The Beinn Alligin hike is one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful hikes you can do along the NC500 in Scotland. Situated in the small village of Torridon, on the shores of Loch Torridon, the Beinn Alligin walk takes in two stunning Munros – Tom Na Gruagaich and Sgùrr Mhòr. In addition, the mighty Horns of Alligin are a great fair weather scramble, as well as one of the most scenic parts of the circular hike. This, my friends, is a trek not to miss.
In this guide, we’ll give you a trail map, stats and hike description. We’ll also look at how to get to Torridon, where to stay and other hikes to do in the area because you’ll definitely want to see more! We’ll finish with some additional useful info and suggested hiking essentials.
To see footage of the Beinn Alligin hike in Torridon, please watch our NC500 Hikes YouTube production.
For other great hikes in Scotland, read our guides on Quinag, Suilven and Stac Pollaidh hikes. Otherwise, read our Complete Guide to Hikes Along the NC500 post, where we talk about 18 excellent NC500 hikes.
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Beinn Alligin Wester Ross
The incredible Beinn Alligin is a well-known mountain in the Torridon region of the Scottish Highlands. Nestled within spectacular Wester Ross, its two Munro summits both offer exceptional views of the highland landscape, including neighbouring peaks such as Beinn Eighe and Liathach, as well as the beautiful Scottish coastline.
In Scottish Gaelic, the meaning of Beinn Alligin is ‘jewelled hill’. And it really is just such.
How Hard is Beinn Alligin?
By most standards, the Beinn Alligin hike is considered a challenging hike. Of course, weather can also affect the difficulty too. Though the trail is defined, there is much elevation to be gained, and of course, Beinn Alligin has two Munros to conquer. Tom Na Gruagaich and Sgùrr Mhòr are two of the most recognisable peaks in the area, and well worth the effort to reach.
If you’re fully prepped, have access to a good GPS map and have considered the weather, then you’ll find the challenge of the Beinn Alligin hike to be wholly worthwhile and incredibly enjoyable.
To date, it’s one of our favourite Scotland hikes.
Beinn Alligin Pronunciation
If you’re unfamiliar with Scottish Gaelic, some of the mountain names can be a little tricky to pronounce (Sgurr a Chaorachain, anyone). Luckily, there’s not much to Beinn Alligin and it’s pronounced exactly as you read it, ben al-li-ginn.
Beinn Alligin Map & Hiking Preview
- Trail Type: Loop
- Distance: 11.5km
- Time: 5.5–6.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 1,240m
- Difficulty: Hard
- Trailhead: Beinn Alligin Car Park
- Map: Wikiloc
Beinn Alligin Trail Description
Beginning from the Beinn Alligin car park, the trail can be completed in either a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. Dan and I chose to hike Beinn Alligin in an anti-clockwise direction, so we would scramble up the horns of Alligin, rather than down. This was mostly decided because, on the day we hiked, thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon. It seemed sensible to tackle the horns in good weather. However, it’s entirely up to you. We actually really enjoyed hiking it in this direction. Our GPS map above can be used in either direction for your convenience.
If hiking anti-clockwise, like us, then upon exiting the car park, the trailhead begins across the bridge to the right of Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil River and its beautiful waterfall. Enter through the gate and begin the incline walk through the forested trail.
The Hike Up Beinn Alligin
The trail to Beinn Alligin hugs along the banks of the river, eventually opening out onto the wide expanse of rolling hillside and mountainous views. Dan and I were completely bowled over. As the trail leads ever higher, the tumbling cascades down Ahmainn Coire Mhic Nobuil get even better.
The views of Beinn Alligin and its two Munro’s – Sgùrr Mhòr and Tom Na Gruagaich, look breathtaking. As does neighbour Beinn Dearg, which is directly ahead as you ascend by the river.
The Horns of Beinn Alligin
Soon enough, the trail crosses the river and begins to head in the direction of the Beinn Alligin Horns. So-called because of the wonderfully jagged peaks that rise up towards Sgurr Mhòr. The scramble isn’t half as treacherous as we were expecting. But then again, we were hiking in great weather in the summer. Plus, scrambling up is easier than scrambling down.
The climb up is adventurous, with three fantastic ‘horns’ to conquer. As you hike, you’ll notice the views of Sgùrr Mhòr and Tom Na Gruagaich are truly mouthwatering. In fact, the eagerness to reach these summits will easily carry you up the Alligin horns.
Na Rathanan: The Horns of Alligin
The peak of the horns, Na Rathanan, offers the most extraordinary views. Beinn Dearg is within touching distance to the left, and to the right, the immediate peak of Sgurr Mhòr is calling. Onwards you go to Munro number one.
After a small dip in elevation, the final climb to the highest point of the trail begins. The Munro of Sgurr Mhòr stands at 986m above sea level. The view of all aspects of the Beinn Alligin hike is displayed perfectly. Views stretch for miles, out over Loch Torridon and neighbouring mountains including Liathach, even out to the coast and the Isle of Skye.
