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The Great Outdoors: Mini Munro Ben Vane is worthy of place among the giants

Approaching Ben Vane's summit
Approaching Ben Vane's summit

This lovely wee hill – in the immensely popular Arrochar Alps group – is Scotland’s smallest Munro, edging into the list by less than a metre.

However, what Ben Vane lacks in height, it makes up for in character.

Like the Jack Russell that squares up to Alsatians, this is a hill that thinks it’s a mountain.

Its name is an Anglicisation of the Gaelic for “middle hill” and it’s neatly encircled by the Munros Ben Vorlich, Beinn Narnain and Beinn Ime.

Like the other hills in this group, Ben Vane’s proximity to Glasgow – and ease of access – mean it attracts a lot of walkers.

Because of this, the normal route – also the route suggested here – is very eroded, the path at times a thigh-deep trench slinking up the hillside and the approach a boggy mess.

The British Mountaineering Council – working with Mountaineering Scotland and the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland, among others – is campaigning to raise funds to restore the route (visit

mountaineering.scot/campaigns

for more info).

Ben Vane, I think, is the perfect hill for a crisp day out – it’s a short, sharp climb and there’s no big walk in as it’s pretty close to the road.

I wouldn’t recommend it as a first winter hill as there are a couple of rocky steps toward the summit.

They’re perfectly straightforward, but might be a bit of a challenge for the novice – particularly in descent if visibility is poor. Good route-finding is essential.

For those with a bit of experience, however, the brief scrambling sections provide a welcome bit of added interest.

The conical hill stands alone and, although not the tallest, the summit feels nice and airy.

Views of the surrounding Arrochar Alps are wonderful and to the north lies massive Ben Lui.

What draws the eye though, is the vast expanse of Loch Lomond, studded with its many islands and stretching far to the south.

Guide to Ben Vane

Pronunciation: Ben Vay-ann

Meaning: middle hill

Height: 3,002ft Rank: 282

OS Landranger Map: 56

Summit grid ref: NN277098 (cairn)

Nearest town: Arrochar is only six away but Balloch, 21 miles south, is also a convenient centre with more amenities, including plenty of bars, restaurants and accommodation. It’s also home to Loch Lomond Sea Life Aquarium, pictured right – a great option when the weather’s too miserable for the hills.

Recommended Route

Start grid ref: NN322098 Distance: Six miles

Ascent: 2,887ft Time: 4.5 hours

Ben Vane might be our smallest Munro but it’s very rocky and steep. Its solitary position also means linking it with any of the other Arrochar Alps makes for big days, perhaps not in terms of distance, but certainly in ascent.

The easiest option is to tackle it on its own from Inveruglas, where there’s a visitor centre and a car park (£4 charge for the day).

Head south along the A82 from the car park past the hydro-electric power station for about 1km (0.6 miles), then head right up a tarmac road under the railway. This section of the walk isn’t terribly attractive thanks to infrastructure associated with the Loch Sloy dam, but soon the rocky pyramid of Ben Vane lures you on.

After 2km (1.2 miles), leave the tarmac road for a rougher track heading left. It crosses a bridge. Shortly after this you’ll reach a smaller bridge – here a clear path heads to the right and the boggy approach to Ben Vane.

The route from here follows the hill’s south-east ridge – a steep wee climb. Rocky outcrops and crags give some options for scramblers but sticking to the zig-zagging path avoids any serious difficulties. The path takes you over a few false summits before the top is reached.