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Link to the John Muir Trust
InformationVisitor Information:
Schiehallion is 1083m or 3553ft high. The route described here is about 9km or 6 miles in length, and involves some 760m of ascent.
Grid Ref: NN 714 548
Looking East Along the Summit Ridge
Looking East Along the Summit Ridge

Schiehallion is best known as that pointy mountain that seems to feature in the view from every other mountain in Scotland. Well, not quite, but its very isolated position right in the centre of Scotland means it can be seen from a very long way around: and the views from the top are correspondingly impressive.

View to the West
View to the West
View to the North
View to the North

It's also a mistake to think of it just as pointy. When you see it from the north or south you can appreciate the unexpectedly long main ridge side-on.

The name is invariably translated as The Fairy Hill of the Caledonians, which always seems a lot of meaning to fit into one word, even a fairly long one: but it's one of those mountain names it's worth knowing just because it is so attractive.

Schiehallion's other main claim to fame is that it was the location of the first ever measurement of the mass of the earth by the then Astronomer-Royal. This was based on the way its own mass caused a pendulum to pull away from the vertical.

The starting point for 99% of climbs of Schiehallion is the Braes of Foss car park on the very minor road that skirts its northern side after heading south east from Kinloch Rannoch. A path from the far end of the car park leads you up the side of a plantation and then out across the open hillside; crossing the line of a track as you do so.

Schiehallion from the East
Schiehallion from the East
Schiehallion from Kinloch Rannoch
Schiehallion from Kinloch Rannoch

From there it's simply a matter of a pull up the north side of the east ridge of Schiehallion on a very obvious path. Erosion is a serious problem, but the mountain's recent acquisition by the John Muir Trust augurs well for future path restoration and subsequent maintenance.

Once you make the whale-like back of Schiehallion itself the eroded peat underfoot gradually becomes transformed into quartz, and you begin to think with affection of the peat. The upper reaches of Schiehallion are rockiness personified, though careful observation can allow you to follow vestigial paths here and there that ease the going a little.

From the top the views are every bit as good as the guidebooks say. Unless you've picked a cloudy day: and if you have, don't worry, you know you've got to the top when you encounter a very decided downward trend after a serious clamber over the summit rocks.

Then it's back down the quartz ridge of Schiehallion, spotting as you go those easier paths you missed on the way up; and then down the peaty side of the ridge and back to Braes of Foss. Isn't drying peat the most magnificent surface on which to make a rapid, springy descent?

One thought: if you choose to make the ascent on a hot still summer day (yes, we do get them in Scotland) make sure you take plenty of water, because there's none to be had anywhere on the ridge.

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