Ben Loyal from the ford across the Allt Lon Malmsgaig

Ben Loyal from Ribigill

Hillwalking route to An Caisteal on Ben Loyal from Ribigill near Tongue

Starting from near Tongue, this route displays a fine aspect of Ben Loyal and its spurs for much of the approach in. Higher up, grass covered crests link the four granite peaks, of which An Caisteal is the summit.

Route outline

  Map base ©OpenStreetMap

An Caisteal, Ben Loyal

Ascent 975m (3190ft)
Distance 14km (9m)
Time 5:15hr
Start/finish Ribigill Farm
Grid Ref : NC584547
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This route is the most popular approach up Ben Loyal and aims in on tracks from the roadside near Ribigill, just south of Tongue. The imposing mountain looks quite formidable from this side, but is actually fairly straightforward to climb, the only difficulties being bog on the approach and some thick heather on the mid slopes. Higher up, delightful grass-covered crests link the granite rocks on each of the summits, where 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 Ribigill

Start of route near Ribigill Farm

The small village of Tongue sits above the eastern shores of the Kyle of Tongue in Sutherland on the northern coast of Scotland.

At the southern end of the village, the old road travels around the Kyle of Tongue and just over 2km down this road is the entrance to Ribigll Farm. A large parking area for hillwalkers is beyond the entrance.

There are often livestock in the fields around Ribigill farm and if you have a dog, it might be adviseable to start from the verge some 2km further down the road. This avoids the farm completely, however, until the track near Cunside is reached, there are no paths to follow and ground is undulating and covered in thick grass hiding many boggy dips, making for tough progress.

2. Allt Lon Malmsgaig

On the track south of Ribigill

From the car-park, cross a cattle grid and head down the farm road aiming due south. After around 500m, you'll come to a junction by a house . Turn left and walk another 200m or so further on and you'll come to another junction . Turn left and pass through Ribigill farm.

Now on a rough track with hedge either side, continue southwards, through a few gates and after a further 500m or so, you'll come to one more junction . Again bear left following the track as it heads around a knoll, then into gorse to meet with the Allt Cul a'Mhuillin . Stepping stones make crossing this easy enough.

One final gate is gone through and then it's onto open moorland, the track now a bit soggy. A further 1km on and the Allt Lon Malmsgaig is reached near the old buildings of Cunside - note the footbridge marked on OS 1:25k maps no longer exists - the river can be crossed using a ford !

3. An Caisteal on Ben Loyal

Summit trig point on An Caisteal

Once over the Allt Lon Malmsgaig, a boot-worn and soggy path heads uphill hugging the side of a small burn and going around the base of Sgor Chaonasaid, Ben Loyal's northern peak. Following this for around 1.5km, the path then becomes very faint and disappears into grass and heather just as Ben Loyal's slopes begin to steepen. In the heather, you may be able to spot some small sections of wreckage from a plane that crashed into the hillside in 1943.

Now aiming south-east with Sgor Chaonasaid looming above and to your right, climb up the fall-line of the hillside ahead. There are no paths to follow or any respite from the deep heather and grass for around 300m of ascent.

At last, just south of Sgor Chaonasaid, Ben Loyal's grass-covered crest is reached and the summit, An Caisteal comes into view. On the crest a path can be picked up aiming south-west. This path crosses the minor flat summit Sgor a' Bhatain , then turns south aiming for An Caisteal.

Approaching An Caisteal, the path travels over grass and around the west side of the granite rocks and 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. Return

Plane wreckage on Ben Loyal's slopes

The most obvious choice for return is to re-trace the route up, the soft heather and grass of Ben Loyal's slopes make a good job of absorbing shocks, making for a speedy descent.

Alternatively, a complete traverse of Ben Loyal's crest could be made down to the southern summit, Carn an Tionail. This could be followed by a grassy descent westwards then northwards around the western side of Sgor Fhionnaich to drop down through woodland to the Allt Lon Malmsgaig and back to the ford near Cunside.

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