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Hiking trail recommended route

Paps of Jura Loop Walk

Hiking trail
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Macs Adventure Verified partner  Explorers Choice 
  • Stepping Stones across the stream from the loch
    / Stepping Stones across the stream from the loch
    Photo: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
  • / Scree path on Beinn Shiantaidh
    Photo: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
  • / Beinn Shiantaidh summit (757 m)
    Photo: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
  • / Descent from Beinn Shiantaidh
    Photo: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
  • / Path up Beinn an Oir
    Photo: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
  • / The view north from Beinn an Oir
    Photo: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
  • / Summit of Beinn an Oir (785 m)
    Photo: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
  • / Scree path on the descent from Beinn an Oir
    Photo: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
  • / View from the summit of Beinn a Chaolais (733 m)
    Photo: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
m 800 600 400 200 -200 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 km
Cover varied and rough terrain on an iconic yet strenuous route taking in the striking Paps of Jura. 
difficult
Distance 17.6 km
8:00 h
1,495 m
1,486 m

Please do not undertake this route in poor weather conditions; after heavy rain the approach will be especially boggy and the rocks and scree paths on the hills will be slippery.  Do not undertake the route in bad visibility, or if you suffer from vertigo/don’t have a head for heights as there are steep drops on all three of the Paps (this also applies to anyone intending to do just one or two of the Paps in isolation).  We thoroughly recommend that you only do this route if you can navigate confidently with a map and compass and are an experienced hiker. 

Although this is a challenging route, the rewards on a good day certainly outweigh any trials – the views of the Paps and over the Sound of Jura to the mainland are spectacular.  The route can also be shortened in two ways; first you can take a short 6 km walk to the loch and admire the view of the Paps as they surround you, and second to take in just one of the Paps, we recommend a 14.5 km route up and down Beinn an Oir (785 m) the highest and least strenuous.    

Author’s recommendation

Whatever route variation you choose make sure to keep an eye out for Jura’s herds of deer, and it’s golden and sea eagle pairs. 
Profile picture of Catherine Allan
Author
Catherine Allan 
Update: September 17, 2018
Difficulty
difficult
Stamina
Experience
Landscape
Highest point
793 m
Lowest point
17 m
Best time of year
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Safety information

Please do not undertake this route in poor weather conditions; after heavy rain the approach will be especially boggy and the rocks and scree paths on the hills will be slippery.  Do not undertake the route in bad visibility, or if you suffer from vertigo/don’t have a head for heights as there are steep drops on all three of the Paps.  We thoroughly recommend that you only do this route if you can navigate confidently with a map and compass and are an experienced hiker. 

There is limited phone signal, although occasionally you may find yourself with 4G and full signal (more than in Craighouse!), so it’s best to tell the staff at your accommodation what your plans for the day are. 

Tips and hints

 

Points of Interest

The Paps of Jura

Jura’s most iconic hills – the Paps - are well-known for being part of an annual hill race which covers a vast distance always takes in the Paps as part of a gruelling trial of endurance.  The geology of the Paps is composed mostly of Jura Quartzite, part of the Dalradian suite, with some sandstone ridges on Beinn an Oir.  The scree was formed due to severe frost shattering in the last ice age approximately 15,000 years ago.  Comapred to the lush, flatness of Islay these hills are truly striking in comparison. 

 

Food & Drink

There is nowhere to eat or drink along the way so do bring enough water for the walk.  Please note on a warm day you will require more than 2 litres per person for the entire route, and indeed we recommend bringing more.  You can stock up on snacks/provisions from the Jura community shop (please see the daily/seasonal shop opening hours or ask at your accommodation).  You could also ask your accommodation if they can make you a packed lunch the evening before so it’s ready for you in the morning. 

Start

Car park off the A846 over Three Arch Bridge (20 m)
Coordinates:
OS Grid
NR 54488 72057
DD
55.878914, -5.926852
DMS
55°52'44.1"N 5°55'36.7"W
UTM
30U 316917 6196475
w3w 
///chuckle.outboard.remodel

Destination

Car park off the A846 over Three Arch Bridge

Turn-by-turn directions

0.00 km – From the car park beyond the stone bridge TURN RIGHT to cross the bridge then in 50 m at the end of the bridge TURN RIGHT and descend some stone steps to cross a stile in the fence into the grassy field. 

0.05 km – Once across the stile BEAR RIGHT to follow the grassy path through the ferns to reach a stream crossing.  Cross the stream and continue to follow the path to a rise. 

0.20 km – At the small rise TURN LEFT onto a stony path and follow the path as it ascends.  Then follow the vague path as to BEAR RIGHT across boggy ground to traverse the hillside – stay high to avoid the worst of the bog and take care when crossing the streams. 

