Meall Nan Tarmachan is a well known hiking destination, greatly loved by locals and visitors alike. Located just over magnificent Loch Tay, only a couple of kilometres off Killin, it’s easily accessible by car from Scotland’s main cities: Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Tarmachan is famed for being one of the easiest Scottish munros (mountains over 3000ft / 914 masl) as the trailhead and dedicated car park are already at altitude of 410 masl. Moreover, due to its rounded shape and good paths, the mountain offers fantastic hiking experience in all seasons! Hence, we believe that its place amongst Scotland’s best winter hikes is well deserved.
We have conquered Meall Nan Tarmachan several times (another proof that it’s very hike-worthy!). In this article we’re sharing the experience of winter and summer hikes. We’re quite sure that we can convince you to draft Tarmachan in your Scottish itinerary!
MEALL NAN TARMACHAN HIKE, FACT SHEET
- Height: Meall Nan Tarmachan 1044 masl, Meall Garbh (1010 masl), Beinn Nan Eachan 970 masl
- Total time: 6 hours (summer) to 8 hours (winter)
- Total distance: 13 km
- Parking: car park along single track road to Glen Lyon (directions), alternatively Ben Lawers car park, charge applies (directions)
- Level of difficulty: 3/5 – easy hill walk with a short mildly exposed section
- Tarmachan ridge weather: weather forecast for Meall Nan Tarmachan
- Which map: Ordnance Survey OL 48 Ben Lawers
Scottish mountain names are famed for being hard to pronounce (yes, Scots struggle with many of them too!) and ‘Meall Nan Tarmachan‘ has probably twisted dozens of tongues already. Luckily for most of us, Meall Nan Tarmachan became best known under a much easier nickname, ‘Tarmachan‘.
Also, further in this article you’ll come across the Tarmachan Ridge. It’s a name used when talking about Meall Nan Tarmachan and another two tops located further along the same ridge: Meall Garbh and Beinn Nan Eachan.
How to get to Tarmachan trail head
Tarmachan trailhead is located along a single track road running between Loch Tay and Glen Lyon, at the far end of a small car park (directions). If there aren’t any spaces available, return 400 metres towards Loch Tay, and leave your car at ‘Ben Lawers car park’ (directions) which is larger (‘pay and display’).
Please keep in mind that the road to Glen Lyon is only maintained to ‘Ben Lawers car park’ in winter, hence the last 400 metres to Tarmachan trailhead can occasionally be impassable for cars. If that’s the case, use Ben Lawers car park and simply walk the remaining 400 metres along the road, to the trail head.
Getting to Tarmachan by bus requires taking separate services to Callander or Crianlarich, then to Killin and finally, the third bus – along Loch Tay.
Info on bus services to Killin (schedule).
Info on bus service running along Loch Tay, between Killin and Aberfeldy (bus stops and timetable), get off at ‘Morenish’ and follow the single track road to trail head.
Meall Nan Tarmachan hike, 3 options
Depending on your abilities or mood, you can pick one of the following Meall Nan Tarmachan hiking options (all share the same trail head):
Option 1: Meall Nan Tarmachan on its own. It’s the shortest option and would take approximately 3-4 hours. Recommended for those with limited time or as an introduction to winter hiking in Scotland. Route: hike to the Tarmachan summit (as per description below), retrace your steps back to the car park.
Option 2: Meall Nan Tarmachan and Meall Garbh. In summer this route takes approximately 4.5-5 hours, allow 5-6 hours in winter. Recommended for winter – this extended hike to Tarmachan offers great wintry hiking experience, without any technical difficulties. Route: hike to the Tarmachan summit, continue along the ridge to Meall Garbh. Descent directly from Meall Garbh summit, over gentle slopes, down to the well visible track at the foot of the mountain (blue markings on the map). Follow the track back to the car park.
Option 3: The Tarmachan Ridge (described in detail in this article). Recommended for summer season, but also as a fantastic wintry experience for those who already have some winter hiking skills. Taking your winter gear is highly recommended.
Our experience hiking to the Tarmachan summit
Blue sky and little wind were a promise of a fantastic hiking day in Perthshire hills!
Having arrived to the Meall Nan Tarmachan car park, we watched as the last vacant spaces filled up quickly. We were eager to set off, so without delay we followed a wide rough track starting at the car park, and walked towards the gate. Passed the gate, we walked another 200 metres and came to a small stream – this is where we left the track and took the small path (to the right).
At first the path rose gently, however very soon we felt burning in our thighs as the gradient slightly increased. Happily, we allowed the views to distract us; looking back we saw a long blue ribbon of Loch Tay, one of the most iconic Scottish lochs. We also admired rugged peaks near Ben Lawers visible in the distance (to the right) and smaller lochs (Scottish for lakes).
Soon, we came to a sheep fence, which we had to cross over a wooden ladder. We remembered this fence from wintertime, it was almost totally covered by snowdrifts, frozen solid!
Having passed the fence, the trail to Tarmachan became steeper as it climbed the first ‘bump’, a nameless hill at 923 masl. We felt that the summit of Meall Nan Tarmachan was only a ‘push’ away, but it turned out to be a relatively steep and strenuous section.
In winter, this section can to be covered by deep snow and snowdrifts (so much fan!) and is the hardest part of hiking to the Tarmachan summit (it requires some effort, but is not ‘technical’). In summer thou, it doesn’t present any difficulties whatsoever.
