The hike to Bidean Nam Bian is easily one of the greatest walks in Glencoe. This fantastic loop trail hikes through the famous Three Sisters of Glencoe – Aonach Dubh, Beinn Fhada and Gearr Aonach. Beyond these formidable shapes, you’ll summit the even taller peaks of Stob Coire Sgreamhach, Stob Coire Nan Lochan and Bidean Nam Bian itself. Additionally, this hike includes incredible ridgelines, hidden valleys, a few gnarly scrambles and two Munros. This is one hike not to miss in the breathtaking Glencoe.
In this guide, we’ll talk about what and where Bidean Nam Bian is. Additionally, we’ll clear up the difference between the Three Sisters of Glencoe and the Bidean massif. Then we’ll look at the trail, providing a GPS map and description. Lastly, we’ll look at how to get there, where to stay and other hikes to cover in the area.
To see footage of the Bidean Nam Bian hike in the Scottish Highlands, please watch our 6 Mind-Blowing West Highland Walks in 6 Days YouTube production.
For more incredible hikes in the West Highlands of Scotland, be sure to check out our guides on Ben Nevis, Ring of Steall and The Saddle via Forcan Ridge. Otherwise, read our West Highland Hiking Itinerary post, where we talk about six excellent West Highland day hikes not to miss.
Table of Contents
About Bidean Nam Bian
Bidean Nam Bian is the collective name for a group of mountains in southern Glencoe (Glen Coe) in the Scottish Highlands. The massif includes numerous peaks including Stob Coire Nan Lochan, Stob Coire Sgreamhach, the Three Sisters (Aonach Dubh, Beinn Fhada and Gearr Aonach) and Bidean Nam Bian itself. Despite there being so many mountain peaks of Munro height on this epic circular hike, only two – Bidean Nam Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach have the glory of Munro status. This is because the other peaks are classed as subsidiary peaks of Bidean. So, instead, they are known as Munro Tops.
At 1,150 metres above sea level (masl), Bidean Nam Bian is the highest peak in Glencoe and wider Argyll county. The entire range is absolutely beautiful and so it’s little wonder it’s one of the best walks in Glencoe.
What Are Scotland’s Three Sisters?
The Three Sisters of Glencoe in Scotland are three magnificent ridges that make up part of the Bidean Nam Bian massif. They are Aonach Dubh, Beinn Fhada and Gearr Aonach.
Aonach Dubh, Beinn Fhada and Gearr Aonach are the three most notable ridges when viewed from the trailhead to the Bidean Nam Bian hike or even just passing through the legendary Glencoe Pass by car. Of course, the three sisters are one of the most photographed areas of Glencoe and it’s easy to see why.
To clear up any confusion (unless it’s just us), Bidean Nam Bian can commonly be known as The Three Sisters. But, Bidean Nam Bian is more than these three peaks. This hike ascends and descends through the incredible Three Sisters ridges, but does not summit them. Rather, the three peaks reached in this Bidean Nam Bian hike are Stob Coire Nan Lochan, Bidean Nam Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach.
Where Is Bidean Nam Bian?
Bidean Nam Bian lies at the southern end of Glencoe. The mountain range lies in the Argyll region of western Scotland. The hiking trail to Bidean Nam Bian is just a short drive from the shores of Loch Leven and the ever-popular tourist hubs of Glencoe, Ballachulish and Kinlochleven. Bidean Nam Bian and the Three Sisters of Glencoe lie south of Fort William and north of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.
Glencoe is recognised as a National Scenic Area in Scotland, along with other breathtaking locations like Loch Maree, Assynt, Kyle of Tongue, Cairngorms and Loch Lomond. These areas are protected from development and have designated conservation in place.
Bidean Nam Bian Overview
The hiking trail of Bidean Nam Bian is one of pure exhilaration and reward. This is one of the best day hikes in Glencoe and a walk I’m sure you’ll love as much as we did.
