Ben Alder from near Culra

Ben Alder Forest Munros

Bike and hike route from Dalwhinnie up the Munros in Ben Alder Forest

One of the finest ways to reach Ben Alder is a cycle down Loch Ericht followed by a circular route from Culra Bothy. Lots to encounter - high plateaus, lochans, ridges, fantastic views - all while bagging 6 Munros !

Route outline


Ben Alder, 

Carn Dearg, 


Aonach Beag, 

Beinn Eibhinn, 

Beinn Bheoil

Walk ascent 2000m (6560ft)
         distance 25km (16m)
         time 9:35hr
Bike ascent 400m (1310ft)
         distance 31km (19m)
         time 1:30hr
Start/finish Dalwhinnie
Grid Ref : NN663846
easy hard
easy hard
easy hard
ok fab

A cycle in on good tracks alongside lochsides to a remote bothy encircled by mountains, far away from civilisation. You may choose to overnight camp by Culra Bothy (note the bothy is closed due to asbestos), or for fit and keen, continue and bag all 6 Munros around Culra in one day.

Route map

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Route description

1. Getting to Dalwhinnie

Wire bridge before Culra

Wire bridge before Culra

By car, Dalwhinnie is just off the A9, half way between Perth and Inverness. Alternatively arrive by train, all the way from Euston if you need !

In Dalwhinnie, head up the road to towards the railway station, turning left just before it and continue along 'Alder Road' past some houses to the railway crossing. There's a turning circle here and you can usually park just before it. It can get a little conjested here, alternative parking is available near the petrol station and the south side of Loch Ericht dam.

2. Culra Bothy

Culra Bothy below Lancet Edge

Culra Bothy below Lancet Edge

From Dalwhinnie, cycle from the crossing down the lochside on the fine estate track that hugs the western shore of Loch Ericht. Around a gate-house (walker's route is sign-posted). Continue cycling past another house and down towards Alder Lodge. Just before another gate-house , turn right and begin cycling uphill.

Cross a bridge over the Allt a'Mhill Dhuibh and continue to the highest point on the track. Just under 1km further on, you'll see a path heading off left . If conditions are fine, then take this turning for the direct route to Culra, alternatively is ground wet, probably best to stay on the track around Loch Pattack.

Direct route to Culra : the route follows a track, probably no longer used by the estate. It's well definied and ends up at a junction just before Culra Bothy .

Route around Loch Pattack : the track travels down to Loch Pattack, around the loch via its south shoreline to a wooden suspension bridge over the Allt a'Chaoile-reidhe. Cross the bridge and a bit further on a peat-bog can block passage if wet, just keeping to the shore is easier. Thereafter reach a vehicle bridge . Although the track from here is well defined, it's pretty rough in bits. Follow it to the bridge just before Culra Bothy and leave your bike here.

3. Carn Dearg

Carn Dearg from Loch Pattack

Carn Dearg from Loch Pattack

From near Culra Bothy, aim north-west, directly uphill. The ground is heather-clad, although patches of grass can be picked up to ease the slog. After around 300m of ascent the gradient easies and the north-eastern shoulder of Carn Dearg comes into view.

Upon reaching Carn Dearg's north-east shoulder, a path can be picked up and followed onto Carn Dearg's grassy covered summit plateau meeting up with its large summit cairn shortly thereafter.

4. Geal-Charn

Geal-Charn from Aonach Beag

Geal-Charn from Aonach Beag

Leaving Carn Dearg's summit cairn behind, and continuing south-west along the summit plateau, you'll come to another cairn, from where bouldery terrain is encountered. No avoiding this unfortunately !

Below the boulderfield, terrain is much easier and a delightful hike leads over Diollaid a'Chairn (a Munro Top) to the ridge between Loch Coire Cheap and Loch an Sgoir. Ahead a steep climb up a narrow ridge leads towards Geal-Charn, there is a path zig-zagging all the way - beware, in winter this can cornice over !

A small cairn marks the top of the ridge and the edge of the vast plateau that is Geal-Charn. From the cairn, a bearing of appx 242o and a distance of 1km will get you onto Geal-Charn's summit marked by a cairn perched above Coire na Coichille. Note that this last 1km in mist will require some good navigation skills !

5. Aonach Beag

Aonach Beag from Geal-Charn

Aonach Beag from Geal-Charn

Head south-west from Geal-Charn's summit and follow the path along the crest above Coire na Coichille. The route drops to a bealach, from where it's a mere 100m to climb to reach the broad summit of Aonach Beag , the cairn being a slight dog-leg to the right (the path is a bit vague on the summit).

6. Beinn Eibhinn

Beinn Eibhinn from Aonach Beag

Beinn Eibhinn from Aonach Beag

Ahead is Beinn Eibhinn, a shapely mountain crest encircling a coire above the small dark lochan, Lochan a'Charra Mhoir. From Aonach Beag's summit aim due south-west and drop down just over 100m on a well-worn path to a bealach.

