Hiking Ben Cruachan – watch out for starships!

by | Destinations, Scotland | 19 comments

It is a few weeks now since we set off to hike Ben Cruachan in the Scottish Highlands – and found ourselves in a galaxy far, far away!

It was quite a dreich day for a hike, misty and threatening rain, but Peter had wanted to climb Ben Cruachan for some time, so we packed the waterproofs along with the picnic, and off we went. I am so pleased we did. It turned out to be a very memorable hike!

Where is Ben Cruachan?

Ben Cruachan is located between Loch Awe and Loch Etive and is the highest mountain in Argyll and Bute. At well over 3,000 feet (3,694 to be exact), it is also officially a Munro. It is one mountain in a horseshoe of peaks around the Cruachan reservoir so a fairly significant hike if one intends to complete the whole horseshoe.

We had been advised that we could drive up to the Cruachan Dam and walk from there. Given the conditions, this seemed like a good option, except when we arrived, the road was closed. Mmm. We had to walk from the bottom and park on the A85. Fortunately, there was plenty of parking on the day we arrived.

The Cruachan Dam

Cruachan Dam on Ben Cruchan

The Cruachan Dam, built in 1959, is a wonderful feat of engineering. The dam serves a hydroelectric power station which is actually situated inside Ben Cruachan! This is why Ben Cruachan is sometimes referred to as “The Hollow Mountain”. It is possible to take a tour of the power station, but covid restrictions prevented this when we visited. Having seen the dam and researched the power station, I am looking forward to returning to complete the experience.

The trail to Ben Cruachan Dam

The trail begins near the railway station (- just a platform really!). The first part of the trail up to the dam was actually quite difficult, very steep and rocky. Scrambling was needed on some sections as the path had eroded.

Jane scrambling up Ben Cruachan

Progress was slow, but steady, and then the dam came into view. But, it was not just the dam. There was unusual activity in the area around the base of the Cruachan Dam: lots of trucks, portacabins, motorhomes, ATVs and some fairly sophisticated looking equipment. We had arrived on a film set!

Movie village on Ben Cruachan

Starships and battlestations!

As we walked up to the dam, we almost did not notice some strange features as they seemed to be part of the landscape. First there was this structure. No idea what it is! We’ll have to wait for the movie to find out.

Odd structure at base of Cruachan Dam

And then there were the guns embedded into the dam itself.

Guns on the dam

Star Wars guns on Ben Cruachan Dam

And strange doors leading who knows where!

Futuristic doors on the dam

We missed this on the way up, but there it was on the way down!

Film prop on the dam

We continued our hike along the side of the Ben Cruachan reservoir and at the far end, was something which looked suspiciously like a starship structure in the making. Cool!

Star ship on the edge of Cruachan Reservoir

Unfortunately, we did not meet any of the Skywalker family and there were no stormtroopers on duty, but it did make for a hike with a difference.

We guessed that the movie under construction was the new Star Wars film and this has since been confirmed in the local press and Instagram, so I am not betraying any secrets here!

The rest of the hike up Ben Cruachan

After all that excitement, we continued our hike up the mountain. It was steep, rocky and hard going. Again, some scrambling was required. The trail was not clear in many places but we made steady progress.

Rocky trail on Ben Cruachan

On the plus side, we had not been rained on; on the negative side, the cloud had not cleared and the top of Ben Cruachan was swathed in a thick fog.

Jane with Ben Cruachan in fog in background

Ben Cruachan in cloud

I have a sort of rule that if I am hiking up a mountain, I have to be rewarded with a view from the top, otherwise what is the point? When we reached the horseshoe ridge, therefore, we made the decision not to continue to the summit of Ben Cruachan, but to turn left along the ridge and scale Meall Cuanail instead. It was much clearer in this direction and there were wonderful views over Loch Awe.

View over Loch Awe

The summit of Ben Cruachan is for another day, but I know we will return.

Meall Cuanail

The climb to the top of Meall Cuanail was relatively straightforward from the ridge, though the weather always threatened to close in.