1.20 km – Round the ridge at approximately 110 m and BEAR LEFT to follow the vague path towards the mouth of the loch.  You’ll be able to see the bulk of Beinn Shiantaidh ahead. 

2.10 km – With the stream in the valley below continue traversing the hillside on the grassy path to eventually meet the top of the steam at the loch.  In 400 m cross a stream and TURN RIGHT onto a wider grassy path and continue to the stream head. 

2.90 km – Continue STRAIGHT ON on reaching a walled corner of the stream on a gravelly path and follow the stream to it’s head.  In 100 m TURN RIGHT to cross the stream using the large boulder stepping stones then TURN LEFT to continue on the path along the right-hand side of the loch.

If you’re planning to walk to the loch only then you can turn around before the path crosses the stepping stones, perhaps after a picnic lunch admiring the wonderful view of the Paps.  Retrace your steps to the car park and bridge to finish. 

3.10 km – Where the path splits BEAR RIGHT to walk up onto the slight ridge then and follow the ridge diagonally up to where the bulk of Beinn Shiantaidh meets the ridge ahead (see photo).  Ascend on the rough grassy and heathery ground to gain the ridge.

3.80 km – Use the stream bearing left to guide you up the slope towards the ridge, when the stream ends BEAR RIGHT to ascend on the easiest slope between small rocky outcrops to gain the ridge. 

4.00 km – On the ridge, where you’ll glimpse lochan below on the right, BEAR LEFT to begin your ascent of the main bulk of Beinn Shiantaidh. 

4.10 km – TURN LEFT to join a peaty path which skirts the hillside between the scree and boulder fields.  Take care of the steep drop to your left. 

4.30 km – At a small pile of stones (a cairn) beside the path BEAR RIGHT on the ascending path through the scree.  Step carefully and slowly on the scree making sure you have good footing as you go.  At the top of the boulder field BEAR LEFT to skirt it’s top to gain a heathery ridge.  Follow a vague path along the ridge towards the summit. 

4.80 km – On reaching a dip below the final ascent to the summit knoll TURN LEFT to continue on the path leading to the summit marked by a cairn. 

4.90 km – You have reached the summit cairn of Beinn Shiantaidh (there’s a shelter with low stone walls just beyond the cairn).  Take in the view, rest and refuel before beginning your descent.  When ready to leave the top continue STRAIGHT ON to descent on a vague path which bears right following the ridge all the way down to the saddle below between Beinn Shiantaidh and Beinn an Oir. 

5.30 km – At the edge of the ridge with a steep drop head TURN RIGHT and follow the path for 50 m then TURN LEFT to continue following the path down the ridge towards the saddle below. 

5.40 km – At the base of a rocky cleft the slope opens up, follow a very faint grassy path through small boulder fields aiming for the path on the other side of the saddle ascending Beinn an Oir. 

5.80 km – As the ground flattens BEAR LEFT to cross the grassy saddle aiming for the path on the other side of the saddle ascending Beinn an Oir.  Take care crossing the tussocky heather and of any hidden streams. 

6.20 km – After crossing the saddle BEAR LEFT to join the grassy path, which becomes gravelly slightly further on.  Follow the path left as it skirts the base of Beinn an Oir and ascends. 

6.35 km – BEAR RIGHT to follow the path up a scree slope (please beware of anyone below you in case you dislodge and start a rock rolling downward). 

7.00 km – After passing a rocky outcrop on your left BEAR LEFT following the path towards the ridgeline ahead.  When you reach the ridgeline TURN LEFT onto it and follow the path towards the summit.  You’ll come across two cairns on the ridge – forge a path between them through the boulder field.

7.40 km – When you reach the second cairn on the ridge descend slightly and pass between two shelters.  Once in the dip continue STRAIGHT ON to ascend on the stony path towards the summit. 

7.70 km – The summit trig point is situated in a shelter among the boulders.  The view from here to the final Pap, Beinn a Chaolais, is spectacular.  After resting and refuelling continue STRAIGHT ON towards the end of the ridge and descend just on the left side of the ridge on a path.  Take care of the drop below from the narrow path.  

8.00 km – BEAR RIGHT to traverse slightly around the ridge keeping to the gravelly path between the boulders.  Then head directly down the ridge where the path becomes a “shute” of finer scree – there’s a small grassy plateau on the ridge below.  Take care on the scree and move slowly with it. 

8.10 km – From the grassy plateau continue STRAIGHT ON following the grassy path along the ridge with the rock outcrop on your right.  Continue descending on the ridge path taking extra care of the steep drop to the right. 

8.80 km – On reaching the flattened saddle with the lochan over the knoll on your right continue STRAIGHT ON to the path on the left of the outcrop line to pick up a path ascending the final Pap, Beinn a Chaolais.  Ascend on this path then where the contours steepen at ~400m BEAR LEFT to follow a very vague grassy path skirting the hillside between boulder fields where possible. 