Summit of Tarmachan is a spacious ‘hump’, marked with a small cairn (pile of stone). Despite conquering it in June, we were dressed in warm layers and regretted leaving out hats at home; Tarmachan Ridge can be a very windy place sometimes!
We loved the summit views! Looking to the north, the horizon consisted of endless silhouettes of mountains, cut by dozens of glens (valleys)… another hundreds of stunning locations to explore!
What caught our attention the most, was the ridge stretching to the west from Meall Nan Tarmachan. The ‘Tarmachan Ridge’ is an awesome hike and we recommend it to everyone capable of completing an 8 hours hike!
We simply couldn’t wait to continue along the ridge, to Meall Garbh! And it didn’t take long before we reached its top.
The ‘spike’ of Meall Garbh is the most characteristic peak of the Tarmachan Ridge. It’s also the only one that can present a challenge during winter hikes; climbing this short steep section over frozen snow requires a lot of care and possibly the use of winter gear.
Having conquered Meall Garbh, you can either call it a day and descend directly from the top, to return to the car park (see blue marking on the map). Or, if you still feel energised, you can continue the hike and complete the Tarmachan Ridge traverse!
We were totally up for it, therefore after a short rest we moved on towards the third mountain along Tarmachan Ridge, Beinn Nan Eachan.
To the west from Meall Garbh summit, begins a short but relatively exposed ridge.
This particular section have been troublesome for many, especially in wintry conditions, when it’s covered by snow or ice. At the end of this ‘mini-ridge’ you’ll have to scramble down the rock (only a couple of meters), which adds to the difficulty level in winter. This spot is casually called the ‘Tarmachan Ridge bad step‘. Therefore, to avoid it, we marked the easier way down, directly from Meall Garbh (blue dots on the map).
In summer, however, the short, mildly exposed section is easy to pass, and the bad step (scramble) at its end does not present technical difficulties. If feeling uncomfortable, you can even use the ‘scramble-down-on-your-bum’ technique; it worked well for me!
For me personally, this short section provided a lot of excitement, and I always look forward to it when hiking the Tarmachan Ridge!
Having passed the ‘bad step‘ we faced a spacious ridge once again and further traverse to Beinn Nan Eachan was pleasant, easy and filled with chat. We enjoyed ourselves so much, that we didn’t even realise when we actually passed the top!
Only a short walk past Beinn Nan Eachan we reached a saddle, where we should leave the ridge and start our way down. Despite the path being unmarked we found it easily; this faint trail led us straight down the slope of overgrown heather.
A couple of words about the descent route: this route became popular only several years ago. When we first took it, there was no path at all and we walked thru dense heather trying to avoid hidden dips in ground. Over time more and more hikers opted for this route and a path formed. Having said that, the path is still faint, it’s really easy to loose and then surprisingly stumble upon it again. If you’re walking down from the ridge and struggle to follow this faint path, don’t worry. The slopes are gentle enough to allow for comfortable descent even without a path. Make sure, thou, to be careful as there may be rocks or small dips hiding under the heather. Locate a small, unused quarry further down the slope and walk towards it. Once at the quarry, follow a rough track which runs along the foot of the mountains and eventually will take you back to the car park.
Wild camping along the Tarmachan Ridge, and nearest campsite
Wild camping is allowed in Scotland, with only a few exceptions. However, there aren’t any restrictions near Loch Tay, Tarmachan, Ben Lawers and Glen Lyon, so you’re OK to spend the night in the hills. Generally speaking, the tent should not be visible from the road nor nearest dwellings, you shouldn’t distress livestock nor wildlife. Apply the ‘leave no trace’ rule, take your rubbish with you.
The are countless pitching opportunities along the Tarmachan trail, however keep in mind that the lower ground can be boggy. The Tarmachan ridge, however, would be a dream location for overnight stay!
When choosing an overnight stay spot for a camper van, please remember that the road to Glen Lyon is a single track with passing places. Parking the car (or overnight stay) in passing places is prohibited, also there aren’t any suitable car parks along Loch Tay road A827. Having said that, the Tarmachan car park as well as Ben Lawers car park would make a great overnight stay spots.
Nearest campsites are located in Killin; both Clachan and Moragowan campsites are members of the Caravan Club.
Meall Nan Tarmachan hiking map
What we loved about the Tarmachan Ridge hike
The Tarmachan hike provides a wide offer of adventures for all seasons. In summer it’s a great, easy hike which can optionally be extended or shortened, depending on circumstances or walker’s mood. Covered by snow, Tarmachan makes a fantastic entry level wintry walk, which can be transformed into a more challenging venture; gives opportunity to learn the usage of winter gear. At the same time it’s less than 2 hours drive from Edinburgh, which makes it a perfect day trip!
Visiting Killin and Falls Of Dochart
While driving to Tarmachan trailhead we passed Killin, a charming settlement at the top of Loch Tay. Even from the road it looked interesting with its cottages and small stone bridge over Falls of Dochart, therefore we decided to explore Killin on our way back from Tarmachan.
The village is overlooked by mountains. In fact, not just any mountains, but by the Tarmachan Ridge peaks, which look nothing short of mighty! An incredible view, indeed!
Killin is a home to Falls of Dochart – cascades on river Dochart, which attract thousands visitors every year. They’re especially enjoyable in the summertime, as one can sunbathe on the rocks, at the cascades and mini-waterfalls.
When coming back from your hike, you’ll find several good pubs serving hearty meals, as well as cafes and hotels. We strongly recommend having a look around Killin!
*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