The incredible Ring of Steall is an exhilarating loop hike in the centre of the Mamores Mountain Range in the Scottish Highlands. The Ring of Steall trail bags no less than four Munros such as Am Bodach and traverses Scotland’s Devil’s Ridge. This full-day trek awards adventurous hikers with outstanding views of some of the UK’s highest mountains, including Ben Nevis. Indeed, the Ring of Steall may sit in the shadow of Britain’s highest mountain, but this stellar hike is not to be overlooked.
In this guide, we’ll talk about what and where the Ring of Steall is. We’ll provide a GPS map and trail description to the four Munros like Am Bodach, before discussing how to get to the Ring of Steall and accommodation options after taking on these four Munros. Lastly, we’ll answer some FAQs and give a suggested packing list and hiking essentials.
To see footage of the Ring of Steall hike in the Mamores, please watch our 6 Mind-Blowing West Highland Walks in 6 Days YouTube production.
For more incredible hikes in Scotland, be sure to check out our guides on Beinn Alligin, Stac Pollaidh and Suilven. Otherwise, read our West Highland Hiking Itinerary, where we talk about six excellent West Highland day hikes.
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Where Is the Ring of Steall?
The sublime Ring of Steall mountain circuit sits between Ben Nevis to the north and Loch Leven to the south. It forms the central part of the Mamores Mountain Range in Scotland, within the Lochaber area. The Ring of Steall hike summits the four Munros of An Gearanach (982m), Stob Choire a Chàirn (981m), Am Bodach (1,032m) and Sgùrr a’Mhaim (1,099m).
The closest town to hike the Ring of Steall and bag these four Munros is Fort William, just a 20-minute drive away.
Where Are the Mamores?
The Mamores are a group of mountains that sit at the western edge of the larger Grampian Mountain Range in the Scottish Highlands. The Mamores range is approx. 15km long and contains no fewer than 10 Munros. It’s possible to hike the entire Mamores range in a day. It’s a very meaty 34km hike taking around, if not more than, 12 hours. The total elevation gain of almost 4,000m is huge. Just the thought leaves me a little breathless. But, rest assured, the simpler and most popular hike by which to see the Mamores is the Ring of Steall. Although, this hike is anything but easy.
Ring of Steall Route Overview
The Ring of Steall is a thoroughly enjoyable 18km hike that bags four Munros. If hiking in a clockwise direction, as we’ll describe here, you’ll first summit An Gearanach before traversing a cool ridge to Stob Coire a’Chairn. From this second Munro, you’ll head to the lofty peak of Am Bodach, before traversing Scotland’s Devil’s Ridge and then ascending to the final Munro of Sgurr a’Mhaim.
To summit each of these mountains involves 1,680m of accumulative elevation gain. But as you can imagine, each peak, and the views they bring, make this one heck of an incredible hike and easily one of our favourites in the West Highlands.
Ring of Steall Map & Preview
- Trail Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 17.6km
- Time: 8–12 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 1,680m
- Difficulty: Hard
- Trailhead: Upper Falls Car Park
- Map: Wikiloc
Ring of Steall Walk Description
Beginning from the Upper Falls Car Park at the end of Glen Nevis Road, the trail begins by walking through the beautiful woodland within Nevis Gorge. This rocky but straightforward path heads towards the incredible Steall Falls, Britain’s second-highest waterfall.
Steall Falls can also be walked as an independent hike in its own right. You can read about the trail here.
To Steall Falls, Scotland
As you emerge from the woodland, you’ll see Steall Falls across the glen, cascading down the mountainside. This is where you’ll be heading. But, to do so, you’ll need to cross the infamous wire bridge that gets you across the Waters of Nevis.
It’s as precarious to cross as it looks. But, with a little time and patience, you’ll make it. The tightrope walk is thankfully the only one of its kind on this hike. But, if the wire bridge really isn’t for you, there’s always the option to paddle if the river is not in spate.
From here, continue on a trail to the left, past Steall Hut, and head towards the waterfall. There’s a rocky crossing at the base of Steall Falls. Afterwards, the uphill climb into the Ring of Steall and the incredible Mamores Range begins.
Ascending the Mamores
The trail to An Gearanach – the first Munro, from Steall Falls curves around the base of the mountain. The ground can be boggy and the use of a GPS map is beneficial. Dan and I had low cloud that morning which made visibility that bit poorer too.
As the trail rounds the mountain base, a zig-zag path is joined shooting straight up toward An Gearanach. Dan and I slowly emerged above the cloud and found the views were breathtaking. Ascending the zig-zags, the trail eventually veers right, onto a sort of grassy ridge. From here, the views behind, towards Ben Nevis, are quite extraordinary. Dan and I had climbed Ben Nevis the day before and had enjoyed views towards the Mamores and specifically the Ring of Steall Munros. It was nice to enjoy the views from the other way around.
