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Located near the small village of Succoth is the Munro Ben Narnain. Beside Ben Narnain is the more imposing hill called simply "The Cobbler". It was these two hills that we visited on my last day in Scotland. Starting our hike along Loch Long we climbed to the chilly, wind swept saddle between these two hills and contemplated an ascent up the icy hill sides.

Elevation Profile of Trail

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Trailhead:  N 56° 12.35'
W 4° 44.92'
Total Elevation:  4702'
Trail Length:  6.8 miles
Hike Time:  5 hours
Hike Type:  Out-and-back
Difficulty Rating:  162
Near:  Succoth, Scotland, UK
Note regarding hike time and elevation traversed.  

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Trip Report and Photos

Located near the small village of Succoth is the Munro Ben Narnain. Beside Ben Narnain is the more imposing hill called simply "The Cobbler". It was these two hills that we visited on my last day in Scotland. Starting our hike along Loch Long we climbed to the chilly, wind swept saddle between these two hills and contemplated an ascent up the icy hill sides.

This range of hills is called the Arrochar Alps. The Cobbler is probably the most famous of the Arrochar Alps, even though it does not meet the requirements to be called a Munro. None the less, The Cobbler and the many Munros nearby draw many hikers, including an American who enjoys hiking the ridges and valleys of central Pennsylvania.

To get to this hike, take the M8 out of Glasgow, on the west side of town. Depending on your approach you will either cross the River Clyde on the M8, or approach the bridge. If crossing the river, get off the A814 exit. Approaching the river, exit before you reach the bridge. Staying on the A814 it will merge with the A82. Route A82 takes you up along the west shore of Loch Lomond. Looking ahead and slightly to the right you will see Benn Lomond, the southernmost of the Munros. Continue on route A82 until you reach the intersection with route A83. Turn left onto route A83 and after a short distane you will enter the town of Succoth with the parking area for this hike on your left, just near the shores of Loch Long.

The start of our hike on well groomed trails.

Parking the car here, Tim, Fiona and I donned our packs and crossed route A83 to the start of our hike. The beginning ascent was on well maintained, gravel trails. There were a number of switch backs so the climb wasn't that strenuous. There were a number of opportunities to take a "short-cut" from the switchbacks, and Tim took advantage of a few of them. These short-cuts made for a much steeper climb and we soon decided to just stay on the path.

After a half mile of hiking we crossed a dirt access road. There was a cell tower here but at its base I had horrible reception. We took a short break as I took in the view, looking down Loch Long as well as back at Ben Lomond in the distance. After our break we began our ascent once again.

At 0.7 miles there was a sharp turn to the left in the trail. It was here that we entered a small stand of pine trees. So far in my hiking in Scotland this was the first time that I got to hike through a small stand of trees. We continued to climb on the trail walking through the woods. At 1 mile the trail quit climbing and began to make its way traversing southwest across the hillside. At 1.2 miles the trail made a sharp right and our climb began once again in earnest.

We emerged from the pine woods at about 1.4 miles into our hike. We paused here to eat a little snack and once again took in the view across Loch Long towards Ben Lomond. I also viewed for the first time a small stream, called Allt a' Bhalachain, that we would parallel and cross many times on our ascent.

The rest of the hike up to the saddle between The Cobbler and Ben Narnain was a nice stroll in the Scottish highlands. The trail made a gradual but constant ascent as it meandered through boulders and along the small babbling brook. Everywhere that you looked you could see heather growing on the hillsides. I am certain that this would have been breathtaking when the heather was blooming. Tim, Fiona, and I took our time as we enjoyed the scenery and the outdoors as we continued on our ascent.

We came across quite a few hikers on the trail. Some we passed, but many more passed us on the climb up. I noticed that many were using trekking poles, of which neither Tim, Fiona, nor I had, and others even had ice axes sticking out of the back of their packs. I should have taken that as a foretelling of what we would find at the end of our climb, but at that moment the thought did not cross my mind.

At 2.5 miles into our hike, a trail branched off to our left. This was the harder ascent to the top of The Cobbler. If you wanted the challenge, you could make this into a circuit hike, heading up this trail and then coming back down the one we were on.

Finally, around 2.8 miles into our hike the climb began to level out. We found ourselves in an entirely different world once we entered the saddle. There was now snow on the ground and the wind was howling fiercely. We had opened up our jackets and taken off hats and gloves as we climbed because of the warm weather and the warmth generated from the physical exertion of hiking. But here we stopped and bundled ourselves up as if it were the middle of winter.

When we reached 3.1 miles the trail we were hiking came to an end. It turned left to climb the east face of The Cobbler and also a less worn path went to the right towards the summit of Ben Narnain. It was here that I realized why everyone had trekking poles and ice axes. If we had any thoughts of reaching the summits of these hills, we were going to need the aid of either poles or axes. Tim and I decided that trying to climb The Cobbler with out the proper equipment would be too risky, so we turned right to see if summitting Ben Narnain would be any easier.

As we began our ascent up Ben Narnain the trail became much steeper and the wind really picked up. Also, the higher we went the deeper the snow got, along with some very icy spots on the trail. Looking at the summit, there were times when the wind was blowing so strongly that it was whipping the snow around into a white-out. At 3.4 miles we decided that since we didn't have the proper gear that we would head back down. To be perfectly honest, the 3.4 miles of constant climbing was starting to tire me out and my muscles were beginning to ache. We turned around and headed back down the trail.

At the intersection with the main trail we stopped in the shelter of a large boulder to eat our lunch. With the boulder at our backs blocking the majority of the wind, the coldness wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was. After a meal of cheese and pickle, followed by a Twix bar (made with a biscuit, not a cookie), we put our packs back on and retraced our steps back down the hillside the way we came.

This hike was a challenge for me simply because of the elevation gain and constant climbing. It would have been nice to reach the summit of either The Cobbler or Ben Narnain, but I would rather be safe then try something risky where a person could get injured. This hike just reinforced my appreciation and enjoyment of the Scottish highlands and I am hoping that my next trip to Scotland will be during the warmer season when I can actually bag my first Munro.