Ben Nevis

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Ben Nevis, a mountain in Kilmalie parish, Invernessshire, immediately SE of Loch Eil at Fort William, and accessible from that town by a new carriage drive of 7 miles to the head of Glen Nevis, opened to traffic in Sept. 1880. It starts abruptly from the plain adjacent to Fort William; is well defined round all its circuit; attains an altitude of 4406 feet above sea-level; and is the highest mountain in Great Britain. Two profound glens, Treig on the E, and Nevis on the S and SW, cut down large portions of its skirts; and deep depressions, hollows, or plains on the other sides separate the rest of it from the neighbouring heights. Its base measures fully 24 miles in circuit; its mass looks like one mountain superimposed on another-Ossa piled upon Pelion;its summit is not peaked, but flattened; and its entire bulk, from skirt to crown, stands well revealed to the eye, exhibiting its proportions with continuity and clearness. The lower mountain is an oblong mass, about 3000 feet high, and terminates in a plateau containing a tarn or alpine lakelet; and the upper mountain springs from the southern extremity of the lower one, and has the form of a vast prism. The northern front makes two grand acclivitous ascents, terminating in terraces; and the north-eastern side shrinks into a broad tremendous precipice, not less than 1500 feet deep. The rock of the basement portion is gneiss alternating with mica slate; the rock thence upward to the summit of the lower mountain is granite, newer than the gneiss; and the rock of the upper mountain is porphyritic greenstone, more recent still than the granite. The rocks, however, include diversities, each kind within itself; and, at once by their superpositions, by their several diversities, and by their respective minerals, they form a grand study to geologists. The ascent of Ben Nevis is usually made on the W side, from Fort William or Banavie, and occupies 3½ hours; but it cannot be made without considerable difficulty and some danger, and ought never to be attempted by a stranger without a guide. The view from the summit is both extensive and sublime. The astonished spectator, who has been so fortunate as to reach it free of its frequent robe of clouds, descries, toward the S and E, the blue mountains of Ben Cruachan, Ben Lomond, Benmore,Ben Lawers, Schiehallion, and Cairngorm, with a thousand intermediate and less aspiring peaks. On the other sides, his eye wanders from the distant hills of Caithness to the remote and scarcely discernible mountains of the Outer Hebrides. Numerous glens and valleys lie to the S, but they are hidden from observation; and to the utmost verge of the horizon, countless mountains of all sizes and shapes, heathy, rocky, and tempest-worn, extend before the eye, as if the waves of a troubled ocean had suddenly been turned to stone. Looking towards the other points of the compass, we meet with more variety, -the silvery waters of Lochs Eil, Linnhe, and Lochy, of the Atlantic and German oceans, rendering the vast prospect more cheerful and brilliant. In May 1881 an observatory of the Scottish Meteorological Society was established on Ben Nevis.—Ord. Sur., sh. 53,1 877.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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