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The great outdoors: Forgotten Munro Meall Garbh is no beast but unveils real beauty

© Global Warming Images/ShutterstoThe summit of Ben Lawers, at 3,983ft, dominates the skyline on the northern side of Loch Tay and is the highest of the range of mountains popular with hillwalkers
The summit of Ben Lawers, at 3,983ft, dominates the skyline on the northern side of Loch Tay and is the highest of the range of mountains popular with hillwalkers

Lying hidden from easy view to the north of Loch Tay, Meall Garbh is very much the “forgotten” Munro of the Lawers group.

Its immediate neighbour, Meall Greigh, can be seen rising above the hamlet of Lawers from the road, while mighty Ben Lawers itself is much higher.

Meall Garbh also lacks the rocky drama of the real star of this group of Munros, An Stuc.

However, Munro-baggers will, naturally enough, want to climb Meall Garbh simply by dint of its hallowed Munro status, but even the casual hillwalker has good reason to summit the peak – the views from the top are astonishing.

It’s the best viewpoint for rugged An Stuc – the summit of which is 1km (0.6 miles) to the south-west and which is exactly the same height as Meall Garbh, but was only granted Munro status in the 1997 revision.

The enormous bulk of Ben Lawers looms behind. Beyond these mountains, to the west, the land is rumpled by layer after layer of hill. It’s quite beautiful.

In good weather, a fine ­winter outing is to tackle Meall Garbh along with Meall Greigh. Terrain is generally easy going.

I’ve snowshoed the round in well under six hours and it’s the route I recommend – snowshoes optional! Another popular route is the circuit of the pretty Lochan nan Cat and includes An Stuc as a third Munro.

The route up this hill from the bealach with Meall Garbh is a scramble on loose and, when wet, very slippy rock.

Care is needed – and in winter it’s very challenging. A traverse of these three Munros along with Ben Lawers and Beinn Ghlas is a marvellous day out – probably the best hillwalk in the area. Start with Meall Greigh and end at the National Trust for Scotland car park at the foot of Beinn Ghlas. It’s 18km (11.2 miles) with 1800m (5900ft) of ascent. Allow up to 10 hours.

A village haunted by lady’s prophecy

Lawers was once a much larger settlement than the scattering of houses it consists of today.

It was home to a number of farmsteads, and the remains of the abandoned village can still be seen. They include homes, a church and a mill.

The village is reputed to be haunted by the Lady of Lawers. She lived in the area in the 17th Century and was said to have the gift of prophecy.

She was buried next to an ash tree in the churchyard. She earlier warned that anyone harming the tree would meet a bad end.

In the 1870s, it was chopped down by local farmer John Campbell – who was later gored to death by his own bull. The man who helped him fell the tree went mad, and the horse that pulled the cart dropped down dead.

Other predictions apparently foretold the Clearances and the age of steamships and tourism.

Guide

Pronunciation: Me-yal Gar-av

Meaning: rough rounded hill

Height: 1118m (3668ft); Rank: 36

OS Landranger Map 51

Summit grid ref: NN644436 (cairn)

Nearest town: Killin lies 13km (8 miles) south-west. There are plenty of places to eat, a variety of shops, including an outdoor store and supermarket, plus accommodation from holiday parks to hotels. A visit to Moirlanich Longhouse gives a rare insight into 19th-Century life.

The route

Start grid ref: NN677395

Distance: 15.5km (9.6 miles)

Ascent: 1200m (3937ft)

Time: 6 hrs

Cars can be left in the Lawers Hotel car park – so long as you buy some food or drink on your return. Seems a fair deal – certainly given the superb food and range of real ales I’ve always enjoyed there.

Head west along the A827 for a few hundred metres, to a bend where the horn carver’s cottage sits.

From here, a good path follows the Lawers Burn, initially on the right bank, but crossing over to the left, east bank, after about 2km (1.2 miles). Continue on this path for around another 1km (0.6 miles) to where it merges with a vehicle track.

This leads, in a short distance, to a hydro dam. Cross the river beyond the dam, taking care, before heading north-north-west up grassy, steepening slopes. Keep left of the slight ravine as you trend round above craggier ground to join the ridge that will lead to Meall Garbh’s summit. From the summit, follow the ridge back to the bealach with Meall Greigh. From here, follow the broad crest of the ridge over the second Munro. Gradients are quite easy, and it’s a pleasant walk. The summit is 1001m (3284ft) and has good views into the Glen Lyon hills. Head south over Sron Mhor to eventually pick up the path of your inward route.