Coire Ardair and Creag Meagaidh (pic by Richard Kermode)

Creag Meagaidh circuit of 3 Munros

Circular hillwalking route on Creag Meagaidh, Carn Liath and Stob Poite Coire Ardair

In the Central Highlands, Creag Meagaidh is a vast and stunning mountain dominating the view northwards above Loch Laggan. Heading up Creag Meagaidh via Carn Liath and Stob Poite Coire Ardair makes for a superb circular route with options of returning down the skyline or heading through 'The Window'.



Route outline


  Map base ©OpenStreetMap
Munros

Creag Meagaidh

Carn Liath

Stob Poite Coire Ardair

Ascent 1200m (3930ft)
Distance 19km (12m)
Time 6:45hr
Start/finish Aberarder
Grid Ref : NN483873
Terrain
easy hard
Nav
easy hard
Effort
easy hard
Scenery
ok fab


The route initially travels up from the SNH building at Aberarder towards Coire Ardair, with lots of wildlife hiding - but if you can't see any, there's often a herd of deer kept near the car-park and they're not camera-shy !

Up Carn Liath and most of the uphill of the day is done ! Hiking westwards towards Stob Poite Coire Ardair, the view to Creag Meagaidh and Coire Ardair with its spectacular cliffs is ever-changing. Through The Window, a meet up with Mad Meg's Cairn is recommended before reaching Creag Meagaidh's summit.

There are options for the return - stay high above Coire Ardair for longer lasting views, or return through The Window to reach the dark Lochan a'Choire and get up close to the cliffs of Coire Ardair



Route map




Route description


1. Getting to Aberarder

Heading to the birch woodland below Carn Liath

The A86 travels from Newtonmore to Spean Bridge, passing Loch Laggan on its way. Around halfway along Loch Laggan there is a large car-park for hillwalkers below the NatureScot buildings at Aberarder.

I've seen campervans stay overnight here and the occasional tent over the wall by the Allt Coire Ardair !


2. Carn Liath

Carn Liath from the west

From the car-park, head up towards the buildings at Aberarder , where there's a shelter, a bench and some display boards with lots of interesting information on the terrain and wildlife in the area.

Follow a sign-posted route tracing a well constructed path around the right of the house, over a bridge, up to and past a wall to just before the birch forest of Coire Ardair.

As you begin to climb in the woodland, look for a small cairn and a faint path heading off right (north-east) up over the heather and through the re-generating birch wood. The path can be pretty mucky !

Out of the woodland and further up the path levels out just to the west of the fine vantage point of Na Cnapanan .

On the path, aim initially north-east around some steep ground, gradually turning north-west and hike up to Carn Liath's broad summit crest. The summit and its large cairn are around 300m further on.


3. Stob Poite Coire Ardair

Heading to Stob Poite Coire Ardair

Although the summits can often be in cloud, the ridge between Carn Liath and Stob Poite Coire Ardair can often be clear. Just as well, as when in mist, carefully navigation from Carn Liath is needed, since the path is very faint.

Leaving Carn Liath's summit, head westwards to drop to a small nick (Uinneag Coire a'Chaorainn) where the remains of an old wall can be found. Uphill over Meall an t-Snaim to another gap (Uinneag Min Choire) where the topography can be confusing in mist. Coming out of this gap, the path heads left (south-east), then turns right to reach Sron Coire a'Chriochairein and continue along the crests.

Fence-posts are picked up and followed up and along towards Stob Poire Coire Ardair. It's tricky watching your feet on the boulders, since the constant stunning view left over Coire Ardair to the winter climbs is awesome. There is a particularly superb view from a slight detour off the path, around 300m before reaching the summit.

There are two cairns on Stob Poite Coire Ardair's summit crest, the top is the westerly of these.


4. Creag Meagaidh

Creag Meagaidh from below Stob Poite Coire Ardair

Leaving Stob Poite Coire Ardair's summit behind, continue following the path hugging the posts south-west and begin to lose height. The posts turn sharply and you might be tempted in mist to follow them - don't as they come to an abrupt halt above a 20m drop ! Keep to the path down to 'The Window' (also known as Uinneag Coire Ardair) , then turn south-east, still following the path and start climbing uphill.

The path zig-zags up through some scree, then levels out - it's perhaps worth heading a bit east to look back down into Coire Ardair.

Following the path, it turns south-west and reaches 'Mad Meg's Cairn' , a huge pile of stone that could be mistaken for Creag Meagaidh's summit in mist. Apparently it is the burial spot of an 18th century suicide who was denied a grave in the local cemetary.

Creag Meagaidh's not-so-large summit cairn is a further 500m or so onwards, from where the views are wonderful.


5. Return option #1 - over Puist Coire Ardair

Descending Sron a'Choire

This route is preferred in clear weather, as views are vast and last longer. On shorter days in winter months, you'll stay in sunshine longer !

From Creag Meagaidh's summit, retrace your steps down the crest to where the ground flattens out, well before Mad Meg's Cairn . Aim just south of east over the plateau, then begin to drop down gentle slopes - a faint path can be traced, becoming more obvious as it approaches Puist Coire Ardair .

To the east of Puist Coire Ardair, the crest narrows, with the path making a way - there are some fine vantage points above Coire Ardair.

Reach the top of Sron a'Choire , then turn eastwards and begin to drop down heather-clad slopes. Lower down reach an ATV track and follow this to a bridge over the Allt Coire Ardair (marked on OS maps) and return to the car-park.


6. Return option #2 - through The Window

Lochan a'Choire Ardair below Creag Meagaidh's cliffs

This route is preferred if you need a quicker descent, to get out of westerly winds and just want to follow an obvious path all the way back. Beware in winter months, you'll most likely be in the shade most of the return.

Retrace your steps back to The Window , then follow a well-defined path eastwards.

The path zig-zags down steep ground as it tries to avoid boulderfield in the gully. The ground and steepness ease as height is lost and the path reaches the east bank of Lochan a'Choire - a fine place to pause for a bit and awe at the impressive cliffs of Coire Ardair.

Continue following the path back out through Coire Ardair and its birch forest, meet up with the cairn below Na Cnapanan and retrace steps back to Aberarder.





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