The Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve Mountain Trail is an outstanding hike located on the western banks of Loch Maree, outside of Torridon. The Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail is dubbed as Britain’s only waymarked mountain walk. Along the route are carefully placed cairns that lead up a super steep yet uber picturesque mountain trail. The Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail is one of a number of Loch Maree walks and an ideal hiking option if you’re not quite prepared to tackle any of the Torridon ‘Big Three’.
In this guide, we’ll start by telling you a little about the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve before providing a Mountain Trail preview and hike description. We’ll also look at where to stay and how to get there, as well as discuss some other Loch Maree walks to do in the area. On top of that, we’ll talk about hiking essentials and bonus tips.
To see footage of the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve Mountain Trail, please watch our NC500 Hikes YouTube production.
For more incredible hikes along the NC500, be sure to check out our Beinn Alligin, Suilven and Quinag hiking guides. Otherwise, read our Complete Guide to Hikes Along the NC500 post, where we talk about 18 excellent NC500 hikes.
Table of Contents
Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve
Beinn Eighe was the first national nature reserve created in Britain. The silver-white mountainsides, ancient pine forests and abundance of wildlife make this enchanting spot in Wester Ross a truly magical place to visit. The hiking trails within Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve are some of the best to be found in the Highlands, offering a little something for everyone.
Created in 1951, Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve covers a huge 48 square kilometres. Within the reserve is the opportunity to see some incredible wildlife such as pine martens, eagles, red deer, crossbills and divers.
Beinn Eighe is one of the best nature reserves in Scotland and is well worth exploring on any trip to the Scottish Highlands. Better so, as part of the incredible NC500 scenic drive.
Where Are Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve and Loch Maree?
Loch Maree and the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve are located in the Wester Ross region of the northwest Highlands of Scotland. Loch Maree is thought, by many, to be Scotland’s most beautiful loch. The Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail and surrounding walks provide some of the best views of it. But, of course, we’ll let you decide that for yourselves. Beinn Eighe Natural Nature Reserve is around a 1.5 hour drive from Inverness. It’s frequently passed through as part of Scotland’s incredible NC500 drive.
The address for Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve is A832, Achnasheen IV22 2PD.
Beinn Eighe Pronunciation
Pronouncing the names of Scottish mountains can be a little tricky. Dan and I often get it very wrong. Beinn Eighe is a great example of that. The correct pronunciation is something similar to ben-ayr. Not ben-eye, as we thought for so long.
Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail Preview
- Trail Type: Loop
- Distance: 6.5km
- Time: 2.5–3 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 530m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Coille Na Glas Letire Trails Car Park
- Map: Wikiloc
Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail Description
The Beinn Eighe walk begins from Coille Na Glas Letire Trails Car Park. There’s plenty of parking here on the shores of Loch Maree. Firstly, you’ll need to cross beneath the road behind the car park and join a small trail on the other side of the underpass.
You’ll notice a bridge immediately after passing under the road. Do not cross the bridge but instead keep to the trail to the left. The Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve Mountain Trail climbs steadily through the beautiful pine forest. Views of Loch Maree dance in and out of the tree cover. The trail feels surprisingly tough going and is a continuous uphill, with little rest bite. The forest here, Coille na Glas Letire (wood of the grey slope), has stood for around 8,000 years, making it a truly enchanting place to walk through.
A Steep Climb to the Summit of Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve
As you break the tree cover, you’ll emerge onto an incredible landscape of white quartzite rock. From here, be sure to look for the large cairn waymarkers to lead the way. The trail has been worked, a little, into the rock face. This trail design, along with the waymarkers, makes the mountain trail of Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve easier to navigate. Still, though, there are some sections where it’s easy to lose the trail. Dan and I briefly did just so on a couple of occasions. Luckily, it’s straightforward to search out the cairns and of course, having a GPS map to hand is useful also.
The ascension up the quartz rockface is steep. Make no mistake about it. Dan and I had climbed Beinn Alligin in the morning, and so we were particularly feeling the strain of an arduous uphill.
Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve Views
Eventually, the steep trail begins to plateau as you reach the final sections and summit of the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail. The undulating terrain is bare and stark. The peak stands at around 560m above sea level. Another large cairn marks the spot.
From here, you’ll enjoy the most outstanding views of Beinn Eighe’s western summits. The mountains look truly incredible. Turning to look back across Loch Maree are excellent views of neighbouring Slioch.
