By Craig Neil
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Table of Contents
- Tourist information
- Tourist map of Scotland
- Things to do nearby
- Frequently asked questions
Ben Lawers is situated within a national nature reserve near Loch Tay in Perthshire.
This mountain is the 10th-highest Munro in Scotland at 3,984 feet (1,214 metres) but it’s a popular destination for beginner mountain hikers thanks to the mid-way car park that offers a welcome shortcut to the summit.
Discover Ben Lawers and the stunning scenery of the surrounding landscape with this guide which features an overview, a virtual tour, and lots of useful visiting advice.
1: Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve is a great location for wildlife watching. Take your camera or binoculars (link to my recommended optics) as you might see red deer and ptarmigan on your way up the mountain.
2: This is one of the few mountains in Scotland that a car park midway up it (postcode FK21 8TY). It’s relatively easy going for the majority of the walk so Ben Lawers is an ideal mountain for new Munro baggers (link to my guide about Scotland’s Munros).
3: The view from the summit of Ben Lawers is stunning. Beinn Ghlas (a second Munro that is traversed en-route) is equally scenic.
1: Download a selection of pdf trail guides from the NTS website onto your phone before you leave home. The entire Ben Lawers reserve is owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland so there are lots of designated trails beyond the route to the summit of Ben Lawers.
2: The car park is free if you’re a National Trust for Scotland member. Becoming an NTS member allows free use of car parks across hundreds of sites in Scotland.
3: There are no facilities at Ben Lawers but the village of Killin is just 9 miles to the southwest. Killin has a couple of pub/restaurants and shops and is worth visiting for the Falls of Dochart.
Scotland’s 10th-highest Munro is one of Central Scotland’s most popular tourist hotspots, famed not only for the fantastic walks to the summit but also for the wonderful views visitors get to enjoy along the way.
Ben Lawers is actually just one of seven peaks in the Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve but it boasts the title of being the tallest, with its highest point an impressive 1,214 metres above sea level.
This nature reserve is an exceptionally scenic place and it’s one of my personal favourite areas in Central Scotland as not only do you get to experience the wonders of the Ben Lawers and Tarmachan mountain ranges, but you’re also just a stone’s throw from the watery expanse of Loch Tay.
As a place to get outside and enjoy nature, the Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve sure takes some beating.
It covers a surprisingly large 4,500 hectares and it’s teeming with wildlife, from shy red deer to territorial black grouse and ptarmigan, but there are also skylarks, buzzards, hares and golden eagles to keep a watchful eye open for.
Walking along Ben Lawer’s many trails provides visitors with unparalleled wildlife spotting opportunities, hence the reason it’s one of Scotland’s top destinations for photographers as well as hill climbers.
In addition, the nature reserve is famed for the incredibly varied plant life that thrives on the mountain slopes, and most of the seven Munro’s are covered in a variety of arctic-alpine plants the like of which you’ll struggle to find elsewhere in Britain.
Visit in summer and you’ll be blown away by the dazzling colours of the heather and gorse bushes, with the heather sweeping up the mountainside in great swathes of purple and the gorse providing thick cover elsewhere.
Gorse (also known as Whin) flourishes in this part of Scotland and you’ll frequently smell the light vanilla scent of its bright yellow flowers as you make your way along the trails on Ben Lawers.
With the sun shining, the scent of the gorse all around and the stunning backdrop of Loch Tay filling your field of view, this has to be one of the most scenic places in the country.
Thankfully, such an idyllic region is cared for by the National Trust for Scotland which maintains not only the landscape but also carefully manages it for current and future generations to enjoy.
From the ultra-handy car park halfway up the mountainside to the frequent signposts and markers, they’ve managed to make the Ben Lawers range accessible for all.
If you want to plan a route before leaving home I suggest checking out the NTS website as there’s a collection of downloadable trail guides that are worth saving to your phone.
Failing that, I wholeheartedly recommend packing an OS map into your backpack as you’ll be able to find the best routes to climb the mountain without having to worry about failing batteries.
Discover more mountains in Scotland with: The Best Munros in Scotland – Ultimate Visitor Guide.
This is a mountain range that’s begging to be explored, and you can do just that – to a certain extent.
The NTS has gone to great lengths to rejuvenate the reserve with a number of schemes designed to reduce the impact that tourists are having on the landscape – which includes asking that you keep to the paths.
Indeed, there are some paths on Ben Lawers where visitors are asked to only use them to ascend, and then use alternative routes for the descent in an effort to reduce the effects of erosion.
While some might find it restrictive I personally think this is an essential part of maintaining the fragile landscape, especially with Scotland’s ever-increasing tourist numbers.
Still, if you’re the type of person that likes to get off the beaten track you might like to bear this in mind before setting out on foot.
The trails on offer from the Ben Lawers car park are categorised as lower and upper, with the lower ones offering easy walks with views over Loch Tay and the upper ones being more of a challenge but with the best views across the Highland mountainscape.
If you have children I suggest trying the lower routes first as they’re still enjoyable but are short enough that little legs won’t get tired, and the two most popular – the Edramucky and Kiltyrie trails – are just one mile in length.
