Ben Macdhui

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Ben Macdhui
Banffshire, Aberdeenshire
Ben Macdhui from Càrn a' Mhàim
Range: Cairngorms
Summit: 4,295 feet NN989989
57°4’12"N, 3°40’9"W

Ben Macdhui (or Ben Macdui) (Gaelic: Beinn Mac Duibh) is the second highest mountain in the United Kingdom, overtopped only by Ben Nevis, and the highest in the Cairngorms.

Ben Macdhui lies on the southern edge of the Cairn Gorm plateau, on the boundary between Aberdeenshire and Banffshire. It is the county top of both counties.

The mountain's name is Gaelic, and may mean "Mountain of the son of Duff (MacDuff) or "Hill of the Black Pig" (a reference to its shape). After the defeat of Domnall mac Uilliam in 1187, Donnchad II, Earl of Fife, acquired Strathavon, territory stretching from Ballindalloch to Ben Macdhui; because the mountain marked the western boundary of Donnchad's territory, historian and place-name scholar Professor G W S Barrow suggested that the mountain took its name from Donnchad's family, the Mac Duibh.[1]


Probably the easiest route of ascent is from the Coire Cas car park at the foot of Cairngorm Ski Centre by way of a path that leads up over slowly rising moorland. This route is about four miles in length; a somewhat longer route allows one to also climb Cairn Gorm. One possible alternative route follows the path coming up from Loch Etchachan. This loch may be reached from Loch Avon to the north or by coming up from Glen Derry to the South. Other routes include coming over Derry Cairngorm, or via the Lairig Ghru pass, which lies to the west of Ben Macdhui.

Nearly all these routes are long days by Highland standards. When coming from the south it is common to make use of a bicycle to cover the 2½ miles separating the road end at Linn of Dee from Derry Lodge at the southern end of the massif.

History and legend

Ben Macdui from Carn a' Mhaim

Before the production of accurate maps of Scotland in the nineteenth century it was not known for certain that Ben Nevis was the highest point in Britain, and it was often thought that Ben Macdhui might be the higher. After Ben Nevis was confirmed as the higher there were plans by some locals to build a cairn on the summit of Ben Macdhui sufficient to bring its height above that of the greater peak, though these plans came to nothing. The summit of the mountain has a direction indicator erected in 1925 by the Cairngorm Club of Aberdeen in memory of a past president, Mr. Alexander Copland. The indicator shows the direction of the most important hills that can be seen from the summit in clear weather.

It is claimed that Ben Macdhui is the home of Am Fear Liath Mòr (the "big grey man of Ben Macdhui"). Opinion is divided as to the substance behind this reported phenomenon, which it is claimed resembles either a Brocken spectre or a yeti.

Snow-patches have been known to persist at various locations on Ben Macdhui, most notably Garbh Uisge Beag.

Picture gallery


  1. Barrow, Anglo-Norman Era, p. 86
  • G. W. S. Barrow (1980). The Anglo-Norman Era in Scottish History: The Ford Lectures Delivered in the University of Oxford in Hilary Term 1977. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-822473-7. 
  • Bennett, Donald, et al., The Munros, SMC Hillwalkers' Guide (Scottish Mountaineering Trust, 1985). ISBN 0907521134
  • McNeish, Cameron, The Munros: Scotland's Highest Mountains, 2nd ed. (Lomond Books, 1998). ISBN 0947782508
Munros in SMC Area SMC Section 8 - The Cairngorms

Beinn a' BhuirdBeinn a' ChaorainnBeinn BhreacBeinn BhrotainBeinn MheadhoinBen AvonBen MacdhuiBraeriachBynack MoreCairn GormCairn ToulCarn a' MhaimDerry CairngormMonadh MòrMullach Clach a' BhlairSgòr an Lochain UaineSgòr GaoithThe Devil's Point