Carn na Ciche on the way to Braeriach

West of Lairig Ghru from Glenmore

Hillwalking route up Braeriach, Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochain Uaine

West of the Lairig Ghru, huge cliffs rise to vast plateaux and some of the highest peaks in the land, Braeriach, Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochain Uaine. Fine paths lead in from Glenmore and Coylumbridge and with the lowest point on the ridges between the Munro summits being above 1100m, the views are quite superb, particularly from Braeriach.

Route outline



Cairn Toul, 

Sgor an Lochain Uaine

Ascent 1850m (6060ft)
Distance 28km (18m)
Time 10:00hr
Start/finish Sugar Bowl car-park
Grid Ref : NH985073
easy hard
easy hard
easy hard
ok fab

The terrain changes dramatically from heather in the glens and lower hillsides, giving way to grass and boulder-fields higher up. Hiking on the arctic-like tundra on the plateaux you'll discover hidden lochans and waterfalls.

This route starts from the Sugar Bowl car-park and heads through the Carn a'Chlamain Gap to the Lairig Ghru on a fine path. Other alternative starting points begin from Loch Morlich and Coylumbridge, which are longer and through forestry, but offset by cycling part on estate tracks part of the way.

On the high plateaux, paths can for the most part be traced, though frequently paths disappear into boulderfield and good navigation skills will be needed. Some of the route follows the rims of coires above huge drops down to hiddens lochans, beware cornices can extend well beyond the edges in winter.

Route map

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Route description

1. Getting to the Sugar Bowl car-park

Cairn Toul from the Pools of Dee in the Lairig Ghru

Cairn Toul from the Pools of Dee in the Lairig Ghru

On the south side of Aviemore, there is a roundabout, from where the road to Cairngorm Mountain begins. It's a journey of around 12km passing lovely Loch Morlich on the way. The car-park is located on a sharp uphill bend around 3km beyond Loch Morlich.

There is a parking charge, £2 at time of writing, or you can buy a season-pass from Glenmore Visitor Centre.

There are alternative starting points at Coylumbridge and the western end of Loch Morlich. Both of these are slightly longer, though you can bike it in for a fair distance.

2. Through the Chalamain Gap to Lairig Ghru

Garbh Choire refuge below Sgor an Lochain Uaine

Garbh Choire refuge below Sgor an Lochain Uaine

From the Sugar Bowl car-park, cross the road and on a well-constructed path, head down towards the Allt Mor burn. Over the bridge and climb up the other side out of woodland. Reindeer are kept in the fenced area by here.

Follow the path into the Chalamain Gap , a weird rocky gash. The path through the gap is fine, but can be hard work in winter if banked up in snow, in which case, there is another path traversing above the crags on the north side of the gap. Out the other side, staying on the path, drop down into the Lairig Ghru .

Now in the Lairig Ghru, follow another path south-east to the highest point on the pass at 835m , marked with a cairn. The path does get a bit faint in bits and easily lost.

3. Cairn Toul

Heading up the northern shoulder of Cairn Toul

Heading up the northern shoulder of Cairn Toul

From the highest point in the Lairig Ghru, aim south to the Pools of Dee , then pick up a very faint path on the western side of the Lairig Ghru. The path comes and goes as it cuts a way through heather, dropping gently and turning south-west into Garbh Coire. Approaching the Allt a'Gharbh-choire, the path disappears, but you should be able to see the refuge ahead (grid ref NN959986) - make a beeline for this, crossing the burn on the way (difficult or impossible in spate). Note the refuge is marked on Harvey Maps and OS Landranger, but not on OS Explorer.

Aiming immediately south of the refuge, try and pick a route through heather and begin climbing. The steep ground above and ahead is slabby, but there is a break between the crags and a faint and loose path zig-zags a route through this and up onto the ground near the outlflow of Lochan Uaine .