The general flow of the trail follows an ascent up through the valley between Aonach Dubh and Gearr Aonach (two of the Three Sisters) before reaching the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan (1,115masl). From here, you’ll follow the breathtaking ridgeline to Bidean Nam Bian (Munro number one), before heading to Stob Coire Sgreamhach (1,072masl [Munro number two]). This second Munro is part of the long spiny ridge to Beinn Fhada, the third sister. From here, you’ll descend into Coire Gabhail, AKA the Lost Valley, before returning to the trailhead. Without a doubt, this is a truly wonderful 13km hike in Glencoe. Let’s take a look at the details below.
Bidean Nam Bian Hiking Map & Hiking Preview
- Trail Type: Loop
- Distance: 12.8km
- Time: 7–8 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 1,315m
- Difficulty: Hard
- Trailhead: Three Sisters Car Park
- Map: Wikiloc
Bidean Nam Bian Trail Description
From the car park, you’ll first follow the trail heading towards Glencoe’s famed Three Sisters. The path leads down towards the River Coe. Here, you’ll cross a small wooden footbridge and begin the ascent through the valley.
The hike is a continuous uphill walk through Coire Nan Lochan, between Aonach Dubh and Gearr Aonach, two of the three sisters of Glencoe. Cascading down to the right of you is a beautiful waterfall. This stream trickles all the way down to meet the River Coe at the base of this grand mountain.
At around the 2.5km mark, you’ll need to cross over the stream and head to the trail on your right. You’ll notice there is a path heading straight up, continuing on the left-hand side of the stream. This too leads to Stob Coire Nan Lochan, but it’s less scenic and more direct. The traditional route is to head right and scramble across the water.
Stob Coire Nan Lochan
The trail on the other side of the stream can appear a little faint in places. So, it’s good to have your GPS map to hand. Essentially, the trail swings out west, across a grassy plain. Dan and I enjoyed superb views back across the glen to the neighbouring mountain ridges on the opposite side of the valley.
Ahead, along the trail, is the imposing view of Stob Coire Nan Lochan. It looks deceptively difficult to get to from here. Luckily, as the trail continues to swing out west, it eventually cuts back to your left at around 3.5km, and there is a surprisingly simple ascent up the north ridge.
This ascent to Stob Coire Nan Lochan is mostly over boulders. Although a semi-trail drops in and out, it’s essentially a bit of minor scrambling before reaching the summit of Stob Coire Nan Lochan.
Views are outstanding from Stob Coire Nan Lochan. We had snowy peaks to the west of us as we looked out towards Loch Leven and Loch Linnhe. On a clear day, you should have views out to the Isle of Mull as well as the Hebrides. Looking east, you’ll spot the final summit of the walk, Stob Coire Sgreamhach, but before that is the first Munro – Bidean Nam Bian.
The summit of Stob Coire Nan Lochan stands at 1,115 masl. But, as we’ve touched upon, it doesn’t class as a separate Munro due to its proximity to Bidean Nam Bian. Still, it’s pretty spectacular and the climb up to it alone makes it a star attraction of this entire hike.
Bidean Nam Bian
From Stob Coire Nan Lochan, you’ll follow the trail over an incredible-looking ridgeback. Dan and I love any hike that involves a ridge, so we were feeling quite excited by this next section of impending trail.
Heading down across a clear track, but one of some loose scree in sections, you’ll dip down between the peaks before ascending up to Bidean Nam Bian. The approach to the summit of this Munro is quite steep. You should stick to the track on the left for an easier ascent to the peak.
At 1,150 masl, the views from Bidean Nam Bian are extraordinary. To be expected I suppose. The incredible weather Dan and I were lucky to experience aided in the complete pleasure of standing on top of Argyll’s highest mountain peak. Views, in every direction, are stunning.
Looking north, you’ll be able to retrace your steps back down Coire Nan Lochan and enjoy the views of Stob Coire Nan Lochan to your left. Ahead are excellent views of Glencoe’s Three Sisters. From here, you’ll tower above them and get a real sense of just how high you’ve climbed.
Next, it’s on to the final peak of the hike, and Bidean Nam Bian’s second Munro – Stob Coire Sgreamhach.
