Buachaille Etive Mor is a magnificent mountain, one of the most recognisable in Scotland! Its rocky triangular silhouette can be seen from miles away as you approach the iconic Glen Coe. As much as the mountain is well known and loved by local hikers, pronunciation of its long Gaelic name is troublesome to many and often Buachaille Etive Mor is casually called ‘The Big Bookill’. Ask any Scottish walker, everyone knows what the Big Bookill is!
In simple words, Buachaille Etive Mor is much more than just a stunning mountain at the gate to Pass of Glencoe; the name is a synonymous to a fabulous hiking experience, amazing demanding hike with incredible views!
In this article we’re sharing how to hike Buachaille Etive Mor, how to navigate along the way and what to expect during the hike! We have climbed Buachaille Etive Mor several times and share first-hand information about the hike! You can trust and rely on our information!
Hike to Buachaille Etive Mor, fact sheet
- Height: Stob Dearg 1022 masl, Stob na Doire 1011 masl, Stob Coire Altruim 941 masl, Stob na Broige 956 masl
- Total time: 8-10 hours in summer conditions
- Total distance: 14 km
- Parking: car park below A82 (free), alternative two car parks further along A82
- Level of difficulty: 4/5 long hill walk, scrambling involved, straightforward navigation (summer)
- Buachaille Etive Mor weather: weather forecast for Stob Dearg
- Which map: Ordnance Survey Explorer 384 Glencoe
How to get to Buachaille Etive Mor trailhead
The easiest way to get to Buachaille Etive Mor is driving, however the trailhead can also be accessed by public transport from Fort William (nearest town).
Take Scottish CityLink bus number 914, 915 or 915 from Fort William Bus Station, remember to ask the driver to let you out at Altnafeadh (they will stop near Kingshouse Hotel, walk back 3 km along the old military road to the trailhead – DON’T WALK ALONG THE MAIN ROAD as it is dangerous!)
Where to park for Buachaille Etive Mor hike
You will be pleased to know that the small dedicated lay-by along A82 is not the only parking option for hiking to Buachaille Etive Mor! Due to the high demand and incredible popularity of The Big Bookill local council prepared a much larger car park, just opposite to the lay-by (slightly below the main road), however this car park may be unsuitable in freezing conditions or snow. Another parking option, and we do recommend this one is Glencoe Valley Viewpoint car park, 1 km further along the main road (marked as car park 3 on the map at the bottom of page).
Why we recommend a further car park (3) for Buachaille Etive Mor hike
There’s logic to it! Glencoe Valley Viewpoint car park is nearer the spot where you finish the hike, and saves you walking additional 1 km along busy road after the hike! So, leave your car at Glencoe Valley Viewpoint car park and it will be waiting for you directly at the trail end!
Unfortunately, whichever parking spot you pick you will have to walk that 1 km along main road anyway, however we believe it’s much safer and easier done in the morning (the earlier the better), before the tourist traffic picks up; A82 gets incredibly busy from late morning and walking along it later on may be dangerous.
Hike to Buachaille Etive Mor
Hike to Buachaille Etive Mor can be easily divided into 3 stages. Stage 1- climb to the summit ridge via Coire na Tulaich, Stage 2- traverse of the summit ridge including climbing 4 peaks, Stage 3- descent from Stob na Broige to the glen and return to the car park.
Stage 1 -climb to the summit ridge of Buachaille Etive Mor via Coire na Tulaich
I sincerely hope that you followed our advice and parked at the further car park at Glencoe Valley Viewpoint. Follow the main road back to Altnafeadh lower parking area, this is where the trail to Buachaille Etive Mor begins. Initially the trail sticks to a wide track and only narrows down past the bridge over River Coupall. Walk towards the white cottage (used by climbers), as you pass heathery meadow the path narrows down some more, however still is very clear and easy to follow.
We know that at the beginning of the hike Big Bookill looks intimidating an you might wonder why on earth you chose this inaccessible mountain? Thankfully, answer is rather easy -firstly, because this steep rocky mountain will provide you with incredible hiking experience and mind-blowing views, secondly, the giant is tame and seems easier and easier as you progress. It’s really important not to let the mountain intimidate you! Take my word for it, as you climb to the summit ridge you’ll wonder what happened to the scary monster of a mountain, where’s he gone?! But let’s go back to the route description…
Some 200 metres past the white cottage ‘Lagangarbh’ the path forks, keep to the right and follow the trail as it raises gently and takes you closer to the mini-cliffs of Coire na Tulaich. Trail is rough underfoot, initially sand and lose rock with occasional small boulder, and does not feel to steep. Judging by the look of Coire na Tulaich (from main road) one could expect a very steep climb to the summit ridge, in fact it’s not too bad.
Path keeps to the right side of Coire as it menders between crags and patches of heather (spot the man in black t-shirt on photo above!)
All the way up, the route is easy to follow and clear, only the very final climb to the ridge is a short, easy scramble – wherever you feel suitable.
Stage 2 – traverse the summit ridge of Buachaille Etive Mor, climb 4 peaks
You can expect the climb to summit ridge to take over 2 hours, however once you set feet on the broad grassy ridge, the climb is not over! Continue to the left to climb the highest peak of Buachaille Etive Mor, Stob Dearg. The climb takes approximately 20-30 mins and soon you’ll be standing on the top and enjoy incredible view! Once at the top, look out to the vast flat moorland just in front of you, Rannoch Moor, the most famous bogland of Scotland (flat swampy area dotted with ponds and lakes), one of the largest swampy areas in Europe! An incredibly beautiful massive swamp, one could say… try to spot a ‘volcano-like’ shape at the far end of Rannoch Moor, it’s Schiechallion mountain, many many miles away!
