Rannoch Moor is an expanse of boggy moorland to the west of Loch Rannoch in Perth and Kinross, covering 50 square miles (130 km²). Parts of it lie in other regions but the focus of this page is its remote centre, devoid of fields, dwellings or public roads. Its western edge is crossed by A82 from Crianlarich to Glencoe ski centre and village, a busy main highway - so from the traveller's perspective that area is very different and isn't described here.
- Sure by Tummel and Loch Rannoch and Lochaber I will go, By heather tracks wi' heaven in their wiles . . .
- - "The Road to the Isles", composed by Pipe Major John McLellan in 1917, and gleefully spoofed for a century since
Glaciers ground their way across Britain and Ireland 25,000 years ago, creating U-shaped valleys that filled with a ribbon of lakes. They mostly melted 14,000 years ago but Rannoch Moor was one area where a vast block of ice long persisted, and for another 3000 years the land was tundra. It then warmed and attracted vegetation, wildlife and human settlers. The earth's crust is still rebounding from the weight of ice, rising here by 3 mm a year.
In Gaelic Raineach or Raithneach means bracken, so Rannoch is well named. The moor is a boggy plateau at the head of the Tummel river catchment, which drains east into the Tay. In spite of the song, this was never the main Road to the Isles, just muddy cattle trails for drovers to bring their herds to market in Aberfeldy and Perth. You'd only head for Skye this way if you were Bonnie Prince Charlie or Alan Breck fleeing across the heath from the vengeful Redcoats. Indeed that Jacobite conflict marked the end of a centuries-old life of subsistence farming, transhumance and feudal land tenure. The landscape you see today is largely an 18th / 19th century creation. Native mixed forest was replaced by commercial conifers, bogs were drained, and small farms were swept away for sheep and cattle grazing. The uplands became carpeted by bracken and heather, which supported deer and grouse to be shot at, and sporting rights were the new cash crop. The Victorians romanticised the Highlands and the railway crossed the moor from 1894 - this is still the easiest access to this road-free terrain.
The moor is recognised as a Site Of Special Scientific Interest but is not designated as a Park, so its land use is largely determined by its managers. The southern tract at the head of Loch Rannoch is managed by Scottish National Heritage, the northern tract is owned by Corrour Estate - that's Lisbet Rausing, heir to the Tetrapak millions. Both are seeking to undo the damage of commercial forestry and drainage, and restore a more diverse sustainable habitat. In an era that responds to "green" much as Victorians thrilled to the tartan, that's surely good business.
The nearest airport is Glasgow (GLA IATA). Aircraft typically approach over the Campsie Hills: look right, far north, past Ben Lomond to a dark wet low splodge of cloud. That's where you're heading, let's hope your waterproofs made the transfer in London or Amsterdam.
This desolate moor has two railway stations, as this was how Victorian gentlemen arrived with all their tackle and tweeds. Three trains run daily from Glasgow Queen St via Dumbarton Central, Helensburgh Upper, Arrochar & Tarbet, Crianlarich (where coaches for Oban are detached) and Bridge of Orchy, taking 2 hr 30 min to 1 Rannoch and another 15 min to 2 Corrour. They continue to Spean Bridge and Fort William, for connections to Glenfinnan, Mallaig and ferries to Skye. A walk-up single from Glasgow is £30; you'll be wanting a return. A day-trip gives you six hours to explore.
The Caledonian Highland Sleeper runs Su-F from London Euston around 21:00, dividing in the small hours for Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William. This third portion bypasses Glasgow to join the line at Dumbarton and reach Rannoch and Corrour towards 09:00. The southbound service picks up around 21:00 to reach Euston for 08:00. You could also take the Lowland Sleeper from Euston to Glasgow then a daytime train.
Neither railway station is troubled by congested approaches, parking restrictions or an eczema of retail outlets, Both are unstaffed island platforms, with no ticket machines or toilets, and very quiet once your train has rumbled away into the drizzle. Rannoch Station has a tearoom, Corrour (the UK network's highest at 1340 ft / 408 m) has the Station House B&B and is a one mile hike from the hostel.
There was once even a third station, Gorton, isolated on the moor 9 miles south of Rannoch. It was really just a signal box and passing loop on the single track but from 1938-1960 it was an unlikely schoolhouse: an old carriage was placed on the platform to serve the local children, and the teacher rode up each morning from Bridge of Orchy.