Stob Coire Sgreamhach
Heading east from the summit of Bidean Nam Bian, you’ll follow yet more sublime ridgeline trail. Stob Coire Sgreamhach is dead ahead and looking incredible against a stunning mountainous backdrop. There’s an undulating descent down to Bealach Dearg, before one final push to reach the Stob Coire Sgreamhach summit.
Views from Stob Coire Sgreamhach, standing at 1,072 masl, easily rival those of the previous two peaks. From here, it’s easy to visualise the route you’ve just taken to reach this perfect lookout. The Munro has fantastic views down the huge spiny ridge to Beinn Fhada in particular, as well as the other Three Sisters and views of the whole Glencoe Valley. Additionally, there are marvellous views of the surrounding peaks of Buachaille Etive Beag, Buachaille Etive Mòr, Ben Starav and Ben Cruachan.
Below is your way out, through the beautiful Coire Gabhail. After enjoying a spot of lunch – you’ve earned it, simply retrace your steps back to Bealach Dearg.
After descending Stob Coire Sgreamhach and arriving back at Bealach Dearg, you’ll notice the trail down into Coire Gabhail, AKA the Lost Valley, looks a little daunting. Even on a day with dry weather. Safe to say, there was much debate between fellow hikers as to how best to go about this initial descent. Those that went first were watched very carefully by those waiting their turn. Basically, you’re in for an extremely steep, and sketchy scree slope of a trail, and one that’s been heavily eroded too. A bit of bum shuffling may be called for. No shame here.
We do, however, recommend looking for the alternate pseudo-path that descends broken rocks to the right of the gully. Even in good conditions, make sure to take your time, it’s not that much better than the scree gully! The descent can certainly be quite dangerous in wet and snowy conditions. The latter is not that unusual, even in summer.
After this initial section, there’s good news. The trail becomes easier to walk and eventually joins to a well-maintained section of path, with stone steps leading down further into Coire Gabhail in Glencoe.
Glencoe Lost Valley
As the trail flattens out, you enter what is known as the Lost Valley. This vast expanse of grassland, nestled between the towering ridges of Gearr Aonach and Beinn Fhada (two of Glencoe’s Three Sisters) feels completely magical. There are boulders as big as houses and, incredibly, the Allt Coire Gabhail (Gabhail River) flows underneath. This is due to falling rocks and debris covering it. I mean, with the size of those boulders, it’s no wonder.
The Lost Valley was once used to hide rustled cattle by the MacDonalds of Glencoe. Not a bad place to stash your stolen coos I suppose.
As you pass through the Lost Valley, the trail descending back off the mountain is located to your right. Admittedly, Dan and I, so enthralled by our surroundings, totally missed it. Instead, we went on a boulder-hopping exploration of the Lost Valley, ending up a short way down the mountain and a bit stuck. Eventually, we cut our losses and decided it best to retrace our steps and join the actual trail. Still, the landscape through there is quite enchanting.
Return to The Three Sisters Car Park, Glencoe
After rejoining the trail, you’ll pick up the Allt Coire Gabhail as it resurfaces, and follow it back downhill. There is some mild scrambling needed in sections, and a stepping stone crossing of the river, but otherwise it’s a simple return back off the mountain. The cascading streams you’ll pass on the way are pristine and perfectly clear. In fact, this section of the hike, on the flanks of Beinn Fhada, is some of the most beautiful landscape we’ve seen on any hike in Scotland and certainly Glencoe.
The final parts of the hike drop through some birch woodland. It’s very picturesque and despite being a little tired, we decided to get in a little speed hiking to finish off this stellar Glencoe walk. Then it’s just a case of following the trail back to the car park. Don’t forget to stop and admire the views of the Three Sisters of Glencoe again, it hits kinda differently once you’ve taken on the walk to the Bidean mountains.
What’s speed hiking? It’s how we love to hike, to see as much as possible on a trip! Find out more about speed hiking here.
