Driving towards Ben Lawers on the Monday morning I still hadn’t decided how I was going to do this. I knew I wanted to do all 5 munros, but how? Should I leave my bike at the Lawers Hotel, drive up to the Lawers car park then start the walk from there? That would mean a horrible uphill cycle after completing the walk though. Should I leave my bike in the Lawers car park, then drive down to the Lawers Hotel and start the walk from there then, doing the route anti-clockwise? That would give me a nice downhill cycle after the walk. But it would be mid-to-late afternoon by then and the narrow, windy road by Loch Tay could be busy, and I’m not a big fan of cycling on those kinds of roads with cars flying by at speed... decisions, decisions!
I only made my mind up about what to do as I was passing through KIllin. I would park up the car at the Lawers car park and do the cycle to the Lawers Hotel straight away. That way I got to do the cycle downhill, and since it was early morning, I was hoping there would be little traffic on the road. So with mind made up I arrived at the Lawers car park at 6.30am. There were only a couple of cars in the car park, and a couple of campervans. I could hear people beginning to stir in them as I got my bike out of the car as quietly as I possibly could. After a quick check of my bag, I jumped on the bike and freewheeled my way back towards Loch Tay.
There was a police car sitting at the junction of the Lawers road as if waiting for me! I cycled past it and gave the officers a wee good morning wave on my way past, which they cheerfully returned Heading along towards the Lawers Hotel they drove past me… followed a couple of mins later by another police car. Then another one. Then a police van with several officers in the back as if ready for action… then another police car! I’ve got no idea what they were expecting to be going on down on the banks of Loch Tay early in the morning, but they were expecting something!
There was no other traffic on the road in either direction, which I was very happy about, and I arrived at the Lawers Hotel at 7am. I found an old iron gate to lock the bike up to in the hotel car park. There were signs up saying that walkers needed to pay £5 for parking, and even though I only had a bike and was sure they wouldn’t charge for that, I thought I’d let them know it was there and buy a coffee to sip on my way… but even though the sign said the hotel was open for breakfast from 7am, no-one answered the doorbell. I tried a couple of times, but there was no signs of life and I gave up at about 10 past and headed off towards Meall Greigh.
After a brief stroll on the road the route wandered up pleasantly through some trees before opening out onto the open hillside. The WH route description suggests turning off the path and heading towards Meall Greigh next to a small cairn at the highest point, before the path heads down towards the stream. Well I never seen this cairn and was heading towards the stream! So I doubled back and went off to look for it. As I was walking back an older gentleman was approaching. He was up from Yorkshire to tackle Meall Greigh and Meall Garbh having had to abandon an attempt at doing them the previous year as he pulled his hamstring halfway up. He told me about how difficult it had been to get down with his injury and it was in poor weather conditions. It was a real reminder to me that injuries can happen even in the most innocuous places. He too had not seen the cairn and was just going to head to the stream then plough straight up Meall Greigh from there. I decided to drop back a bit further to try to find it and we said our goodbyes. Doubling back a bit further, I still couldn’t find it anywhere, nor could I see any semblance of a path anywhere. But I could see a path clearly winding higher up on Meall Greigh ahead, so decided just to yomp over the grass straight for it.
Eventually I got there and started heading up. The ascent was much steeper than I expected and it was tough going. I think I had made the same mental mistake as I’d made when doing Meall Ghaordaidh last year; thinking that because both were described as being boring hills, that somehow meant they were also easy. They certainly didn’t feel easy to me! My legs felt really tired and heavy too as I’d been up Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh the day before and perhaps it had taken more out of me than I thought.
I’m normally reasonably fast going up, but the Yorkshire man was motoring along behind me keeping pace. Eventually the gradient levelled off a bit and the route got easier. I reached the windy summit at 9am, admiring the views over Loch Tay the whole time. And also the views over Coire nan Cat towards the rest of the Lawers munros were stunning.
Loch Tay from Meall Greigh
Looking towards Ben Lawers from Meall Greigh
After a quick photo stop I pushed on, conscious that there were still many miles to cover. The walk over towards Meall Garbh was pleasant and I was shielded from the wind over most of it, right up until the final pull towards the summit. It was a beautiful warm sunny day and I was just in my t-shirt, but the wind had a bit of a chill in it on the very high ground. It’s a bit of a distance to get to Meall Garbh from Meall Greigh, and I forgot the check the time I arrived at the summit, sorry! From here it was the views over towards Glen Lyon that caught the eye. Again it was quite windy, so I didn’t hang about too long before dropping down towards An Stuc, which was looking very impressive and very tall and triangly from this angle!
An Stuc from Meall Garbh
After a bite to eat I started the scramble up An Stuc. By now I had burned off the Yorkshire man, and could only see his red jacket in the distance from time to time. My legs were feeling good now and I seemed to have shaken off the lethargy I’d been feeling. The scramble up An Stuc was right up my alley, and I was sad it was over so quickly. The views were a bit more restricted from this summit, but Coire nan Cat looked lovely. However it was the enormous bulk of Ben Lawers towering above that took my attention.
I moved on and descended the steep path off An Stuc, feeling really happy to have done the route in this direction; meaning that I went up the scramble rather than down it. I enjoyed the walk up towards Ben Lawers too; quite steep, but not uncomfortably so, and gained altitude quite quickly. As I approached the summit I could see some people mingling about. Then more people, then more! There were loads of them heading up from the Lawers car park side! I hadn’t seen a soul all day other than the Yorkshire man, but now it was like Sauchiehall street up Ben Lawers! I took a few obligatory photos and decided to get down out of the crowds. The path splits as you drop down off Ben Lawers with the route to the right returning to the car park by skirting around Beinn Glas, and the route to the left goes over the top of it. Having done 4 munros already I was obviously going to do the 5th so headed off to the left. The route here is a very well defined path, easy going and very busy on a nice day like this! I was over Beinn Glas in no time and headed down towards the car park.
Going down, I was again surprised by how steep it was in places. Ben Lawers from the car park is often listed as one of the most straightforward munros, but I really need to shake off this idea of there being such a thing as an easy munro! The descents are always the worst part for me as I have a bad knee. I was tired now too and what made it worse was being able to see the car park throughout, which just never seemed to be getting any closer! I plodded away though, doing my best to protect my knee as I went along, and eventually made it back to the car.
This time I did remember to check the time and it was 1.30pm exactly! That made it a 7 hour day including the 30 min cycle. For anyone thinking of doing the route this way and wondering how long it would take them, I’m normally at the faster end of the time estimates on the WH route descriptions. And though I was slow at the beginning of the day over Meall Greigh, I did speed up as I went along and I didn’t take too many stops throughout the day.
I was glad of not having to do the cycle now at the end of the day, and glad that I remembered I had a bike to pick up! I headed back to the Lawers Hotel and was glad to see the bike still where I left it. I threw it in the back of the car and headed back to Edinburgh via Aberfeldy way this time. And just as I left the hotel car park I seen the Yorkshire man walking along the road! I was happy that he had managed to complete his route with his hamstring holding up this time!
Overall a really nice day and thoroughly enjoyable. The route wasn’t too difficult despite the distance, though I did find Meall Greigh a real slog right at the beginning. An Stuc from Meall Garbh was the highlight of the day, and I thoroughly recommend approaching it from this side.
Travel and Coronavirus
Please check current coronavirus restrictions before travelling within or to Scotland.
Click for details
Share your personal walking route experiences in Scotland, and comment on other peoples' reports.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.