14 Fascinating Facts About Ben Nevis

cmd arete for beginners
I've been up Ben Nevis twice and, despite there being as much footfall on that mountain path as a busy motorway services, both have been enjoyable hikes in their own way. Interested in Ben Nevis yourself? Here are a few fascinating facts about Britain's highest mountain.


I’ve taken the trip up Ben Nevis twice myself. My first time in pretty dire conditions up via CMD Arête and the second time was via the Mountain Path with my son who was 7 at the time. 

It’s a stunning mountain with views that (when the weather plays ball at least) are breathtaking.

But whether you’ve hiked it already, plan to or you just enjoy looking at it from afar, there’s no denying the allure that Britain’s highest mountain holds. 

Want to know more about the Ben? We’ve got you covered with 14 fascinating facts and stats about Ben Nevis.

The Highest Mountain in the UK (by 36m)

Ben Nevis is the UK’s highest mountain standing at 1,345 metres tall (or 4412 feet).

It’s the highest by a margin of 36m, with the second highest mountain (Ben Macdui) coming in at 1,309m.

Ben Nevis is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Ben Nevis holds the prestigious designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), on recognition of its significant value to science, particularly in the fields of geology, ecology, and meteorology. 

Ben Nevis has Volcanic Origins

The geological composition of Ben Nevis is a testament to the Earth’s ancient past. Its origins trace back to volcanic activity around 350 million years ago during the Devonian and Carboniferous periods. The mountain showcases a variety of rock types, including andesite and basalt, which form part of the Ben Nevis volcanic formation. The area’s geology provides insights into volcanic processes and the subsequent erosion and glaciation that shaped the Scottish Highlands. Researchers study these rock formations to understand the volcanic history of the region and the landscape’s evolution over millions of years.

Record Breaking Ascents

The annual Ben Nevis races sees contestants battle it out to summit in the fastest time and make it back down again.

The fastest ever time for this race was set in 1984 by Kenny Stuart, who completed it in an impressive 1 hour, 25 minutes and 34 seconds.

The women’s Ben Nevis race record was set in 2018 by Victoria Wilkinson. She completed the Ben Nevis race in 1 hour 43 minutes and 1 second.

Meanwhile it has proven a full day job for me getting up and down 😂 

Movie Cameos by Ben Nevis

A number of movies have been shot in Glen Nevis which means Ben Nevis sometimes makes a bit of a cameo appearance. 

Want to see some beautuful shots of Glen Nevis? Look out for them in Harry Potter, Braveheart and Rob Roy.

The Observatory on the Summit

The ruins of an observatory still stand on the summit of Ben Nevis today.

Observations here began in 1883. The observatory was finally closed in 1904. It closed as the result of inadequate government funding.

The Ben Nevis Hotel

In 1894 a hotel was opened on the summit too, operated through the summer months. It had 4 bedrooms and again the ruins can still be seen on the summit today.

When the observatory closed down, the hotel took over the running of a room in it which they used for serving refreshments.

However, the hotel closed in 1916.

The Construction of the Mountain Path

The Mountain Path to Ben Nevis (often referred to as the “Pony Track” or the “Tourist Track” was built back in 1883. 

The main purpose was to facilitate easier access for ponies and pedestrians to the observatory on the mountain summit. There was, from the outset, a 3 shilling charge for the use of the track. There is no charge today, though hikers benefitting from the path are encouraged to donate to the upkeep of it,

150,000 People per Year Summit Ben Nevis

Yes, 150,000 people. The vast majority take the mountain path with CMD Arete also proving a popular route. More experienced mountain climbers may seek routes like Tower Ridge or others.

Ben Nevis or Beinn Nibheis?

The actual name of the mountain is Beinn Nibheis, with “Ben Nevis” an anglicisation of this Gaelic name.

Meaning of the Name

So what does the mountain’s name mean?

Well, “Beinn” is a common Scottish Gaelic term for “mountain,” so that part is pretty straightforward.

But there’s a bit more dispute over the origins of “Nibheis.”

It’s possible that “Nibheis” comes from Pictish words, Nebestis or Nebesta meaning “clouds.”

If that is the case, Beinn Nibheis would ultimately mean “the Cloudy Mountain.”

The Cloudy Mountain is a Fitting Name…

Ben Nevis is said to be clear only around 1 in 10 days!

Cloud envelopes the summit 80% of the time in winter and 50% of the time in summer. So if you get a clear day, take full advantage of the incredible views.

Snow Cover for Large Parts of the Year

With its cold temperatures, the deep gullies of Ben Nevis have been known to hold thier snow deposits all year round! But generally speaking, the paths you’ll encounter while hiking Ben Nevis will be snow free from June onwards. Not always! When I hiked up CMD Arête in June 2022, there was still a large and unavoidable area of snow on descent.

But you should expect snow coverage widely from November through to May for sure.

Wildlife on Ben Nevis

Hiking up the Ben? Keep an eye out for wildlife including Golden Eagles, red deer, skylarks and stonechat!





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