Recap of the Bidean Nam Bian Hike, Glencoe
So there you have it, a tough, in parts technical and thoroughly enjoyable hike around one of Glencoe’s most exceptional mountain ranges. Truly, hiking Bidean Nam Bian, climbing high between Glencoe’s Three Sisters and enjoying outstanding views across the West Highlands of Scotland will easily be one of the best walks of your entire Scotland trip. I know it was ours.
How to Get to Bidean Nam Bian
Of course, to be able to take on this fantastic walk in Glencoe, you’ll need to get there first. Glencoe is a 2.5 hour drive from Glasgow and a 3 hour drive from Edinburgh. Heading north out of Glasgow, you simply join the A82 all the way to Glencoe. You pass by Loch Lomond & The Trossachs NP, which is totally worth a stop at on the way. From Edinburgh, head east out of the city, along the M9, before joining the A84 at Stirling. From here, head northeast to Lochearnhead, where you’ll join the A85 before joining the A82 to Glencoe.
As far as I can tell, there are no public transport options to take you to the Three Sisters Car Park, although it is definitely possible to take public transport to Glencoe. You can check CityLink for buses running between Glasgow/Edinburgh and Glencoe.
As with much of the Scottish Highlands, the easiest way to get to Bidean Nam Bian and Glencoe’s Three Sisters for this walk is with your own set of wheels. Of course, if you don’t have access to your own vehicle, 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.
Where to Park For Bidean Nam Bian
Parking for the hike to Bidean Nam Bian is very straightforward. Along the A82 road leading to Glencoe, you’ll find numerous pull-in car parks. It’s also from these car parks you’ll get to enjoy the best views of the Three Sisters of Glencoe.
Be warned though, the car parks can fill up fast. In addition, it’s quite common for tourist buses to arrive for visitors to view Glencoe’s Three Sisters. With that in mind, I would advise arriving early for this hike. But, don’t worry, you don’t need to be excessive. Dan and I arrived by 8:30am, in late June, and had plenty of spots to choose from.
When is the Best Time to Climb Bidean Nam Bian?
The best time to climb Bidean Nam Bian, and take on other walks in Glencoe for that matter, is undoubtedly summer. Summer months for hiking in Scotland typically run from May–September. Although, you may get lucky with hiking in October too. Outside of these months, the weather will be wilder, snowier and with that comes the need for more winter mountain experience.
But, be warned. It’s not uncommon for snow to lay along the summits, ridges and bealachs of the Bidean Nam Bian hike in the summer months. Although looking up to a dusting of snow on the Three Sisters of Glencoe from the car park would be particularly dreamy, it does however make the hike a little more problematic. Especially the scramble down into the Lost Valley. That was tricky on a dry, ridiculously sunny and snow-free day. Descending that in the snow is dangerous and requires good experience.
To that end, hiking and walking in Glencoe in the winter should only be done by those with mountaineering experience in the snow. Additionally, for those with the knowledge to use specialist snow equipment too. We timed our hikes in the West Highlands for the peak of summer, so we could enjoy a more risk-free walk in Glencoe. It certainly paid off.
Bidean Nam Bian Weather
As with most of the Scottish Highlands, the Bidean Nam Bian weather can be a little unpredictable. Low mist in the mornings is not uncommon and the reason those Three Sisters in Glencoe look so lush is because there’s a fair bit of rainfall too.
Admittedly, Dan and I got unbelievably lucky with the weather when hiking Bidean Nam Bian. For an accurate forecast, you can check the MET Office weather here and the Mountain Weather forecast here.
Given its proximity to the ever-popular Glencoe, there’s no shortage of accommodation options near Bidean Nam Bian and the Three Sisters. Below, we’ll take a look at the best budget, mid-range and luxury accommodation options, before touching on camping at Bidean Nam Bian afterwards.
- Budget – The Glencoe Inn: sitting in the shadow of the Pap of Glencoe, an excellent choice of walk in the area, The Glencoe Inn steals what’s surely a prime location on the banks of Loch Leven. There’s a restaurant, bar and outdoor terrace, so you really can just sit back and unwind under the watchful eye of Glencoe’s famed mountains.
