Ben Hope is famed as the most northerly Munro and is an iconic mountain of Sutherland and the far north. It is an excellent hill with wonderful views; usually climbed up and down by the path on its broad southern flank. The north ridge and steep west face of the mountain are much less frequented and provide rugged adventure with largely pathless approaches. The eastern corries of the mountain are scenic, atmospheric and deserted; the south east ridge above An Garbh-Choire to Sail Romascaig gives a pleasant extension to a regular ascent from the south. If you can, take the time to explore and enjoy this fine hill in its unique position on Scotland’s north coast. From the summit, views are extensive, from the Butt of Lewis to Orkney, and Quinag to Ben Wyvis on a fine day. Having lived in the north for many years, Ben Hope is a hill I visit often and am passionate about. I haven’t counted but reckon on having made 80 – 100 ascents so far.
Ben Hope is almost always climbed from the tiny and scenic Hope to Altnaharra road through Strath More. This can be accessed from the south near Altnaharra or at Hope between Durness and Tongue on the A838 on the north coast. Long approaches can be made from the east, Tongue direction, from Kinloch Lodge at the head of the Kyle of Tongue.
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Climbing Ben Hope from Muiseal in Strath More
The car park and start of the path to Ben Hope are at Muiseal 2.5 kilometres north of the Dun Dornaigil Broch and 2 kilometres north of Alltnacaillich. Muiseal consists of a barn, two grassy parking areas, a “WAY UP BEN HOPE” sign, and a small, battered stand of trees.
The path starts quite roughly and steeply up the right (south) side of a stream with scenic waterfalls and pools. It is easily followed as it gains height quickly and wends its way up through several escarpments and a boggy area to a brief levelling off around 450 metres – half height.
Above this levelling the path climbs northwards up a steep section of the broad south flank. The views to the west, south, and later east, really open up as height is gained, make sure to turn around and admire them – also the steep and complex west face on the left and the spectacular view across Strath More to Foinaven, Arkle and the Reay Forest hills.
Between 500 and 750 metres the path is a bit of an eroded slog but it is soon past and the going eases before the final pull to the summit plateau – where the summit is marked by a trig point and shelter on the east side overlooking Ben Loyal, the Kyle of Tongue and the Flow Country. There are great views to be had in all directions.
Most people ascend and descend by the same route but if you have time a pleasant extension can be made on rough pathless ground down the south-east ridge above An Garbh-Choire to the nameless top at 806m and on to Sail Romascaig (719m). Westward lines will take you back from here towards the path from Muiseal at the 450m half way levelling. This way you stay high for longer, see more of this grand hill and don’t simply retrace steps on what has become a bit of a motorway path. Additional exploration for the energetic can take you down into the eastern corries of the mountain and back up and over by a variety of routes.
The north ridge and north west face scrambles
There are more interesting routes to the summit of Ben Hope than the normal route from the south but they are technically more difficult and require rough, pathless approaches and competence in rugged terrain.
The north ridge (north east lower down) is the most obvious line – it can be accessed from its base to the north east (Carn a’ Ghallaich), via northern gullies, via Brown’s Ridge, a spectacular Grade 3 rock scramble or from Coir’ a’ Ghallaich.
High on the ridge, at about 850m the way for most is blocked by a difficult and very exposed rock step (rock climbing grade V. Diff). Fortunately this can be dodged by a short traverse to a gully on the left that can be taken to steep but grassy ground above to rejoin the crest of the ridge above the rock step. In winter you’ll likely need to be competent with ice axe and crampons and cognisant of avalanche risk to consider this route – but if conditions allow it is certainly recommended.
Discover and explore Northern Sutherland through the articles and links below.