The Edramucky trail is possibly my favourite as there’s such a wide variety of animal species to discover as you make your way along it, so you might like to follow the ‘caterpillar trail’ which aims to show enthusiastic youngsters all the creepy-crawly insects you’ll find in these parts.
Adventurous adults, meanwhile, will most likely prefer to bag all seven Munros in the reserve, but if you just want to reach the summit of Ben Lawers then you can either start at Loch Tay or begin your ascent from the mid-level car park.
The path from the car park is easygoing for the majority of its length and shouldn’t pose any difficulty for moderately experienced walkers, but I’d plan on giving yourself at least 5 hours to complete it.
From the car park, the path to the summit to Ben Lawers is clearly signposted and due to the fact the path is so well-worn, it’s very easy to navigate.
The path initially passes through sparse woodland and heather-covered slopes before the landscape becomes steeper and more barren, though even at this point the route to the top of Ben Lawers is considered beginner friendly.
The NTS has done a fine job of maintaining the paths and there are even steps cut into the mountain slopes in several places, with the remainder of the path comprising bare rock and compacted dirt.
One unusual feature about a climb up Ben Lawers is the fact that to reach the summit you have to cross over a lower Munro – Beinn Ghlas – which is a decent climb in itself at 3,600 feet (1,100 metres).
There’s no trig point at the top of this first Munro so it’s quite easy to cross over it without even realising you’ve done so, so you might consider doing what I did and download the route file from the Walk Highlands website into the Google Earth app.
Alternatively, the GPS file in GPX format can be loaded into pretty much any portable GPS device, and even some smartwatches.
Once over Beinn Ghlas the path continues its ascent to Ben Lawers, but just before the final scramble you will notice the path deviates to the west.
This is an alternative route back to the car park and it’s one that I recommend rather than just retracing your steps as the change in scenery makes the return journey just that wee bit more enjoyable.
Forging ahead to the plateau of Ben Lawers you’ll find a trig point and a view indicator after which the path continues onwards to the Munros of An Stuc and Meall Garbh.
The terrain for both of those Munros is much more difficult to traverse than Ben Lawers, so if you’re a beginner I suggest heading back to the car park.
The more adventurous can continue to An Stuc, Meall Garbh, and Meall Greigh, but be aware this route heads further away from the starting point, meaning it will either have to be completed over two days or transport back to the Ben Lawers car park will have to be arranged at the far end.
Finally, if you haven’t already looked, you might like to check out the virtual tour at the beginning of this article which shows scenes from the trail up Ben Lawers in 360°, from the car park to the summit.
If you’d like to visit another stunning Scottish mountain read: The Complete Guide to Visiting Schiehallion, or if you’d prefer to walk through the nearby Tay Forest Park read my Guide to the Best Forest Walks in Scotland.
Tourist map of Scotland
Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve,
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Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:
Ben Lawers & Glen Lyon – OL48 Explorer.
Loch Tay & Glen Dochart – 51 Landranger.
OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4cm = 1km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
Things to do nearby
Ben Lawers Dam. Aberfeldy FK21 8TU. 20-minute walk. Scenic body of water in the Ben Lawers nature reserve that is easily walked to from the Ben Lawers car park. The 334-metre hydroelectric dam offers stunning views over the Loch Tay valley.
The Scottish Crannog Centre. Kenmore PH15 2HY. 25-minute drive. An open-air museum that takes visitors on a journey into Scotland’s pre-history. On display are original artefacts, demonstrations of ancient cooking and crafts and guided log boat rides to a replica roundhouse.
Moirlanich Longhouse. Glen Lochay, Killin FK21 8UA. 13-minute drive. 19th-century conserved traditional cottage that offers an insight into rural life in Scotland.
Falls of Acharn. Aberfeldy PH15 2HT. 32-minute drive. Waterfall on the southern side of Loch Tay near the village of Acharn. The walk to the falls is highly-rated as it passes through a very scenic beech tree woodland.
Falls of Dochart. A827, Killin FK21 8SL. 15-minute drive. Scenic falls in Dochart village on the River Dochart. To the north is the Dochart Viaduct and Kinnell stone circle. There are gift shops, a pub and cafés in Dochart.
Frequently asked questions
How long does it take to walk up and down Ben Lawers?
Ben Lawers is widely regarded as one of the easiest Munros to climb, with the 6.75-mile return route taking approximately 4-6 hours to complete. The mountain is the 10th-highest in Scotland and has a summit of 3,984 feet.
Can you take a dog up Ben Lawers?
Ben Lawers is an accessible peak in the Central Highlands, and the shallow track to the summit is possible for most dog breeds.
Note that there is often livestock on the hills surrounding Ben Lawers so all dogs should be kept under control as advised in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
How much is the car park at Ben Lawers?
The car park at Ben Lawers has an all-day fee of £3 (as of 2022). The car park is located 2 miles north of the A827, postcode FK21 8TY.
How many Munros are in Lawers range?
There are 7 Munros in the Lawers range; Ben Lawers, Meall a Choire Leith, Meall Corranaich, Beinn Ghlas, An Stuc, Meall Garbh, Meall Greigh.