The final summit push to An Gearanach follows a steep but straightforward trail. Reaching the summit of An Gearanch, at 982m, is the hardest part of the hike, having climbed out of Nevis Gorge below all the way up into the Mamores Range. The views, however, are outstanding. Particularly enjoyable was the cloud inversion sticking around, truly making us feel like we were on top of the world.
You’ll just about be able to map the rest of the route from here, following the spiney ridges of the Mamores across to Stob Coire a’Chairn, Am Bodach and Sgùrr a’ Mhaim.
From An Gearanach you can look straight across the valley to the final Ring of Steall Munro of the day – Sgùrr a’ Mhaim. Although, reaching this peak is still some hours away and there’s plenty left to enjoy.
Continuing along the Ring of Steall, the trail heads across a rather epic ridgeline to An Garbhanach. This Munro Top involves a little scrambling but nothing too technical. From here the trail descends sharply into a bealach, before the climb begins to the second Munro of the Ring of Steall – Stob Coire a’Chairn, with views beyond to Am Bodach, the third Munro.
Stob Coire a’Chairn
At 981m, views from Stob Coire a’Chairn are understandably jaw-dropping. Views back to An Gearanach and further on toward Ben Nevis are spectacular. The eastern end of the Mamores is in clear view (weather permitting), as are the Grey Corries. You’ll also enjoy views towards Am Bodach, the third Ring of Steall Munro of the day, which appears impossibly steep, even from this high vantage point.
The trail descending Stob Coire a’Chairn is easier than that of An Gearanach. But, the simplicity doesn’t last for long as the ascent to Am Bodach involves some rather steep sections of trail and more scrambling. Dan and I were pleased to have such fine weather, meaning these sections to Am Bodach were not too difficult at all, just thrilling and adventurous.
Upon reaching Am Bodach Munro (The Old Man) you’ll be stood at the second highest point of the Ring of Steall trail. At this southern point of the loop, you’ll experience fine views of the entire Ring of Steall from Am Bodach.
Am Bodach to Sgurr Lubhair
From Am Bodach, you’ll begin the sweeping path to Sgurr Lubhair. The trail on this section of the Ring of Steall is very straightforward, with a much more gently ascending track from Am Bodach to the summit of Sgurr Lubhair. Interestingly, at 1,001m, Sgurr Lubhair was once classed as a Ring of Steall Munro. But, it has since been declassified and is now a subsidiary peak of neighbouring Sgurr a’Mhaim. And so, despite its height, is just a Munro Top. Still, Munro or not, it adds some great additional climbing between Am Bodach and the Devil’s Ridge, with some exceptional viewpoints along the Ring of Steall in Scotland.
Ring of Steall Devil’s Ridge
Descending Sgurr Lubhair enters the section of the hike known as Scotland’s Devil’s Ridge. The name perhaps describes something worse than what you’ll find. Although, as mentioned, we had particularly good weather. What you’ll find, though, is an exposed length of track, following a fantastic ridgeline with views for days. The ridge is grassy and cuts through this section of the Mamores with perfect precision. The ridgeline is narrow, but the path well worn. The views of Stob Ban to the left are quite something as you head around the Devil’s Ridge along Scotland’s Ring of Steall.
The trail ascends to a small peak (Munro Top), which is another subsidiary of Sgurr a’Mhaim. From here, there’s a little more descent before the final push to the last Munro of this epic Ring of Steall hike.
Approaching Sgurr a’Mhaim sees the grassy ridgebacks disappear and instead a quartzite stone dome appears. At 1,099m, this is the highest peak, or Munro, of the entire Ring of Steall hike. The views across the rest of the Mamores Mountain Range are splendid. As are the views to the left towards Ben Nevis and the CMD route that leads up to its vast plateau top. Views, too, of Scotland’s Devil’s Ridge and Am Bodach are incredible from this higher elevation. In fact, you’ll have excellent views of the entire Ring of Steall and the three Munros you’ve just conquered.
Return to Glen Nevis
Following a trail, northwest, off the quartzite dome of Sgurr a’Mhaim, you’ll have a steep descent back to Glen Nevis. The initial trail zig-zags and winds its way down the huge mountainside, eventually reaching grassier sections. You’ll descend a whopping 1,000m over just 3km. Trekking poles are very handy to relieve the stress on the knees. I know this because I did not have trekking poles and so I felt the effects of such a steep climb off the mountain.
