During our hiking days, we also made a point of hiking Ben Macdui, as well as Cairn Gorm itself. Both of these mountains are also part of Cairngorm National Park, and are among the tallest mountains in the United Kingdom. This was the most challenging hike of our trip, because the elevations were so high and the hike took so much time. But as with the other parts of Cairngorm National Park, the time and effort were well worth it.
Cairn Gorm has an elevation of 4084 feet, and, of course, is the mountain that gives the entire national park its name. It’s higher than Cairn Lochan, making for a more strenuous--and colder--hike. During the winter, a lot of people visit Cairn Gorm for its ski resort, but of course we were there in the summer, when despite the fact that snow sometimes still appears at the mountain peaks, no one skis.
There’s a plateau that stretches between Cairn Gorm and Ben Macdui, and the plateau is at an elevation of 4081 feet, nearly as high as Cairn Gorm itself. If you walk along the plateau, you reach Ben Macdui, the second highest mountain in the entire United Kingdom at 4295 feet. We could see for a very long distance from the highest point of our hike, and the views were absolutely stunning.
Because Ben Macdui is so high, there are often clouds, fog, or mist as you climb. The dense fog there might be the reason for one of the legends about the mountain, the story of the Grey Man. Some people say that a tall man, three times as tall as most, follows hikers around the higher elevations of Ben Macdui. He’s supposedly a terrifying sight, but scientifically, it’s pretty unlikely that it’s an actual man. More likely it’s just a wisp of cloud or the way the sun casts shadows through the fog.
During this hike, we also got to see the highest lake in Scotland, Loch Etchachan, which is at an elevation of 3025 feet on one of the ridges that is considered part of Ben Macdui. I would bet that at that height, even in the summer the water is pretty cold! By the time we reached the lake, it was nearly sunset, a beautiful sight over the water.
Hiking these two high mountains, and seeing the loch and other natural beauty, made this a great way to end the Scotland part of our trip.
One of many mountain streams
Not quite sunset over the highest lake in Scotland.
The peak of Ben Macdui, 4296 ft., in clouds.
The big valley is the end of the hike. The car park is here.
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