lone lady walker cruised past ignoring the summit heading off instead towards the eastern spur. Obviously a familiar place for her and we were still sat here when she came back!
But for us the real fun was west and north. Wyvis stands alone with a large surrounding moat of lowland allowing an uninterrupted 360 sweep. Fascinating, from the west;- Torridon, the Fannichs, An Teallach, Ben Dearg group, Seanna Brae, the Assynt peaks, Coigach, Cul Mor, Canisp, Suilven and Quinag, (we’d become more acquainted with 3 of these in the next week). Further north, Ben More Assynt & Conival, Arkle, Foinaven, Ben Hope, Ben Loyal and Ben Kilbreck. Basically the northernmost Highlands on display.
Eventually we had to leave, reluctantly of course but Alan was getting cold hands (the big wuss), so off we trotted gazing back often. Cloud had thickened and within seconds the top was covered. Good timing or what, just added to the sense of satisfaction.
Two guys approached from the south heading for the top, only to miss the views entirely. Meanwhile we picked up the pace to warm up, seemed ages since that ascent in shorts. Alan was feeling it worse, couldn’t get his hands warm for ages, look at that pained expression below! Mind he can look like that most other times too.
We reached An Cabar, the southern top that we’d bypassed on the way up. Fixed to the cairn was an information board asking walkers to avoid erosion and keep to a suggested line. Bit late for us but interesting information, Wyvis is a National Nature Reserve with rare mosses, plants and Dotterel (see link at the end).
An Cabar gives best views over Dingwall and further to Inverness and beyond. Perhaps understandable that quite a few people only came up to here.
Now to retrace our ascent route back down the path to the car park. Even in these fading conditions when most Munros quieten there was still a social presence. We met the two guys from the top who said they hadn’t seen a thing due to the cloud. Another couple were coming up, then a lady running up, then another lady running up with her dog. We chatted briefly, turns out her name was Onewomanandherdog. Always impressed with anyone running up mountains, and always look back hoping they might stop for a sit down, just to make me feel less unfit.
We quickly and uneventfully carried on down to the car park and then the short drive to Ullapool and a welcoming guest house with loch views. Evening meal at the nearby Arches Inn, beer courtesy of Dundonnels An Teallach Ale brewery. Satisfied with a fine start to what became a fine week. Top target was Suilven but we did something better (to follow).
Wyvis is a good half day out, a straightforward grassy Munro with amazing views to Scoltand’s most northern mountains. Never underestimate any hill of course, always take a compass, it’s featureless on that ridge so in cloud you’ll need it. Apart from the small lone summit cairn there is no shelter from cold winds, so take adequate clothing. We started in shorts but had to layer up, gloves essential. Even Martin Moran on his winter Munro traverse experienced an avalanche here, just shows you 🙂
An alternative route is to ascend up to the Munro then carry on north over Tom a’Choinnich before curving south west back to the path. Didn’t do this so can’t comment, it should gives views of northern corrie but Walkhighlands think the out & back better. Maybe as you keep those high views longer. Either way, enjoy.
- Walk Highlands Ben Wyvis route
- Detailed PDF on Ben Wyvis National Nature Reserve
- Ben Wyvis plant life
- Next trip report – coming soon(ish)