Geal Charn from the River Spey

Geal Charn from Spey Dam

Hiking route up Geal Charn in the western Monadhliath

Geal Charn is a mountain at the western end of the Monadh Liath and for the most part typical of the area - rolling, gentle, grass covered slopes and fairly featureless from most views. But there are hidden sides to this Munro and weird landforms create interest if you're prepared not just to take the most direct route !

Route outline


Geal Charn

Ascent 740m (2420ft)
Distance 15km (9m)
Time 4:45hr
Start/finish Spey Dam
Grid Ref : NN585937
easy hard
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There are two main routes up Geal Charn both from Strathspey, with one starting from Garva Bridge and one from the Spey Dam. The Garva Bridge approach is the shorter of the two, direct to the summit and back and very runnable, but is hardly inspiring (see this page for more information). The approach from Spey Dam is far more interesting, discovering the weird An Dirc Mhor landform on route and giving the option of hiking a circular route descending via Lochan a'Choire and Piper's Burn.

Route map

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Route description

1. Getting to the start by Spey Dam

North to Meall na h-Aisre from Geal Charn

North to Meall na h-Aisre from Geal Charn

West of Newtonmore, the A86 travels north of the River Spey. The village of Laggan, is around 12km along this road by a bridge that crosses the river. In the village a single track road heads westwards up Strathspey tracing the line of an old military road. Follow this road for 3km, through a farm on the way, to a sharp turn just after the entrance to Coul Farm and before a bridge over the River Spey. Limited parking !

There was much activity due to the works for the pylons on my last visit.

2. Geal Charn

On the summit of Geal Charn

On the summit of Geal Charn

From the the sharp turn in the road, follow an estate track initially heading west. After around 200m, the track turns north and aims into Glen Markie.

Follow the track for just under 2km to an obvious fire-break in the forest on the west side of Markie Burn. Cross Markie Burn onto the west bank (this will be difficult, if not impossible, in spate) and climb up the grassy fire-break.

Out of the forest, check out the unusual gash cut out of the hill called 'An Dirc Mhor' - a glacial meltwater gorge.

Continue up a steep slope through heather. This gradually becomes more grass covered and easier underfoot as the gradient levels out. Geal Charn's minor summit Beinn Sgiath with its cairn is reached.

Some navigation required in mist from here - crags above Loch a'Choire could catch you out - uncharacteristic for a Monadh Liath hill !

A bearing of slightly north of west is followed down to the grassy bealach between Beinn Sgiath and Geal Charn. From here, turn northwards and climb more grassy slope to the summit of Geal Charn with its large cairn. Fine views in all directions !

3. Return to Spey Dam

The approach from Garva Bridge

The approach from Garva Bridge

The easiest route is to about turn and return the same way.

An alternative (see dashed line on map) is to retrace your steps to the bealach between Beinn Sgiath and Geal Charn, then descend directly to Lochan a'Choire . From there, follow Piper's Burn down to Glen Markie, cross the River Markie (much easier upstream than earlier), then pick up a path, then track (at NN586976), to follow back to Spey Dam.

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Alternative and nearby routes »

Monadhliath Munros

The rolling landscape of the Monadh Liath is vast and feels very remote and wild. There are four Munros hiding in the expanse, all of which can be bagged in one linear route taking in A'Chailleach, Carn Sgulain and Carn Dearg in quick succession following fence-lines, then Geal Charn challenging navigation skills over featureless terrain.

Peaks : 4 Munros

Ascent : 1420m (4660ft)
Distance : 30km (19m)
Time : 9:50hr

Carn Dearg in the Monadhliath

Carn Dearg is one of the more interesting hills in the vast Monadh Liath moorland north of Strathspey. Although it can be bagged with other Monadh Liath Munros in a longer outing, walking it on its own from Glen Banchor you will experience more of its interesting features along with discovering shades of previous habitations in the glens.

Peaks : 1 Munro

Ascent : 770m (2530ft)
Distance : 18km (11m)
Time : 5:50hr

Eastern Monadhliath Munros

Carn Sgulain and A'Chailleach are the most easterly Munros in the vast Monadh Liath with most hillwalkers combining them into one route starting from Glen Banchor above Newtonmore. The hillsides are gentle and if the mist comes in, your navigation skills will be tested.

Peaks : 2 Munros

Ascent : 750m (2460ft)
Distance : 14km (9m)
Time : 4:45hr

Gairbheinn and Meall na h-Aisre

The undulating high moorland above the River Spey just east of the Corrieyairack Pass has several rolling hills, two of which are distinctive enough to justify Corbett status. Navigation skills will be tested on the high ground, particularly in misty conditions.

Peaks : 2 Corbetts

Ascent : 900m (2950ft)
Distance : 21km (13m)
Time : 6:45hr


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