#306 – Ben Ledi

Ben Ledi – the first mountain seen on the A84 road to the West Highlands © Gordon Hatton

For the best viewing experience, left-click the images and maps to zoom in to a new window, then exit that window to go back – go on, it really does work!

Ben Ledi was the first ‘proper’ Scottish mountain I ever saw.  In 1970, I set off with a mate on what was then a mammoth drive from Lancashire to the Scottish Highlands – back then, the M6 motorway finished just north of Lancaster, and beyond the motorway we followed the old A6 road north through Kendal, over Shap summit then through Carlisle.

Central Scotland, showing The Trossachs (Ben Ledi route with the red flag)

Over the border into Scotland, the route improved for a while, with the then dual-carriageway A74 pointing us north, avoiding Glasgow by the towns of Coatbridge and Airdrie.  It took blinking ages!  Eventually we passed through Stirling, and leaving the town headed northwest on the A84.  Then I saw it, our first real mountain after the moors of the Southern Uplands.  That was Ben Ledi, and I spent the next 50 years of visiting Scotland driving past it!

Our Ben Ledi route
Closer view of the route, clockwise from the red flag

Regular readers will know that I avoid the Highlands over the summer, choosing May or earlier or September or later, in an attempt to avoid the midge (and tourist) season. With several ‘things to do’ already in the diary in 2021, we decided on two trips to Scotland, with the first in August. As the Trossachs area doesn’t get as ‘midged’ as the West Coast, it seemed a good place to get our boots on the ground.  It was also a good opportunity to finally get to grips with Ben Ledi.

Ben Ledi seen from Callander, © unknown

At 879 metres altitude, Ben Ledi is far from a high-mountain challenge, though it almost achieves Munro status (a Scottish mountain over 3000 ft/ 915 metres).  A look at the map suggested that there would be great views across the Southern Highlands, and I’m pretty sure that they are there – unfortunately, we started our Ben Ledi day with a traditional background of good old Scots mist.

Starting out from the car park
A misty looking day over Loch Lubnaig ….
…. and a misty looking day looking ahead!
Out of the trees, looking bach to Loch Lubnaig ….
…. with the mist showing little sign of lifting

Ben Ledi is a popular mountain with folk who don’t walk or hike in the mountains all that often, and rightly so with easy access and a non-technical ascent.  It’s thought that in days long gone, the locals celebrated the Celtic pagan festival of Beltane on the summit and in the 18th Century the name of the mountain was incorrectly translated as ‘Hill of God’.  This might have suited the Christian clergy of the day, but it’s now accepted that Ben Ledi is a corruption of Beinn Leitir, which translates as ‘the Hill of the Slope’, which is the long Southeast Ridge leading to the summit. 

Out on the broad Southeast Ridge ….
…. and a different loch in the background – Loch Venachar
Approaching the summit at last
Border Collie ‘Mist’ with the Harry Lawrie memorial behind

After a rising traverse of the craggy east side of the hill, the popular route to the top takes a sharp right turn to head more easily up the broad Southeast Ridge.  With a change of direction comes a change of scenery (hill mist permitting) with the view down to Loch Lubnaig being replaced by the view to Loch Venachar.  Just before the summit, a metal cross comes into view – nothing to do with the ‘Hill of God’, this is a memorial to Sgt Harry Lawrie BEM.

The Harry Lawrie memorial
Closer view of the plaque

Harry Lawrie was a sergeant in what was then the Central Scottish Police, based at Callander, and also a member of the Killin Mountain Rescue Team.  On 1st February 1987, Sgt Lawrie and the Killin MRT were involved in a search for an injured climber on Ben More.  A Wessex helicopter assisting with the search picked up Sgt Lawrie and another police officer to ferry them up the mountain, but whilst landing, a rotor blade struck the ground, causing the helicopter to crash into the hillside – Sgt Lawrie was fatally injured.

Looking back to the memorial ….
…. with the summit just ahead
The view to the north, with a slight break through the clouds

After standing a while at the memorial, we walked the short distance to the summit for a lunch break.  Whilst being mugged for our sandwiches by Border Collie ‘Mist’, we noticed that the other mist on the hills was starting to clear a bit, giving a view of the alternative descent to the north of Ben Ledi which would make the route circular rather than ‘there and back’.  It didn’t take long to decide on the circular option.

Decision made – we’re going back by the circular route
Looking back to the summit of Ben Ledi
The view down the descent route
The narrow path heading down Stank Glen

The broad ridge heading north was a pleasant start to the descent, before we turned right at a bealach (pass) to head west down Stank Glen.  After a boggy start, a narrow path materialised, taking us down to the edge of the forest we had started out from.  The forest trails marked on the map turned out to be stumbly, stony footpaths, but for ‘Mist’ it was the way home.  After all, it was getting very close to Collie dinner time.

It’s time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock unless indicated otherwise. 

The image tagged Gordon Hatton is taken from the Geograph Project and reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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8 Responses to #306 – Ben Ledi

  1. Lydie Griffiths says:

    Hi Paul, Thank you for taking us on your adventures! I have two Greyhounds and they cannot pass stiles. Also, my Greyhounds and Lurcher become excited wolves (no less) around sheep so I was wondering whether you could let us know when there are stiles and/or sheep on your way. Just a thought.
    Take care
    Lydia

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    • Hi Lydie and thanks for dropping in. There were no sheep on the hill when we were there. I can’t remember any stiles on the way up, but I think there was one on the Stank Glen descent – the easiest way round that would be to return by the ascent route.

      Like

  2. John Bainbridge says:

    Never quite managed to find the very top clear of cloud. Here’s hoping….

    Like

  3. Yeah I’ve always driven past it. I have a yen to try to do it from Glen Finglas anyway (owned by the Woodland Trust) but I’m pretty sure I’d need my bike for that!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: #307 – Cairngorm and the Northern Corries | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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