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The great outdoors: Elegant Ben Vorlich forms Stirling’s magnificent backdrop

© Shutterstock / mountaintreksStirling Castle with Ben Vorlich, right, and Stuc a’Chroin in the distance
Stirling Castle with Ben Vorlich, right, and Stuc a’Chroin in the distance

Sitting apart from any other Munro, Ben Vorlich and its neighbour, Stuc a’ Chroin, dominate this part of the Southern Highlands.

Ben Vorlich looks quite different depending on one’s viewpoint. But in every case it’s a distinctive and easily recognised mountain. The hill can be seen for many miles, and its situation on the northern edge of the heavily populated Central Belt means it’s very popular.

From the south, Ben Vorlich appears like a giant Viking hogback tomb. It can be seen for a considerable distance on approach to Stirling, providing a magnificent backdrop to the picturesque city’s fairytale castle and monument to Sir William Wallace. From other directions, it is an elegant, symmetrical pyramid of a peak. There are several routes up the hill. The most direct – which can easily be extended to take in Stuc a’ Chroin – is from Ardvorlich, on the southern shores of beautiful Loch Earn. Climbing the peak as a there-and-back from Ardvorlich is a relatively quick day out.

The road to the start, however, is a single track that twists along the lochside, and passing places are few and far between. Care must be taken driving it in wintry weather. Ben Vorlich sits just north of the Highland Boundary Fault Line, a fact that’s abundantly clear from the summit.

To the south, views of rolling hills and flat lands extend to the Border hills, while to the north, the great rumpled mountains of the rugged Highlands fill the horizon. There are a couple of Corbetts in the area – Beinn Each, to the south-west of Stuc a’ Chroin, and Meall na Fearna, to the east of Ben Vorlich. A traverse of all four hills is a marvellous day out – although up to about 30km (18.5 miles), with almost 2,000m (6,562ft) of ascent. Start in Glen Ample to take in Beinn Each first. The route takes you to Ardvorlich so either leave a car here or arrange transport.


Bloody history inspired Sir Walter

At its start, the route up Ben Vorlich passes through the grounds of Ardvorlich House.

It was built in 1790 by Robert Ferguson on the site of an earlier castle, some of the walls of which were incorporated into the new structure.

For 400 years it’s been the seat of the Stewarts of Ardvorlich. The current owner is the 15th laird, Alexander Stewart.

The house was visited by novelist Sir Walter Scott and is said to be the inspiration for the castle Darnlinvarach in his 1819 novel A Legend Of Montrose.

The story is set during the 1640s, while the Civil War raged in England. In Scotland, the Earl of Montrose led a campaign against the Covenanters, who had sided with the English Parliament.

Legends associated with Ardvorlich provided Scott with inspiration for his plot, including the dark tale of how MacGregors killed John Drummond and cruelly presented his head to his sister, Lady Margaret of Ardvorlich.

© Colin Rennie
Loch Earn

Guide

Pronunciation: Ben Vor-lich

Meaning: Hill of the bay

Height: 985m (3,232ft) Rank: 165

OS Landranger Maps 51 & 57

Summit grid ref: NN629189 (trig point)

Nearest town: Lochearnhead is a small tourist town 6.4km (4 miles) north-west. The loch is a popular water sports venue and the area is well geared up for visiting outdoor enthusiasts. There are plenty of accommodation and eating/drinking options.


Route

Start grid ref: NN633232

Distance: 15km (9.3 miles)

Ascent: 1,200m (3,937ft)

Time: 6hrs

Lay-by on south side of single-track access road, east of Ardvorlich House.

The route heads south on path that leads to Callander. Follow track for 1.5km (1 mile) to junction, take the right fork. After a short distance, the path crosses the Allt a’ Choire Bhuidhe and climbs a grassy ridge, heading south.

The path is clear all the way up the north ridge. The final section is rather steep and takes you quickly to the trig point. A cairn sits 100m (330ft) east. With the expanse of the Lowlands laid out to the south, the summit feels wonderfully airy. Most Munro-baggers will want to continue to Stuc a’ Chroin. In fine weather the way ahead is obvious. A path leads to a scree field. Above sits the enormous buttress, which you scramble up to reach the north top. It can be avoided by descending north for a short distance at the bealach to pick up an increasingly steep path to the northwest ridge.

The summit is 0.5km (0.3 miles) south. On the return, the buttress is avoided by a path that initially follows the northwest ridge, gradually curving east to below the bealach. From here it’s possible to contour round the west flank of Ben Vorlich and eventually pick up the track back to Ardvorlich.