In the first of our My Favourite Hike series, Advnture staff writer Julia Clarke describes a Scottish peak that “makes me feel I’m exactly where I’m meant to be”.
- Start/Finish: Ben A’an car park
- Distance: 2.25 miles/ 3.7km
- Elevation gain: 1115ft / 340m
- Difficulty level: Moderate/challenging
- Duration: 1.5-3 hours
Park at the Ben A’an car park off the A821 about halfway between Aberfoyle and Callander on the shores of Loch Achray. Cross the road to pick up the well-marked, maintained trail that begins with a steep climb through the woods. Cross the burn twice and soon the trees thin out and you’ll get a lovely view of Ben A’an up ahead. Enjoy the break as the trail briefly flattens out.
Go straight at the junction, then the trail takes you up to the right, climbing steeply again toward the rocky summit. The trail swings left at the top, but it’s worth detouring a few steps straight ahead for the views of Loch Katrine, then head on to the summit for views of Loch Achray, Ben Venue, Ben Ledi and Ben Lomond. Return the way you came.
Why I love it
I’ve been lucky enough to walk on some of the world’s most beautiful trails, so it’s hard to pick a true favourite hike, but Ben A’an is certainly one that is very dear to my heart. Ben A’an is often referred to as “the mountain in miniature” and indeed, it’s not very high at only 1,512ft in elevation. But the short climb to its distinctive, pyramid shaped peak is virtually straight up, making for a heart pumping ascent and the rewards are some of the best views you can get in the Trossachs. Positioned as it is between gorgeous Loch Katrine and Loch Achray, you get stunning 360-degree vistas of the two lochs, nearby peaks Ben Venue and Ben Ledi, and Ben Lomond and the Arrochar Alps off in the distance.
Though I grew up in Glasgow, I’d never climbed Ben A’an until last year, when it was the first hike I did after returning from 12 years of living in the Colorado Rockies. I’d been homesick and dreaming of Scotland’s lush, loch-studded greenery for a long time and finally made the move back only to find myself in lockdown with nowhere to go.
When Covid-19 restrictions started to ease, I’ll never quite forget the feeling of leaving the city lights behind for that winding, early morning drive through rural Stirlingshire, tranquil Loch Achray swinging into view, then the sensation of my feet hitting the trail, the familiar scent of pine, my heart pumping and the way the view from the top took my breath away. It somehow gives me the physical challenge of a high altitude Colorado hike combined with the rugged beauty of Scotland, and there’s nothing quite like it to make me feel that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.
Best of all, because it’s only an hour drive from Glasgow and I move fast, in the long days of Scotland’s summer months, I can be up at the top for sunrise and back at my desk by 9am, refreshed and ready to spend the day writing about the outdoors. It’s better than any shot of espresso or even a chilly dip in a loch when it comes to invigorating my mind and body!
If you’ve got the time, however, take it. Enjoy a picnic at the top and head to lovely Aberfoyle for a pint or a cream tea afterwards.
My Favourite Hike Collection
To see the other hikes in the series on komoot, click on the Collection below...
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.