A distinctive pyramid by the road to Glen Coe and a hidden peak behind it, this pair of Munros are all about the views!
The shapely, symmetrical cone of Beinn Dorain rising proudly from valley floor to crag-rimmed peak is an inspiration to many a weary West Highland Way walker en route to Bridge of Orchy. Add in the graceful, curving railway bridges of the West Highland Line around the Gleann Achadh-innis Chailein beside it, and it must be one of the best-recognised views in Scotland. The serious hillwalker, however, finds a lovely, curving ridgeline complete with multiple outcrops and rocky, slabby bits. Navigation can be tough in poor visibility, and this may be how The Englishman’s Cairn (Cairn Sasunnaich) got its name. Apparently a Gaelic joke, this alludes to the fact that English walkers may have a rather less than great sense of navigation. The reality, though, is that even Scotsmen have been known to mistake this for the true summit when the clag is down! In fact that is nearly 400m further along a narrowing ridge. Beinn Dorain’s neighbour Beinn an Dothaidh is surprisingly frequently overlooked, other than by determined Munro-baggers. On a good day, though, that’s missing a real treat – as high-level views over the wild expanse of Rannoch Moor and over the Coire Daingean and Ben Achaladair to Glen Lyon in the distance are well worth the effort.
Distance 13.9km (8¾ miles)
Total ascent 1310m
Time 5½ hours
Start/Finish pay car parking at NN297396
Nearest towns Fort William/Oban
Terrain steep paths, slabby rock, broad ridge, rough grass, boggy moor, pathless in places; navigation challenging in mist; in winter beware avalanche on corrie approach, and cornices near summits
Stalking occurs on Blackmount Estate (East) early August - 20 Oct (not Sundays): more info (01838) 400255 (7-8am Mon-Sat)
Accommodation Tyndrum: By the Way Hostel, (01838) 400333; Glengarry House (01838) 400224; Glencoe Camping and Caravan Club Site, (01855) 811397
Public transport 3 ordinary trains a day Glasgow - Fort William, plus sleeper service; Scottish Citylink buses 914, 915, 916 stop at Bridge of Orchy Hotel
Tourist info Tyndrum TIC (01838) 400246
4264086 NN297396 From the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, cross the road and head up the station access road, passing under the subway by the station. Just through a gate on the far side, cross a vehicle track and head left on a stony path past a walkers’ information board.
4263485 NN300395 An easily missed stony path bears off right, almost immediately after the lone tree by the transmitter station. This eases the way up into Coire an Dothaidh above, with a boggy section shortly before the first of two steeper sections.
4263486 NN325398 Three small tarns mark the col, along with a large cairn. Bear right above a steep and rocky edge towards Beinn Dorain. On the 1:50k map, the ridge appears roughly straight. On the ground, in micro-detail, the path twists and turns and would be hard to find in low visibility or under snow. Broadly, though, it does a large bend to the right near the start, before rejoining the direct line up the ridge. A larger lochan should be visible roughly 20m to the right of the path at NN323394.
4263490 NN322393 Roughly 50m after the lochan, the path meets a pair of ‘gatekeeper’ boulders, then bends left, now much more directly aiming for the apparent summit. This is, in fact, a false summit. As you reach the slabbier rocky top, the path crosses onto the left side of the ridge. Enjoy the view over Coire Leacach, and continue up to the ‘Englishman’s’ cairn (Cairn Sasunnaich, which has now sprouted a satellite cairn, some 30m or so to its right).
4264204 NN325382 This is another false summit, though it would be hard to know in low visibility. The true summit is nearly 400m further on, after a brief descent then up a narrower ridgeline. Beware of cornices (overhanging snow) especially to the east along the whole ridge in winter. It’s worth a 20m detour beyond this to peer into the glen below, although the view is partially obscured by high crags on the south flank of Beinn Dorain. After visiting the true summit, retrace your steps to the central col.
4264205 NN325398 On the far side of the col, a path leads directly up then bends right. At the first stream bear left and off-path, choosing your line over rough, grassy outcrops to reach the skyline. From here follow the edge around and up to the lower (western) top of Beinn an Dothaidh.
4264206 NN326409 From here the views over Rannoch Moor are superb if clear, with Ben Nevis visible on the skyline. If really clear you may see as far as the Cairngorm plateau. Bend right and go over an intermediate top (again, beware cornices: they can overhang the crags by a big margin) to the true summit.
4264207 NN331408 After a few minutes on top, continue bending around the corrie rim to the third summit for views over the Coire a’Ghabhalach and out across to Glen Lyon.
4271983 NN333405 Return directly across Coire Reidh on initially pathless terrain. Cross the stream and pick up a muddy, rocky path, which drops to meet your outward path and the col between Beinn an Dothaidh and Beinn Dorain. From here, retrace your outward steps down Coire an Dothaidh, back to the station and/or car park at Bridge of Orchy.