9.60 km – As the grassy paths fades out BEAR RIGHT up the flank of Beinn a Chaolais keeping to the left of the ridgeline and avoiding boulder fields and scree where possible until you reach a gravelly path where the angle of the slope eases slightly.  Follow the gravelly path through scree to the summit. 

10.10 km – Nearly at the summit BEAR LEFT to stay on the path as it follows the ridgeline left towards the summit cairn. 

10.20 km – Approach the summit cairn taking care of the steep drop on the left and the boulder field on the right.  You have now climbed Jura’s iconic Paps!  Enjoy a well-earned snack and rehydrate while taking in the views.  When you’re ready to descend leave the summit the way you came up. 

Depending on the weather and conditions there are two ways to descend.  Firstly, you can descend the way you came on the grassy, heathery flank of the hill and then skirt around the base to regain the saddle from where the path descends to the loch.  Alternatively, if you feel confident on scree slope descents follow the gravelly path down the ridge part of the way you came but instead of continuing straight down the flank stay on the gravelly path as it bears left and descends on a steep gravelly path over scree before emerging on a vague path on the heathery slopes to pick your way between boulder fields to rejoin the path you left earlier to skirt the hillside.

10.80 km – Arrive back on the grassy saddle and continue STRAIGHT ON back along the grassy path on the right of the outcrop for 400 m. 

11.20 km – Just beyond the rocky outcrop on the left BEAR RIGHT to traverse grassy slopes at the base of Beinn an Oir.  If visibility is good you’ll see a vague, narrow grassy path stretching out across the hillside leading back towards the mouth of the loch in the distance. 

11.40 km – BEAR RIGHT to follow the vague grassy path around the base of a rocky promontory then continue to traverse the hillside on the grassy path above the stream down to your right.  Follow this path crossing some small streams and boggy areas trying to keep high to avoid the worst of the bog. 

13.40 km – Once past the head of the loch the grassy path joins a slightly more defined path.  Continue STRAIGHT ON towards the mouth of the loch. 

14.20 km – With the knoll on your left you are now back where you diverted for Beinn Shiantaidh.  Continue STRAIGHT ON to reach the river, cross it using the stepping stones then TURN LEFT onto the path to follow the stream downhill. 

15.20 km – BEAR RIGHT to follow the path over the ridge edge ahead in the distance over grassy boggy terrain. 

15.90 km – Eventually reach the top of the ridgeline and BEAR RIGHT to follow the grassy path the way you came up as it skirts the hillside to descend in the direction of the road and bridge below. 

16.90 km – Continue STRAIGHT ON over the stream then ascend slightly and BEAR RIGHT to follow the path through the ferns aiming for the bridge ahead. 

17.50 km – Cross the stile in the fence then TURN RIGHT following the path over a stream and up the steps to the road, then TURN LEFT onto the road and cross the bridge. 

17.60 km – Finish in the small car park just beyond the bridge where you began the walk.  Now make your way back to Craighouse to enjoy a well-earned feast!

Note


all notes on protected areas

Coordinates

OS Grid
NR 54488 72057
DD
55.878914, -5.926852
DMS
55°52'44.1"N 5°55'36.7"W
UTM
30U 316917 6196475
w3w 
///chuckle.outboard.remodel
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

Equipment

The route in it's entirety is a serious days walk requiring walking boots, a rucksack packed with waterproofs and spare warm layers, along with hat, gloves and buff, and plenty of food and water.  On a warm day be sure to bring lots of water – at least 2 litres per person – and suncream.  As the terrain is rough walking poles are recommended to help with balance, stream crossings and help to take some pressure off the knees on the steep descents. 

Basic Equipment for Hiking

  • Sturdy, comfortable and waterproof hiking boots or approach shoes
  • Layered, moisture wicking clothing
  • Hiking socks  
  • Rucksack (with rain cover)
  • Protection against sun, rain and wind (hat, sunscreen, water- and windproof jacket and suitable legwear)
  • Sunglasses
  • Hiking poles
  • Ample supply of drinking water and snacks
  • First aid kit
  • Blister kit
  • Bivy / survival bag  
  • Survival blanket
  • Headlamp
  • Pocket knife
  • Whistle
  • Cell phone
  • Cash
  • Navigation equipment / map and compass
  • Emergency contact details
  • ID
  • The 'basic' and 'technical' equipment lists are generated based on the selected activity. They are not exhaustive and only serve as suggestions for what you should consider packing.
  • For your safety, you should carefully read all instructions on how to properly use and maintain your equipment.
  • Please ensure that the equipment you bring complies with local laws and does not include restricted items.

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Difficulty
difficult
Distance
17.6 km
Duration
8:00 h
Ascent
1,495 m
Descent
1,486 m

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