The Wonderfully To-The-Point Sign
I know what you’re thinking: “what’s so special about Ben Hope?”. Well, for one thing, it is the most northerly Munro. That alone makes it pretty special if you are interested in bagging the mountains that are ‘the most’ something. I’d already bagged Mount Keen, the most easterly Munro a few years ago and when the opportunity arose to get Ben Hope I knew I had to take it.
Secondly, Ben Hope is remote. Being the most northerly Munro means it is a bit hard to get to: you can’t just drive 30 minutes outside of Edinburgh to reach it! Being on the north coast of Scotland it is not a short trip and I knew when I was planning to do the North Coast 500 that I would have to make time to see this special mountain.
Thirdly, the mountain is called Ben Hope. If a name that pretty doesn’t make you want to climb it then I don’t know what will.
Driving Towards This Beautiful Munro
The Unknown Road
Reaching Ben Hope means heading for the tiny little hamlet of Hope on the A838, the most northerly (see the theme here?) main road on the Scottish mainland. If you are driving from the west then you will get some gorgeous views of the mountain as you drive.
You will, of course, have to be paying attention as once you reach ‘Hope’ you will have to keep your eyes open for a tiny road that departs the A838. I love this road. It is one of those single-track nightmares, full of steep inclines, dense tree-lines along the road and blind bends. To add extra flavour, if you are using a sat-nav (as I was) Google will refer to it as ‘unknown road’. As you drive along in this remote area, in stunning wilderness, having your Google navigator say you have turned onto ‘Unknown Road’ really gives you that ‘middle of nowhere/Google doesn’t even know where I am’ vibe.
The drive isn’t too short either, it is 8.3 miles to the parking area (with that wonderfully blunt sign) so you will have plenty of time to admire the beauty of Loch Hope that stretches to your right. (Here is a Google Maps link to help!) If you are confused why an 8.3 mile drive will take quite a while, remember, you will barely be doing above 30mph on this small road.
Once I was booted up and had my bag stocked with lunch (I’m a man of priorities) it was time to set off. There is a very visible track that leads you all the way up to the ridge so navigation wasn’t a problem and soon enough the views started to become quite impressive. I immediately sprang into action by totally not posing for a picture.
Nope. Not Posing.
That little river behind me is the Strathmore River but on the north side of the loch, it becomes the River Hope. That means from the summit of Ben Hope you will be able to see the River Hope flowing out of Loch Hope and going through the little hamlet of Hope.
I love it.
The ascent, as you can see by the pictures, was on a grey day. The weather was typically Scottish: unsettled. It was warm, blue skies appeared…and then vanished and gave way to grey skies and random intervals of drizzle. I wasn’t too bothered by this though: it was making for some spectacular pictures!
The Sprawling Loch Hope and Views Beyond
Look at those blue skies and stunning views! I love how the shadow of the clouds is draped over the moorland below…
Ah the difference the weather change makes! This is one of my favourite pictures of 2018. I love the mist, the grey clouds and the way the light is interacting with it all. The contrast of colours, the greys in the sky to the greens and oranges in the grass below. This is what you get walking in Scotland and I just adore it.
Obviously, being Scotland, the arrival at the summit was timed perfectly with this mist. The absolute white-out meant….absolutely no views! At times it was difficult to see the track never mind what I imagine are spectacular sights in all directions.
The Summit and the Thick Blanket of Mist
At least I could take some comfort in knowing the views for the day were gone and wouldn’t immediately return once I was off of the summit.
In fact, once I had descended far enough to make back-tracking too much of a chore, the clouds began to part and the blue skies returned. You simply must have a good sense of humour when on the hills in Scotland and to be honest, it is easy to laugh it off when you are in such gorgeous surroundings.
Here Scotland Taunts me With Gorgeous Views After Giving me Nothing on the Summit
The route back down was easy and I enjoyed soaking in the views. There is something wonderfully atmospheric about this Munro…it feels remote. You can’t see a city or a town on the horizon, no planes were overheard and no roads were in sight. I love that dreamy, isolated feeling that being in these hills can give you. It’s like a sense of reality, without the falseness of society to drag it down. Beautiful views, dramatic landscapes, wildlife…I love it.
I am already pondering the possibility of re-doing the North Coast 500 at some point. It certainly won’t be this year but when I do, if the weather permits, I will make sure to swing by the beautiful Munro Ben Hope and try to catch those summit views I missed.
Ben Hope Route Information
Route Length: 5 miles