Descending Sgurr Mhòr, the trail immediately passes Eag Dubh. Also known as ‘the Black Cleft’, the deep scar in the mountainside is one of the most dramatic of any mountain in the UK. Eag Dubh was formed by a huge rockslide some 3,700 years ago. Around 3.5 million cubic metres of rock debris poured into the valley below, leaving the deep gash in the mountainside clearly visible from the trail below. It has also become one of the most prominent features of the Beinn Alligin hike. Of course, a scramble up to its edges is a thrill for those with a head for heights. Obviously, do take care.
Tom Na Gruagaich
From Eag Dubh, it’s then just a short distance up to Tom Na Gruagaich, the second of Beinn Alligin’s two Munros. After descending a little further down the trail, the hike begins to ascend a ridgeline walk towards the summit. The terrain is rocky but the trail is clear, with the cairn atop Tom Na Gruagaich your goal.
The views from Tom Na Gruagaich, at 922m above sea level, left us nothing short of speechless. From this Beinn Alligin Munro, the jagged peaks of the Alligin horns look outstanding. As does the huge dome-shaped mountain top of Sgurr Mhòr. Stretching beyond you’ll spot Liathach and Beinn Eighe (Spidean Coire Nan Clach). Together, with Beinn Alligin they form the ‘Torridon Big Three’.
Return to Ben Alligin Car Park
Descending Tom Na Gruagaich is straightforward, though the top section does include loose rock and some steepish zig-zag sections. The views on the hike down Beinn Alligin, over Loch Torridon, are beautiful.
Soon enough, you’ll cross a deer-fence style and enter down through the forest, exiting back at the car park. Dan and I enjoyed some speed hiking on the return, after all, in true Travel Made Me Do It style, we had more hiking to do that day – the Beinn Eighe NNR Mountain Trail was calling.
What’s speed hiking? It’s a great way to cover a trail faster, for fun! Find out more about speed hiking here.
Alternative Route: Beinn Dearg Add-On
All in all, Beinn Alligin is one of the best hikes along the NC500 and in the Torridon area too. That being said, it isn’t the longest. For those who want to make the hike longer, and add an extra peak in too for that measure, then it’s possible to add neighbouring Beinn Dearg onto the hike.
The most logical way to add Beinn Dearg is to hike Beinn Alligin in a clockwise direction, beginning with Tom Na Gruagaich. So, hiking in the opposite direction to the way we’ve just described. Then, after descending the Alligin Horns, you’ll head up to Beinn Dearg.
The route is steep and mostly pathless. It’s basically a straight ascent up to the cairn which sits at the top of Beinn Dearg. The route can then be turned into a small loop, heading north towards Stuc Loch na Cabhaig and then descending back down to rejoin the trail along Allt a’ Bhealaich.
Getting to Torridon
The easiest way to get to Torridon is with your own set of wheels. Torridon is a 1.5 hours drive that’s 62 miles (100km) from Inverness. Heading north and west out of Inverness, you’ll take the A9 road and then the A835. Once at Torridon, the car park and trailhead for Beinn Alligin is a further 2.4 miles (3.8km) north around Loch Torridon. As you can see, it’s an easy day hike from Inverness.
But, many of you, like us, are probably visiting Torridon and the hike to Beinn Alligin as part of the NC500. If travelling the scenic drive in a clockwise direction, we recommend visiting Rogie Falls, Sgùrr a Chaorachain at Bealach Na Ba, and Sands at Applecross before heading to Torridon.
Of course, if you don’t have access to your own set of wheels, then we really recommend hiring something. When hiring a car, we always get the ball rolling with a search on RentalCars.com. Booking a car with Rentalcars.com is easy and stress-free, plus they offer an unbeatable free cancellation policy too.
FYI – there are NO petrol stations in Torridon.
Getting to Beinn Alligin via public transport is nowhere near as straightforward as driving yourself, but, it is possible.
From Inverness, take either the bus or the train to Achnasheen or Strathcarron. Then, from either of these towns, you’ll be looking to pick up a fairly infrequent bus service. By all accounts, Westerbus operates bus 700A or 711 to take you from Achnasheen to Kinlochewe. Then, from Kinlochewe, you’ll need to pick up bus 705 to Torridon. Be warned though, these buses can run as little as just a few times a week.
However, even if you manage to get yourself to Torridon village via the labour-intensive and unreliable public service option, there is no transport to take you to or from the trailhead. To that end, I can only really recommend having your own transportation.
Where to Stay For Beinn Alligin, Torridon
Torridon is easily one of the most beautiful parts of the West Highlands and the wonderful NC500 drive. Dan and I only had a few days here but we longed to have more time to hike more mountains and trails in Torridon. It really is worth it. So, we’ve looked into some accommodation options to make your decision to enjoy Torridon for a while longer a little easier.
