Walk : Ben Laga

Ben Laga is a rocky peak on the northern shore of Loch Sunart in Ardnamurchan. At 512 metres it’s the second highest top (after Ben Hiant, 528 m) on Ardnamurchan proper 1. As such, it gets far fewer visitors than Ben Hiant, a fact reflected in the absence of erosion on the paths to the summit.

Or, for that matter, reflected by the absence of any obvious paths to the summit 😉

Ben Laga from the west with Beinn Resipol just visible over the ridge on the left

It makes for an enjoyable half day walk, with stunning panoramic views, or can be incorporated into a longer walk from Acharacle to Glenborrodale or Laga with ease.

Marilyn but not Munro

There are all sorts of lists of the hills of Scotland, defined by height and their separation from the adjacent tops.

  • Munros – the hills over 3000′ (914 m), first compiled by Sir H.T. Munro : 282 currently 2
  • Corbetts – those over 2500′ (762 m) but less than 3000′ : 222 in total
  • Grahams – hills over 2000′ (609 m) but less than 2500′ : 219 in total

At 1680′ Ben Laga manages to avoid all of these lists … and is all the better for it.

It is, of course, a Marilyn – a hill with a prominence greater than 150 m – but with 1218 other Marilyn’s in Scotland there are a lot of other hills and it’s two-thirds the way down that list 3 so easily overlooked.

There and back

Ben Laga features in a couple of the guidebooks to walking in the region. Brook & Hinchcliffe’s Scotland’s Far West (Cicerone, ISBN 978-1852844073 4 ) has a ‘there and back’ route starting at Laga.

Ben Laga – from the gate through the deer fence at the top of Laga Farm woodland

The route climbs through the (increasingly lovely as it matures) Laga Farm broadleaf plantation 5, emerging onto the moor through a gate in the deer fence at NM634617 (see map – marker 1). It then strikes west northwest up the westerly slope of Ben Laga to the summit before ‘retracing your route to the start’.

The area around Ben Laga

As routes go, it’s OK. But there are alternatives that are as good or better.

That’s the beauty of the trackless hinterland in this part of the world, thanks to Scotland’s freedom to roam rights … you can make your own route.

From the South

A few hundred metres east along the B8007 from Laga, overlooking Laga Bay, you can easily access the hill (marker 2 on the map, NM636610 6 ). Keeping the deer fence encompassing Laga Farm on your west you can traverse up the steep southerly face of Ben Laga. The going underfoot is a bit damp in places. However, this means that at the right time of year (e.g. mid-June to late-July), the lower grassy slopes are studded with bog asphodel and hundreds of stunning orchids. 

A little higher and the bracken takes over, but there are well-trodden deer trails leading you upwards. Since deer cannot scale precipices you can have some confidence they’re not going to take you anywhere too vertiginous.

Ready to rumble tumble – Ben Laga erratic, overlooking Loch Sunart, Carna and Morvern. Laga is on the right.

Stopping to look back – and you’ll need to to catch your breath – the view opens up along Loch Sunart as you gain altitude. You climb past an erratic perched on the slope that looks ready to tumble down the hill onto Laga.

Ben Hiant from the southerly slopes of Ben Laga

About halfway up the ground levels and the rocky top of Ben Laga appears for the first time above the area drained by Allt nam Mearlach (which might translate to the Thief’s burn). Keeping to the east of the unnamed lochan, and of Lochan Coire na Mòine, there’s an obvious route towards the top up a steep slanting grassy gully between the rocks.

There are a couple of false tops, but the summit is obvious due to the presence of an inevitable cairn … and because it’s higher than all the other bits around. Since the summit is obvious it remains unclear to me why there’s a need to add a pile of rocks.

Stunning views

On a good day the views from the top are stunning.

To the east you have Beinn Resipol with a panorama of the high peaks of Glencoe in the distance.

Ben Laga selfie with Beinn Resipol and Ben Nevis (snow capped) in the distance

To the south and west you have Loch Sunart, Morvern, Mull and Ben Hiant.

Carna, Loch Sunart, Morvern and Mull – April 2020

And to the north there are views over Lochan Sligneach, Kentra Bay, Camas an Lighe (the Singing Sands) to Eigg, Muck and Rum, with a more distant panorama of the Cuillin on Skye

Ben Laga, looking north. Rum, Eigg and the Cuillin clearly visible. Lochan Sligneach in the centre foreground

There’s a small lochan north west of the summit, surrounded by a jumble of large rocks. Somewhere amongst them you can find a sheltered spot – from the icy wind or blazing sun, whichever predominates – for lunch.

Ben Laga – summit lochan

Look out for eagles and merlin. I’ve seen both in the area.

To or from the North

The northerly spur from the summit towards Loch Laga makes for a fine descent if traversing the hill from south to north. The views remain excellent and the going underfoot is largely dry. Keeping above Loch Laga (map marker 4) you can cross the Allt Beithe a couple of hundred yards below the loch and easily join the track to Acharacle (marker 5).

Allt Beithe and Ben Laga with Loch Laga almost hidden from sight

Alternatively, you can include Ben Laga in a circular walk from Glenborrodale, leaving the Glenborrodale to Acharacle track south of the junction with the Laga track (map marker 3). After crossing the boggy ground south of Loch Laga you rapidly gain height traversing up the westerly slopes of Ben Laga.