As the descent from Sgurr a’Mhain Munro and the Ring of Steall levels off, you’ll arrive back at the Lower Falls Car Park next to Achriabhach. From here, stay on the near side of the river and follow a woodland trail back upstream, along the Waters of Nevis. Eventually, this Riverside Path reaches the small Paddy’s Bridge crossing. From here, the final 1.5km is completed along the road, back to the Upper Falls Car Park. It’s a tiring end with the slight uphill gradient, but just make sure to have that huge block of chocolate in the boot ready to celebrate with.
How to Get to the Ring of Steall
The trailhead for the Ring of Steall hike is very easy to reach, especially if you’re staying in Fort William.
To hike the Ring of Steall and its four Munros, you’ll ideally need access to your own set of wheels. Although, there’s a bus service that runs between May and September as far as the bridge at the Lower Falls. You can start the walk from here. But, outside of these months, there’s no public transport option to take you to the trailhead.
From Fort William, it’s just a 20-minute drive to get to the Upper Falls Car Park and the trailhead for the Ring of Steall hike. You’ll head east and then south out of town, along the Glen Nevis Road, passing by the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre.
If you wanted to travel from Glencoe, you’re looking at a 45-minute drive, Again, very doable, even with the length of this hike.
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.
Parking For the Ring of Steall Hike
For the Ring of Steall hike, Dan and I parked at the Upper Falls Car Park at the end of Glen Nevis Road. The parking area has room for perhaps around 30 cars. As spacious as it sounds, this car park can fill quite quickly because of the shorter out-and-back hike to Steall Falls from here. To that end, we recommend arriving early. But, because this hike is such a big day hike, you’ll likely be arriving early anyway.
However, as mentioned above, it’s possible to start the Ring of Steall hike from the Lower Falls Car Park too. This car park can hold more cars and so spaces are more likely. Additionally, the hike can be walked in either direction, we chose to hike the traditional clockwise route.
When is the Best Time to Hike the Ring of Steall?
For everyday hikers, the best time to tackle the Ring of Steall, and enjoy extensive views across Scotland’s Mamores, is summer. The summer hiking months in Scotland typically run from May–September. During these months you should (hopefully) enjoy dryer weather. Additionally, there are long hours of daylight which is great for such a big day hike like the Ring of Steall.
Summer also coincides with the peak tourism season. That being said, Dan and I hiked this Mamores trail at the end of June and bumped into just a handful of other intrepid hikers. Most visitors are more concerned with hiking Ben Nevis, so you should find the Ring of Steall and its Munros like Am Bodach to be a quiet and exciting trail to conquer, with minimal footfall.
Hiking Scottish mountains in the winter is strictly reserved for those with know-how. This includes being able to use specialist equipment like crampons. The Ring of Steall involves exposed ridgelines (Scotland’s Devil’s Ridge) and scrambles that could be dangerous in adverse weather conditions. Even misty conditions in summer can potentially be a little sketchy.
Weather in the Mamores
You should always check the weather before embarking on any mountain trail in Scotland. Especially those involving scrambling and exposed ridges. You can check the MET forecast here and the Mountain Forecast here. Be prepared to change hiking itineraries at the last minute due to the weather.
Although Dan and I got very lucky with the weather during our West Highlands trip, the same could not be said for our NC500 trip. There was a lot of chopping and changing of hikes to fit in with the weather. Better to be safe than sorry.
Fort William Accommodation
As the nearest town to stay in for the Ring of Steall hike, you’ll find plenty of accommodation options in Fort William. Below, we’ll take a look at the best budget, mid-range and luxury options.
- Budget – Ben Nevis Youth Hostel: the Ben Nevis Hostel (Glen Nevis Youth Hostel) has managed to maintain very reasonable room rates despite the ever-growing popularity of climbing Ben Nevis, especially as the hostel has its very own trailhead too. Additionally, the hostel’s location is perfect for the Ring of Steall hike too.
- Mid-range – Glenlochy Nevis Bridge Apartments: for a little home away from home, the Glenlochy Nevis Bridge Apartments come highly rated. The accommodation is in a great location and the apartments have excellent Wifi.
- Luxury – Inverlochy Castle Hotel: live like a Scottish Laird and book into the Inverlochy Castle Hotel. This fairytale castle is nestled in beautiful Highland countryside and even has its own award-winning restaurant.
Dan and I chose to camp during our week-long adventure in the West Highlands of Scotland. We stayed at the Ben Nevis Holiday Park for a couple of nights whilst we hiked the Ring of Steall and Ben Nevis. This campground has fantastic views of the surrounding Highlands, including Ben Nevis, of course. In fact, it’s a very convenient location to stay for walks in the area. The facilities and amenities were excellent.
Alternatively, you can find Glen Nevis Caravan & Camping even closer to Ben Nevis and the Ring of Steall. Also, if you have a camper, it’s possible to overnight park next to the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre. You can find the location here.