The path climbs up the dome ahead and then reaches a flat area with significant drops to Lochan a'Charra Mhoir on the right. The base of the final climb up Beinn Eibhinn is reached , from where the path leads onto the summit . Superb views from this summit !

Top bagging ? - there are two tops west of the summit, but expect a detour of around an hour to reach them and return to Beinn Eibhinn.

7. Ben Alder

On Ben Alder's summit crest

On Ben Alder's summit crest

Leave Beinn Eibhinn's summit and return to where the start of the final climb began . Leave the crest and drop down loose grass covered steep ground south-east. As the gradient easies, turn east and pick up the eastern shoulder of Beinn Eibhinn to follow downhill. It's grass covered and a pleasant jog.

Cross the burn coming down from Coire a'Charra Bhig, then the Uisge Labhair .

Climb the hillside directly infront, crossing the well-defined path from Culra to Ben Alder Cottage. A long slog up grass covered slopes, wet in bits, up around 350m before the gradient easies. If you can find the point 1056 marked on the OS maps (it's not particularly clear on the ground), then Ben Alder's summit is an easy walk of 1.5km over a vast plateau. If in mist, navigation will need some concentrating !

On Ben Alder's summit there is a trig point, but not much shelter. Shelter can be found in the remains of a ruined building just to the north of the summit.

With Ben Alder being the highest mountain in the area, there's a fantastic panorama to take in from its summit.

8. Beinn Bheoil

View down Loch Ericht from Beinn Bheoil

View down Loch Ericht from Beinn Bheoil

Just south of Ben Alder's summit Lochan a'Garbh Choire (reputedly the highest lochan in the land) - in summer it's pretty straightforward to head directly to the continuing ridge by going around the east side of the lochan. In winter, or if there has been much rain, probably more prudent to head around the longer west side of the lochan.

Beyond the lochan, continue following a path on Ben Alder's crest above and around Garbh Choire. Over a rise, then begin to drop and the path disappears. There are some rocky outcrops and small burns to negotiate on the descent, but it should be fairly straightforward to reach Bealach Breabag .

Crossing the bealach, you should be able to pick up a fairly faint path heading uphill ahead. This path climbs up Sron Coire na h-Iolaire, but doesn't aim for the summit - the short detour to this is worth the effort for the views down Loch Ericht !

Back on the path, it twists down to a bealach before one last gentle climb up a grassy crest to reach the bouldery summit of Beinn Bheoil .

9. Return to Culra and Dalwhinnie

The path down Beinn Bheoil, Ben Alder in view

The path down Beinn Bheoil, Ben Alder in view

Leaving Beinn Bheoil's small summit cairn behind, aim north-east for around 300m along the wide crest. As the crest begins to narrow, turn slightly more northwards and drop to a broad flat area.

Follow the top of this flat area north-east, then north, to drop down to another flat area. Don't cross this flat area (which is the way you'd think to go), instead turn north-west and bound down over heathery ground (if you're lucky, a very faint path can be found) and join a well-maintained path heading to Culra.

Follow this down back to near the bridge by Culra , pick up your bike and return to Dalwhinne, grinning on some of the fabulous freewheeling on the way !

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Alternative and nearby routes »

Ben Alder via the Long Leachas

Heading up Ben Alder via the Long Leachas ridge is possibly the finest way to appreciate this wonderful mountain. The rock-scrambling is straightforward, quite easy and not particularly exposed. Add in Beinn Bheoil on the return to Culra to complete a great Munro-bagging circular route.

Peaks : 2 Munros

Ascent : 1475m (4840ft)
Distance : 48km (30m)
Time : 7:30hr

The Fara circuit

Longer and much more enjoyable than a direct route up from Loch Ericht, a delightful circuit on estate tracks and grass covered slopes leads to The Fara's large summit cairn from where vast vistas can be savoured.

Peaks : 1 Corbett

Ascent : 550m (1800ft)
Distance : 11km (7m)
Time : 3:40hr

Geal-Charn via the Lancet Edge

There are four Munros in the group of peaks north of Culra Bothy, Carn Dearg, Geal-Charn, Aonach Beag and Beinn Eibhinn, all forming a linear ridge route. One of the most interesting routes up takes in the Lancet Edge, a narrow ridge heading up Geal-Charn.

Peaks : 4 Munros

Ascent : 1330m (4360ft)
Distance : 44km (27m)
Time : 6:30hr

Ardverikie and Loch Laggan Munros

Lying between Laggan and Alder, the Ardverikie Forest is a wild area containing three Munro peaks, Beinn a'Chlachair, Geal Charn and Creag Pitridh.

Peaks : 3 Munros

Ascent : 1350m (4430ft)
Distance : 26km (16m)
Time : 7hr


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