The hike to Meall Nan Tarmachan and the traverse across the impressive Tarmachan Ridge is easily one of the best walks in the Southern Highlands of Scotland. Views over the long sliver of Loch Tay and the Ben Lawers Dam landmark are exquisite from each of the four conquered peaks. Along with Meall Nan Tarmachan, these include Meall Garbh, Beinn Nan Eachan and the optional Creag Na Caillich. This is an easy-to-follow trail from the Ben Lawers Car Park, with some exhilarating scrambling sections. Certainly, it’s a great introduction to the world-class hikes found in the Scottish Highlands.
In this guide, we’ll look at where Meall Nan Tarmachan is and how to climb the ridge loop. We’ll give a description of the trail, as well as suggest a couple of alternatives or amendments you can make to the walk. After that, we’ll discuss accommodation options, answer some FAQs and suggest some other excellent hikes to do in the area around Loch Tay.
To see footage of the Tarmachan Ridge hike in the Southern Highlands of Scotland, please watch our 6 Mind-Blowing West Highland Walks in 6 Days YouTube production.
For other great hikes in Scotland, read our guides on the Quinag, Suilven and Stac Pollaidh hikes. Otherwise, read our 6-Day West Highland Hiking Itinerary (NOT the West Highland Way) post, where we talk about six excellent West Highland day hikes not to miss.
Table of Contents
About Meall Nan Tarmanchan and the Tarmachan Ridge
Meall Nan Tarmachan is a 1,040m high Munro in the Scottish Highlands. The 14km loop walk along the Tarmachan Ridge takes in the above-mentioned Munro plus three Munro Tops. These are Meall Garbh (1,030m), Beinn Nan Eachan (1,005m) and, optionally, Craig Na Callich (920m).
Munro Tops are mountains over 3,000ft (914m), like Munros, but are considered to be subsidiary tops of the nearby, and highest, Munro. So, although you are summitting four mountains of Munro height, only one is classed as an actual Munro on the Tarmachan Ridge walk.
This is another reason why specific Munro baggers may choose to hike to Meall Nan Tarmachan as an out-and-back, rather than cover the entire ridge trail. More on that below.
Where Is Meall Nan Tarmachan and Tarmachan Ridge?
Meall Nan Tarmachan and its striking ridge fall within the Ben Lawers Mountain Range. It’s one of seven Munros that make up the range. Meall Nan Tarmachan overlooks the lengthy Loch Tay and the much smaller Lochan Na Lairige, which features the beautiful Ben Lawers Dam landmark. In fact, the trail leading up to Meall Nan Tarmachan provides some of the best views of the Ben Lawers Dam nestled in the mountain valley below.
The closest village to the Tarmachan Ridge walk is Killen, with Meall Nan Tarmachan and the Ben Lawers Range falling just outside of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. The drive, north, from Glasgow takes around 1.5–2 hours. Additionally, if coming from Edinburgh, you can expect the drive to take around 2–2.5 hours.
Meall Nan Tarmachan Route Map & Hiking Preview
- Trail Type: Loop
- Distance: 13.7km
- Time: 4.5–5.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 855m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Ben Lawers Car Park
- Map: Wikiloc
Tarmachan Ridge Walk
From the Ben Lawers Car Park, head to the lower end of the lot and join a well-laid track into the shrub. This easy-to-walk path gently ascends through the pretty heather landscape, which is part of the Ben Lawers Nature Reserve. Ahead, you’ll find views straight up to Meall Nan Tarmachan. They are quite superb, so long as you don’t have a misty start to the day, like Dan and I.
Lochan Na Lairige & Ben Lawers Dam
Eventually, at around the 1km mark, the trail exits onto a larger path, cutting across the mountain. The left side of this trail will be your return path later. But for now, you should cross straight over this wider trail and continue straight, up the grassy mountainside. You’ll notice to your right views of Ben Lawers Dam. The Ben Lawers Dam cuts rather regally across Lochan Na Lairige. Ben Lawers Dam sits in the valley below Ben Lawers Mountain. The whole range looks incredible.
