Ben Macdui and Cairngorm


Carn a'Mhaim (1037m, Munro 95)
Ben Macdui (1309m, Munro 2)
Cairn Lochan (1215m, Munro Top)
Cairngorm (1244m, Munro 6)
Bynack More (1090m, Munro 55)
Beinn Mheadhoin (1182m, Munro 13)
Derry Cairngorm (1155m, Munro 21)


2725m (8,900ft)


48km (30m)


walking : 16:30hr*, running : 7:15hr
 *Naismith's rule : 4km/h distance + 600m/h ascent

Main route summary

These high peaks lie between Braemar and Aviemore. You'd think with the vast plateaus of Ben Macdui and Cairn Gorm, that these Munros would be fairly dull - but you'd be so wrong. There's hiddens lochans, long narrow crests, dark corries and weird granite tors. Healthy forests surround the area with a diverse wildlife and, if you're lucky, you'll come across a reindeer herd feeding on the artic-like tundra.

Good tracks and paths head in from the north and the south, but to do these Munros in one day, it's easiest to cycle into Derry Lodge from the south. With large flat areas above 1000m, navigation skills will be tested when the mist or snow come in.

start/finish Linn of Dee
(grid ref : NO061897)

maps  OS Landranger 36 - click to buy from Amazon OS Landranger 43 - click to buy from Amazon OS Explorer 403 - click to buy from Amazon

GPS data download GPX file of this route

Google Earth    download KML file of this route

easy Mostly grass covered and very runnable, some large areas of boulderfield difficult
easy Tricky in mist away from paths testing
stroll A very long hard day long day
ok Good stunning
meanings Carn a'Mhaim :
  'cairn of the large rounded hill'
Ben Macdui :
  'MacDuff's hill'
Cairn Lochan :
  'hill of the small loch'
Cairngorm :
  'blue hill'
Bynack More :
  'big cup'
Beinn Mheadhoin :
  'middle hill'
Derry Cairngorm :
  'blue hill of the thicket'
on our blog
main route outlineprint route
Getting there
  • Get to Braemar, then drive west to the bridge over the Linn of Dee. There's a large car-park (£2 to stay) - it can be very busy in summer and holiday weekends.

Derry Lodge
  • From the Linn of Dee car-park, and just west of the weird enviro-friendly loos, head up and obvious path through the forest. The path climbs gently, crosses some bog via a wooden walkway, then meets up with the track travelling up the side of Lui Water.
  • However, if you'd prefer to cycle from the start, it's easier to go out of the main park entrance, head east along the road to the start of the track by the bridge over Lui Water, then turn north on the track. Either way head up to Derry Lodge, some 5km from the road, where bikes should be left.

Carn a'Mhaim
  • Cross the footbridge over Derry Burn, turn left and follow a path over grassy and wet ground to meet up with what used to be an excellent track by the forest. Several years ago, the NTS bought Mar Estate and decided to replace good cyclable tracks with narrower paths - this was done in 'the spirit of the long walk in' - and seems daft to me when other organisations are encouraging people to get out on their bikes !
  • Anyway, back to the route.... Continue on this good path to a fenced-off area - the path has a junction in it. In wet periods, turn right and follow the path to a bridge over Luibeg Burn. If the conditions are dry, then just continue directly through the forest to the burn, which should be easy enough to cross.
  • Over the burn, follow the Lairig Ghru path to where it starts to level out, then look for a path heading off right uphill through the heather. Follow this path, steep and well constructed at first, then levelling out onto much barer terrain.
  • The summit has a small cairn, but a larger cairn is on the south-east top (marked 1014m on OS map), which has fine views south to Lochnagar. Creag a'Mhaim is unusual in the Cairngorms, in that it is a long narrow crest, unlike the more common bulky munros and their coires.

Ben Macdui
  • From Carn a'Mhaim the onward route is obvious, just head north-north-west on the worn path that sticks to the crest, dropping gradually. Nearly 250m of height is lost to gain the col with its small lochans.
  • Cross this on a faint path, then start climbing north-east. Grass gives way to boulders and progress becomes quite tough.
  • After a stiff 400m of ascent, the ground starts to level, where you should start turning north onto the broad plateau of Ben Macdui. The remnaints of an old shelter are passed from where the summit is not much further. A large cairn marks the summit, plus there's a viewfinder. Due to the summit's bulk, you'll need to head a few metres away from the cairn to get the best views.

Cairn Gorm
  • If the mist is down, navigation skills are going to be called on ! Leave the summit of Ben Macdui and head north over the boulders on a path.
  • After 1km, there's a junction - if you want to take in Cairn Lochan, then come of the path altogether and head due north.
  • Alternatively, keep to the right fork to head for Coire an Sneachda, 2km further on.
  • Upon reaching the coire, follow the edge north-east over rocky ground to a dip, then climb up over fine stoney ground to Cairn Gorm's summit with its cairn and automatic weather station. Fine views in all directions.

Bynack More
  • More navigation ! Head east and start dropping height. The flat bare ground is replaced by deep heather and a steep descent.
  • Reach Garbh Allt below, cross it (easy enough, even in wet conditions) and start heading up more heathery ground on the opposite side of the glen.
  • Higher up a faint path is found to follow up to A'Choinneach, from where, head north-east on featureless ground.
  • The Barns of Bynack, impressive granite tors, are reached and the summit of Bynack More is a mere 500m to the north on pleasant terrain. Fine views from the large summit cairn.
  • If you're out top-bagging, you'll need to make a detour 800m north-west to reach the knobly summit of Bynack Beg.

Beinn Mheadhoin
  • From Bynack More, return to A'Choinneach, then drop down on heathery ground (and a faint path if you can find it) to the River Avon. This can be very difficult to cross in spate - I have found the easiest crossing to be just down from the outflow of Loch Avon.
  • Once over, climb due south, up steep, wet, heathery ground. The ground easies, then stiffens again. From Loch Avon, it is an ascent of nearly 500m !
  • There's no mistaking when Beinn Mheadhoin's summit is reached - there are two granite tors separated by a narrow gap into which the wind funnels through. To reach the top of the huge summit tor, a bit of an easy scramble is required on its north side.

Derry Cairngorm
  • There are more tors on Beinn Mheadhoin's crest, which aid navigation in poor conditions. From the summit tor, head south-west, past two smaller tors and a faint path is picked up. Follow this path past one more tor and then start dropping height down towards Loch Etchachan.
  • A few faint paths head downhill, aim for the loch's outflow. Cross the burn, then start climbing up an obvious path.
  • This path actually heads for Ben Macdui, so you'll need to leave it further up.
  • Contour around Creagan a'Choire Etchachan on grassy ground and pick up a faint path heading south. This path continues up the north side of Derry Cairngorm and disappears into the boulders as they become larger higher up.
  • At last Derry Cairngorm's summit is reached and you can survey where you've been.

  • Descent south-east, go over a bump and drop to the gap above Coire na Saobhaidh. Two paths are ahead - in winter take the higher of the two, as ice can make the lower of the two quite tricky.
  • Both paths by-pass the minor summit of Carm Crom and re-join to continue downhill over stunted heather to Creag Bad an t-Seabhaig.
  • A recently repaired path will take you down to a stile to access the forest, from where Derry Lodge is just below.
  • A brief cycle is all that awaits to return to the car-park and back to Braemar for food and a pint !

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