Looking in any other direction you’ll enjoy even more mind-blowing scenery, endless mountain ridges and narrow glens! Let me talk you thru the views then. You’ll climb to the summit and reach the cairn, straight ahead of you will be Rannoch Moor. Turn to the left to spot famous, ill-fated Aonach Eagach ridge, the view stretches as far as Ben Nevis! Right behind your back is massif of Creise, an ‘off-beaten track’ mountain, seldom climbed. Last but not least, looking further you’ll see the Buachaille Etive Mor ridge with the remaining 3 peaks. Apart from fellow walkers, on Stob Dearg you’ll most likely to be accompanied by a half-tame crow which will be quite curious about your lunch, I guess. If possible, leave the crow undisturbed.
Satisfied with views and beautiful scenery stretching far to the horizon, head back, down the rough Stob Dearg path to the spot where you emerged on summit ridge. Stick to the trail running along the ridge, to the nearest peak, Stob na Doire (~20 mins climb)
Looking back, Stob Dearg appears to be a gentle giant! You’ll also easily spot the faint path you’ve just followed along the ridge. As much as climb to Stob na Doire was short an easy, the descent on the other side of this top is quite long and rough. I found it steep and rather hard on knees! If you have hiking poles, this section is the best to use them to minimise impact on the knees!
Once you finally reach the lowest point of a saddle past Stob na Doire you’ll be relieved to see a short and gentle uphill section, what a pleasant change!
Stick to the path which soon turns slightly to the right and still follows the ridge, only this time the climbs are short and easy. Peak number 3, Stob Coire Altruim is just over the rock wall (photo above), and finally Stob na Broige is only a short walk away (photo above in the cloud), only slightly uphill.
Peak of Stob Coire Altruim is unmarked and unsignificant, contrary to the peak number 4. Not only Stob na Broige is marked with cairn and wind shelter, it’s also an amazing viewpoint to Glen Etive! This famous glen very often appears moody and shaded, but nonetheless afternoon light can sometimes play a fabulous role and create ‘beams’. We’ve seen these light beams twice when conquering Buachaille Etive Mor, that’s what they may look like:
Top of Stob na Broige is covered by quirky rocks, sticking from the ground like mini-spikes. They’re easy to walk on, but boots with ankle support will work best.
Stage 3 – descent from Stob na Broige to the glen and return to the car park
Congratulations, you’ve conquered and traversed the mighty Buachaille Etive Mor! Well done to you, but the adventure is far from over as you still have to descent to the glen and get to the car park. This straight forward task will cost you some effort, and here’s exactly how to get down. Return to Stob Coire Altruim and walk down towards the lower path. As soon as you arrive to the little ‘bump’ at the slope end, before the path descents further towards Stob na Doire look out for an eroded trail descending steeply to the glen (to your left).
Initially the path zig-zags before coming to large rock slabs sticking out from the ground. Take extra care on the slabs, they’re often wet and slippery! You may need to use your hands for support at times, but only briefly. Past the slabs, path levels and soon reaches the well made track at bottom of the glen. Turn right and walk straight ahead all the way to the Glencoe Valley Car Park.
These last 1,5-2 km are a flat, easy walk, the more pleasant as the trail follows a stream. You may want to refresh yourself or dip your feet, that’s fine!
I bet by the time you get to the bottom of the glen you’ll be glad you followed our advice and parked on ‘car park 3’!! You’re welcome!
We were only able to share this ‘insider tip’ as we have completed Buachaille Etive Mor hike a few times, know the feeling and the trail inside out!
I’m sure you’ve enjoyed the challenge and loved hiking the Buachaille Etive Mor!
Buachaille Etive Mor hike map
Camping at Buachaille Etive Mor, nearest campsite and accommodation
Both car park no 1 and number 3 are suitable for overnight stay in a small campervan, however the large car park below A82 (marked as no 2) isn’t particularly flat.
If you looking to stay overnight off-grid in a tent, good news is that Buachaille Etive Mor ridge offers endless possibilities to pitch, you’ll have no problem finding a bit of flat ground to sleep up high and enjoy amazing sunset or sunrise! Keep in mind, thou, that Buachaille Etive Mor is protected as a part of Glencoe National Nature Reserve, ensure to act responsibly and with respect towards the nature, leave no trace!
The nearest campsite is located at the far end of Glen Coe, Red Squirrel Campsite. Other budget accommodation can be found in the iconic Clachaig Inn, lodge and hostel very popular with Scottish walkers. The walkers’ tradition is to end any hike in Glencoe in Clachaig Inn hikers pub (recommended for local beers and ales, and good hearty food!), a perfect place to finish your hiking day! Staying overnight at Clachaig Inn after the Buachaille Etive Mor hike will be a ‘cherry on the pie’ of your day!
Other accommodation near Glencoe, our top picks and previous stays:
|Ballachullish Hotel||7.8 /10||clean, comfortable, great food! Loch view!|
|Loch Leven Hotel and Distillery||8.1 /10||a chance to visit a local distillery!|
|Isles of Glencoe Hotel||8.6 /10||located just over Loch Leven|
|Beech Chalet||new!||mountain views, live fire!|
*Level of difficulty explained: 1– easy walk, mostly flat 2-easy hillwalk, good path 3-moderate, possible some steep sections 4-long hillwalk, possibly some scrambling involved, possibly pathless 5-difficult, possibly pathless, long, requires technical skills