The small trail gently veers west as it climbs higher up the mountain. Loch Tay is viewed to your left as you leave the Ben Lawers Dam behind.
Loch Tay Views
At around 2km, the trail turns right and follows north, straight up the mountain. Loch Tay, now behind you, looks even more breathtaking the higher you climb. At 3km, you’ll reach the top of a small mound. A false peak if you will, since this feels like the target on your climb up. But, the trail continues. Luckily, it eases slightly across a small plateau before the final push up to Meall Nan Tarmachan. From the height of the false peak though, you can really appreciate the size of Loch Tay below, as it winds its way around the base of the Ben Lawers Range. Additionally, views up to Meall Nan Tarmachan and across the ridge are breathtaking.
Meall Nan Tarmachan Summit
From here, it’s a short but steep hike to reach Meall Nan Tarmachan. The rocky trail is well worn and so after a few sharp lunges and some very minor scrambles, you’ll be stood by the huge cairn that marks your summit in no time.
The summit of Meall Nan Tarmachan stands at 1,044 metres above sea level. As Munros in Scotland go, it’s fairly sizeable. Still, the general consensus is that due to the significant starting elevation of 427m, summitting Meall Nan Tarmachan is also one of the simplest.
As you can imagine, views from Meall Nan Tarmachan are quite wonderful. For Dan and I, the mist cleared just in time for us to enjoy the extensive views across to neighbouring Ben Lawers. Also, we had a great view down the valley toward Lochan Na Lairige and the Ben Lawers Dam. To the right, you should be able to spot Loch Tay again. And to your left, you’ll hopefully have some pretty good views of Glen Lyon.
Of course, summiting Meall Nan Tarmachan is incredible in itself. However, the best part of the hike is still to come. Certainly, that’s traversing the Tarmachan Ridge. Views from the summit of Meall Nan Tarmachan, looking down the spiney, jagged peaks of the ridge, make for some of the best photos of the hike.
Following the trail over Meall Nan Tarmachan, you’ll begin a short descent from the summit. The trail passes a couple of small lochans to your right as you walk through the rocky landscape.
You’ll continue to follow the trail as you ascend up to Meall Garbh, your first Munro Top, which is the little pointy peak you’ll see ahead of you.
From Meall Garbh, you’ll get to enjoy yet more stunning views of Tarmachan Ridge. Descending Meall Garbh is the trickiest part of the entire Tarmachan Ridge hike. There is a small section of grade 1 scrambling needed to descend from the summit ridge. With that being said, if you have relatively good mountain experience, take care and additionally have good weather, the scramble is quite achievable.
But, should you not feel confident with the scramble down, especially if the weather is not good, then there is a small track to the right, just before the scramble, which safely leads around this part and rejoins at its base. Then you can continue along the trail as normal.
Beinn nan Eachan
Next is the ascent up to Beinn Nan Eachan – Munro Top number two. The trail here is a series of undulating zig-zags, but the elevation gain is not too gnarly. Dan and I stopped for lunch at the top of Beinn Nan Eachan, where we enjoyed the views back across to Meall Garbh and the Tarmachan Ridge. Although, the brutal Scottish midges were out in force and so our rest didn’t last long.
From the summit of Beinn Nan Eachan, it’s a somewhat steep descent back down Tarmachan Ridge. Luckily, the trail is clear and easy to follow down to the mountain pass below.
Creag Na Caillich
After descending Beinn Nan Eachan, it’s possible to add on an additional summit. This is to Creag Na Caillich – Munro top number three. Dan and I didn’t on this occasion. At around the 7km mark, we simply turned left at the fork in the trail and continued on our return to the Ben Lawers Car Park. However, should you wish to add Creag Na Caillich to your hike, then you’ll simply continue straight on this section of trail, and ascend to this final summit. From the top of Creag Na Caillich, it’s recommended to return as an out-and-back, rather than continue the trail on the other side of the summit.
Return to Ben Lawers Car Park
From the valley between Beinn Nan Eachan and Creag Na Caillich, the trail steadily descends between the two mountains, or Munro Tops, to be more accurate. Ahead, you’ll be re-greeted by views of Loch Tay. Although, you’re likely to be a little distracted by the boggy ground in this section of the trail. GPS is a good addition at this point on the Tarmachan Ridge walk as the path can drop in and out a little, although nothing too tricky to deal with.