Wild Camping Ring of Steall
It’s perfectly acceptable to wild camp in Scotland. In fact, Dan and I saw plenty of people camping on the shores of Nevis Water, next to the wire bridge at Steall Falls. I mean, it’s quite a spectacular spot, that’s for sure. And of course, should you not mind a night up on a Munro, exposed to the elements, you could try and find a sheltered spot on the Ring of Steall hike. A sunrise over Devil’s Ridge and Munro peaks like Am Bodach sounds like an excellent way to welcome in another adventurous day in Scotland.
As with most of Scotland, wild camping is permitted in unenclosed areas. 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.
Other Hikes in the Area
The area around Glen Nevis is particularly exceptional when it comes to great hikes in Scotland. Some of our favourites include the following.
- Steall Falls: if you don’t fancy the full Ring of Steall route, then you can complete a much shorter out-and-back trail to Steall Falls. At least, this way you get to experience some of the beauty of this part of the Mamores and the Scottish Highlands.
- Ben Nevis: there are a few different routes to summit the UK’s highest mountain, but the easiest and most popular is the Mountain Trail starting from the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre. It’s a steep climb to Ben Nevis, but the views from the top are truly outstanding.
- Bidean Nam Bian: one of our favourite Highland hikes! Bidean Nam Bian has incredible views of Glencoe, even as far as Ben Nevis and the Mamores on a clear day. This hike gives you the chance to bag two Munros and includes epic ridge lines like the Devil’s Ridge on the Ring of Steall hike, Scotland.
How Long Does It Take to Walk the Ring of Steall?
The Ring of Steall hike typically takes between 8–12 hours. Much of this depends on ability, time resting and, potentially, the conditions in which you hike. Of course, as you know, Dan and I love to speed hike, and so completed the Ring of Steall hike within the lower time range.
What’s speed hiking? It’s how we love to hike, to see as much as possible on a trip! It’s also a great workout. Find out more about speed hiking here.
How Difficult Is the Ring of Steall?
Be under no illusion, the Ring of Steall in Scotland’s epic Mamores range is hard. The approx. 1,700m elevation gain is no easy feat, and the steep descent feels almost as hard as the ascent. Some of the scrambles and ridges, like Scotland’s Devil’s Ridge, can appear a little technical. Although, in reality, they are nothing too difficult, especially if you take care. But, with all the factors combined, and with this being a full-day hike, we would struggle to rate this hike as anything but hard.
How Many Munros Are in the Mamores?
In total there are 10 Munros in the Mamores Mountain Range. They are Mullach nan Coirean (939 m), Stob Bàn (999 m), Na Gruagaichean (1056 m), Binnein Mòr (1130 m), Binnein Beag (943 m) and Sgurr Eilde Mòr (1010 m), with An Gearanach, Stob Coire a’Chairn, Am Bodach and Sgurr a’Mhaim making up the Ring of Steall.
Is the Ring of Steall Dangerous?
If hiking in summer and good weather, and you keep to the trail and use a GPS map, then the Ring of Steall hike is not dangerous. As with other mountain trails in Scotland, most danger or difficulty occurs during poorer weather conditions, especially when the trail can’t be clearly seen such as in whiteouts or heavy snow. To that end, you should always assess your own hiking experience and definitely check the weather before embarking on the Ring of Steall hike.
Ring of Steall Race
If you really want to up the ante when it comes to conquering the Ring of Steall, then you might consider the Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace™. This running circuit, part of the Golden Trail National Series, sees competitors running the entire route. Heading up into the Munros of the Mamores and across Devil’s Ridge, this race around the Ring of Steall is one epic event to complete.
You can find more information here.
Five Hiking Essentials
These are our five hiking gear essentials for taking on the Devil’s Ridge and Ring of Steall circuit 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. Also, consider a power bank so you don’t lose battery following the GPS map.
- Ring of Steall Deaths: from the final Munro of Sgurr a’Mhaim, do not attempt to climb down the mountain to the east. There has been many an accident and even fatalities along this sketchy trail. Instead, be sure to keep to the northwest trail, as described above and illustrated on our GPS map.
- Midge alert: Scottish summer also means midge season. Although we encountered far fewer of these pesky Scottish midges than we had around Loch Lomond, it’s still good to be prepared. You could consider a Smidge net (best purchase ever!) and check the Midge Watch (yes, that’s a thing) for daily updates on midge numbers.
- Full-day fun: if you want something a little more relaxing to do after conquering Devil’s Ridge and four Munros, you could consider some of these excellent Scotland excursions.
If you love a ridge walk, like us, then there’s plenty more like the Devil’s Ridge to find in Scotland. Take a look at The Saddle Via Forcan Ridge hike and Bidean Nam Bian.
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