Jane sitting on cairn on top of Meall Cuanail

The trail down the mountain was very steep, but much less rocky than the trail by which we had ascended. Nevertheless, I wished I had brought my poles and when we tackle Ben Cruachan again (the summit awaits!) I shall make sure I have them with me. Even though we did not complete the hike we had intended to do, it had been fairly strenuous day and we were both knackered by the time we reached the bottom. A lift home in a starship would have been nice, but sadly it was not to be!


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  1. OMG, how exciting, Jane!!! We’re lucky to get lots of film projects here, but I’ve never personally seen anything that cool. And you got great pics! Not to diminish the ones from your hike, of course. I love the foggy views! Can’t wait till you get to explore the dam too 🙂

  2. That movie set was a great find, the rest looks beautiful too.

  3. How cool you came across the movie set! This is a beautiful area and one of our favorite drives in Scotland. We’ll have to check out Ben Cruachan next time we’re there. We agree that there needs to be a view at the top. Looks like you had a nice hike Jane.

  4. Wow! How cool is that to come upon strange structures and learn that it is for a movie filming! Especially a popular one like Star Wars. This hike looks amazing, and I love that you need to scramble to climb, and there are spectacular views.

  5. What a fun adventure getting in a great hike and stumbling upon a movie set! The area and the dam are so beautiful that I can easily see it in a Star Wars setting. Too bad it was so foggy but the views were still lovely!

  6. How cool that you stumbled across a film set and a Star Wars one at that! Like you, I like to be rewarded with a view from the summit but it looks beautiful despite the weather. We’ve just done a few hikes that required some rock scrambling, it was hard work!

  7. I have no doubt you’ll be back to summit Ben Cruachan. I know what you mean about summit expectations – if I’m gonna climb up, I better have a view!!! And how exciting about the film set. I would’ve been loitering around more hehe

  8. How cool Jane! I love that you managed to see some of the film set up while on your hike! I’ve never heard of Ben Cruachan but it’s clearly a good place to know for keen hikers 🙂

  9. Thats so cool stumbling along the movie set I love those unexpfinds. The dam looks cool a hike we would love to do

  10. I thought the last Star Wars movie was the last ever. Knew they wouldn’t stick to that plan. Though this is a cool thing to see on a hike. Not every day eh. Shame the weather didn’t play ball, but you still got a good view in the end.

  11. How cool that you got to traipse beside a movie set during your hike! That’ll put the movie onto your ‘must see’ list for sure. As for not hiking right to the top due to cloud, I couldn’t agree more. I’m all about the views as well. What a shame the starship didn’t show up lol.

  12. I love stumbling upon movie sets. Even got a part as an extra in Portugal by my stumbling, lol. Looks a good hike, I’ll be in that area soon. I’ll check it out.

    • That would be so cool, being called in as an extra! No such luck for me….

  13. What a unique hike. Personally I prefer scrambling to incline lol I don’t know how I would feel about the random structures/creepy door haha Like you said – guess I’ll just have to wait for the movie!

  14. I am glad to hear that you hike to Ben Cruachan was good even in the less than ideal weather. I am not sure I would have scrambled up those rocks. But worth it for the view of the dam even if the views from a higher point did not pan out. The strange structures all around the dam would have intrigued me too. Good to figure out the mystery and find out there is a movie set being constructed.

  15. I’m a huge star wars fan and would absolutely love this hike. Discovering mysterious structures make it so much more interesting. Just not sure if I can handle the difficult hike right at the beginning of the trail. It’s so steep and rocky!

    • Sure you would be fine if you just took your time!

  16. Despite the weather being soso this seems to have been a marvellous hike, Jane. We’ve recently stumbled across another Star Wars site (in Puzzlewood) and would love to do more filming locations. The spaceship models and anti-spaceship gun stations look rather cool..!!

    • It made for a very memorable hike, Stefan, more so because it was completely unexpected.


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Hello!  I’m Jane. I live in the Lake District in the north of England with my husband, Peter. We love to travel, but this is a great place to call home.

We gave up work in order to travel and do all the things we were not able to do in our careers. We know we are incredibly lucky to be able to do this.

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