Climbing the highest mountain in Scotland and the United Kingdom
Where to stay
We awoke from our first night staying at the Brevins Guesthouse in Fort William feeling refreshed and headed down for breakfast. We had cereal, yogurt and fruit and our cooked options. I had a vegetarian breakfast (I’m not vegetarian, just a bit fussy with meat) and James had a full English. This set us up perfectly for a long day ahead. Our host made our breakfast and came out to introduce herself. She talked to us about Ben Nevis and then asked if we had sun cream explaining that Ben Nevis is exposed and it was a really hot day. We’d stupidly forgot sun cream thinking “we definitely won’t need that going to Scotland” but we did and she honestly saved the day. We were a little pink by the end of the day with sun cream so without it we won’t have been two red lobsters rolling around in agony.
We forgot our reservoir from our backpack so only had 1.5 litres of water. It was around 20 degrees so we thought we’d need plenty of water. I’ve made the silly mistake before not taking enough water and it’s not fun. We stopped at a Spar to grab two more bottles of water before making our way to the Ben Nevis start point. The walk back from the Spar took us past the Ben Nevis Inn which we were planning on heading to for a celebratory beer at the end.
The Walk Begins
The walk started and you are immediately faced with an ascent. The paths are wide enough to overtake if you need to but expect it to be busy. We went on a bank holiday and were climbing on a beautiful day so we knew it would be rammed full of fellow hikers. There is a little bit of scrambling in this first section but nothing to worry about. Plenty of people had walking poles and were managing which I always find makes scrambling 10 times harder than it needs to be. There were quite of a lot of big groups tackling the mountain and surprisingly quite a few children who needed frequent stops along the way.
After an hour or so you will reach Loch Meall an t-Suidhe. This is the perfect place to stop to catch your breath, take in the views and snap some great Instagram shots. The terrain levels out so you can give your thighs a break. A lot of families do the first part of the hike to reach the Loch and then turn around. This is sensible if you’re struggling as you’re nowhere near the top at this point. You can see the midpoint from here if you look up in the opposite direction to the Loch. My legs were hurting already by this point and I was starting to regret all of the walking we’d done the day before.
We carried on up to the midpoint where you’ll find a mini waterfall and you will cross the cascading upper Red Burn stream. From here the incline continues and after a while we saw our first glimpse of snow. This was extremely unusual in the scorching heat but an interesting way to mix up the walk. The temperature dropped and the ground was covered in melting snow for the last 30 minutes of our walk. The melting snow made it difficult to walk and walking poles would have been a great help right about now. We struggled on and eventually managed to reach the summit. It was foggy and misty but not too cold. If you stayed up here for too long though you’d definitely catch a chill. I’d recommend taking some light layers so you can keep warm but ones which are easy to pack when you de-layer on the way down.
We waited in a queue at the summit for the obligatory “we reached the top” photo and saw a man going in and out of this tiny little hut at the top. I still have no idea what this tiny building was. If anyone knows please get in touch and let me know, I’m so intrigued.
We began our descent and quickly realised it was a lot easier to jog than walk, particularly in the melting snow. Once you get the hang of descending it’s actually quite fun. We slid our way all the way down until we reached drier land and had very soggy feet. Here it felt a bit warmer so we stopped to have our lunch before continuing down. We managed to get down really quickly and continued with a little jog all the way down. Once I’d reached the summit I was just ready for a beer so wanted to get down as soon as possible!
The hike took us 2hr45 moving time and a total of 4hr15 minutes. I found it tough and the continuous incline really took a toll on my thighs. I had to keep stopping to give my legs a break. My advice would be to do a few hikes before with steep inclines beforehand. We saw a lot of people struggling and I don’t think people realise that it’s literally not a walk in the park. We saw people in jeans and open toed sandals! Be prepared to be out for 5-7 hours and pack for all weathers. Take plenty of water, sun cream and some midge spray. It didn’t seem to be a problem for us but I have read articles saying it’s a bit of an annoyance.
Ben Nevis Inn
We made it down and headed to the Ben Nevis Inn. There was a queue to order drinks which took a little while. James stayed in the queue and I walked around into the garden to grab a seat. There aren’t many tables and social distancing made matters harder but I managed to find a couple who were finishing up their drinks and ready to leave. We had a cold pint and soaked up the sun and luscious greenery around us. We noticed another couple looking for a table so offered them the other side of our bench. They were kiwis living in London and we sat, chatted and got to know them. We ended up having 3 pints and on an empty stomach we were feeling a bit tipsy! We merrily made our way back to the guest house for a well needed shower.
Once clean and after checking our dodgy tan lines, we made our way into Fort William centre, the closest town to Ben Nevis, for dinner. We passed the Highland Cinema the night before and noticed they had a tapas menu. We had a nose at some of the diner’s dishes and they looked delicious so we decided to try it for ourselves this evening. We had calamari, patatas bravas and melted cheese with bread to dip. It was unbelievable and everything we needed in order to refuel after a long day. I’d definitely recommend this place for food. Don’t overlook it thinking they only serve popcorn and Tango ice blasts.
Make a holiday out of climbing Ben Nevis and take time to appreciate the beautiful town of Fort William. This place has so much to offer and some really modern and trendy places. The Brevins Guesthouse is also a great place to base yourself with it being just a 15 minute walk from the Ben Nevis starting point.
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