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Ben Macdui
Beinn Mac Duibh
Highest point
Elevation 1,309 m (4,295 ft)
Prominence 950 m (3,120 ft) 
Ranked 9th in British Isles
Isolation  86.5 km (53.8 miles)
Parent peak Ben Nevis
Listing Marilyn, Munro, Hardy, Council top (Aberdeenshire, Moray), County top (Aberdeenshire, Banffshire)
English translation Mountain of the son of Duff/MacDuff or possibly The Hill of the Black Pig (a reference to its shape)
Language of name Gaelic
Location Moray / Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Parent range Cairngorms
OS grid NN989989
Topo map OS Landranger 36, 43, Explorer OL57
Normal route Saddle at Loch Ericht (359 metres or 1,178 feet)

Ben Macdui (Scottish Gaelic: Beinn Mac Duibh, meaning Mac Duff's Hill) is the second highest mountain in Scotland (and all of the British Isles) after Ben Nevis, and the highest in the Cairngorm Mountains and the wider Cairngorms National Park. The summit elevation is 1,309 metres (4,295 feet) AMSL. Ben Macdui lies on the southern edge of the Cairngorm plateau, on the boundary between the historic counties of Aberdeenshire and Banffshire (currently on the border between the Aberdeenshire and Moray council areas).

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. Following surveys of both peaks in 1846–47, Ben Nevis was confirmed as the higher. Following these surveys, there were plans 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 Alexander Copland. The indicator shows the directions of the most noteworthy mountains 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 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, Gaelic scholar historian F.C. Diack and place-name scholar Professor G.W.S. Barrow have suggested that the mountain took its name from Donnchad's family, the Mac Duibh, however the name may derive from the Gaelic for a black pig,muc dhubh.

In 1810 a Rev Dr Keith surveyed the heights of several Cairngorm summits using a barometer, estimating the height of Ben Macdui to be 4,300 ft (1,300 m). This sparked interest in whether it, or Ben Nevis, was the highest summit in Scotland. The Ordnance Survey built a trig point on the summit in 1847 in order to accurately survey the height, confirming that Ben Nevis was indeed the higher. The surveyors also built a small shelter that became known as the "Sappers' Bothy", the remains of which could still be seen as of 1998.

Queen Victoria hiked to the summit on 7 October 1859, aged forty. About her experience, she 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."

During the Second World War commando troops training in the Cairngorms visited the summit of Ben Macdui, building small shelters to the northeast of the summit. In early 1940 a plane crashed at the top of the Allt a' Choire Mhoir, to the northwest of the summit.


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.

Am Fear Liath Mòr

The area of Ben Macdui is said to be haunted by the legendary Am Fear Liath Mòr, or Greyman. There have been several accounts of an unnatural presence, with mountaineer Norman Collie claiming to have heard footsteps before fleeing from the summit in terror.


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