Torridon Hotels Nearby
We’ve broken down the hotel options in the area into the best budget, mid-range and luxury options:
- Budget – Torridon Youth Hostel: a beautifully picturesque stay in the foothills of Torridon’s mountains, with a spacious shared kitchen and lounges for guests to enjoy. Torridon Youth Hostel also currently serve breakfast and dinner for guests, so all you need to worry about is packing a lunch for a wonderful day of hiking.
- Mid-range – Torridon Estate: well, as mid-range as you can get for the UK anyway, but guests at Torridon Estate love the location and old house charm. It even comes with its own private beach! Perfectly located in Torridon, the Torridon Estate books out months in advance, so you’ll need to be organised.
- Luxury – The Torridon: if budget is no issue and you want to know what it feels like to be a real Scottish laird, then a stay at The Torridon is for you. Of course, you’ll be here to hike. But, if you want to experience other outdoor activities in Torridon, then this hotel can arrange everything from snorkelling and kayaking to guided walks and mountain biking.
Camping in or around Torridon, at the foothills of Beinn Alligin, is surely one of the best ways to enjoy your time in the Scottish Highlands. There’s just one campsite located in Torridon, and that’s run by Highland.gov. The Torridon Campsite is open year-round, and payment is via donations, rather than a fixed charge. It’s tents only though, I’m afraid. Alternatively, you could stay at Shieldag Camping & Cabins or Kinlochewe Club Camping. Both campsites have excellent facilities and are around 15–20 minutes from Torridon and Beinn Alligin.
Beinn Alligin Weather
As mentioned previously, the weather at Beinn Alligin should be taken into account before embarking on this hike. The best time of year to hike Beinn Alligin and attempt the two Munros of Tom Na Gruagaich and Sgurr Mhòr, is summer. Generally, the best months are June to July. Although May can also be good, sometimes there can still be snow at the peaks.
October through April are the months you’ll want to be most cautious with for hiking. Only the very experienced should attempt to hike Beinn Alligin, or any mountain in Scotland for that matter, in the snow. Often specialist equipment is required, and a knowledge of how to use it too.
It’s not uncommon to experience low mist and clouds and even rain, at any time of year. Again, be smart and check the forecast. The mountains can be very unforgiving in a whiteout. As I said, the threat of an afternoon thunderstorm in Torridon was the reason why Dan and I hiked Beinn Alligin in an anti-clockwise direction.
You can check the 7-day forecast here.
Other Useful Info
- Facilities: the nearest toilets and cafe are at the Torridon Youth Hostel. Otherwise, it’s fend for yourself.
- Parking: the Beinn Alligin car park is free and to be honest, there’s ample space too. Still, we always recommend arriving early, just in case.
- Midges: if you’ve heard anything about hiking in the Scottish Highlands in the summer, it’ll be about contending with the wealth of nasty midges out on the trails. Thankfully, Dan and I never encountered too many on the Beinn Alligin hike. Unlike that of The Cobbler. But, luckily for all of us, there’s a midge watch, to help us check up on the number of nasty buggers out and about.
- Dangers in bad weather: it’s very important to know that the Beinn Alligin hike, especially the trail over the horns of Alligin, is most suitable in the summer months and in good weather. Great care should be taken if you choose to hike in winter or when there is low cloud, mist or snow. Only the experienced should attempt hikes like these in adverse weather conditions. For that reason, Dan and I would only recommend hiking Beinn Alligin in the summer. If the weather takes a turn for the worst during these months, then the Alligin Horns should not be hiked, and the well-worn trail on the south side of the ridge should be taken instead.
Other Hikes Nearby
- Beinn Eighe NNR Mountain Trail: Britain’s only waymarked mountain trek. This steep but exciting hike offers extraordinary views of the western summits of Beinn Eighe from the top.
- Beinn Eighe: two Munros to conquer in this excellent Torridon hike with outstanding views every step of the way.
- Beinn Damh: billed as an excellent introductory hike to some of the more well-known Torridon giants, this hike nevertheless packs in some stunning views from its Corbett summit.
- Liathach: possibly Scotland’s finest mountain hike with a fantastic ridge to cross.
- An Teallach: whether you take on An Teallach’s two Munros as an out and back, or tackle the full traverse, this will easily go down as one of your favourite hikes, ever, anywhere in the world.
Five Hiking Essentials For Beinn Alligin
These are our five hiking gear essentials for the Beinn Alligin hike in Torridon, Scotland! For a more extensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Alternatively, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip to Scotland and the North Coast 500, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
You should also pack lunch, water, snacks and sunscreen.
- West Highlands: hike more of the breathtaking Scottish mountains by visiting the West Highlands. If you love the Horns of Alligin, then you should check out The Saddle via Forcan Ridge hike.
- Best of NC500: as well as hiking, the NC500 has many stunning castles and lochs to enjoy either from the shore or on a boat cruise.
- Tourism responsibility: please, as always, remember to leave no trace. Whatever goes up the mountain with you, must come down with you. Let’s keep our trails and countryside as pristine as possible.
Scotland reminded us very much of hiking in Peru, and vice-versa. See what you think by checking out our many Peru hiking guides.
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