Eventually, you’ll join up with a wider track. This is the one I mentioned earlier as the return route. Follow this back to the turn-off for the small trail back to Ben Lawers Car Park.
- Meall Nan Tarmachan Out & Back: if you simply want to ‘bag Munros’, or the weather is not good, then you might opt to hike to Meall Nan Tarmachan as an out and back. You’ll get to enjoy the incredible views of Lochan Na Lairige with the Ben Lawers Dam, as well as the massive Loch Tay. However, if the weather is fine, you’ll be missing out on the exhilarating Tarmachan Ridge walk, which was our favourite part. You can find the link to a GPS map here.
- Meall Garbh Side Trail Descent: at Meall Garbh, there is a faint off-shoot trail that heads to the left, off the mountainside. The trail joins the usual return track at the base. Although, if you choose to leave the walk here, you wouldn’t be covering the full Tarmachan Ridge. But, it’s a great option to experience some of the ridge if you’re a little short on time or have more hikes to fit into the day.
How To Get To Meall Nan Tarmachan
As with much of the Scottish Highlands, the easiest way to get to Tarmachan Ridge is with your own set of wheels. 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.
As Meall Nan Tarmachan is located in the Southern Highlands, it’s quite accessible from both Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The quickest way to get to Meall Nan Tarmachan from Glasgow is to head north out of the city along the M80 to Dunblane. From Dunblane, take A84 north to Lochearnhead, before continuing onto the A85 to Killin and then on to the Ben Lawers Car Park.
To get there from Edinburgh, you’ll take the M9, east out of the city, towards Dunblane. From Dunblane, repeat the steps as described above.
As far as I can tell, there’s no public transport to take you directly to Ben Lawers Car Park and the trailhead for Tarmachan Ridge. Although, it’s possible to take public transport from both Glasgow and Edinburgh to Killin. You would then need to get from Killin to Ben Lawers Car Park. This would be around two hours of additional hiking, four hours in total. So, I wouldn’t really recommend hiking Tarmachan Ridge this way. But, the option is there I suppose.
Ben Lawers Car Park
The Ben Lawers Car Park has a small parking charge, but, is also owned by National Trust Scotland. So, if you are a National Trust member of either Scotland or England, then you can park for free at the Ben Lawers Car Park with your National Trust card.
The Ben Lawers Car Park is quite big, which is good news. But, the parking here doesn’t just serve the hike to Meall Nan Tarmachan and the ridge. Additionally, the Ben Lawers Car Park provides parking for the Ben Lawers trail too. To that end, I would recommend arriving early to ensure you get a space. Hiking Ben Lawers is, after all, one of the most popular hikes in this part of Scotland.
Alternatively, you can begin the trail from another car park. If you drive approx. 500m further along this minor road, you’ll reach another car park, here. This one is more specifically for the Tarmachan Ridge walk and so you may find it less busy.
As Dan and I had National Trust cards, we parked at the Ben Lawers Car Park and started the walk from there. The hike is a similar distance whichever car park you decide to start from.
The Best Time To Climb Meall Nan Tarmachan
To best time to climb Meall Nan Tarmachan and take on the ridge walk is summer. These months typically cover from mid-April through to October. You’ll enjoy longer hours of daylight and additionally better weather (hopefully!).
Hiking in winter, especially in snow, should only be done by hikers with experience in snow trekking and the use of specialist snow equipment. It’s all too easy to get into difficulty in the Scottish Highlands.
To check the weather forecast for Meall Nan Tarmachan, click here.
Nearest Accommodation to Meall Nan Tarmachan
Below, we’ll take a look at a mix of accommodation options close to the Tarmachan Ridge walk. We’ll include camping and hotel options as well as a range of prices to suit most budgets.
- Budget Ben – Lawers Hotel: this reasonably priced hotel sits in the shadow of Ben Lawers and right on the banks of Loch Tay. Guests at the Ben Lawers Hotel can enjoy homecooked meals and a well-earned drink in the bar after a day out hiking.
