Ben Alder (‘hill of rock and water’).

20th January 2022

(Above) In to Ben Alder today from Dalwhinnie. Network Rail fairly recently closed the Dalwhinnie rail crossing on ‘safety’ grounds even though members of the local community council claim there hasn’t been a single incident at the crossing in the past 67 years. There’s an almighty brouhaha surrounding the closure since it’s been the traditional way of gaining access to Loch Ericht, Ben Alder & all points west for longer than most people can remember. A whole host of outdoor groups are in uproar over this precipitous intervention by Network Rail.  ScotWays (previously, the Scottish Rights of Way Society) believe passage over the railway here is a Public Right of Way. Here’s Mountaineering Scotland’s fairly measured take on it:


(Above) There’s a bit of a diversion from the (now redundant?) walkers’ car park to the underpass that gives access to the track beside Loch Ericht.


(Above) The view west along Loch Ericht to the hulking mass of Ben Alder (translation: hill of rock and water). A young and elfin-like Muriel Gray took a dip in the highest loch/lake in the UK close to its summit during an episode of ‘The Munro Show’ some time back in the late 1980s/early ’90s. See here:

The intention was to have a wander up part of the Short Leachas ridge and the adjacent Garbh Choire Beag – right of centre in the far distance in the photo above, and circled in the map extract below.


(Above) Part way up the side of Loch Ericht is the ‘new’ Ben Alder Lodge – visible on the right. The fairly substantial old lodge was demolished back in the mid-1990’s by the Swiss millionaire new owner who replaced it with a Disney-like building that seems to be a fusion of Scottish baronial & German ‘King Ludwig’ styles…but with an anachronistic heliport (centre of photo). For a couple of years in the late 1990s the whole endeavour was the largest civil engineering project in the Highlands. Several secondary lodges were built, or rebuilt (now available to rent), plus estate houses for staff. At around the same time, the estate also gifted the construction of a new village hall in Dalwhinnie.


(Above) The Short Leachas ridge. Good access to the base of the ridge from the excellent track that ascends from Culra up to Loch a Bhealaich a Bheithe. Some light showers of snow during the course of the late morning and early afternoon but very little newly drifted snow up high, just some thin pockets high on coire rims. Quite blustery at times during showers.


(Above) The E and SE facing Garbh Choire Beag – top of the skyline about 1070m. A ‘cone’ of old cornice debris centre of shot from the last meltdown when quite a few cornices collapsed in our area. As you can see the snowpack is pretty meagre and sparse and, as ever, looks much whiter from a distance. Most of what little snow you see here is composed of old, firm snow-ice.


(Above) Looking S across Loch a Bhealaich Bheithe to Bealach Breabag left of centre, and the craggy Sron Bealach Bheite 1104m acting as a sentinel for the Garbh Choire. On the other side of Bealach Breabag is Benalder Cottage down by Loch Ericht-side. Wild swimming advisory: the water temperature in the above loch was a chilly +0.1 degrees C. and some thin ice had formed by the loch’s edge today.

Comments on this post

  • Grant Duff
    20th January 2022 8:53 pm

    Hey another big day out chasing what little snow there is!

    I was waving at you when I was above the old ruin Pattack Bothy in Ardverikie but alas we missed each other.

    100% agree whilst looking rather white and very picturesque today the Alder/Ardverikie hills are easy going underfoot.

    It has to change…..?

    • meagaidhadmin
      20th January 2022 9:15 pm

      Small world, Grant.

      I thought I had the place to myself today!

  • Keith Horner
    21st January 2022 1:36 pm

    Love the architectural critique and recent potted history of Ben Alder Lodge – is there no limit to your local knowledge? You’re quickly developing into the polymath of the SAIS forecast team…..! Keep up the excellent flow of local information, unless of course a sudden increase in snowfall necessitates a return to normal duties.

    If climate change ever requires a disbanding of the SAIS forecast teams – heaven forbid…!, you’re sure to be gainfully employed as an interpretive guide to the Central Highlands…..!

    • meagaidhadmin
      21st January 2022 6:04 pm

      Very kind comment, Keith. Thank you.
      I self-built my own house back in the late 1990s and developed a low-brow interest in vernacular architecture.
      Snippets of information about most other matters I seem to accumulate in a magpie-like fashion. My kids say I’m a mine of useless information, which is harsh but probably fair!

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