Ahead there are a couple of route choices up :

  • Cairn Toul's northern spur
    The easiest line is to cross the outflow of the lochan and head up Cairn Toul's north ridge. This is a wide shoulder with some boulderfield, but is relatively straightforward aiming directly for Cairn Toul's summit and gives a lovely views back over the lochan to Braeriach.
  • Sgor an Lochain Uaine's north-east ridge
    Instead of crossing the outflow of Lochan Uaine, turn south-west and begin clambering over boulders up Sgor an Lochain Uaine's north-east shoulder. The terrain begins to get scrambly (Grade 1), but never too difficult until higher up, where an angled slab is met - turn to the left to go around.Next the crux of the ridge is reached - intimidating rock blocks the way. Go to the right a few steps and look directly up, a commiting clamber onto a ledge is required, thereafter some easy scrambling leads to the summit of the Angel's Peak, Sgor an Lochan Uaine .Obviously you'll need to do a there-and-back to Cairn Toul from Sgor an Lochain Uaine's summit

There are two cairns on Cairn Toul's summit crest , the northern one marks the top.

4. Sgor an Lochain Uaine

Leaving Cairn Toul and heading up Sgor an Lochain Uaine

Leaving Cairn Toul and heading up Sgor an Lochain Uaine

From Cairn Toul's northern cairn, aim west and handrail the rim above Coire an Lochain Uaine. A path can be followed most of the way, occasionally zig-zagging to avoid some boulders, down to the bealach between Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochain Uaine.

A straightforward hike north-west up just over 100 metres gains the summit of Sgor an Lochain Uaine (also known as The Angel's Peak), a fine viewpoint to Braeriach and Ben Macdui.

5. Braeriach

Summit of Braeriach

Summit of Braeriach

Leaving Sgor an Lochain Uaine behind, hike south-west following the edge of the crags above Garbh Coire. Terrain underfoot is annoyingly bouldery in bits, but as height is lost, becomes more relaxed. From the next bealach, start uphill on a fine path cutting a route through the loose arctic-like tundra. Carn na Criche is the high point of the next plateau, there's a small cairn on the summit, which can be bypassed if taking a direct route onwards.

Now on grass-covered ground, aim north-north-east for the Wells of Dee , an extraordinary place where two burns meet, then flow over the Falls of Dee.

Cross the burns, then over bouldery ground, it's north-east up gently rising ground. Braeriach's summit appears abruptly, the cairn perched above massive drops of Coire Bhrochain, in winter, beware the cornices that can form ! . Views are stunning, particulary back over to Cairn Toul.

6. Return through the Chalamain Gap

Descending Braeriach back towards the Lairig Ghru

Descending Braeriach back towards the Lairig Ghru

Follow the rim of Coire Bhrochain north-east, then east. A path quickly forms as terrain gets easier, then leads down to the bealach below Sron na Lairige (if you're here and need to get out of wild weather, there is an escape route directly down to the Lairig Ghru below).

The path leads around Sron na Lairige's summit over a delightful grass-covered crest as it approaches the top of the crags above the Lairig Ghru. Just when legs are starting to tire, more stony ground and boulderfield needs crossed as the descent to the Lairig Ghru begins. The path becomes more maintained as it enters heather and does its final drop into the Lairig Ghru .

Cross the burn in the Lairig Ghru, then re-trace your route back to your start point.

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Alternative and nearby routes »

Cairngorm 4000s

The vast plateaux of the Cairngorms in Scotland's eastern highlands rise above huge cliffs and dark corries. On the plateaux are five of the UK's mountains over 4000ft including Ben Macdui, Braeriach, Cairn Toul and Cairngorm and these can be bagged in one circular route from Glenmore.

Peaks : 5 Munros

Ascent : 2250m (7380ft)
Distance : 28km (17m)
Time : 10:45hr

Cairngorm Darkside from the north

Between Aviemore and Braemar and east of the Lairig Ghru are vast plateaus with several Munro peaks amongst the hidden lochans, long narrow crests, dark corries, huge cliffs and weird granite tors. This route heads in from Cairngorm ski centre heading as far south as Derry Cairngorm. The hidden gem of Loch Avon with its undisturbed beaches is visited en route, nearby a search will find the 'Shelter Stone' - a place to overnight out of wind !

Peaks : 4 Munros

Ascent : 1480m (4860ft)
Distance : 21km (13m)
Time : 7:45hr

Meall a' Bhuachaille from Glenmore

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Peaks : 1 Corbett

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Distance : 9km (6m)
Time : 3:15hr

Bynack More and Creag Mhor from Glenmore

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Peaks : 1 Munro, 1 Corbett

Ascent : 860m (2820ft)
Distance : 22km (14m)
Time : 5:30hr


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