- Mid-range – The Courie Inn: this delightful B&B serves up a cracking cooked breakfast, right in the heart of Killin. Additionally, The Courie Inn offers water sports facilities, so you can really make the most of staying next to Loch Tay.
- Luxury – Auchmore Apartments: the Auchmore Apartments is a delightful 4-bedroom holiday home in Killin. You’re in great proximity to the Tarmachan Ridge walk, as well as excellent cycling routes and lake activities. Sitting out on the balcony with views over Loch Tay is particularly relaxing by all accounts.
Camping in Killin
The little village of Killin is a fantastic location to camp in before, and after, hiking Meall Nan Tarmachan and the Tarmachan Ridge. Dan and I camped at High Creagan Caravan Park and were quite comfortable there and had a wonderful stay. The campsite has a small but well-kept toilet and shower block. Other nearby campsites include Clachan Club Campsite and Maragowan Club Campsite. Both offer electric hook-ups for those that need them.
Wild Camping Scotland
As with most of Scotland, wild camping is permitted. 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 Hard is it to Climb Meall Nan Tarmachan?
The climb to Meall Nan Tarmachan is fairly easy and follows a well-marked and trodden trail. The most challenging element of the loop walk is the Tarmachan Ridge. But, having said that, again there is an easy trail to follow. The grade 1 scramble section can be avoided by taking detour trails if necessary. Also, the trail can be made shorter and modified too.
How Long Does it Take to Climb Meall Nan Tarmachan?
It takes 4.5–5.5 hours to complete the climb to Meall Nan Tarmachan and complete the ridge walk. You can expect to add around an hour onto the hike if you choose to climb the final summit of Creag Na Caillich. And remember, this summit should be walked as an out and back. Climbing Meall Nan Tarmachan as an out and back, and not walking the ridge, will take around 2–3 hours.
Is Meall Nan Tarmachan a Munro?
Yes, Meall Nan Tarmachan is a Munro. To have Munro status, a Scottish mountain needs to be above 3,000ft (914m). It’s also considered one of the easiest Munro’s to bag due to the high elevation of the starting point to the hike.
How Do You Pronounce Meall Nan Tarmachan?
The correct way to pronounce Meall Nan Tarmachan is me-yell-nahn-tah-ma-han.
Other Walks Nearby (Loch Tay and Beyond)
- Ben Lawers Range: Ben Lawers is the highest mountain in the Southern Highlands of Scotland and possibly its most popular Munro. Rising high above Loch Tay, you’ll experience some breathtaking views atop this mountain.
- Meall Ghaordaidh: the 10km out & back to Meall Ghaordaidh lies north of Killin in Glen Lochay. The Munro to be bagged here is 1,039m high.
- Beinn Ghlas: you’ll cover this Munro if you hike Ben Lawers. Although not usually hiked in its own right, it is possible to hike Beinn Ghlas on its own should you not want to take on the entire Ben Lawers circuit.
- Meall Buidhe: Meall Buidhe is an easy Munro to conquer, this relatively short trail has fantastic views of the Trossachs and Loch An Daimh.
- Meall Corranaich: Meall Corranaich is part of the Ben Lawers Range and a short but steep Munro to summit.
Five Hiking Essentials For Meall Nan Tarmachan
These are our five hiking gear essentials for the Tarmachan Ridge hike in 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 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, water, snacks and sunscreen.
- Smidge net: Dan and I found the areas around Loch Lomond and a little further north at Killen to be the worst for midges when we visited in summer. We found our Smidge nets to be an absolute game-changer in protecting us from the pesky little nippers. 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.
- Trail running: every year there is a race held at Meall Nan Tarmachan and across the Tarmachan Ridge. If you’re an experienced trail runner or just looking for an alternative to hiking, why not enter?
- Nearby Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: since you’re so close, why not take on Ben Lomond and the Cobbler – two exceptional hikes in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
- 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 is one of our favourite hiking destinations. Be sure to check out some incredible hikes along the NC500 (North Coast 500) when planning your trip to Scotland.
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