Meall a Ghiubhais
The closest peak to the summit of the Beinn Eighe mountain trail is that of Meall a Ghiubhais. You’ll spot it to your right, as you look towards Beinn Eighe. It’s possible to add an out and back to the 887m high summit of this Corbett in the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. Dan and I were unlucky to get caught out in a short storm, so retreated rather quickly back to the trailhead. However, by all accounts, it’s an excellent addition to the hike, should you have the time. The summit of Meall a Ghiubhais offers fantastic views, not just of Loch Maree, but of Beinn Alligin, Beinn Dearg and, of course, Beinn Eighe.
After admiring the spectacular outlook from the summit cairn at the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve, the trail continues along, descending gently, towards the looming peak of Meall a Ghiubhais. You’ll pass by a couple of small but very picturesque lochs, including Loch Allt an Daraich from which the pretty Allt Na Doire Daraiche River flows down towards the Beinn Eighe Visitor Centre.
Lunar Loch is the last of the mountaintop lakes. From Lunar Loch, the trail veers to the right, and views of the descending path towards Loch Maree are superb. The Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail hugs along the edges of a gorge for a short while. Care should be taken.
After exiting the gorge trail, the mountain trail meets up with the Beinn Eighe Woodland Trail and continues its descent back through the pine forest and to the car park once again.
As mentioned, we encountered a mild storm of wind, rain and hailstone on our descent. So, Dan and I got a wriggle on to get out of the wild weather as quickly as possible. Although, care has to be taken as the mountain trail can be quite slippery in sections during rain, before rejoining the sturdier woodland trail.
Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve Visitor Centre
The Beinn Eighe Visitor Centre is located south of the Coille Na Glas Letire Trails Car Park at Loch Maree along the A832. It sits on the roadside a little north of Kinlochewe and is the perfect place to discover more about the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. From the visitor centre, you can discover other walks in the area, besides the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail. Also, there is information about the incredible flora and fauna in the area. I dare say this would be the perfect place to pop into if the weather took a turn for the worst.
In addition, you can walk along the Beinn Eighe Visitor Path from Kinlochewe to reach the visitor centre and vice versa. Also, the hike to Beinn Duhb can be accessed from the visitor centre car park. The Beinn Eighe visitor centre is open April–October, from 10am–5pm. Entry is free.
There are two other short trails to be enjoyed from the visitor centre. These are the Pinecone and Buzzard trails.
Other Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve and Loch Maree Walks
As mentioned, there are a few other excellent hiking routes and walks to take around Loch Maree in Scotland.
Beinn Eighe Woodland Trail
The Woodland Trail at Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve is a fantastic short walk. Just like the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail, the Woodland Trail begins at Coille Na Glas Letire Trails Car Park and soon ascends into the enchanting Scots Pines forest. The 1.5km loop walk includes a great Loch Maree Viewpoint as well as excellent views of Slioch in the background.
Beinn Eighe (Western Summits)
The Beinn Eighe walk is one of the best hikes you can do in the area. Along with Liathach and Beinn Alligin, it makes up one of the ‘Torridon Big Three’. A group of spectacular mountains with adventurous trails to boot. The hike up Beinn Eighe’s western ridge passes through both of its Munros – Spidean Coire nan Clach and Ruadh-stac Mhòr. The roughly 18km hike is a firm favourite of hikers in the area and provides some of the most breathtaking views in the highlands.
Creag Dhuhb and Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe
From the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve Visitor Centre, it’s possible to hike to the small peaks of Creag Dhuhb and Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe. The trail is around 12km long and again, offers stellar views of the surrounding peaks. In particular, that of the Beinn Alligin and the Alligin Horns.
An exhilarating 20km walk that provides some exceptional views of Loch Maree from the opposite side to that of the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve and the Mountain Trail. The hike to Slioch starts in Kinlochewe. The views from the top over the Fisherfields to the north and Torridon to the west are something else.
Victoria Falls Loch Maree
Loch Maree has some exceptional walks, but not all of them are mountainous. Further exploration heading north along the banks of Loch Maree and away from the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve brings you to Victoria Falls. The falls, named after Queen Victoria, can be seen by doing a short walk from the car park. They make for a great stop on a long drive and the waterfall, fed by run-off water from Beinn Eighe, is quite impressive.
