Location: Perth & Kinross

Grade: Moderate mountain walk with some scrambling

Distance: About 6 miles/10km

Approx Time: 4-6 hours

I HAVE climbed the undulating Tarmachan ridge above Loch Tay a number of times but a couple of years ago I decided to forsake the normal route described in most of the guidebooks. This approach leaves the Lochan na Lairige road on the high pass between Loch Tay and Glen Lyon and takes a line of least resistance up the hill’s SSE ridge to its 923m top. A quick descent then a steeper pull leads to the summit.

While some Munro-baggers simply visit the cairn and return the same way, most hillwalkers continue along Tarmachan’s 5km long ridge, a twisting promenade that traverses three other prominent tops. In wintry conditions snow can add an Alpine feel to the narrow sections of the ridge.

It’s a good day out, but to be honest I’ve always been vaguely dissatisfied with the route – it feels as though the direction of the ridge is carrying you further and further away from where you want to finish.

Once the delights of the ridge end, you have to drop into a dank corrie, pass a disused quarry and follow a bulldozed track for 3km back to the start, a dour climax to what is one of the most exhilarating little ridges in the Southern Highlands.

The mountain deserves better. I’d recommend an ascent via the ridge that bounds the western side of Coire Riadhailt, to the north-west of Meall nan Tarmachan.

By starting on the Glen Lyon side of the Lochan na Lairige road, close to the upper reaches of the Allt Baile a’Mhuilinn you can reach the crest of this ridge in about 30 minutes.

Once this heather-thrutch is out of the way you can continue up glorious deer-cropped turf slopes that climb gradually towards an obvious gap in the Tarmachan ridge between Meall Garbh and Beinn nan Eachan. It’s a lovely ridge, narrowing as it climbs higher with rounded grassy slopes giving way to craggy, gully seared slopes with the steep western crags of Meall nan Tarmachan looking increasingly dramatic across the void of Coire Riadhailt. To the west Meall Ghaordie rises impressively out of Glen Lochay and beyond it stretch the great hills of Breadalbane.

Following this easy approach ridge, things change dramatically when you reach the Tarmachan ridge itself.

A confusion of high-level knolls and rocky knobs abound with the odd crag thrown in for good measure. You can, if you wish, wander along the south-western section of the ridge beyond Beinn nan Eachan before retracing your steps back to this point.

In actual fact the best of the ridge now forms the middle section of our horseshoe walk, steeply up the scrambly crag of Meall Garbh, over the narrow, airy summit and down to a broad bealach before the final rise to the Munro, Meall nan Tarmachan at 1044m/3425ft.

To the east rise the big tops of the Ben Lawers group, the highest hills in the Southern Highlands and to the south the rather uninspiring plateau on the south side of Loch Tay.

But the real views are to the north, with Schiehallion lifting its head over the Carn Mairg group and the far outline of the blue Cairngorms. It’s north we head now, over a series of four steep little noses (the difficulties can be avoided on the left) and over the ridge of Creag an Lochain with steep gullies dropping down into Lochan na Lairige.

Easy grassy slopes then drop you down swiftly to the roadside and your starting point – a fine horseshoe ridge of about 10km and an infinitely more rewarding route than the more popular one from the National Trust for Scotland car park. It’s well worth trying.


Map: OS Landranger sheet 51 (Loch Tay & Glen Dochart)

Distance: About 6 miles/10km

Time: 4-6 hours

Start/Finish: Lochan na Lairige road at GR NN582417

Route: Leave the Lochan na Lairige road and head W to gain the N ridge of Meall Glas. Follow this ridge S over Meall Ton Eich to reach the main ridge just E of Beinn nan Eachan. Bear E and scramble to the summit of Meall Garbh, descend to a broad bealach and climb easy slopes to the summit of Meall nan Tarmachan. Continue N, over four steep noses and the crest of Creag an Lochain. Follow grassy slopes back to the road.

All walks subject to current restrictions