14 Stunning Facts About Ben Nevis

It’s the most famous mountain in the United Kingdom, and in this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of interesting facts about Ben Nevis.

1. It’s the highest mountain in the British Isles

The summit of Ben Nevis is located at a height of 1,345 meters (4,413 feet) above sea level. This makes it not just the highest mountain in Scotland but also in the entire United Kingdom.

Ben Nevis Facts

2. It’s located in the Scottish Highlands

Ben Nevis is located in a mountain range called the Grampian Mountains, one of the three major mountain ranges in Scotland. This mountain range is located in northern Scotland and is part of the famous Scottish Highlands.

Ben Nevis forms a “massif,” a group of mountains, together with its neighbor to the northeast, Càrn Mòr Dearg, which is the ninth-highest mountain in Scotland standing at 1,220 meters (4,000 feet).

The mountain is located in the historic Scottish county of Inverness-shire and the closest town to the mountain is called Fort William in the Lochaber area of the Scottish Highlands.

fort william ben nevis

3. How did Ben Nevis get its name?

Ben Nevis sounds a bit weird for the name of a mountain, doesn’t it? That’s because it’s the anglicized version of the Scottish Gaelic name of the mountain, “Beinn Nibheis.”

Beinn is the word used to describe a mountain in Scottish Gaelic and the translation of Nibheis is open for discussion. It could be referring to a God, the clouds, or the heavens which means that its translation could potentially be “Mountain in the Heavens.”

4. The highest land in any direction is located in Norway

One of the most interesting facts about Ben Nevis is that its summit is the highest location in a very large area.

In fact, the closest highest peak is located 459 miles (739 kilometers) to the northeast, a peak called “Melderskin” in Norway, which has an elevation of 1426 meters (4678 feet).

Melderskin in Norway
Melderskin in Norway / Nordlifjell / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

5. The peak is actually a collapsed ancient volcano

Another one of those fascinating facts about Ben Nevis is that its summit is actually the remains of a collapsed ancient volcano that has met a violent end about 350 million years ago.

Two different types of lava stones have been found near the summit which indicates that the massive volcano collapsed on itself. This event created an enormous explosion similar to the one in Krakatoa in Indonesia in 1883, the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history.

To give you some reference, the explosion in Krakatoa had the equivalent of 13,000 times the nuclear yield of the atomic bomb that destroyed the city of Hiroshima at the end of World War II.

Can we even fathom what happened here?!

Ben Nevis is a collapsed ancient volcano.
Ben Nevis is a collapsed ancient volcano. / Source

6. The mountain has the steepest hill slope in Britain

The western and southern flanks are the steepest and rise about 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) in just 2 kilometers (1.2 miles).

This makes this side of the mountain not only the steepest but also the longest hill slope in all of Britain.

amazing facts about ben nevis
Ben Nevis South Slope / Nigel Brown / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

7. You better bring warm clothes if you decide to climb Ben Nevis

The mountain has an alpine and maritime polar climate, which means it can get really cold on the flanks of Ben Nevis.

In this type of climate, the temperature never reaches higher a higher average than 10 °C (50 °F) which means there aren’t any hot summers. The mean monthly temperature for the entire year is even cold at just −0.5 °C (31.1 °F).

This also means that the mountain is covered in snow for extended periods of the year which means it has become a popular destination for ski mountaineers and boarders.

ben nevis snow
Snow on Ben Nevis / Source

8. You’ll need some luck to actually see anything of the scenery

If you want to ascend Ben Nevis, then there’s no way around it, you’ll need some luck to be able to enjoy the nice scenery.

It’s estimated that the mountain is covered in the fog up to 80 percent between November and January, and up to 55 percent in May and June.

It’s surely better if you see where you’re going, right?

ben nevis fog

9. The first ascent of Ben Nevis happened in the year 1771

So when did the first person reach the summit of Ben Nevis?

A botanist based in Edinburgh named James Robertson was the first man to reach the top of the mountain on August 17, 1771. He did so while he was collecting plants in the area.

The first time that it became clear that Ben Nevis was actually the highest mountain on the British Isles was by the Ordnance Survey in 1845.

The first path to the summit was created in the year 1883 and made the climb much easier as well.

ben nevis path
The path to the summit of Ben Nevis. / Source

10. The north face of Ben Nevis is a popular destination for climbers

There are several types of routes to reach the top of Ben Nevis. Taking the path on the west flank of the mountain, which zigzags make it less steep, is the easiest way and can be done by just about everybody fit enough.

More experienced hill walkers can take a path that starts at Torlundy, a few miles northeast of Fort William. This path provides amazing views of the cliffs of the north face which can’t be seen from the “easy path.”

For climbers, the north face is just about heaven. It contains numerous buttresses, ridges, towers, and pinnacles, and has a lot of rocks for genuine climbers to pursue their hobby!

North face ben nevis
Northeast cliffs of Ben Nevis / Source

11. There’s a famous hut that is used as a base station for climbers

The CIC Hut, short for the Charles Inglis Clark Memorial Hut, is claimed to be the only alpine hut in all of Great Britain. It was built in 1929 by Jane and William Inglis Clark, members of the Scottish Mountaineering Club in honor of their son who passed away during World War I

Right now, the hut is used as a base for people who want to climb the north face of the mountain as it’s located right below it.

CIC Hut and the north cliffs. / Ronaldcameron / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0

12. At the summit, you’ll find volcanic rocks and a ruined observatory

The summit of Ben Nevis isn’t really a sharp peak but a huge stony plateau that covers an area of about 40 hectares (100 acres). You don’t really have to look for the highest point though because it’s marked with a pile of stones (on top of all the other stones).

Highest point in Great Britain
The highest point in Great Britain. / Steven Brown / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Apart from the Ordnance Survey trig point that marks the highest point of the mountain, there’s also a summit survival shelter and the ruins of an abandoned observatory.

This observatory was built in the year 1883 and was fully staffed until the year 1904 when there wasn’t enough funding anymore to maintain it.

Ruins of the observatory and summit survival shelter in the background
Ruins of the observatory and summit survival shelter are in the background. / Wiki Commons

13. The Ben Nevis Race takes place once a year

Apart from being a popular tourist destination for nature lovers, Ben Nevis also hosts an annual event that takes place on the first weekend of September.

This event is called the Ben Nevis Race and allows up to 600 people to participate in a run up the flanks of the famous mountain.

This event dates back to the year 1895 and has runners starting to run at the foot of Ben Nevis, all the way to the top, and back again. The course is about 14 kilometers long with an ascent of about 1,340 meters. The winners usually run for about one and a half hours to reach the finish.

Not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure!

Ben Nevis race
Doug Lee / The Ben Race 2007 / CC BY-SA 2.0

14. The Nevis Landscape Partnership has protected Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis is a very popular tourist destination and it’s estimated that over 100,000 people ascend the mountain every single year. This raised some concerns as to whether humans would harm the fragile mountain environment.

Ben Nevis Landscape was a partnership that ran from 2014 to 2019 and has completed 19 projects. Many positive changes have been made, including an upgraded mountain track to make it easier for visitors to enjoy the amazing scenery of Ben Nevis!

Ben Nevis Scenery
Ben Nevis Scenery / Blisco / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/