- Mid-range – Clachaig Inn: perfect for families, you’ll find a playground at Clachaig Inn to keep the little people occupied. Additionally, for the adults, you’ll find Clachaig Inn has its very own bar/pub to enjoy a beverage or two.
- Luxury – Glencoe House: if you’re really looking to push the boat out, you might consider Glencoe House. This beautiful hotel offers individual suites within this historical house. The location is stunning, the facilities fabulous and I’m not sure there’s a better place to unwind after taking on some of Glencoe’s legendary walks.
Camping at Bidean Nam Bian
Dan and I stayed at the Glencoe Camping & Caravanning Club Site. This beautifully located campground in the West Highlands has outrageous views of the Three Sisters and surrounding Glencoe mountain ranges. The amenities and facilities were top-notch! We paid for a grass pitch with an electric hook-up. Glencoe Camping & Caravanning Club Site is a great base for doing Bidean Nam Bian. It’s less than a 10-minute drive away from the trailhead.
As with most of Scotland, wild camping is permitted. We saw many an overnight hiker heading up to camp in the Lost Valley. What a spot! However, campers need to follow a standard set of guidelines. These include respecting the countryside and staying safe. Read here for more information on wild camping in Scotland.
How Difficult Is Bidean Nam Bian?
With a good GPS map to hand and some decent hiking experience, the Bidean Nam Bian hike is a very doable hike. Just a little demanding in parts. But, a lot of this depends on the weather. If it’s raining, blowing a gale or is misty and the visibility is poor, you can expect a much trickier hike. Sometimes, dangerous, along the steep and rocky cliff sections.
Still, on a clear day, as we experienced, you’ll find a well-trodden trail full of many hikers. But, given the elevation gain, length and scrambles involved, we would describe the Bidean Nam Bian hike as hard. If you’re quite new to hiking, I would recommend some easier hikes first. You could hike the Ben Nevis Mountain Trail (guide coming soon) and Ben Lomond to give you a taste of hiking in the Scottish mountains.
What Does Bidean Nam Bian Mean?
Bidean Nam Bian means ‘peak of the mountains’.
How Do You Pronounce Bidean Nam Bian?
Bidean Nam Bian is pronounced ‘bit-yen-nahm-bee-yun’.
What Are The Three Sisters of Glencoe?
The Three Sisters of Glencoe names are Aonach Dubh, Beinn Fhada and Gearr Aonach.
Other Glencoe Hikes
- Pap of Glencoe: this short but steep hike starts in the village of Glencoe and reaches fantastic heights to enjoy stellar views over Loch Leven.
- Sgorr Nam Fiannaidh & Aonach Eagach: if you’re an experienced scrambler, the ridge linking the Munros of Meall Dearg and Sgòrr Nam Fiannaidh on this hike is one of the best in the UK. Not to be hiked by the less experienced.
- Coire Nam Beith: an alternative Bidean Nam Bian hike, this route takes in the summit of Coire Nam Beith, before reaching Bidean Nam Bian and Stob Coire Nan Lochan. See the map below.
Five Hiking Essentials For Bidean Nam Bian
These are our five hiking gear essentials for the Bidean Nam Bian walk in Glencoe! 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 hiking trip to Scotland, 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, at least 2–3L water, snacks and sunscreen.
- Early start: you should aim to arrive early to beat the crowds and enjoy much of this popular trail to yourself.
- Midge alert: although we encountered far fewer of those pesky Scottish midges than we had around Loch Lomond, it’d still be good to be prepared. You could consider a Smidge net (best purchase ever!) and check the Midge Watch for a daily update on the numbers of these nasty little buggers.
- Bidean Nam Bian deaths: tragically, although not commonplace, there have been fatalities on Bidean Nam Bian. If you lack mountain hiking experience, the weather is poor or there is even just a slight dusting of snow on the peaks, please, do not hike Bidean Nam Bian. It can be very dangerous.
- Explore Glencoe: why not drop into the Glencoe Visitor Centre or check out some of these excellent activity options with Get Your Guide.
Bidean Nam Bian is one of our favourite walks in Glencoe, if not the entire West Highlands. Let us know what you think of this Glencoe hike in the comments below.
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