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The Scottish Highlands are well known for the grandeur of the scenery and for their magnificent mountains, but UK outdoor folk frequently use British understatement when describing our highest mountains (e.g. Ben Nevis), often just referring to them as ‘hills’. In the case of Ben A’an in the Trossachs, the word ‘hill’ is quite accurate, with a height of a mere 454 metres, but get to the top and you can certainly see the mountains.
In fact, Ben A’an is a well-liked little hill. From the summit, the views towards the Arrochar Alps and Loch Lomond are outstanding, but Ben A’an has another great advantage – it’s a short and easy walk. Because of these factors, and the close proximity of Glasgow and the densely populated Central Lowlands of Scotland, the popularity of Ben A’an is guaranteed.
On our Scottish trip of May 2021, Chris and I were back in the Trossachs, filling in the gaps of places we had never been to, as well as looking for a short hill day to give Border Collie ‘Mist’ her daily walk – Ben A’an fitted the bill exactly. Mind you, it is just a little hill, so this is a shorter blog post than usual – hopefully the views in the photos make up for that.
Unfortunately, the promise of the clear dawn over nearby Loch Venachar wasn’t to continue, and before long a blanket of cloud covered the sky. However, the clouds did occasionally lend a bit of texture to the sky as dog and humans set out. The Loch Achray path was surprisingly steep in places for such a lowly hill, but the views compensated as we gained height.
According to Wikipedia, “The name “Ben A’an” is an erroneous Anglicization by Sir Walter Scott. Its original name is uncertain, but it has been suggested that it may have been ‘Am Binnean’ which means “the Pinnacle”, although some sites cite its meaning as “the Small Pointed Peak”. Recent tree harvesting in the forest at the halfway point wasn’t a good look, but the views of the ‘Small Pointed Peak’ ahead of us more than made up for that.
Sure enough, the views improved as we reached the col to the north of the summit, before heading on to the top. Loch Katrine drew the eye at first but then looking at the monitor screen of the camera on full zoom, I could recognise the distinctive top of The Cobbler, 25 kms to the west, where we had been just eight days earlier (see blog post #301).
With the summit being so popular, I had to wait my turn for pics or run the risk of being ‘photo bombed’. Ben A’an might be a small hill but it has big views and a big heart, and is as good a way as any to spend half a day surrounded by mountains. A lunch break at the summit filled in another half hour before it was time to head for home (and the next hill!)
Text and images © Paul Shorrock