The principal road access to the moor, as far as there is any, is B8019 which leaves A9 at Pitlochry to head west past Loch Tummel, joining B846 over the hills from Aberfeldy and continuing upriver to Kinloch Rannoch, which has an EV Charge Point. The road runs north side of Loch Rannoch and onward to dead-end at Rannoch Station. There are also loop roads south bank of Lochs Tummel and Rannoch: both are typical southside Highland roads, twisty and narrow, as this side of any loch is north-facing and has poor farming and little habitation.
Corrour has no public road at all, so no point enquiring about the buses, though 15 miles of track winds up from A86 in the Spean Valley. It's suitable for 4WD but visitor vehicles are not permitted, hikers and cyclists are welcome. On the western fringes of the moor, A82 heads over from Glasgow and Crianlarich to descend towards Glencoe. Buses to Fort William fly along it but have no scheduled stops until the ski slopes.
Elizabeth Yule Bus 82 runs three times M-Sa from Pitlochry via Strathtummel to Kinloch Rannoch (50 min), plus M-F Bus 887 runs once from Pitlochry via Blair Atholl. They don't carry bikes, and there is no public transport west of Kinloch Rannoch - see below for Dial-a-Taxi.
The public road up the Tummel valley ends at Rannoch station. Corrour has private tracks suitable for walking or off-road bikes, but these wind north to the A86 in Spean Valley with no connection to Rannoch station.
Don't use the railway as a footpath, you're trespassing and might get squished.
Dial-a-Bus is an on-demand service between Kinloch Rannoch and Rannoch station, which needs to be booked 24 hours ahead. They carry bicycles and fares are much the same as for standard buses, with concessionary bus passes accepted. It didn't run in 2021.
- 1 Loch Tummel is the first body of water you pass after leaving the Tay valley. Queen's View was popularised by Victoria, but she'd be surprised by the view today - the loch has more than doubled in length to 7 miles, as its outflow was dammed in 1950 and the water level raised by 15 ft for the Faskally hydroelectric scheme. The stone arch bridge at the head of the loch was part of General Wade's military road building in 1734. The lochside is scenic but will seem very genteel and pastoral by contrast when you return from Rannoch.
- Dunalastair Water is the shallow reservoir next to the road from Tummel Bridge to Kinloch Rannoch.
- 2 Loch Rannoch starts just west of Kinloch Rannoch village and is nine miles long, and it too had its level raised. That submerged two crannogs - prehistoric islet dwellings - at its west end, but one islet is still marked by a tower, a 19th century folly.
- Loch Eigheach Gaur Reservoir is next west then the road dead ends at Rannoch station. Loch Laidon stretches beyond.
- Loch Ossian is the 3-mile loch between the hostel at Corrour and the estate lodge and cottages. A track follows both sides of it - try to run around it within one hour. And you can tell when you're getting close to an upmarket Highland property by the riot of escaped rhododendrons: come late May / early June to catch them in bloom.
- Swish at midges though much good it will do you. They're too small and numerous to swat, but a large waving handkerchief may discourage them from biting your face. All the Highlands have midges in summer, but you know you're in the west when you're assailed by Culicoides impunctatus, the Great West Highland Mudge. Rain and bug repellents don't much trouble them, but they don't like cold or wind.
- 1 Schiehallion is the area's signature ascent, the Fuji-like conical Munro of 1083 m / 3553 ft. The usual route is from Braes of Foss along the lane from Aberfeldy.
- 2 Beinn na Lap at 935 m / 3068 ft is reached by the track from the Youth Hostel along the north loch shore, then uphill on the path to Loch Treig, then strike out across the heather. Say 3 hr 30 min there and back.
- 3 Chno Dearg at 1036 m / 3234 ft can be reached by continuing north from Beinn na Lap. Go further over Stob Coire Sgriodain (979 m, 3212 ft) to reach Tulloch railway station, preferably in time for the evening train home. This bags you three Munroes but is a long slog, and Chno Dearg is usually approached from Fersit above Tulloch.
- 4 Leum Ulleim or William's Peak is the one looming west of Corrour station. At 909 m / 2982 ft it's a Corbett, just 18 foot short of qualifying as a Munro.
- 5 Ben Alder at 1148 m / 3766 ft is far from roads or dwellings, so it's a two day expedition with an overnight bivvy. It could form part of a trek between Corrour and Dalwhinnie stations. The approach from Corrour is the shorter, but from Dalwhinnie is the preferred Long Leachas route also taking in Beinn Bheòil.