How to Get to Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve
By far, the easiest way to get to Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve for the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail is with your own set of wheels. The Coille Na Glas Letire Trails Car Park can be reached by following the A832 from either direction.
If completing the NC500 in a clockwise direction, like us, you’ll have already passed through Torridon. Be sure to climb the peaks of Beinn Alligin and Liathach along the way. If completing in an anti-clockwise direction, you’ll be travelling down from Ullapool way. Before arriving at Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve, we recommend exploring the Corrieshalloch Gorge National Nature Reserve, hiking An Teallach and the Fisherfield Six (guides coming soon).
Of course, if you don’t have access to your own set of wheels, then we 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.
Public Transport to the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve
If accessing Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve via public transport, you should make your way to Kinlochewe. If travelling directly, rather than along the NC500, you’ll likely be heading there from Inverness.
From Inverness, you can take bus service 700A, 705 or 711. All stop in Kinlochewe and begin from the bus station in central Inverness. Once you arrive at Kinlochewe, you will need to walk from the village centre to the Beinn Eighe Visitor Centre. Alternatively, you may be able to arrange a taxi, but these will be few and far between.
To that end, I can only really recommend having your own vehicle to visit the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve and the walks around Loch Maree.
Loch Maree and Kinlochewe Accommodation
For hiking the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail, your closest accommodation options will be in Loch Maree or Kinlochewe. We’ll take a look at camping and hotel options.
Loch Maree Camping
- Beinn Eighe Campsite: close to the Beinn Eighe Visitor Centre, at Taagan, is a free campsite. It’s run by Scotland’s National Nature Reserve (NNR). The ground can be a little spongy, but it’s fine for a tent. Additionally, there’s even a toilet!
- Kinlochewe Club Campsite: the Kinlochewe Club Campsite is a great base for either the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail or the Beinn Eighe Western Summits trail. The site has fantastic facilities. In addition, it’s in close proximity to Kinlochewe village centre for more amenities, including a petrol station.
Wild Camping Loch Maree
As with most of Scotland, wild camping at Loch Maree is permitted. However, campers need to follow a standard set of guidelines. These rules revolve around respecting the countryside and staying safe.
Loch Maree Hotel
- Budget – Poolewe Hotel: at the very northern tip of Loch Maree you’ll find the Poolewe Hotel. Sat along the banks of the River Ewe, this hotel is therefore in an excellent location for exploring the surrounding Loch Maree and Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve area. Guests love the hearty breakfast and the mountain or sea views from the private rooms.
- Mid-range – Loch Maree Hotel: the beautifully situated Loch Maree Hotel has welcomed some very notable guests in the past, such as Queen Victoria. The hotel features a restaurant, a loch front location and a laid-back vibe. Perfect for soaking in the beautiful surroundings.
- Luxury – Shieldaig Lodge Hotel: the Shieldaig Lodge Hotel is the perfect place to unwind after hiking the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail. It’s also a great base for exploring other Loch Maree attractions. The hotel has private parking. In addition, the full Scottish breakfast is a real hit. Its location also makes it perfect for exploring the Torridon area too.
Five Hiking Essentials For the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail
These are our five hiking gear essentials for the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve Mountain Trail! 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 water, snacks and sunscreen.
Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve Bonus Tips
- Loch Maree fishing: Loch Maree is the fourth-largest freshwater loch in Scotland and is perfect for a spot of fishing.
- Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve: for other exceptional national nature reserves in Scotland, consider a visit to Creag Meagaidh.
- Loch Maree Islands: more than 40 islands scatter the northern end of Loch Maree. They are exquisitely covered by original Caledonian Pine Forest. The largest island, Eilean Sùbhainn, contains a loch that itself contains an island. Woah. This incredible phenomenon occurs nowhere else in the UK. Kayaking is an excellent way to explore the islands and Loch Maree in general.
- West Highlands: for more walks like those around Loch Maree and Beinn Eighe Natural Nature Reserve, consider exploring the breathtaking West Highlands.
- Tourism responsibility: please, as always, remember to leave no trace. Whatever goes up the mountain with you, must come back down with you. Let’s keep our trails and countryside as pristine as possible.
For more excellent hiking in the UK, be sure to check out our guides on the Brecon Beacons, Cornwall and the West Pennine Moors.
Leave a comment