'The Ben'. Beinn Nibheis; the queen of Scotland's mountains - beinn is a feminine Gaelic noun; to confirm the glorified status to the locals, no other neighbour is a Beinn, being instead aonachs, mullachs or stobs. The Owl of Strone - a Gaelic poet familiar with the district, wrote in the 16th Century of a Beinn Nimneis, which suggests 'venomous' or 'wicked'; in 1532 Neevush was used, and Nevess in 1552. One century later the famous Blaeu's Map (based on Pont's cartography) gives the name Bin Novesh, a possible attempt at a phonetic spelling. In 1640 Gordon rendered the name as Bin Nevis, the first appearance of an anglicised form. Equally, the name may well derive from the Gaelic Beinn-neamh-bhathais which freely translated means 'the mountain with its head in the clouds'. Ben Nevis is so dominant its hulk can be seen from the east coast, northern, and southern hills, usually capped in cloud. 
The origin of the name has been misted over in time; when the annual toll of death and injury to walkers and climbers is contemplated, 'venomous' or 'evil' seem appropriate. Professor W J Watson, the guru of Gaelic place-names, argued that the 'venomous' name came from the River Nevis and Glen Nevis at its foot, by repute a barren glen, described by one Gaelic poet as "...A glen on which God has turned his back: the slop-pail of the great world.". The professor suggests that the name derives from neimheas, itself from neimh, meaning 'poison' or 'venom'; derived from an old Irish root nem, 'venom'. The pronunciation of nimheis, 'nee-vash', certainly fits the earliest (1532) spelling.
The Scottish Tourist Board refers to the mountain as "the Real Big Ben". 


Mountain name, how to say it, what it means   |   its height   |   Mountain region; closest town(s) [may be some distance away tho!]   |   the view-points

background image © Google Earth


  1. Meall Bhanbhaidh: this bump of ground offers a superb view right into the heart of Coire Leis and the north cliff
  2. Meall an t-Slamain: an excellent view of the tourist path and glimpse of the summit
  3. Corpach Lighthouse: travel a little way west of the train station to frame the lighthouse in front of the hill
  4. Corpach shipwreck: Old Boat of Caol, cross the harbour onto the beach, there are several ways to frame the ship at high or low tide
  5. Binnein Mòr: any of the summits really, high above Glen Nevis give excellent view of the big sister


She is a hill of two halves - one side smooth and almost gentle for Sunday strollers, the other side is the largest cliff face in Britain. Great mountain days, whichever is your preference.


Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe |  Ben Nevis  |  Càrn Mòr Dearg arête  |  Coire Leis  |  Allt a' Mhuillin  |  Corpach lighthouse and Old Boat of Caol


Meanach (but quite some distance away)


m009 Càrn Mòr Dearg


These links lead to the variety of walks, weather and maps to aid in planning your adventure to portray this hill.


McNeish "The Munros" 1999 p.73  |  SMC Hillwalkers 2013 p.81  |  Walkhighlands "The Munros" 2019 p.385  |  Bothy Bible 2017 p.157

Click the image to visit Walk Highlands profile