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The great outdoors: Route up perfect pyramid of Beinn Dorain is a Highland climb that still retains wow factor

© Markus Keller/imageBROKER/Shutterstock Looking north toward Beinn Dorian
Looking north toward Beinn Dorian

The main trunk road to the northwest, the West Highland Railway and the West Highland Way all pass very close to Beinn Dorain, so the hill’s well known to many.

I’ve climbed it on a few occasions and travelled past it many hundreds of times – but I still thrill at the sight of it. I love travelling north with someone who catches sight of Beinn Dorain for the first time.

As you round the sweeping bend on the A82 north of Tyndrum, the vast bulk of this perfect pyramid of a peak looms into view. Their reaction is invariably “wow!” From this angle, Beinn Dorain appears conical and almost impossibly steep – a formidable prospect that utterly dominates its surroundings.

There’s a feeling you’ve suddenly arrived in the Highlands. With their big sharp horns, Highland cows can look pretty fearsome, but they’re generally big softies really.

Beinn Dorain’s a bit like that too, and, when approached from Bridge of Orchy, the ascent is much easier than you’d imagine. It’s a bit of a pull up to the bealach and beyond, then you follow a lovely long ridge that takes you to the summit. The hill is one of a group of five fairly tightly packed Munros in this area. Combining Beinn Dorain with its nearest neighbour, Beinn an Dothaidh, makes for a fine day out. The superfit sometimes climb all five in a day – a truly massive undertaking which needs the long days of summer if you want a chance of finishing in daylight. A couple of hundred metres shy of the summit lies a considerable cairn, known as Carn Sassunaich, the Sassenach’s – or Southerner’s – Cairn. It’s not clear how it got its name but one – quite uncharitable – theory has it that in thick mist “daft southerners” might mistake the cairn for the true summit! Whatever the truth of it, the views of the Southern Highlands from the actual summit are wonderful, giving a rarely seen perspective of the Glen Lochay and Glen Lyon hills in particular.


Pronunciation: Ben Doh-ran

Meaning: possibly hill of the streamlet

Height: 1076m (3530ft); Rank: 64

OS Landranger Map 50

Summit grid ref: NN325378 (cairn)

Nearest town: Tyndrum lies just 8km (5 miles) south. It’s a small settlement at the junction of the A82 and A85. It has a train station, pub, hotel and the famous Green Welly Stop, which sells everything from petrol to outdoor gear. For award-wining fish and chips, visit the Real Food Cafe.


The route

The route – which takes in two Munros, Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh – starts at Bridge of Orchy train station, where there is limited parking.

Alternatively, there’s a large public car park right next to the Bridge of Orchy Hotel on the A82.

From the station, you walk beneath the tracks via the underpass. An obvious path crosses the West Highland Way and heads east into the Coire an Dothaidh. The going is easy enough, with the odd boggy section – especially lower down. The path steepens toward the bealach between Beinn Dorain and its neighbour, Beinn an Dothaidh.

The col is marked by a cairn. These Munros are so close together and easily climbed from the bealach – it’d be a shame to do just one. I think Beinn Dorain is best left until last. It’s such a pleasingly pointed peak that it’s the real highlight of this walk.


Symphony celebrates Highland landmark

Beinn Dorain is the only Munro with a choral symphony devoted to it.

Scots composer Ronald Stevenson’s work in In Praise of Beinn Dorain – for full chorus and chamber choir, with chamber and symphony orchestra – received its world premiere in Glasgow City Halls on January 19, 2008.

The work was performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the chorus of Scottish Opera, Glasgow University Chapel Choir, and the Edinburgh Singers.

The piece is based on Duncan Ban MacIntyre’s Gaelic poem, and its translation into English by Scottish writer Hugh MacDiarmid. The work was 45 years in the making, with Stevenson having started it in the 1960s. The composer, then in his 80th year, was present at the premiere. Afterwards, the audience cheered him to the rafters.