The story of Ralston Cairn in Glencoe

Written by Chris Thornton | 10th of January 2023
Ralston Cairn in Glencoe

This cairn in the Glencoe Valley has become a popular spot for tourists and photographers. It gives a lovely foreground with the impressive mountain ranges (the Three Sisters) in the background and the A82 road snaking far below. But what is the story behind the Ralston Cairn? Unfortunately a very sad one.

Ralston Claud Muir

The Ralston Cairn is dedicated to Ralson Claud Muir, a train driver on the West Highland Line and avid hiker, especially within the Glencoe Glen.

Sadly Ralson fell ill on Christmas day 1999 and died 16 days later on the 10th of January 2000 from multiple organ failure caused by Leukaemia, a rare form of cancer. He was only 32 years old.

The Glencoe Glen was his favourite place to hike; his friends and brother Trevor/family saw it fit to erect an everlasting monument to his memory. His ashes are also interred at this spot.

His friends and family still visit the monument, often with a wee dram of whisky to toast to his memory.

What does the Ralston Cairn look like?

It is a stone cairn, a mound of stones, with a plaque centred in the middle reading:

"These are my mountains, and I have come home.
Ralston".

A Celtic cross finishes this beautiful monument to a lost family member and friend.

How to get to Ralston Cairn?

Ralston Cairn can be found on the A82, coming north from Glasgow/Stirling or south of Fort William. The monument is within the Glencoe Valley, not far from "The Meeting of the Three Waters" waterfall, just located off the A82.

There are several ways up to the cairn; both require hiking up uneven, muddy paths and rocks. The cairn also looks a little smaller in real life than it does in the many photos online.

The walks to Ralston Cairn are a photographer's paradise. Not only are there spectacular mountains, but small bridges, rivers, waterfalls and other interesting features to frame up and shoot.

If visiting in the summer months, bring some midge repellent to keep the wee beasties at bay; check out my Midge Survival Guide here.

Ralston Cairn from the west side:

  1. You can park just off the main road here. There is only space for 1 car to park here.

  2. Follow the path next to the small wall.

  3. About 100m or so, look up and to the left. You won't be able to see the cairn, but you need to head higher and more to the east.

  4. You should find the monument.

Ralston Cairn from the east side:

  1. Park at the Buachaille Etive Beag car park.

  2. Cross the road and join the path to the old road (Thomas Telford built the road in 1819). You may need to cross some shallow water here; no bridge exists. You will be walking northwest, then west.

  3. Follow the old road through spectacular scenery, and be careful of sheer drops.

  4. You must climb up rocks for a short section to reach the cairn.

The west side is probably shorter/faster, but the east approach is more scenic and a nicer walk. Both walks should take under 45 minutes there and back. Here is a great video here from Accessible Photography of the walk to the cairn from the east side.

What is the Ralston Monument?

A stone cairn monument to Ralson Claud Muir, a local man who died of cancer in 2000.

Is the Ralston Cairn accessible for wheelchair users?

No, the ground is not suitable for wheelchair users.

Is there anything else I should see near Ralston Cairn?

  • The Hidden Valley - a tough but worthwhile hiking trail to a hidden valley.

  • Glencoe Waterfall.

  • Glencoe Viewpoint.

  • Glencoe Visitor Centre.

Key Information on Ralston Cairn

  • To be found on the A82 within the Glencoe Valley.

  • Dedicated to Ralston Claud Muir, who died in 2000.

  • The cairn can be reached via east or west approaches on the north side of the A82.

  • The Three Sisters mountains dominate the landscape (Aonach Dubh, Beinn Fhada and Gearr Aonach).

Conclusion

A visit to Glencoe is high on the list for visitors to Scotland, so why not combine it with the lovely walk to Ralston Cairn? Take a small whisky and have a wee toast to Mr Muir's honour; as a keen hill walker, I'm sure he will have been thrilled you took the walk and experienced his beloved glen as he once did.

Location map of Ralston Cairn.

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