Ben Loyal from the south

Ben Loyal from Loch Loyal

Hillwalking route to An Caisteal on Ben Loyal from Loch Loyal

Sitting to the east of Ben Loyal is Loch Loyal in a remote area of Sutherland. Avoiding farms and associated fences and livestock, approaching Ben Loyal from this direction is quiet and peaceful and allows for a circular route to take in the four granite peaks on the summit crest.

Route outline

  Map base ©OpenStreetMap

An Caisteal, Ben Loyal

Ascent 775m (2540ft)
Distance 10km (6m)
Time 3:50hr
Start/finish Loch Loyal
Grid Ref : NC615489
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easy hard
ok fab

Approaching Ben Loyal from the east is shorter, more direct and requires less ascent than the more popular route aiming in from Ribigill. However, there's a trade-off - the route is pathless for the most path and doesn't show the drama of the mountain's north face. Grass and heather clad the lower slopes with delightful grass-covered crests higher up with granite rocks on each of the summit. A little scramble is required to reach the trig pillar on An Caisteal, the highest point on the mountain.

Route map

Route description

1. Getting to Loch Loyal

By Loch Loyal

The small village of Tongue sits above the eastern shores of the Kyle of Tongue in Sutherland on the northern coast of Scotland. It's on the famed NC500 route.

South of the village and away from the NC500 route, the A836 travels towards Altnaharra and eventually Lairg. On this road, around 7km south of Tongue, is the head of Loch Loyal and around 2km south from this our route starts from a bridge over the Allt an Lagh-aird. Parking is limited to roadside verges (best not to block passing places !)

2. Loch na Creige Riabhaich

Loch na Creige Riabhaich and Sgor Chaonasaid

From the north side of the bridge, faint traces of atv tracks can be found and followed westwards. The tracks pass a circular sheiling , then continue further for a short distance. Leaving the tracks, ground underfoot is covered in short grass and rush with occasional moss, making for enjoyable hiking or running. Directly ahead, Ben Loyal's main summit tor, An Caisteal can be seen, and for the first 2km of this route, simply make a beeline for this.

The ground begins to steepen and becomes more heather-clad, though never too thickly so as to impeed progress. Gradually begin to turn north-west, aiming for Creag Riabhach and hidden Loch na Creaige Riabhaich .

3. An Caisteal on Ben Loyal

Summit trig point on An Caisteal

Upon reaching Creag Riabhach, head around the northern shores of Loch na Creaige Riabhaich, then up grass covered slopes up onto Ben Loyal's crest.

On the crest, it's a short detour northwards on a worn path to the summit rocks of Sgor Chaonasaid . Some superb and uninterupted views can be savoured here on clear days.

From Sgor Chaonasaid, about-turn and retrace your steps, then continue further following the worn path over delightful grass across the crest towards Sgor a'Bhatain . The path by-passes this minor summit on its eatsern side, but it's definitely worth the detour if just for the views to Ben Hope.

The path turns south aiming for An Caisteal. Upon approaching the rocks of An Caisteal, the path travels over grass and begins to head around the west side of the summit granite rocks. It's easy to miss the detour to the summit and instead follow the path as it continues southwards.

To reach the summit, just before the highest point on the path, keep looking for another path on your left. This faint path zig-zags a way up then ends below a gently sloping rock slab - there's a little clambering over this (a bit slimey if wet) and An Caisteal's summit trig point is reached.

4. Beinn Bheag and return

View from Beinn Bheag to Ben Hope

From An Caisteal's trig point, retrace your steps to the path crossing Ben Loyal's crest. Turn left and head south over very pleasant grass-covered terrain towards Beinn Bheag .

From this minor summit and after taking in one final view to Ben Hope, turn south-east and begin to descend. As the slope steepens, turn more easterly and if you're out fell-running, enjoy a wonderfully fast descent down steep grass and rush.

As the ground flattens out, beware of occasional moss topped bogs that can trap ankles ! Simply make a direct line through the deer-grass and rush (there's no path to follow) back to the roadside by the bridge at the route's start.

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