- Fishing: the lochs have brown trout (season 15 Mar-6 Oct), pike, charr and perch. Salmon are rare and may not be taken. Lough Ossian is part of Corrour Estate, buy permits from the Estate Office, the Hostel or the Station House. Loch Rannoch Conservation regulates Lochs Tummel and Rannoch and the upper river, and you can buy their permits online.
- Boat hire can be arranged from the above.
- Film: the lonely treeless moor is often a film or TV location. Examples include Outlander, Trainspotting, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Being Human, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Rob Roy. If you want to make an arty promotional video for whisky or craft gin, this is the place.
Very little! There is no shop at Corrour or Rannoch Station. There's a small shop and post office at Kinloch Rannoch.
Eat & drink
- See Sleep for the restaurants at Rannoch and Corrour stations, reservations essential for non-residents.
- Tummel Valley Holiday Park has static caravans and cabins. Its on B8019 at the head of Loch Tummel.
- 1 The Inn at Loch Tummel, Strathtummel PH16 5RP, ☏ . Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 10:00. Early 19th century coaching inn, dog-friendly, with good restaurant and views. B&B double £140.
- 2 Dunalastair Hotel Suites, 1 The Square, Kinloch Rannoch PH16 5PW, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Victorian sporting lodge madeover into an upscale hotel, with 32 suites and licensed bar and restaurant. B&B double £170.
- Loch Rannoch Hotel, Kinloch Rannoch PH16 5PS (Half a mile beyond village), ☏ . Smart hotel on the loch shore. B&B double £160.
- 3 Kilvrecht Campsite, Kinloch Rannoch PH17 2QJ (via southside lane), ☏ . Away-from-it-all site for campers and tourers, open May-Oct. Dogs welcome. Tent £5, caravan £18.
- Moor of Rannoch Hotel, Rannoch Station PH17 2QA, ☏ . Small hotel and restaurant by the railway station, open Feb-Nov Th-Tu. Ideal for walkers, they promise zero TV, wifi or mobile coverage but great views. Excellent home-cooked food (the deer will come snuffling for leftovers) and a selection of bottled beers and whiskies. B&B double £180.
- Corrour Station House, Corrour PH30 4AA, ☏ . This B&B with self-catering is in a former signal box and railwaymen's cottages, open Apr-Oct. The restaurant is open M-Sa.
- 4 Loch Ossian Youth Hostel, Corrour PH30 4AA (1 mile east of Corrour Station, no vehicle access), ☏ . Check-in: 16:30, check-out: 10:00. 20-bed eco-friendly hostel on the shores of Loch Ossian. Open April-Oct daily, Nov-Mar W-Su. No catering, and you need to be outdoors in the weary weather 10:30-17:30. Dorm £21 ppn.
- 5 Corrour Estate Cottages (11 miles by track from station, no road access). Eight holiday homes sleeping 3 to 11. They also own the Lodge and Corrour Station House. From £300 per week.
- Corrour Lodge among the cottages is a remarkable modern building. It was completed in 2004 to replace Old Corrour Lodge, built in 1896 but destroyed by fire in 1942. That in turn had replaced Corrour Old Lodge, which to avoid confusion is better thought of as "Even Older Corrour Lodge". The new lodge, reckoned to cost £20 million, was designed by Moshe Safdie and is of Portuguese granite, steel and glass. It's sometimes available as a very upmarket holiday let.
- See Glencoe for Kingshouse Hotel near the ski slopes at the head of that glen, with hiking access to the western moor.
- 6 Dunalastair Estate, Kinloch Rannoch, ☏ . 9 cottages to choose from. There are great walks nearby.
Loch Rannoch is only at an elevation of 204 m, but the treeless plateau of Rannoch Moor to the west can be wet and windswept any time of year. Mist or sleet can set in suddenly so you need to be sure of your navigation on indistinct muddy trails. There is no mobile signal away from the public road, and the train home won't wait for stragglers. And when the sun comes out, so do the midges.
Good luck with that - finish any important calls before leaving A9 at Pitlochry. As of July 2023, Tummel Bridge and Kinloch Rannoch have a scratchy basic mobile signal from EE and Vodafone. There's nothing west of A9 from Three or O2.
- By road return east into the Tay valley, and either turn south for Pitlochry, Birnam and Perth, or north to Blair Atholl and over Drumochter Pass to Aviemore in the Spey valley.
- The train takes you south to Crianlarich (for Oban) and Glasgow, or north to Fort William.
|Routes through Rannoch Moor|
|Fort William ← Glencoe ←||W S||→ Crianlarich → Glasgow|