Ben Laga – erratic on the westerly slope overlooking Loch Laga

Keep bearing west rather than south 7 to reach the ridge, then turn south to the top.

And while you’re in the area

To the north west of Ben Laga is Meall nan Each (see map, marker 6). At about 490 m this makes a good walk on its own, or a very worthwhile extension from Ben Laga. As the 841st Marilyn in Scotland it’s rarely troubled by visitors 😉

Again there are no tracks to help you, but the routes up from the westerly shore of Loch Laga for example, are both straightforward and obvious. The summit has a trig point 8 and a small cairn (of course 🙁 ).

Meall nan Each trig point with Rum, Eigg and the Cuill, Skye, on the horizon

If you descend Meall nan Each south along the rocky spur to Leac an Fhidhleir you can eventually regain the track to Glenborrodale or Laga, and from there the B8007.


Wordless Wednesday #15

Wordless Wednesday posts are images from Ardnamurchan and the surrounding regions – Sunart, Morvern, Ardgour, Moidart and the Rough Bounds. No description is necessary but further details may be provided with the linked full-size image. I will try and ensure they were photographed in the same month, but perhaps not the same year, that they appear online.


Normal service is resumed

Ardnamurchan has had fabulous Spring weather during the Covid-19 lockdown, with day after day of sunshine and blue skies. Mid-March to mid-May were particularly fine.

Eigg and Rum from the summit of Meall nan Each, mid-April 2020

All good things must come to an end and there has been some wet and windy weather more recently. During the most recent thunderstorms the server 1 that runs this site was tripped, leading to an outage for several days. Not the end of the world by any means, but irritating nevertheless. Normal service is now resumed 2.

Radio silence for three days in late June

A more important victim of bad weather earlier in the month was my bird feeder stand. This started life with three curly arms, each designed to take a hanging nut or seed feeder. It was made out of pretty flimsy metal with only a thin covering of paint.

Which soon started to peel and flake off 🙁

And once the water gets to the metal things start to rust. One arm was lost last winter, corroded beyond repair. The second disintegrated in early June, leaving the feeder stand looking rather forlorn.

‘armless … and almost useless

And the arm that remained was distinctly wobbly. It was time for a replacement. 

These feeder stands cost £15-25 from any number of different online sources. All are made in much the same way and most make no claim to be rustproof.

Those that claim to be almost certainly are not 3.

The one in the picture above was a little under two years old. At about £10 a year this is a poor investment.


316 grade goodness

The weather is a reality here on the west coast. There’s no escaping it. In strong westerlies the wind is laced with salt from the Atlantic, readily (and steadily) destroying any bare or poorly protected metalwork.

The obvious thing was to replace the feeder stand with something better designed to withstand the elements. Plastic or stainless steel were the obvious choices. The former were either unbelievably tacky or very flimsy … or, in most cases, both.

But try finding a stainless steel bird feeder stand …

There’s an extremely limited choice if you don’t want to get one custom built. There were one or two modern-looking ones with folded metal bird tables on top, designed to integrate into a town garden perhaps. These would have looked a little out of place in our rhododendron-choked wilderness.

And there was the one on the right.

This was handmade by Kain Design, a father and son team of metalworkers in Essex. It is simplicity itself, with a two piece 16mm diameter satin-finished tube, sealed at the top, and three sandblast-finished curved arms. Everything fits together beautifully with stainless steel screws and the finished product 4 is two metres tall and very sturdy. 

I used Loctite Threadlocker Blue 242 on the screw threads when assembling the bird feeder stand. This should at least reduce things falling off as it vibrates and resonates in the winter storms.

Bird (and mammal) feeding

I feed the Ardnamurchan birds year-round. Suet balls, mixed feeder seed (black sunflowers mainly) and peanuts and we get a never-ending stream of birds visiting; gold- and chaffinches, tits (blue, great, coal and – rarely – long-tailed), siskins and most of the woodpeckers west of Salen.

Normal service is resumed

Inevitably it’s not just the small passerines that benefit from the bird feeder.

Sparrowhawk, female

We get regular low-level flybys from spectacularly yellow-eyed sparrowhawks. Sometimes they just seem to zoom through and stick out a leg in passing, hoping to make contact with something, anything, as they scatter into the birch tree.

Other times they make their feint and grab attempt, rarely seeming to succeed, and then pitch up for a breather on the railing or the patio. The male is strikingly attractive, with blue-grey upperparts and a barred breast suffused with orange, and surprisingly small. Falconers used to call males ‘muskets’, reflecting their diminutive size, which is derived from the Latin musca, meaning ‘a fly’.

In the evening the mice emerge from crevices in the wall and finish off the leftovers. 

Unless the pine marten is visiting. 

This pine marten is not being eponymic. I placed a handful of wood offcuts in the “squirrel” feeder to reduce the rate at which she 5 scoffed the peanuts. One of the pine martens (this one) that visits has taken to removing some of the wood offcuts to get better access.

I’m still trying to get a better, more “natural”, photograph of a pine marten than I posted on Wordless Wednesday recently. Although they usually visit in daylight, the lighting is often not good enough. It’s tricky, and it’s even more difficult to get the mother and kits together.

As W.C. Fields said “Never work with animals or children”.