Pronounced – Ben U-la-men
Summit height - 1011 m (3,317 ft)
Meaning – Gloomy mountain
(Scottish Gaelic: Druim Uachdair = High ridge.
The Drumochter pass is a pass between the mountains of the northern and southern central Scottish Highlands. The A9 road is routed through here, as is the Highland Main Line, the railway link between Inverness and the south of Scotland.
The pass is the only gap in the main Grampian mountains suitable for road traffic routes for almost 100 km, between the pass of Glen Coe in the west and the Cairnwell further east. The West Highland Railway has only one other crossing of these mountains, at Corrour.
The gap has been shaped into a U-shaped valley by glacial action over successive ice ages. From the top of the pass, we have the River Garry flowing south, and the River Truim flowing north.
A track through the pass has been used since prehistoric times and was the main route for drovers moving their flocks north to south.
A network of military roads, commonly referred to as General Wade’s Military Roads, were constructed in the Scottish Highlands during the middle part of the 18th century by the British Government after the Jacobite rebellion of 1715.
Under General Wade, a road through the pass was constructed to help with troop movements between the fortified barracks already in existence in the highlands. Although the road itself was upgraded over the years, the route remained largely the same until the 1970s when the whole road was modernized.
It is the high point on the A9, at 460 m (1508 ft) making it a good starting point to climb the mountains. The summit of the railway line is 452 m (1480 ft), making it the highest railway in the UK. As this is a high pass, it often attracts poor weather and this should be borne in mind when planning any undertaking.
Beinn Udlamain is the highest of the West Drumochter pass Munros however, it is rather hidden behind A’Mharconaich and appears as a rounded hump above Coire Dhomhain from the road.
Like its neighbours, Geal-charn, Sgairneach Mhor and A’ Mharconaich it can be climbed on its own but is more often climbed in combination with one or more of the other three, weather permitting.
These mountains are on the southwestern edge of the Cairngorms National Park. However, they are not usually considered to be part of the Cairngorms mountain range.
It too is mostly covered in grass, moss and heather. It has a long, broad summit ridge which runs roughly north to south and has a covering of broken rocks near its highest point. A line of old rusting and broken fenceposts mark the crest of the hill – remnants of the old boundary between Perthshire and Invernesshire – however, these are becoming fewer all the time so can’t be relied upon in bad weather.
This high mountain tundra is a good place to see Dotterel from May to October. This ground nesting bird is relatively rare in the UK and has been described as “trusting” which means it will happily walk around in front of you.
Other, more common, ground nesting residents are the Golden Plover and ringed Plover. Please keep dogs on a lead!
In the winter, snow is a regular feature of the landscape and the A9 is sometimes closed to traffic if it is particularly bad. For the walker, the presence of the A9 is both a blessing and a curse offering ease of access to the mountain but also, its existence being something of a “blot” on the landscape. The high starting point within the pass is another positive for anyone wanting to climb this peak.
From either the south or north, the main A9 road links Glasgow with Inverness and runs via the Drumochter pass and past the foot of the mountain.
From Glasgow, head north on the M80, then M9 to Stirling and on to Dunblane where this becomes the A9
From Edinburgh, head west on the M8, join the M9 and head northwest to Stirling and onwards to the A9.
From Inverness, head south on the A9.
It’s usual to start this route from one of the numbered laybys on the A9 where parking is allowed. Layby no 81 is the largest of these.
There is a railway station in the small town of Dalwhinnie, just to the north of the Drumochter pass. Most trains will either start or pass through Edinburgh and Glasgow from the south and Inverness from the north. These are relatively infrequent and the local timetable should be referred to.
For an ascent of Beinn Udlamain, a good place to start is by parking in Layby 81 on the west side of the A9.
Layby no. 81 (free) – Map reference 631761
Red Route to climb Beinn Udlamain
Leave the layby and head south on the cycle track until it’s possible to turn right downhill, to take the railway underpass into Coire Domhain. Follow the ATV track, up the valley and parallel to the Allt Coire Dhomhain on your left.
Yellow route to climb Beinn Udlamain
Continue to follow the track up the valley for some time until the track crosses a stream flowing from the slopes on your right. This stream issues from a deep cut into the hillside which runs all the way to the crest of the main ridge at 861m.
Stay out of the stream and its valley but ascend the hillside to the left of this, there may be a vague trail but you will have to make your way up the slopes through heathers, moss and boggy grass until the crest of the ridge is reached at 861m.
(I think it’s worth saying that this is a poor ascent route with all the options available and this route is best used in descent if needed.)
Red route to the summit of Beinn Udlamain
From here, head south (left) to ascend the slope to the top of the ridge at 902m.
At this point, head in a more westerly direction down to 892m, then up to a cairn near a fence. Follow the line of fence posts southwest across rocky ground to a large cairn at the summit of Beinn Udlamain 1011m.
It is possible to return the way you have come or continue on to Sgairneach Mhor (see West Drumochter pass Munros route) or make up an excursion of your own.
It is possible to traverse the four Munros in the area in one go although, this is obviously a much longer undertaking.
For the description of the traverse of all four Munros see the West Drumochter pass Munros route page.
Scotland has an Outdoor Access code, see link:
The area is popular for Deer stalking and Grouse shooting. These activities may impact on any plans for hiking. However, it is still possible to hike during these events with a little extra effort at the planning stage.
This is a useful page on the Outdoor access – Scotland website
Spring, Summer or Autumn (Fall) depending on conditions.
Warning: The above descriptions are for use in reasonable summer conditions. Winter conditions can occur at almost any time of the year. In winter condition, these mountains are a much more serious proposition. Any paths may be covered by snow and ice and gale force winds are common. Ice axe, Crampons, the knowledge of how to use them allied with excellent map reading and compass skills are essential.
A limited number of Hotels and self-catering accommodation around Dalwhinnie and Newtonmore are the closest, followed by Blair Atholl and Pitllochry. Aviemore is approximately one hour’s drive away.
There are some campsites or caravan parks in Dalwhinnie and Kingussie.
It is possible to wild camp in Scotland. See the Outdoor access code for more details.
Walk highlands - https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/
SMC - https://www.smc.org.uk/
Cairngorms National Park - https://cairngorms.co.uk/
The Central Highlands – Peter Hodgkiss (SMC District guide)
The Munros – (SMC Hillwalkers guidebook)
The High Mountains of Britain and Ireland – I. Butterfield
Birds of Britain and Europe – Nicolai/Singer/Wothe
Ordnance survey map OL50 – Ben Alder, Loch Ericht and Loch Laggan