Ben Macdui

Ben Macdui (Scottish Gaelic: Beinn Mac Duibh) is the second highest mountain in the United Kingdom (in absolute height) after Ben Nevis, and the highest in the Cairngorms National Park. After the defeat of Domnall mac Uilliam in 1187, Donnchad II, Earl of Fife, acquired Strathavon, a territory stretching from Ballindalloch to Ben Macdui; because the mountain marked the western boundary of Donnchad's territory, historian and place-name scholar Professor G.W.S. Barrow has suggested that the mountain took its name from Donnchad's family, the Mac Duibh.[2]

Ben Macdui
Beinn Mac Duibh
Highest point
Elevation1,309 m (4,295 ft)[1]
Prominence950 m (3,120 ft)
Ranked 9th in British Isles
Parent peakBen Nevis
ListingMarilyn, Munro, Hardy, Council top (Aberdeenshire, Moray), County top (Aberdeenshire, Banffshire)
English translationMountain of the son of Duff/MacDuff or Hill of the Black Pig (a reference to its shape)
Language of nameGaelic
PronunciationScottish Gaelic: [peɲ maʰkˈt̪ɯj]
LocationMoray / Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Parent rangeCairngorms
OS gridNN989989
Topo mapOS Landranger 36, 43, Explorer OL57
Normal routeSaddle at Loch Ericht (359 metres or 1,178 feet)

Ben Macdui lies on the southern edge of the Cairn Gorm plateau, on the boundary between Aberdeenshire and Moray.

Probably the easiest route of ascent is from the Coire Cas car park at the foot of Cairngorm Ski Centre by a path that leads up over slowly rising moorland. This route is about 7 km (4 mi) long; a somewhat longer route allows one also to 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 Macdui.

Nearly all these routes are long days by Scottish standards. When coming from the south it is common to use a bicycle to cover the 5 km (3½ mi) from the road end at Linn of Dee to Derry Lodge at the southern end of the massif.

Before the production of accurate maps of Scotland in the 19th century it was not known for certain that Ben Nevis was the highest point in Britain, and it was often thought that Ben Macdui might be the higher. After Ben Nevis was confirmed as the higher some locals planned to build a cairn on the top of Ben Macdui to make its height greater than Ben Nevis, but these plans did not come to fruition. 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 directions of the most important hills that can be seen from the summit in clear weather.

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

After she had climbed to the top of Ben Macdui on 7 October 1859, aged forty, Queen Victoria wrote: "It had a sublime and solemn effect, so wild, so solitary – no one but ourselves and our little party there ... I had a little whisky and water, as the people declared pure water would be too chilling."


  1. "Ben Macdui (Beinn Macduibh)". Hill Bagging - the online version of the Database of British and Irish Hills (DoBIH). 2019. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  2. Barrow 1980, p. 86.


  • Barrow, G. W. S. (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 0-907521-13-4
  • McNeish, Cameron, The Munros: Scotland's Highest Mountains, 2nd ed. (Lomond Books, 1998). ISBN 0-947782-50-8
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